More often than not, we find ourselves at a store with our hopes of purchasing an item being much larger than the sum of money found in our wallet. Instantly, conflicting feelings of impending anxiety and temptation overwhelm us. If we purchase the navy-blue sweater from J Crew, will we have enough to afford the bulk supply of paper towels from Costco? Naturally, we are left to choose. Which is more important? Which do I need more? The answer is obvious- necessities over wants- but that doesn’t make it any easier to come to terms with.

But what if you didn’t have to choose? What if there was a way to buy the sweater, and the paper towels, and still have a little money left over for that late-night ice cream run? Well I have good news, you don’t have to choose, because the solution to all your problems is here, and it’s a simple one: smart shopping.

Regardless of age, smart shopping is something that effects everyone. Anywhere, any place, any time. Simply put, it is what separates those who are handed $100 and told that they need to spend that money in the most efficient, resourceful, and productive way. A smart shopper will take that money and prioritize the products they put in their basket. They will start with absolute necessities, then work their way down to what will be resourceful, eventually purchasing the products that they merely want. What’s more, they will probably be left with a little money even after their splurge.

Some of you may be thinking, “Well, that is definitely not how I would describe myself as a shopper”, and that’s okay, because you are going to learn how to make yourself a smart shopper. Although it may seem daunting and perhaps in some cases even unnecessary at first, transforming your ways is going to leave you with less stress and anxiety when it comes to all things financial, and here’s how to do it.

  1. Start by asking yourself the essential questions.

Even before you leave the house to go out to run errands. What am I specifically looking for? How much can I afford to spend? Once you’ve answered these questions, you’re halfway there, but the next step is to set your budget.

  1. Set a budget.

Often, people believe setting a budget to be irrelevant when you are running day-to-day errands, but it is necessary. Nobody can walk into Target or Costco and not have the occasional wandering eye to the items that they don’t really need, but in that moment, think they have to have. To avoid getting yourself into such a situation, write down the amount that you feel comfortable spending, that you know you can afford to spend, and keep it close by during your entire excursion.

  1. Price match at certain locations.

Not all stores have the price match option, but for the ones that do, remember it’s there for you to take advantage of. That $2.00 difference may not seem like much on the surface, but in the grand scheme of things, it adds up and can save you a great deal of money in the long run.

  1. Remember what you’re looking for.

So, you make it to the store, you’re on your way out, and something takes hold of your vision and whips your head towards it… don’t have a closer look! Remind yourself that it’s not something you really need, and that extra $5.99 is not a hit your wallet wants to take.

It may seem difficult at first, sometimes even unmanageable, but over time the “smart shopping” gene will start becoming primal, and that is something both your cluttered counters and wallet will forever be thankful for.