The power of lists

Do you employ the awesome power that lies within proper use of lists? I know so many people who simply rely on their memory for everything. They take great pride in it. As if spending time and mental energy on remembering countless tasks is something to be boastful about. Of course, they rarely realise if they forgot a task until it is too late, or perhaps they forget it all together.

No, even though frugal we may be, we have no qualms about spending paper and pencils on the fabrication of lists of many different kinds. It reduces our stress levels and make shopping trips much faster and more efficient. It makes days run smoother at work, and helps avoid buying something twice.

In short. Lists are amazing. We employ them regularly and for many different purposes. For the aspiring frugal weirdo, I daresay they are almost essential. Below are some of the many ways in which we make use of their help. If you’re not a list person, why not give one a try? Perhaps you’ll be positively surprised.

Grocery lists

This one should need no explanation. Almost as soon as we return from the grocery shop, a new post-it is pinned to our cork board. Any time during the week when we notice we are running low on something, we write it on the list. If we run out of something we use regularly, it goes on the list. If we want to try a new recipe? You guessed it, it goes on the list.

It might seem a hassle to step away from whatever you are doing to walk over to a board to write down something, but the habit is deeply ingrained in the both of us by now. By hanging a pencil from the same board, the effort required is minimal, as everything is easily within reach. We do not try to remember everything we have uttered a need for just before we leave for the store. Writing it down directly leaves no doubt.

Another benefit of shopping with a list, is that it leaves you focused on said list in the shop. For us at least, this makes it a lot easier to resist any temptations we might run afoul. We do not aimlessly wander around the store, looking for things we think we might remember needing. We simply get what’s on the list, see if there’s anything interesting in the “almost out of date” reduction aisle, pay and get out. In this way, we save both time and money, and we rarely have to make the trek again soon because we forgot something!

Our list of stuff

Outside our grocery list, we carry another, much longer list. We have somewhat adoringly dubbed it “The list of stuff”. Here, anything we want or feel like the household needs is faithfully written down, preferably along with a date. The rule is that anything has to be on the list for at least 3 days before it is even seriously considered bought. The only exception being that if the thing is found for free before that, one may of course pick it up.

Not only does this simple setup help us avoid impulse buys, it also keeps our household relatively simple. Items can stay on the list for weeks and months, and it is not unheard of that we realise we do not really need it after all. And we certainly do not need it enough to pay for it full price. In most cases, what remains on the list are things we really do want, eventually. But we are biding our time until we find it cheap used or preferably free. Somehow, we still seem to manage day to day.

To-do lists

A third way we employ lists, is at work. It might not save me any money, but I extensively use lists at work. There is always a piece of paper on my desk with an ongoing to-do list. And when it is full I copy whatever I have not yet done and start a new one. I honestly have no idea how I would even attempt to keep on top of my tasks if I did not write down the various small things that need to be done. It also helps me divide a large task into many smaller ones, which makes it all seem much more surmountable.

While it might not save me money, this small practice saves me a lot of time. Without a system to help keep track of deadlines and tasks, I might suddenly realise the day before something was due and subsequently get stuck working overtime because I have forgotten all about it. Time is the most valuable asset we have, and this saves me a great deal of it, so that I can use it for other things.

Aspirations

Ask Mr. E. and he will tell you just how many ridiculous lists of dreams and goals I have. I have a whole notebook dedicated only to dreams, plans and aspirations. I write five-year plans and try to keep up with them. There are still a couple left until 2019, such as learning a new language (not sure I’ll manage that) and getting consistent results with sourdough.

I write lists of how much I hope to earn on my sidehustles. Small steps, so that I may tick off even the smallest win and feel on track. I think the lowest target on the list is a modest $10 a month. One step at a time.

Lists keep me on track. Lists keep me encouraged, and lists remind me of what I have to do. Plus, I quite enjoy the feeling of ticking off a task well done. But that might just be me.

One note on aspiration lists though. Do not let them get out of hand. It might be tempting, but try to avoid the vague goals, such as “get rich” or “become happy”. How will you know if or when you have reached goals such as that? Make sure you make your goals measurable and concrete in some way, or it is very easy to get frustrated and feel unaccomplished.

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