Budget killers: Recreational retailing, impulse buying

LITTLE ROCK – There’s an old saying about a fool and his money. These days, foolishness has new labels, including recreational retailing, impulse buying and comfort shopping, said Laura Connerly, assistant professor for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.

“Consumers can waste money if they aren’t cautious about their spending choices,” she said. “Poor spending habits can take lots of forms and in the end, be budget killers.”

Connerly points out a few common money behaviors to guard against:

• Beware of impulse buying. “There’s nothing random about how products are placed in a store,” she said. “Products and ads are positioned to prompt you to make unplanned purchases. Think about popcorn ads during the previews at the movie theater, shelves of magazines and gum at the check-out line in the grocery store, and even the kiosks at the mall.”

• Avoid comfort shopping. “Shopping has moved beyond a simple search for life’s necessities,” Connerly said. “It’s become a recreational activity.” Next time you plan a shopping trip, stop and consider your motivation. Are you shopping for something you really need? Or are you shopping to boost your mood because you’re bored or blue?

• Evaluate advertisements. “Advertisers target your values and emotions,” she said. “They may appeal to your sense of vanity or the importance of family. Sift through the fluff and look for real product information. Don’t let your rational purchase decisions be led astray by sentiment.”

• Consider quality versus brand. “Consumers have a tendency to become loyal to certain brand names,” Connerly said. “Sometimes the preferred brand is the best quality product but sometimes a lower-priced product would do just as well. Look for non-biased information. Check Consumer Reports. Read reviews from other shoppers. Try store brand or generic products.

For more information about managing your finances visit www.arfamilies.org/money.htm or contact your county extension agent.

The Cooperative Extension Service is part of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture and offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, gender, age, disability, marital or veteran status, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.