Here’s Why Shopping Carts Are Getting Bigger and Bigger

Updated: Dec. 03, 2019

There's a reason you can't leave Target without spending more than you planned—blame the shopping cart.

You enter Target with a couple things on your list: paper towels and shampoo. The next thing you know, two hours have passed, your cart is completely full and the cashier just told you your bill is over $200. We’ve all had this shopping experience before. What happened? Lack of self-control? Temporary insanity? Oddly enough, the size of the shopping cart might be at least partially to blame for your over-spending—at Target and everywhere else. (Here’s another reason you might spend so much at Target!)

Shopping Carts Are Bigger Than Ever

One of the very first shopping carts, invented in 1937, was simply a metal frame that held two wire shopping baskets. Eventually the design evolved to one basket, and the nesting capability was added for easy storage. The first shopping cart baby seats were added in the 1950s. For the next several decades, the shopping cart design remained the same—except when it came to size. The average shopping cart has almost tripled in size since 1975. From a stack of two hand baskets to the gigantic carts we see today, why the change?

Bigger Carts Lead to More Spending

There are a couple of theories out there as to why shopping carts have gotten bigger and bigger: wider shopping aisles and larger shopping budgets are leading people to buy more goods and groceries. But there could be a more subliminal reason: to trick the consumer into spending more. Marketing consultant Martin Lindstrom told Today that when the shopping cart was doubled in size in an experiment, shoppers would buy 40% more merchandise.

Check out these tips for saving money at the grocery store.

Skip the Cart to Avoid Overspending

So how do you stop overspending at Target? First of all, skip the giant cart. Grab a basket, or go without any carrier at all. Here are a few other tips according to Gretchen Rubin, author and good habits expert.

  1. Be careful at the checkout line. These areas are lined with small impulse purchases that you probably don’t need.
  2. Don’t wander. Get in and get out.
  3. Don’t shop when you’re in a hurry or especially when you’re hungry.
  4. Stick to the list!
  5. Beware of sales. No matter how much an item is marked down, if you don’t really need it, don’t buy it.

Don’t miss these other secret grocery shopping tips you need to know.