Halfway through last week, I realized that the 4th of July actually was going to occur on the 4th of July this year and that I had not planned for nor budgeted for our annual bbq. Nothing new really. In fact, had I planned for or budgeted for it, now that would have been something new! Proof you can’t turn around 25 years of bad behavior in just 13 weeks.

So, it was back to my budget to see if I could scrape or finagle the numbers around so I wouldn’t have 5 disappointed people living in my house and about 15-20 others who don’t. I did by the way, scrape and finagle enough. So yesterday morning off I went to Walmart, sending the men in my house out for fireworks.

Walmart’s produce section produced an epiphany for me. Retailers don’t want me to save money, nor do they want me on a budget. I heard a hearty snort from you there, dear reader. As though you were saying, “Seriously, Natalie, that’s an epiphany?”

Well it was! See until yesterday, I hadn’t realized how subtle their war was against my budget.

I needed some tomatoes for what I was planning on serving. Normally, I would get them at Aldi and it would be a single price for a package of Romas. At Walmart, all the Romas looked decidedly Norwegian (read that as a very weak shade of red) and not like they had been raised in Rome. So I looked for juicier ones and found them in the beauties on the vine. Now tomatoes on the vine were priced per pound, but do you think I could find a scale to weigh them at? At $2.15 a pound, I couldn’t tell how much I was actually going to spend on them.

I was a bit miffed, but thought I was being silly. Then I passed a whole line of Frito/Lay chips in boxes set conveniently in the middle of the aisle by the produce section. The trouble was, one side of the sign said $1.98/bag, that side, of course, being the sign you saw as you walked in the door, and the other said $2.48/bag. The sign was perched right on the crack formed by two sets of boxes. Now, the average consumer (read that as Natalie prior to Financial Peace University) would have picked up the Lays potato chips and the Tostitos white corn tortilla chips and the Nacho Cheese Doritos and not given it another thought. And I almost didn’t. If I hadn’t turned around at the end to go back and get another bag, I would have thought I was paying about $2 a bag for all 8 bags of chips. The truth was, only the Doritos were $1.98 a bag. Everything else was $2.48.

I won’t bore you to death with the rest of my Walmart trip. (I heard that sigh of relief…)

The whole trip reminded me of my childhood. I remember my mom weighing things in the produce department. I remember shopping with my mom at Prairie Mark-it as a child and having to mark all the prices on everything. My mom was a very frugal shopper then. She doesn’t have to be now.

I think that’s my problem, and perhaps our problem as a nation. We’ve forgotten that our parents scraped and saved during our childhoods and see them only as they are now, reaping the rewards of that behavior.

I am reaping the rewards of my past behavior too. That’s why I am now anxious to find a scale, buying store brand chips to save money, and cutting last year’s fireworks budget by 60%.

So back to the epiphany, Walmart doesn’t want me to weigh my produce because if I do, I won’t buy as much. That’s why there is only one scale in the produce department, tucked in the front of the produce section facing the doors and down low enough that you can’t see it easily. Walmart can afford to cut the price on Doritos by 50 cents a bag, because they know those aren’t the only chips you’ll want. And if they put them right next to all the other chips you do want and make sure that the sign showing their higher price is placed so you have to look for it, then they’ll make a nice hefty profit on your extra 50 cents a bag on all those other chips.

It all boils down to who has control over my wallet–me or Walmart. Yesterday I won.

By the way, it was a great 4th! Hope yours was too!