The one thing we all need to stop doing when we shop

Picture this: You’re at the grocery store/department store/boutique/bodega to pick up a few necessary items, and you think to yourself, self – surely it wouldn’t hurt if I looked around a bit while I’m here?

But science is not backing you up on that kind of questionable thinking.

A new study finds that the longer you spend in a store, the more likely you are to splurge on extra items that you didn’t originally plan on buying. AKA if you’re trying to stick to a budget: Get in and get out.

And it’s not just staying longer at a store that’s dangerous. Researchers at the University of Notre Dame found that after making the first impulse buy, consumers were more likely to purchase more unplanned items. Basically that first spur-of-the-moment purchase, totally opens the floodgates.

“As shoppers spend more of their budget on planned items, the probability of making unplanned versus planned purchases increases,” Timothy Gilbride, a marketing professor at the University of Notre Dame and lead author of the study, wrote.

Gilbride and a group of marketing professors surveyed 328 shoppers making trips to the grocery store. They found that a majority of shoppers (who were 80% women) had a budget of around $40 per visit, but ending up leaving the store $66.45 lighter.

Why the $20 difference?

Near the end of the trip, the researchers found shoppers were about 10% more likely to pick out impulse or splurge buys, maybe because their guard was down, maybe because they were just tired from the effort of shopping. Or our hypothesis: We splurge-buy because stores know we’re weak and they put those tiny perfect bins of knick knacks right by the registers.

The good news? Gilbride found that shoppers on a tight budget were better at avoiding temptation and sticking to their original shopping list and budget.

Those who didn’t have a budget, on the other hand, were pretty much doomed to make impulse buy after impulse buy (and most likely left the market with a cartful of cookie dough, fancy hand soap, and cold-pressed coffee).

So now we have scientific proof: Make those shopping trips as short as possible! The longer you stay in the store, the more likely you are to spend $20 on a totally unnecessary artesanal soap.

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[Image via Shutterstock]