How to Make an Effective Shopping List

grocery list, shopping

Source: iStock

Whether you’re shopping for groceries, clothes, or holiday gifts, having a clear plan can help you stay on track with your spending and keep you from wasting time. Here are a few tips for creating a shopping list that helps you maximize your time and save money.

Set your budget

Before you set foot in the store or begin your online shopping, you’ll need to set a budget. Make sure this budget is realistic. Once you’ve decided on an amount that you can comfortably spend, stick to it. Even though budgeting can be tedious and feel very restrictive, you’ll benefit from the long-term results.

“Budgeting. The very world can bring tears to your eyes. Yet, if you have any financial goals—any at all, from being debt-free to buying a house to retiring in comfort—budgeting is the single activity that will simplify and improve your life,” said Tere Stouffer in The Everything Budgeting Book.

Do your research

Take some time to comparison shop before creating your list. This way, you’ll know which stores to visit beforehand. A price comparison app is the easiest way to conduct your research. One app to try is ShopSavvy. Once you type in what you want to buy, the app will keep track of when the price is reduced. The RedLaser app will take the work out of discovering whether you can get an item for less money at another retailer. All you have to do is use your phone to search for or scan an item you plan to purchase, and the app will find prices at other stores. Both apps provide a great tool for saving money at stores that do price matching.

Create a list

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

Now that you have set a budget and you’ve researched prices, you’re ready to start your list. A list will keep you from wandering aimlessly through store aisles. This is a very ineffective way to shop. A haphazard approach to shopping usually leads to a lighter wallet and a big headache from having to return items that you’ll later regret purchasing. Stay organized by creating a list of what you are going to purchase. When it comes to holiday shopping lists, place a dollar amount next to each person on your gift list. Also use rewards credit cards so that you can benefit from your purchases by racking up points (just remember to pay off your balance in full and on time). These are purchases you were going to make anyway, so you might as well get rewarded for it in the process.

Remember to only purchase what is on your list and to stick to the dollar amounts. Unless you are holiday shopping, also remember to purchase what you actually need.

Get organized

In Black Friday Book, author Frances P. Robinson advises dividing your shopping list by store. This tip is helpful for all types of shopping, not just during the holiday season. Dividing your list by store will help save time and reduce the chance that you’ll have to circle back to a store you already visited because you forgot something. This practice will save you from yourself because if you have to go back to a previous store, you’ll be tempted to buy something else. Avoid the temptation and only visit the store once during your shopping trip. Your bank account will thank you later.

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