Have you ever gone shopping, only to come home and find you already have what you just bought? Or that you really need something – after you you get home from the store, and then have to run out again? Let’s not do that anymore, okay? Start the year off right, and plan ahead before going shopping, because having a list is the key to save money and time!
As a first step, we’ll work on figuring out what you need. To get you started, I created some checklists for you to print out. There are a few suggested items in each category to give you some ideas of what you may need to get. The easiest way to do this is to grab a clipboard, and go category by category.
Don’t go out and get everything now!
This is what you will use to get a handle on what you will need to buy eventually. In subsequent posts, I’ll go into different strategies for getting the best deals for the items on your lists.
Organizing Your Lists
Now that you have an idea of what you need, the next step is to organize your lists. The method I recommend is to create shopping lists by store. I have certain places that I shop, and after you go to a store a few times, you will have an idea of the kinds of things they sell, and most important, their prices.
If you are like me, you have a smart phone, and mine is always in my pocket. It’s the perfect place for keeping your lists handy. If not, paper and pen is perfect too! For your smartphone, you will need an app where you can make notes – preferably on separate pages – one page for each store. You can Google “shopping list apps”, and find dozens to choose from. Find one or two that work for you.
Phone apps that are great for making shopping lists
Organizer To-Do by YadaHome (free) I only use this app for my grocery list. One of the features that I like is that you can create a Master List. I did this, and now have just about every grocery item I use on that list. Periodically, I go through it to see if I am missing something.
TIP – use your last receipt from the grocery store to start your Master List. Also, add the price you paid for each item – that way, you will know if you can get a better price if you are shopping in a different store, or if your main store lowers the price you normally pay.
For my grocery list, I create a new list, which I call “Need”, and enter items as soon as I use up something or take an item from the pantry. If it’s not already on the Master List, I can add it to both at the same time. As I go through the grocery store and find what I need, I just swipe the item on the list to delete it.
Here are screenshots of my Master List and Need List. (These are just the first few items on the list, which scrolls down.)
RetainIt (unfortunately, it is no longer available. I will update with a replacement app as soon as I find one for you.) This is another app with tons of features, but the only one I use is the Notebooks. I have created a notebook for each non-grocery store that I go to on a regular basis – Home Depot, Wal-Mart, Ocean State Job Lot (a discount store that sells primarily close-out items), the Dollar Store and Joann Fabrics. As needed, I create another notebook called Clothes, which is the only non-store based list I keep. How I shop for clothes is a whole other post, which you can read here.
Within each notebook is a shopping list. Sometimes I add the same item to more than one list, because I don’t always go to all the stores in one shopping trip. For example, if I need 1/4″ elastic for a sewing project, I put it on the Joann Fabrics list and the Wal-Mart list, since the item is sold at both places. Here in town, both stores are right next to each other, but I go to Wal-Mart first because the prices are better and I can get most of what I need there. So when I shop at Wal-Mart, I check my other lists to see if I can get all those items too.
Waiting can save money
A screenshot of my Notebooks in the RetainIt app: As you can see, I put items on my lists, but don’t get them until I find them at a good price.
Before I head out to the store, I check all my lists. Then I check the flyers and coupons that come in the mail, and the stores that have coupons on their websites. The types of items that are on the lists, coupons, and store prices determine which store(s) I will be going to.
I go into this a lot more here, when I discuss buying groceries. So for now, print out your checklists, take inventory of what you need, and get ready to save money!