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Are you a smart shopper?

By Jamshed V Rajan
January 13, 2006 09:28 IST
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Tobey Maguire comes out with these great words in Spiderman: 'With great powers come great responsibilities.'

The same principle applies to married men; am not so sure about the power part, but it is certainly true when it comes to responsibilities. 

Gone are the days when men were considered kings of the castle.

Now, women have started doing everything that was once considered part of the male domain. It could be as flippant as wearing trousers or as important as earning more than half the household's earnings.

In fact, it is the woman who decides and spends a major chunk of the household income. Men now have to master the art of balancing the wife's fragile ego and the finances.

I have been married to Rekha for 18 months and learnt about savings the hard way.

There are two ways to save money while shopping with your wife -- planning, or censuring your wife for her extravagant spending.

The easier of two options, censuring your better half, could backfire unless you have no qualms about wanting to quit smoking and getting your pocket money trimmed.

Naturally, I opted for pre-shopping planning.

Nowadays, I hold my wife's hand when we go out. It makes her feel good, looks endearing and suits me fine. If I let go, she goes shopping. If your wife is as determined as mine, I suggest you don't let go of her hand, even while window-shopping.

But seriously, if you plan your shopping, you can save money.

Do your homework

Impulsive buys are a drain on the wallet. In case you wonder what that is, let me explain what I mean: Most of the things that are not used long after being bought are impulse buys.

If you keep falling prey to impulsive buys, do some homework before leaving.

Give each other five minutes and list out the requirements.

And, yes, a peek into the refrigerator and kitchen cupboards could eliminate guesswork. That way, you won't end up with plenty of tea (but no coffee) and lots of cheese (but no butter).

Never shop on an empty stomach

Buying groceries is, in a way, like looking for love. If you have somebody to love you back home, you won't go around looking for it outside.

Moral of the story: Before starting out on your shopping spree, eat something. That way, you are less likely to get enticed by the boxes of butter and chocolate cookies and cheese flavoured chips. A hungry man (or woman) is more desperate.

Trust me, in the long run, you will end up saving money; and you'll also ensure you don't snack on, or stock up on, junk food.

If the kids are tagging along, ensure they are well fed. Even when the kids are not hungry, you will end up with requests like 'Can we buy these please?' Imagine your plight if they are!

Since kids were never designed for silent sessions they are sure to embarrass you if you negate that innocent request. If you want to avoid tantrums, hand over the list to your kids and ask them to fill the shopping cart. Keep them occupied. Even better, park them at the kids' section most shopping malls have these days.

Hoard wisely

We humans have always taken inspiration from ants, and here is one shopping tip I gathered after watching them work in our kitchen.

An accidental littering of sugar over the kitchen counter will get them appearing out of nowhere to collect the fallen grains. It is another thing that my wife scolds me for it.

Sure, they stock up their larder for the winter or monsoon (or so I thought). Then I realised. Sugar is never so freely available in our house (I don't spill it daily). For the ants, this was manna from heaven thrown into their hard working days.

The moral of the story? When you get anything for lesser price (the difference has to be significant), grab it. There is no harm if you have two bottles of 'Domex' at home. Just make sure the expiry date doesn't pip you to the post.

Shop smartly

Always head for the biggest shopping mall in your area. Thanks to volume discounts, prices in huge stores are likely to be lesser that the regular kirana store.

Even after factoring in fixed costs like the salaries on the staff, air-conditioning, security and infrastructure, you could be the winner.   

The most important shopping tip is that all intelligent retailers keep the most expensive products at eye-level because that's what they want you to see first and buy. The best bargains are either kept on the top shelves or the bottom shelves.

So, scan before you buy.

Jamshed Velayuda Rajan is an IT Consultant and an ardent blogger. 
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Jamshed V Rajan