6 Signs You’re Too Poor to Shop at Walmart

Wed, Oct 26, 2011

budget, poverty, spending

Last night I realized I couldn’t put off a trip to the grocery store any longer. You know what I mean - that moment when the fridge is empty, you’re out of the stuff that you NEVER run out of, and your dogs are literally licking the paint off the walls because their bowl is full of generic emergency food (or maybe that only happens at my house).

It’s been over a year since I had to use a credit card to pay for something necessary like food. And while I was determined to spend as little as possible, I underestimated exactly how much stuff I needed. Overall, I spent $180. Ouch! But that didn’t stop me from trying my best to save where I could - you guys know I’m not exactly frugal, but I made a conscious effort.

In my area, Walmart is definitely the cheapest place to shop - when the SuperCenter was built, the local grocery stores raised their prices to make up for all the people flocking to Walmart, making it nearly impossible for me to shop at those stores.

I was amused and a little saddened by some of the things I did to minimize usage of the credit card. I realized that, even though Walmart is cheaper, I really couldn’t afford to shop there (or anywhere else, for that matter) right now.

6 Signs You’re Too Poor to Shop at Walmart

1. You curse the guys rounding up shopping carts in the parking lot. AND the people walking into the store. Last night I sat for all of 30 seconds waiting for a guy to push a million shopping carts past me, but I was in my car going, “Really? REALLY?” Same thing when 20 people decided to enter the store just when I needed to drive past. Why? Because I was worried about wasting gas in my car. That tank has to last!

2. You look at every single bottle of shampoo in the store before choosing one. Did it really matter whether I spent $1.84 on 20 oz of shampoo or $1.96 on 22 oz? No, but you’d think it was life or death to watch me comparing the bottles. I stopped short of getting out a calculator, only because this old lady in the aisle looked like she wanted to kill me.

3. You wonder if it would be cheaper to buy candles instead of lightbulbs. Four lightbulbs cost about $2. Yet I actually debated whether I should buy a pack of candles instead of replacing the three bulbs in my bedroom (which all decided to go out at the same time). I also briefly wondered how much light I really need in my bedroom since I basically only go in there to sleep.

4. You walk halfway across the store to put back a 2-liter of Pepsi because Coke is 30 cents cheaper. Oh yes I did. There was a display of Coca-Cola at the front of the store, and I totally went back to return the Pepsi to save 30 cents. Jayden started his “You’re embarrassing me!!!” thing and walked away. Bonus points because I don’t even like the taste of Coke.

5. You don’t buy the $5 sweatpants your child needs for gym because he has “only” grown 4 inches since last fall. Maybe I’m awful, but I figure everyone looks like a dork in sweatpants anyway; why not go all out with a Steve Urkel look to separate yourself from the pack? Jay is going through his awkward stage right now, so it shouldn’t be that much different from everyday life, right?

6. You tackle the cashier when she fails to remove and scan the “Save $1 now!” sticker on a package of AA batteries. Okay, I didn’t completely tackle her. But I did reach my arms across the conveyor belt in what must have been a threatening manner. Next thing I know, a manager is standing next to me while I complete my transaction. Batteries are expensive, darn it!

Reasons This is Tongue-in-Cheek

I knew it was worth making fun of myself when Jay looked at me on the way home and said, “That was like shopping with the Beverly Hillbillies, only worse.” And I could tell he was being completely serious.

However, as funny as it was, I’m really not that poor. Yes, I had to use credit, which hurts my soul, and I may not be able to pay off the balance before the payment is due. I may have to charge quite a bit more on the card before my financial situation is straightened out. I have spent so much time and energy worrying, I think I’ve become slap happy in an effort to escape the seriousness of what I’m going through.

But last night, I left my warm house full of nice things, drove my lateish model car to Walmart, and spent $180 on food and household supplies. And I wasn’t hungry when I went to bed last night. And I didn’t have to worry about whether my child and I were safe. And I’m sitting at my JOB (something far too many people can’t say) finishing this post on my iPad. Yeah.

I may be hurting for cash right now, but my situation could still be much worse. This could be my everyday life instead of a (hopefully) temporary setback. No matter how bad things get, I know I have plenty of options, even if I really don’t want to use them.

I may be too poor to shop at Walmart right now, but I’m not too poor to meet our basic needs. Yet. And for that, I’ll gladly tackle as many cashiers as needed.

Every time you read one of these posts, a unicorn is born:

  1. Don’t Let Your Spending Control You
  2. 7 Reasons Why You Don’t Have Any Money

61 Responses to “6 Signs You’re Too Poor to Shop at Walmart”

  1. Eric J. Nisall says:

    Like you said Andrea, you and your son have a roof over your heads and food in the fridge, plus that jobby thingy you spoke of.  I don't think you're too poor until you're hiding in a corner eating a bag of chips and a soda thinking no one sees you.  I wonder what you needed the batteries so desperately for  Check out CVS next time-they sell their own brand buy 1 get 1 quite a bit or maybe get rechargeable ones.

    • No CVS in my area, but I'll remember that the next time I'm close to one. And if you must know, I needed batteries for my Bluetooth mouse, Jay's electric toothbrush, and his Wii remotes. So there. =P

      • Eric J. Nisall says:

        Really? No CVS?  Jay was spot on mentioning the Hillbillies!  Do you have running water and indoor plumbing at least?  :-D  I prefer Green Acres myself though.  And that's what I figured they were for too!

        • We do have indoor plumbing and running water, believe it or not. OMG I used to LOVE Green Acres when I was a kid! Probably because that's how I learned to climb the telephone pole in our yard to make a phone call.

          • Eric J. Nisall says:

            I used to love watching Nick @ Night when it was all of the old black and white shows.  Wanna know something funny?  There's a dog park that I drive past on my way home each night and this dude has 2 huge pigs that he brings there like they're dogs.  Wonder if he named either of them Arnold.

      • Lsravennight says:

        you save money by using  a regular toothbrush and does he really need a Wii to exercise indoors? i think not what is wrong with doing regular exercises that dont need instructions toshow you how to move? just move. why does eerything hve to be wireless? to free us up? in a way it actually ties us down. and no one really knows how all those waves going through the air affects, they wont really know for another 50 years.

        • Thanks for your comments. The Wii isn't for exercise; it's for playing video games. Both of us enjoy them. And I'm not too worried about the $3 electric Spongebob toothbrush I bought at Walmart. There are some expenses not worth nitpicking.

          • Kel says:

            Amen to that. She's a therapist. She knows how much it costs to go in, complain about your mother taking away your electric toothbrush and your Wii remote that you were playing with merely to save the $10 you spent on those items, perhaps. Right there.. you've saved nearly $100 by avoid that bill. ~

          • You sure have a lot of opinions, Kel. Makes me wonder if you have a job of your own, since you have so much free time to have a nervous breakdown over a $1.00 2-liter of soda. If you don't have constructive comments, maybe you should save your energy. I saw someone buying a whole 24-pack of Mountain Dew earlier - perhaps you could attack them instead.

    • Yourfinancessimplifi says:


    • Jtinguely says:

      boo hoo…

  2. Alysa (a-lee-sah) Se says:

    This post is hilarious! Good for Jayden for calling you a hillbilly and good for you for realizing that despite this really frustrating situation there's a lot to be thankful for!

  3. MommaStar says:

    Waking up seeing the bed under me the roof over me always makes me feel grateful for the things I have. I complain at times ok alot of the time that I don't have the nice house the fancy decor or the maid service a girl needs but I have food and shelter. Every time I start to whine about not having something I remember there are millions of families doing without right about now. It's funny you don't really think like that until you hit rock bottom at one point or another. GREAT POST

  4. Niki says:

    I love it. Sometime being slap happy helps more than we know.
    I know you hate using your credit cards but you're not being frivolous. I know credit cards get a bad rap but it is nice that they will be able to give you a bit of a safety net right now. 

  5. Bogofdebt says:

    I laughed enough that I got some weird looks at work.  So glad I'm not the only one who needs batteries and dislikes the prices-they are expesnsive and if you get the "cheap" ones, they don't last as long.  I always seem to run out when they just finished the sales-I find the Wal-Mart cashiers always tell me about that too.  "Oh hey you missed the bogo sale."  Thanks, I needed to know this as it helps me how?  I try to go shopping later so I can take my caluclator out and hunt up the best sales and not get dirty looks.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Ugh, I am so much poorer than you! I basically only use batteries in my remote controls and if those run out, it's time to start using the manual controls until I can steal some from my parents on the rare visit. Of course, I'm living in a 300 sq ft studio so manual controls aren't so bad

    And it could definitely be worse! Imagine if you had to take out a payday loan *shudder*

  7. Anotherhousewife says:

    Ugh… I had a gift card to CVS I earned through swagbucks and I couldn't bring myself to buy the $2.42 bottle of shampoo knowing it was $1.88 at WalMart even though it was technically free! 
    Great Post

  8. Sarah663 says:

    Just wanted to say that I feel ya girl!  I've done all of those things!  Love your blog!

  9. Jana @ Daily Money S says:

    I am picture this entire shopping trip in my head as I am reading it. Particularly the part about you and the battery coupon. 

    You? Are priceless.

  10. Aloysa says:

    Very entertaining: sometimes sad, sometimes LOL funny. I tried to imagine you tackling down a cashier who didn't ring up a $1 coupon. On a serious note, sometimes we need to charge something on a c/c that we don't want to but have to. You need to do what you need to do. Life will trun around eventually.

  11. PKamp3 says:

    The last time I visited my parents I realized the Walmart had left town.  Apparently, it tried to become a super Walmart and the local supermarket resisted.

    Well, Walmart uprooted and took itself (and its jobs) a few towns over.   Economics in one lesson!

  12. Michelle says:

    Hello!  I love your blog. I just came across it as I was looking for other single mama's in financial crisis and thought, are you me?  :) 
    But then I saw you had a credit card and could afford pop, lights, and batteries.  (I jest, I am actually quite grateful for the rook over my head and breath I get to take every day.)  How do you get out of a payday loan?  Absolutely ashamed to say, it's going to be a year for me since I took out the original and just re-up every month.  So yes, please tell me how you got out of it without starving?    

    • I'll work on a post about payday loans. Didn't know if there would be much interest, but you're the second person to mention it lately. Look for a post (maybe two) in the next week.
      Thanks so much for visiting and commenting!

  13. Shannyn @frugalbeaut says:

    I commend you for still being grateful for what you do have- the warm home, the food, the ability (even if it's sucky) to even have credit to use…but it's still darn stressful as hell. When I first moved out to Chicago I did a lot of crap like this- yes I still had some emergency money and a credit card but I was desperate to squeak by w/o getting into too much trouble.    Hell, I even avoided Target for an entire month just so I wouldn't buy anything that wasn't edible so I could get buy an a zero-little income.  

    Whenever I go to Walmart I always spend a grip ton since everything is in one place and it's just so convenient..they got me by the (chest) balls or bewbs as we call it. hmmm.

  14. Yourfinancessimplifi says:

    Shopping at Walmart is always an adventure.  I feel like I lose a little piece of myself every time I got inside one.  Haven't been to one in a while but I think I'll stop buy from some Halloween candy and some laughs

  15. The Girl Next Door says:

    If you ever want to enjoy some walmart fabulousness without having to take a trip there, visit peopleofwalmart dot com :)  

  16. Aerohazard says:

    This was a very well-written article, and I can relate to a lot of it! I have also learned not to complain about your situation, because there is always someone who is worse off. I'm lucky I have a job, yet I complain about my measly $700 a month expenses. Someone I work with and i got on the topic, and he makes less than me, yet has $1200 in monthly expenses. Guess $700 isnt a lot after all. Especially when I am lucky enough to have four walls around me and a roof above me, and I am able to shop in the organic section of produce.

  17. LLamalima says:

    Hilarious!  Especially about the gym pants!  I tried saving money with rechargeable batteries, but after a couple years, they don't seem to do as well even if they have only been re-charged 5x in two years.  Now I just get a jumbo pack at Cosco.  Their generics are about 1/2 the price of the big name brands.  Another decision I made was not to buy the cheaper portable thermometer as it took two AAAs.  I spent $1 more and bought a model that took two AAs as I have like 48 AAs thanks to Cosco….

  18. Deborah Hoff says:

    I tried extreme couponing at Walmart for the first time a couple of weeks ago.  I bought a $6 Pittsburgh newspaper and used $10 worth of coupons from it, which means I only saved $4 for all that work. And I could have ODed on all the Pillsbury dough products I bought.  XP!  Anyway, I liked the article am in the same spot.  I'm middle class, at least at the beginning of the week :)

  19. fivemilecreek says:

    I can soo  relate to this !!  I do analyze the shampoo bottles ! And I would have gone back with the Coke too !  You do what you gotta do.  Both my husband and I are unemployed right now, (three kids) but the Lord is good and we havent been hungry yet !

    • Drbenf says:

      You guys are both crazy, taking the soda all the way back to where U found it. I figure all the people working at Walmart need their jobs & I don't want anyone getting laid off.  Sooooo, I just pick up the bottle of Coke (30 cents cheaper) and put the bottle of Pepsi back on the shelf where the Coke came from. Help your fellow JOB owners!

  20. Sandra says:

    Thank you for the giggle!  I agree, buy the child the sweat pants.

  21. Dennis Mattson says:

    LOL….  Makes one think….

  22. AmericanDebtProject says:

    Love the delicate up and down nature of this post-it felt like me at the store freaking out because I'm spending too much and then going home and remembering how good you have it after all.  Even if we are in debt.  Oh well.  

  23. shelle71 says:

    Very funny, but pulls at the heart too! I am too poor to shop at walmart 85% of the time…I have a roof over my head, food on the table and cable and internet…i will never own my own home, have a new car or new furniture or appliances….still greatful for what i have though!

  24. Sunflowe says:

    Am I tht only one who thinks Walmart is really more expensive?  Look they do this store set up to make ya buy more.. just when ya know where stuff is in a walmart.. they do what they call Flip the store!  I always spend less going to a grocery store.  Yet I end up in walmart cause it is a one trip deal.  Say for those sweatpants.. lol
    Use to be I couldn't get out of walmart under 100 dollars… this year.. seems more like 200 dollars.. now my income has not increased in the last 5 yerars.. so something is wrong with that picture.  
    I am on a fixed income of retirement,  husband was a union sheet metal worker for 40 years.  He would roll in his grave if he knew the union froze my cost of living increase.    This is an international retirement plan.. and still they are in trouble.. God Help us All! 

  25. Cgcolts says:

    I haven't read all of the comments, but I seriously hope it has been pointed out repeatedly, that buying soda AT ALL, is ridiculous if you are trying to save money.  It doesn't come close to being a need.  

    • Thanks so much for that! I didn't realize that rice and water were the only acceptable purchases for broke people, but I'll keep that in mind the next time I go to the store. I appreciate your comment, Judgey McJudgepants.

      • Becky6487 says:

        I think the point, Andrea, is you say you are trying to put as little on your credit card as possible, so no, soda is not a need, nor are batteries for your Wii or an electric toothbrush or a bluetooth. I understand the article is tongue-in-cheek, but some of us don't have "back-up" dog food- our dogs get generic all the time, and when we can't afford that, they get leftovers. I can't imagine what "needs" are so crucial to only two people that you could spend $180 dollars at Wal-Mart and still not get your poor kid some sweat pants. You claim that you know how lucky you are because you have a roof over your head and bla bla bla, but I don't think you really have a clue.

        • Kel says:

          And yeah, did you price out how much that soda is after you pay interest on it? That's the point. Cgcolts is giving you wisdom. If you can't learn from history, you are doomed to repeat it. I'm not buying soda, I have a small mortgage to pay. I'm not buying soda, I have health insurance premiums to pay. I'm not buying soda, I have a desire to reduce my dental bills. It could be a longer list… maybe that is what you lack. A list of why you should not waste money on soda, and other frivolities, outside of a birthday or special occasion. That's how you spend less than $100/wk on groceries for two adults. You avoid soda, for example. And there's lots of fun to be had still. Besides then when you have soda for a party or special celebration, you will enjoy it.

        • Alysa (a-lee-sah) Se says:

          This is frustrating. There's no need for you to be so rude! She's clearly SHARING a story that is, as you say, tongue-in-cheek, if you really thinK she doesn't have a clue, read elsewhere. No need for your negativity about her personal life here!

  26. Kel says:

    You're right, you're really not that poor. Because there is no way in Hades that I would put a bottle of soda on a credit card. Sale or no sale, that's not a necessary item. I admire your candor in admitting that you aren't frugal. And you don't want to be. Part of the price you pay for not being frugal is frustration at people pushing carts into the Walmart Supercenter. It's worth considering. You could give up soda, and a few other frivolities, and drink more water (your skin and kidneys and bone calcium thank you) and gain a little calm. 

  27. MICHAEL says:

    i guess am too poor to shop at wm, i always compare prices and i dont like the clothes in there, and i always by the best i can for the least.

  28. Afford Anything says:

    "You look at every single bottle of shampoo in the store before choosing one." — and -"You walk halfway across the store to put back a 2-liter of Pepsi because Coke is 30 cents cheaper."  I totally do that, and so did my parents. And we're debt-free! We basically just formed those frugal habits and stuck to them, regardless of our financial situation …. which is a good thing. So, don't worry — Jayden may be embarrassed now, but he's learning good habits by watching you price-compare.

  29. hanah says:

    I'd skip the soda and not make my kid go to school looking like a dork. Both actions will save money in the long run (on dentists and therapy.)

  30. Mia says:

    Give the lady a break guys….it's a fun blog, don't be so serious. She knows what she;'s doing, enjoy the reading, quit preaching.


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