Do you remember those American Express ads from the 80s and early 90s that said, “Don’t leave home without it?” I can’t recommend you follow their advice regarding their product, but I can recommend it when it comes to lists.
I get into more trouble financially when I walk into a store without a list. I always have. But the problem has grown worse lately (ahem…pregnancy and babies). I can literally discuss the items we are there to buy with my husband just outside the store, walk in the doors and ask, “Why are we here again?” It happens all the time! And my forgetfulness is expensive! I either overcompensate by buying a bunch of items I don’t really need or I don’t get anything and then get home and kick myself because I suddenly realize what I really needed (and I get to spend more gas money driving back to the store)!
The reasons for making a list are pretty obvious: they keep you on track on spending, they help you to remember to get all the items you truly need, and they force you to really consider what is necessary.
But have you considered which lists to make?
Here are some lists you can make that help you keep your finances on track:
Grocery This is a standard list. I always make mine on the front of an envelope, so I can put any necessary coupons inside. I make my list based on our weekly menu, after I have shopped my pantry. I also make the list after looking through the grocery ads (either print ads or online) making sure I can stock up on items that are at my buy it now price.
Household Goods This is a great list to keep on the refrigerator or close to the door where you leave the house. These are the items you need, but don’t necessarily buy in the same place you purchase groceries. When we have a list of a reasonable size, we plan on going to the store as a weekend outing with the family. Having the list helps keep us out of the store for every little item that comes up, in danger of impulse purchases.
Wish lists I talked about making a wish list in this post. But it bears repeating that having a list of items you really would like to have on hand will help you when you get to the store. Seeing an item that you just love, but don’t know where it would go in your house can be tempting. Those get it for a rainy day purchases often sit in closets, contribute to clutter, and become regretted purchases. You will save yourself money if you only buy items on the wish list. (TIP: Keep in mind the item on the wish list could be as unspecific as “a piece of furniture for the entryway” or “organization for under sinks”)
Meal Plans/Go-to Meals – This is a new one for me and I am working on creating a go-to list of meals. These are meals that can be prepared with less than 15 minutes prep time and require only a few items from the store. Keeping a list of these meals and the ingredients required on hand (even in your phone) can ward off the last-minute drive-thru desperation and keep your family fed with meals they love.
To Do/Priorities – This list will help you keep things straight when the temptation is there to get everything you need at once. This is part of holding off and having a plan. Keeping a list of the items you want and the things that need to get done in the house, by order of priority will help to keep you on track with your plan and save you money by not purchasing all the items on your wish list at once.
What lists do you take with you when you head out to the stores?