I have two things I will never go shopping without and they save me more money than coupons or anything found on a clearance rack.

1. A Shopping List
2. A Calculator

Shopping List
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.


  1. Angela Vierling-Claassen // Wednesday, June 23, 2010 5:32:00 PM  

    Great ways to keep things simple while you save. Two other tips:

    1. Buy the same things every time. We have a two week rotating schedule of meals so we basically buy the same things repeatedly. We fine-tune our needs to reduce waste and purchase low cost.

    2. Reduce trips to store. The less you go, the fewer opportunities for impulse purchases!

  2. dkillackey // Friday, August 20, 2010 9:16:00 AM  

    Hi Dawn.
    I stumbled on your blog from FiveCentNickel and have enjoyed bouncing around all your different ariticles. This saving without coupons story was fun (as is the picture!) and I wanted to share another idea for you. Retail tools like layaway are good options for keeping your budget in check. No finance charges mean you can get what you want and need without worry. I look forward to reading more and staying in touch!

    ~ Deanna (on behalf of Kmart)