Shoppers who go to big-box stores like Costco or Walmart automatically assume that shopping at a big-box store will save them money.
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While most major stores offer deals that customers can’t find anywhere else, it’s also easy to overspend without realizing it. Overspending at a large store can lead to accidental food waste (if you buy too many perishables in bulk) or impulse buys that take up space in your pantry but never run out.
Be a smart shopper on your next shopping trip and follow these tips to avoid overspending at major stores.
Make a list and stick to it
A tried-and-true tip for saving money when grocery shopping is to have a list handy. Caitlin Earle, financial coach and budget expert at Budget BFF, recommends shopping from home before making your grocery list. This way you can be sure that you only buy what you need.
In addition to making a list, Earle said you should know your numbers before you hit the store. For example, think about how much you have to spend. Be aware of pending transactions or autopays that have not yet materialized.
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Refer to your shopping list
After you’ve made a shopping list, it’s time to compare your items before making a purchase.
Rebecca Gramuglia, consumer expert at TopCashback.com, recommends using the store’s current circular, which can often be found online or by mail. Check if there are any offers on items you plan to stock up on.
Plan your route
Not familiar with the layout of the big-box store? You want to start planning your route before your visit.
There is a method behind planning and designing store layouts. Julie Ramhold, a consumer analyst at DealNews.com, said big-box stores are designed to keep customers in the store for as long as possible. The longer shoppers have to wander the aisles and see more of the store, the more likely they are to spend.
Ramhold recommends downloading the app from the store. If it has a map of your nearest big-box store, check the map to see what items are in certain aisles. Some stores, like Target, even share your local store’s aisle numbers so you can easily find what you’re looking for. Once you have a list, look at the aisle numbers and start planning your route to reduce aimless wandering.
“When shopping at big stores, always compare prices,” Gramuglia said. “Items can be competitively priced, so factor in all savings and costs, such as coupons, loyalty program rewards, and shipping costs.”
In addition, shoppers can also shop through a cash back website to earn cash back on qualifying purchases from eligible retailers and big box stores.
Analyze the cost per unit
It is not always cheaper to buy everything in bulk. Gramuglia recommends analyzing unit costs and then seeing if it’s still worth buying large quantities when shopping.
An example that Gramuglia uses are loose apples. These can be cheaper on their own than buying bagged apples.
Watch out for ’10 for $10′ offers
Some major stores may sell items, such as canned soup, in “10 for $10” deals. Here customers pay $10 to buy 10 cans of soup.
If you see a similar deal, Gramuglia said, you can usually buy fewer than 10 items and still get the discount.
While shoppers love to receive rewards or cash back when using credit cards, cash is an effective method of staying on budget when shopping at a major retailer.
Earle said shoppers can leave their credit cards at home and bring cash to the store. Once the money runs out, it’s gone.
Use Curbside Pickup
Smart shoppers who don’t want to spend too much money in a large store can do their shopping online and opt for curbside pickup. Ramhold said curbside pick-ups are free from most major stores, so those who plan ahead can take advantage of this to get everything they need.
Skip the cleanup section
Chances are, most of the items on sale aren’t on your shopping list. Skip this aisle or section to avoid impulse purchases.
Earle said, “Just because something is a lot doesn’t mean it’s a smart buy.”
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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: 9 Tips to Avoid Overspending at Costco, Walmart, and Other Big-Box Stores