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Be an Organized Consumer

Becoming a Master Listmaker for More Organized Shopping
In this section, you set up lists to carry in your paper planner or PDA that will maximize gift-giving, collection-building, and holiday/seasonal supply purchases. Keeping lists of these items contributes to your financial organization in several ways: It helps you to budget for future purchases, allows you to plan purchases calmly rather than making them as a knee-jerk reaction in the store, and prevents duplication or overbuying because you've forgotten what you already have.

How many times have you been in a store, discovered something you need or want – on sale! – and wished you had the specifics so you'd know what size, color, or model to buy? Now you'll never have to wonder: You can carry that information with you wherever you go.

This is the biggest advantage of a PDA over a paper planner: the sheer volume of data you can conveniently carry with you. I utilize the Notes section of my PDA to the absolute max, with dozens of lists including the ones in this chapter. When a sale sneaks up on me, I'm always ready.

Don't have a PDA? You can still take advantage of this improvement. Just make your lists on paper to keep in your planner, or, if you don't carry your paper planner with you when you go shopping (and many people don't), just type up your lists in your computer's word processing program, make the font and type size as small as you can read, print them, and cut them into wallet-size pieces. Save the file on the computer and update it as needed.

Listing Things You Need and Things You Already Have
DVDs seem to be the only type of media that I need to keep in list form. I've found that it's not so hard to remember whether I have a particular CD, but because we can either rent or buy movies and video games, if it's one I've already seen, it's hard to recall whether it was borrowed or purchased when it last graced my TV screen.

So, one of the lists in my PDA is of DVDs I own. I also keep a list of DVDs I want to buy and another list of movies I want to rent. (Yep, I rely on my memory for very little!)

Why not make your own list right now? Even if you can't find all of your movies in one search, at least start your list: A partial record is better than none. If you think you own a movie but can't find it, list it with a question mark.

If you decorate your home for various holidays, you might have already thought of another application for this idea.

I decorate inside for Christmas and I make a spooky yard display for Halloween, so I keep lists in my PDA for each of these holidays. Updating the list is part of the preparation and disassembly chores each year: As I wrap gifts for Christmas, I note whether I'm running out of tissue paper or boxes; as I disassemble the cardboard coffin and tombstones on November 1, I update my Halloween list so I'll remember to get more fog machine solution next year.

The system paid off last summer when I found an entire aisle of pre-pre-PRE-Christmas loot on sale at our local warehouse club. I checked my PDA, found that I needed tissue paper but still had tons of gift bags, and was able to take advantage of this unexpected opportunity, getting exactly what I needed and nothing that I didn't.

Who Wants What: Maintaining Gift Lists
Which is better: Wandering the mall for gift-giving inspiration or dashing in and grabbing exactly what people want? You can be the perpetual giver of the perfect gift (and always know what to request for yourself as well) with the lists you create in this section. These are lists that are never complete and never go away; you just keep adding to them and deleting from them.

What They Want
Let's start by making one list called Gift Ideas – Others. As you did for your DVDs a minute ago, make a simple Word document, PDA note, or handwritten list and include everything you can think of that would appeal to the lucky recipients in your life. Also include sizes, brands, prices, and stores where specific items are sold.

After you collect all of this information, you might not need to look at it until months later, and it's at that point that you'll realize what a good idea this list is because you will have forgotten some of the ideas captured here!

Your Gift Ideas – Others list is a great alternative to shopping year-round and packing your closets with gifts to be given later. That habit solves one organizational problem – do it while you're thinking of it – but creates another: compromised storage space. Adding to your list as inspiration strikes takes advantage of your do-it-now habit without filling up valuable space (and you won't have to dust those gifts before you wrap them).

More on: Family Finances


Reproduced from Organize Your Personal Finances in No Time, by Debbie Stanley, by permission of Pearson Education. Copyright © 2005 by Que Publishing. Please visit Amazon to order your own copy.


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