Hacking Your Subconscious in the Discount Aisle

The Best $2 I’ve Ever Spent

This is a bit of a misc post tonight. I’ve only got ten minutes, so bear with me.


Last week I made an impulse purchase decision.

It was a pack of 6 Hershey’s chocolate hot-cross buns from the discount bakery at Countdown.

So much discount

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking - huh? Why is he writing about supermarket shopping? Man he’s gotten desperate for ideas.

Well, I’ve actually got plenty of ideas. I’m writing about it because this purchase was a defining point in my life.

Don’t believe me? Read on to find out.

First for some background

I eat healthy meals for dinner, I don’t have much processed food, and I exercise every day. I have done so for most of my adult life. I think it’s fair to say I care a decent bit about my health. My body is my most valuable asset I have and I believe if I don’t care enough to look after it, then I can’t trust myself to look after anything.

However up until a month ago, I had one problem. About every second night, I would get cravings for bread. I don’t plan for this to happen in advance, so I don’t actually buy any bread when I go for my weekly supermarket shopping and their’s none in the flat. So about every second night, I would walk to the supermarket, buy some discount bakery item, and eat it all in one sitting.

It was a disgustingly shameful habit, especially since I like to consider myself as disciplined and a healthy individual.

I would irrationally justify my habit on the grounds that I only ever bought bread at half price, so I was ‘saving money’. I knew it was a lie, but I was willing to believe it to overcome the cognitive dissonance in my mind.

I was addicted. Every time I swiped my card at the checkout counter, my conscious brain was telling me no. But my subconscious brain was telling me YES.

Apparently YES beats no.

It all changed when…

A week ago, I took my usual trip to the supermarket to buy some bread. Just before I brought the bread to the checkout counter, my conscious mind decided enough was enough, and came up with a brilliant idea.

I bought the bread. But, this time I didn’t eat it. I brought it back to the flat, looked it straight in the eye, and placed it gently in the cupboard. I made a promise there and then that I would never eat this bread.

Since then, I’ve never bought discount bread from the supermarket. The addiction vanished. I just don’t feel the need.

Why? I’m not really sure, to be honest!

Here are some theories I have:

  • Maybe the main reason I was addicted to discount bread was because I could justify it by ‘saving money’. Now that I already have hot cross buns in the house, going out to buy more is a clear waste of money. My subconscious can’t justify it. This still doesn’t explain why I haven’t eaten the hot-cross buns in the cupboard though.
  • When I am not having cravings, my subconscious brain thinks it looks sickly and sweet. This experience makes me prepared for when I do have cravings, because I know that my conscious brain doesn’t really want it.

Weird but cool, huh?

If you have one, I’d love to hear a better psychological explanation for this (looking at you Angus). I do irrational things all the time, and it would be great if I could use a similar technique to fix those too.

Anyway I’ve gone overtime, so I’ll leave it at that.

Fraser writes about his crazy life in The States, Angus writes about his crazy life as an entrepreneur, and I just write about discount bread. This is blog #20