Lists help us get things out of our heads, and for that alone they’re useful. If you’re ever feeling overwhelmed and scattered, practicing a “brain dump” of all your swirling thoughts will help restore order and clarity to your addled mind.
And while there’s potency in the act of making a list itself, putting purpose behind the list can make it even more powerful. For instance, combining list-making with your desire to save money in the new year can bring about some welcome and majorly massive financial results.
Here are a few ways to harness the power of lists to bring your money-saving habits to new heights:
(Image credit: Jill Chen/Stocksy)
Make a pantry inventory
Knowing what you have in your pantry and what you need will save you money in two ways: You won’t needlessly buy things that you already have (hello, multiple bottles of corn syrup that I only use twice a year) and you won’t let items you already have expire. You’ll also save yourself the hassle of running out to the store for that one thing you need while you’re in the middle of a recipe—and all the impulse purchases that go along with those dashes to the supermarket.
Your pantry inventory list doesn’t have to be on paper. In fact, keeping a running list on your phone of items you already have (and which ones you need to buy) might be the best option: It will be with you when you’re at the store so you can fill in your inventory as necessary. Spices are a good place to start filling in your running inventory lists.
Make a wardrobe inventory
This list has a few components. First, make a list of the types of items your ideal but minimalist wardrobe needs depending on your circumstances and work. For instance, list the total number of work pants and tops, cold weather accessories, jeans, casual tops, and number and types of shoes. Be thorough but don’t get bogged down in details.
Armed with this list, declutter your wardrobe. Thinning out will allow you to either see that you have what you need (even if it’s been hidden amongst clothing you don’t need) or that there are a few pieces you should try to fill in.
Now make lists of the items you need to fill in. This will save you all the money you spend on clothing purchases when you feel like you have “nothing to wear” even when your closet is brimming.
The next step is to wait for just the right item and price to fill in any wardrobe gaps. This doesn’t mean buying the cheapest thing; it may mean buying the best quality you can afford with the idea that it’ll last many years. Your list will also enable you to wait for sales and be savvy as you save. You will be getting a deal on what you actually need.
Practice these steps for each person in your family. This cycle of knowing the whole picture of what you need, pinpointing what you need to fill in, and stretching your dollars by buying on sale will save you so much money, especially if you have kids.
List your short- and long-term financial goals
Writing down your short- and long-term savings goals will operate on three basic levels: It will help you define what these goals are, motivate you to keep making choices that support these goals, and make you more likely to achieve your goals (due in large part to the first two).
Definitely keep a line item in your budget for your savings goals (I use and love YNAB), but make it a point to write them down on paper too, and to write down the stuff that’s larger than just a line item. Consider including things like where you want to be financially 50 years from now, a decade from now, and at the end of the year. Add specific things you’d like to save for, for everything from the bike rack to the international vacation. Break down these goals into manageable monthly (or even weekly) savings chunks.
When large goals are broken down and you take action on them by putting them in as a line item in your budget—this is where the real magic happens.
Putting in just a bit of effort to analyze, plan for, and control spending in the smaller areas of your pantry and wardrobe will free up money to make your short- and long-term savings goals much more within your grasp. Work on your lists and start your year off with a good amount of money-saving traction.