1. A Shopping List
2. A Calculator
I save more money when I write down what I am going for, than when I run in to grab a couple of things without a list. Stores are set up to grab you and have you with emotion. It is estimated that impulse buys account for upwards of 30% of our total bill.
Stores are set up for the impulse buy for sweets and for the latest item that is on sale. But, with a shopping list I know what I am there for and am reminding myself as I move about the store crossing off items on that list.
With a list I can have a feeling of accomplishment. I saved time not being distracted by items that would have technically fallen onto my WANT list.
When I take the time to write a list, I have already eliminated anything that is not a need or not within the budget by not adding it to the list. And, by taking that time to write the list I will be able to get home without having to go back out again to pick up something I forgot to get.
This isn't a must for everyone, you could just write down the prices of the items on the list and add them up as you go. Even though doing math long-hand is good for your brain, I don't want to stand in the middle of the aisle while I figure that out.
The calculator helps me keep a running total if I am trying to stay within a certain amount. When I round up to the nearest 50 cents or dollar, I have the taxes covered as well. If I have overestimated, I figured I saved money which is usually true, or I can quickly go back and grab any extra items that might be a want instead of a need.
Keeping a calculator handy also helps me figure out price breakdown per ounce or pound. It also helps me figure out what a true price might be that has a 35% markdown on the lowest price, especially when in a second-hand store. When I see those sales numbers I can better decide if it is what I want to buy.
The Final Total
When I'm all done and walking out to my car, I am never surprised at the total cost. I am always happy with what I have bought because I took the time to write down what I needed and I made sure I stayed on budget or, at the very least knew how much money I was spending. That, in a nut shell, makes me feel better than any coupons or sales could ever do.