The Free “Snapshot Method” That Helps Me Save Money While Shopping

published Mar 11, 2023
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Woman holding phone while shopping at store
Credit: Opat Suvi/

It’s no secret that phones can be a great tool for saving money while shopping, from money-saving apps that help you find the best deals or track your spending, to penny-pinching apps that earn you cash back whenever you shop. Even so, one of my favorite ways to save money through my phone is completely free and doesn’t involve an app at all. It’s a trick, which I’ll call the “snapshot method,” and it’s become my best ally to help me resist impulse buying and shop smarter. 

Essentially, it means taking a photo of something you want while out shopping instead of instantly buying it, and I’ve used it in two key ways: to appease my kids and to quell my own impulses. 

How I Use the Snapshot Method to Shop Smarter with My Kids

I accidentally stumbled upon this method while out on yet another brave shopping expedition with my kids. I used to dread shopping with them because almost inevitably they would see things they wanted and persistently whine and beg for me to buy them. But this time, in a moment inspired by sheer desperation, I interrupted their relentless pleading and crying and simply asked my children if I could take a picture of them with the things they liked. I then explained that the photos would help me remember what things they wanted me to buy for them.

Surprisingly, this offer distracted and calmed them down enough to bring an end to their tantrum, and by the time we left the store, my little ones had forgotten all about the things that just moments ago, they insisted they were unable to live without. Now, this wasn’t just a deceptive method to get my kids to behave. These photos became a great resource for me to come up with ideas for gifts for their birthdays and other special occasions to buy, not on impulse, but at an appropriate time.

And because my kids received some of the pictured items as gifts, they soon realized taking these photos meant I cared about their interests and that their voices were being heard without the need for screaming and tears. From that time on, our shopping trips became much easier after we all realized the benefits of using the snapshot method!

Credit: Nitiphonphat/

How I Use the Snapshot Method to Save Myself Money

Years later, I still employ this method, with or without children by my side. Even as an adult, I find that I often need to quiet down my own inner voice that urges and tugs persistently at me to buy whatever has caught my eye while out shopping. Using this method is so effective because it gives me time to curb any strong impulse to buy in the moment and be more objective and deliberate about my spending.

The snapshot method for adults is actually a very simple process. When some tempting item at a store catches your fancy and calls you to take it home, instead of buying it on a whim, take a picture of it and walk away. Make sure to include the price tag in the picture and save it to an album on your phone for future reference. Name the album whatever you want — “wish list,” “pics are cheaper than purchases,” or “put that thing down so you don’t go broke!”

Now comes the test. Wait a few days to see if the item is important enough for you to remember it. If it does come back to mind, retrieve that photo, and honestly reconsider that item’s cost to value ratio and if you think it would be worth returning to the store to purchase it.

Then, one of two things can happen: Either head back over to the store and joyfully buy the object of your heart’s desire, knowing with full confidence that this was not an impulse buy — or congratulate yourself for saving money and resisting the lure of yet another item you didn’t really need.