I’m an obsessive list maker. This obsession is usually an advantage, because it helps me stay organized and remember things I need to do or buy. The sheer act of writing something down on a list helps me remember (since my memory is visually oriented), so that often I’m able to shop my list from memory — even if I’ve left it at home.
Since I’ve been using a smartphone, list-making is especially practical. I always have my phone with me, so as long as my list is digital, I’m good to go.
And on a recent trip to the store, I learned why — digital or physical — you always need to shop with a list.
3 Reasons Why You Need to Shop with a List
1. They combat mental lapses
The other night, I knew I needed to grab several things from the store. It was a Monday night, so I was especially tired from my first day back at work — and knew I had a lot yet to do when I got home. Instead of grabbing only my listed items and heading home, I fell into the trap of wondering if there was anything else I needed.
Perhaps I’d just take a look around the aisles and mentally go through my pantry at home to make sure there wasn’t anything I’d missed.
Thirty minutes later, I arrived at the checkout with much more than I’d intended, for which I spent more than I’d intended; even worse, when I got home, I realized I’d made several mistakes. By relying on my mind to remember everything, I’d sent it into overload. My memory is good, but I was expecting too much, and as a result, I endangered my grocery budget.
2. They help you avoid stockpiling unnecessary items
Something happens when you think you might be low on an item, but it’s not on the list: You second-guess yourself about everything else. When I got home from shopping that night, I realized that not only had I purchased an item I already had two full containers of — I’d made an impulse purchase I couldn’t use without an additional item I didn’t have. Because I made the dual mistake of relying on my memory and straying from my list, it was an absolute train wreck!
Stocking up on key items when they’re on sale or when you have coupons is a great idea to save money in the long run — but if you’re not saving money, stockpiling is just costing you money that could have been spent on other things you need now.
3. They help you maintain your budget
I’m sure there are ways I could better follow my grocery budget if I had more time and energy, but in general, I manage to stay within the monthly limit as long as I loosely plan meals and don’t impulse shop. Shopping outside of the all-important list has the potential to upset the budget and send me scrambling to bring it back in line.
Going over a little here and there isn’t a big deal (as long as your budget has some wiggle room), but consistent overspending on budget categories such as groceries and household necessities can indicate the need to either stick more closely to lists and meal planning, or create more room in your budget.
List-making isn’t just for the super-organized or forgetful. It’s a practical way to keep a visual reminder of your budget or spending plan. After my experience the other night, I’m going to be extra careful about sticking to my lists.
Do you shop with a list? Have you ever experienced a shopping disaster like the one above?