8 Shopping Rules to Stick to

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A little while back I wrote about the 8 rules of personal finance. It was a fun take on the Fight Club rules that would hopefully ensure you don’t get knocked out financially. I decided to follow that piece up with some shopping rules to stick by because admittedly, it’s a lot of fun to spend money. As everyone knows, small purchases add up but even big ticket items can get out of hand if you’re not careful.

The idea of having shopping rules is to have a “code” that you live by when it comes to spending. If you don’t break any of the following rules then it probably won’t be a big idea if you go ahead and make the purchase. It may sound ridiculous but if your goal is to save more / spend less, then you need a system to help keep you honest.

shopping rules

1st RULE: Save first

I actually have no problem with people who like to treat themselves to coffee every day or going out for Friday night drinks. The only condition I have though is that you must save your money first. If you know you’ve met your savings goals for the month, does it matter when you treat yourself? This doesn’t mean save $50 and spend $500, but I think you get the point. If you’re prioritizing your savings, spending what’s leftover really doesn’t matter.

2nd RULE: Check to see if it’s cheaper somewhere else

I absolutely hate paying more for something when I don’t have to. I find that Metro and Shoppers Drug Mart charges 25% more for the exact same product compared to No Frills or Wal-Mart. With apps and online shopping available at your fingertips, it’ll take you just a few seconds to find the best prices. Get into the habit of shopping at places where they price match and you’ll save even more.

3rd RULE: Ignore sales pitches

If you’re being made a sales pitch, the odds are you don’t need whatever they’re selling. You should have done your research in advance on whatever you’re planning to buy. Salespeople are trained to sell you stuff you don’t need and this applies to financial products too. At the very least, do your due diligence and make sure what they’re telling you is true.

4th RULE: Pay it off in full

This should be obvious, but if you’re putting your purchase on credit and you know you won’t be paying the full balance, then you simply can’t afford it. It doesn’t matter how low the monthly payments are, the interest you pay never makes it worth while. This obviously doesn’t apply to major purchases like a house or car.

5th RULE: Don’t get emotionally attached

This is one of the toughest shopping rules to get over since it’s so easy to fall in love with something and convince yourself to go ahead and buy it. Unfortunately, this usually happens with expensive purchases like a home. With real estate, if you fall in love with a property, you may end up spending more than you can realistically afford. Always try to keep the emotions out of any purchase.

6th RULE: Keep your receipts

Make a habit of hanging onto your receipts just in case you need to make an exchange or refund. It may seem tedious but many merchants are pretty specific about their return policies so you want to hang onto all your receipt. To keep things organized, purchase a small organizer so you have a safe place to store your receipts. Keeping all your receipts also helps in the event you need to make a warranty claim.

7th RULE: Ask yourself, can this money be better used somewhere else?

This shopping rule may contradict rule #1 but it’s still something to seriously consider. Whenever I’m about to make a purchase, I usually ask myself is this money better used elsewhere? The answer is usually yes, but the odds are I’m still going to spend the money anyways. But every so often I’ll stop myself and put that money to better use somewhere else.

8th RULE:  Sleep on it

I have a personal rule where I won’t buy anything over $100 without sleeping on it first. This only applies to purchases I’m considering in store, to me spending $100 on impulse is a big deal. I find most of the time after leaving the store, I quickly realize that I really didn’t need that item. Now if I’ve researched something in advance, the odds are I’ve been thinking about buying it for some time and am ready to make an informed decision.

About Barry Choi

Barry Choi is a Toronto-based personal finance and travel expert who frequently makes media appearances. His blog Money We Have is one of Canada’s most trusted sources when it comes to money and travel. You can find him on Twitter:@barrychoi


  1. Kate on June 13, 2016 at 4:54 AM

    Great tip/rules to shop by!

    Kate | http://www.petiteadventures.org/

  2. Sarah @ Couple of Sense on June 14, 2016 at 10:12 PM

    Thanks for sharing these tips for people who have a hard time to following into a spending free fall. Broadly speaking I generally follow these rules when I’m shopping and especially the last one which has the biggest impact.

    • Barry Choi on June 14, 2016 at 10:46 PM


      Every so often I need to stop myself. I think most about it when making large purchases but with small ones I tend to just buy.

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