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The $100 Grocery Habit I Think Everyone Should Adopt

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Have you ever seen that John Cusack movie, Better Off Dead? It’s totally weird, but there’s an element of the film that comes back to me, over and over again — especially when I’m grocery shopping.

You see in the flick, Lane (Cusack) is pestered continually by the paper boy coming to claim his two-dollar pay. Lane’s mom is never home when the paper boy comes, but the boy is insistent that he be paid, shouting through several scenes, “I want my two dollars!”

I know how that guy feels — especially when I take a hard look at my grocery receipt and find out that I’ve been overcharged. Sometimes, it’s just a few cents, but more and more frequently, it’s landed in a higher range — $1.77 here, $2.25 there.

And I sit there in the foyer of the grocery store, channeling my inner paper boy, thinking, I want my two dollars!

Seems silly to quibble over two dollars, right? I mean, many of us spend more than that every day on a cup of coffee!

But here’s the thing, my grocery budget is set pretty tight. There isn’t a lot of wiggle room. And often the mistakes are more than just a couple bucks. I’ve had errors as high as $15 make it out the door without me or the checker noticing.

Let’s look at my $2 issue and do some math. If there are weekly errors of $2 (or more!) in my grocery receipt, over the course of the year, I’ve lost more than $100 to computer and user error.

I don’t know about you, but I could do something fun with a hundred bucks.

Checking your receipt isn’t painful and it takes just a few seconds. Keep these common-sense strategies in mind when at the grocery store to help you prevent loss.

  1. Pay attention to prices as you put items in your cart. You don’t have to memorize them, but have some basic awareness of what things cost.
  2. Watch the items as they scan through the check-out. It’s helpful if you don’t have kids with you to distract you.
  3. If you notice something is off, speak up before your transaction is complete. It’s okay if you hold up the line. It’s your money. It can be something as simple as, “Would you mind checking the price of that jam? I sure thought it was on sale for $1.99.”
  4. Give your receipt a look. When your transaction is complete, before you leave the store, step aside, out of the way of other customers, and read your receipt. Make sure that the prices, especially for sale items, registered correctly.
  5. Head to customer service. If you think you’ve been overcharged, head to the customer service desk and inquire how you can get a refund. In my experience, they will happily make it right. Some stores will even give you the item for free if they make a mistake.

Does this all take a little time? Yes, it does. Depending on the amount of the error it might not be worth your while to get the refund, but let that be your decision to make. I will say this, though: Being unknowingly shortchanged isn’t right. And it can add up.

Do you check your receipts? What’s the most costly discrepancy you’ve found?

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