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Weakness in numbers: the case for shopping alone

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Elise Amendola/AP/File

(Read caption) In this Monday, September 2012, file photo, shoppers leave a store in Salem, N.H. Shopping with friends can be distracting and lead you to spending more, Hamm writes.

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When I’m buying groceries, I shop alone. When I’m buying household items, I shop alone. When I’m buying gifts, I shop alone. The only time you’ll find me in a store with others is when circumstances practically force it on me.

It’s not that I’m anti-social – I quite like spending time with people.

It’s simply that shopping with others costs me money. It’s an expensive proposition, one I’d rather not engage in.

I think I can best explain this idea by talking about my experiences grocery shopping with my children. 

When I’m with them, they’re constantly talking to me about something. The oldest two walk alongside me and, as young children often do, they get distracted. They wander off down the aisle when I’m comparing items.

In an effort to watch them and also make my purchase, I split my attention and I often end up buying items that aren’t the best bargain on the shelf.

Later on, we’ll walk by the Pepperidge Farm goldfish, which is an item that I wouldn’t usually buy. However, those goldfish are like manna from heaven for my children, so they plead the case of buying those goldfish. Quite likely, a bag or two ends up in the cart.

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At the checkout aisle, I’m watching what my children are doing, so I don’t notice that one of my items gets rung up twice. I might catch it on the receipt later, but there’s a good chance that my lack of attention costs me once again.

Similar things happen when I’m just shopping with friends. I’ll engage in conversation with them and miss out on the little details. They’ll subtly (or not so subtly) encourage me to buy something I wouldn’t otherwise buy.

The end result? More money spent.

I prefer to shop by myself. It’s convenient, it’s casual, and it saves me money. It often saves me time as well.

I’ll save my socializing and parenting for better situations.

This post is part of a yearlong series called “365 Ways to Live Cheap (Revisited),” in which I’m revisiting the entries from my book “365 Ways to Live Cheap,” which is available at Amazon and at bookstores everywhere. 

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