How I Use Shopping Lists to Control My Spending

 I take a written shopping list on every buying trip. And those lists act as superb spending control tools. Here’s how I build and use those lists.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

If I go shopping, I go with a shopping list.

If I go shopping, I go with a shopping list.

I don’t go to stores on “shopping” trips. I go to stores on buying trips, armed with a list of items to purchase. If I have only 3 or 4 items to buy, that list may be a mental one. Otherwise, a written buying / shopping list accompanies me on every buying trip I undertake. And those lists act for me as superb spending control tools.

Grocery stores are where the efficacy of using a buying / shopping list really shows for me. Without a short mental or longer written list, a trip to a grocery store turns into a protracted wandering expedition up and down the store’s aisles. Items on the shelves catch the eye and wind up in the grocery cart. Meanwhile, the things that are really needed slip out of mind and are forgotten. And the pile of items in the cart grows and grows, willy nilly. As does the bill at the checkout register from this freeform shopping adventure.

A list-driven buying trip gives me much better spending control and prevents me from forgetting to purchase items I really need restocked in our pantry. Or my closet.

For my most recent (once in a blue moon) clothing buying trip, I had a short mental buying / shopping list assembled from an inspection of my clothes closet: briefs, socks and T-shirts to replace what had become too worn to wear “out in society.” Plus a pair of beige or tan dress slacks to round out my wardrobe – if I could find a well-discounted tasrget of opportunity in my waist and leg length size. So, when I went to the department store, I did not wander all over the place or even all over the men’s wear department. My list kept me focused on what I needed and away from other spending temptations.

I am a big believer in bundling errands into travel-efficient multistop buying trips. In between those trips, my buying lists build up as I notice things we need. Scrap notes or physical reminders such as bottle caps, box ends and labels all go into a little basket we keep at our front door key station. It is then a simple matter to assemble from those reminders a clean buying / shopping list just prior to setting off. A quick run through fridge, pantry and bathroom cabinet finalize the list. Almost.

That little basket is also the repository for discount coupons that accrue from various sources. Some of those discounted items get added to the list. And the really final step I take to complete my buying list is to add to it attractively discounted items from the week’s store sales flyers – if they are worthy of being stocked.

This is a protocol I apply across the board to all of our buying. So on one of my errand trips I am likely to have a groceries list, a home improvement store list, and possibly a multi-themed big-box store list. All of which save me money and time that I can put to much better use.

Of course, the lists are not written in stone. I retain the flexibility to pounce on unexpected sale offers or grab a particularly attractive item. But I do not wander up and down aisles wasting time and filling my cart with impulse buys.

I keep the spending of my money – and my time – under control. Thanks to my lists.

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