Melinda writes in:
You constantly write about how having a notebook in your pocket all the time helps you in life and saves you money. I get that you can write down your ideas in it all the time, but I’m not a creative type. I don’t see how having a notebook on me at all times can save me money at all.
Aside from the fact that I’m able to use the notebook to write down my ideas – my career’s bread and butter – a pocket notebook constantly comes in handy for many other financial reasons as well. (FYI, I usually just keep a simple small Mead reporter’s notebook in my pocket, along with a good pen that doesn’t run out of ink.) Here are fourteen ways I use that notebook to directly save money.
1. Write down sale prices. If you spy an item on sale but you’re not really sure how good of a sale it is, jot down the item and the sale price. Later, you can research that price and find out if it really is a great bargain. This is particularly useful when shopping for gifts or for specific expensive purchases.
2. Make ongoing grocery lists. During a given week, I’ll make efforts to prepare several meals at home. As I’m doing this, I’ll often come across items that we need to replenish in our pantry – for example, last night I discovered we were nearly out of extra virgin olive oil. Similarly, I was down in the basement over the weekend and noticed that we were out of furnace filters – something that was very easy to immediately note. If I have a notepad with me at all times, I can add that item easily no matter where I’m at. Then, since my shopping list is complete, I don’t have to do any “wandering” at the store, helping me save time and drastically reduce impulse buys.
3. Do warehouse club price comparisons. My family often shops at Sam’s Club for many household staples, like toilet paper. Whenever we’re considering making a purchase in bulk, we’ll jot down the Sam’s Club price, then compare it to the normal price we pay at our usual grocery store. Quite often, Sam’s Club is less expensive, but not always. Checking the price lets us know whether or not this item should be purchased at the warehouse club or not.
4. Record great gift ideas. When I’m interacting with a friend or a family member, they’ll often drop a hint of some kind indicating a Christmas or birthday gift they’d like to receive. If I note that idea immediately, I can often give myself plenty of time to bargain-hunt for that specific item, enabling me to get that person a gift they’d really like for the lowest possible price for me.
5. Record contact info for potential clients or new acquaintances. Whenever I’m at a community event, I almost always meet someone interesting who wants to see my website, has a website of their own to share, or wants to keep in touch for some reason. Having a handy notebook makes this easy – I can either jot down my own information and share it (if I don’t have a business card, of course) or jot down their information and keep it.
6. Write down recipes or other food ideas. My parents and in-laws subscribe to tons of magazines and also have extensive cookbook collections. Sometimes, I’ll be browsing through them and see something really intriguing that I might want to prepare in my own kitchen. With my notebook at the ready, I can jot down this recipe, often giving me a great idea for a low-cost meal to prepare at home.
7. Leave a note for someone. Ever stopped by someone’s house when they’re not home and wanted to leave a reminder for them? If you have a notebook in hand, it’s easy to just slip a note under the door, turning a useless trip into a useful one and often helping you salvage a poor situation.
8. Make a simple price book. If you’re trying out a new store, record the prices of some of the items you buy most frequently – milk, eggs, bread, vegetables, fruit, and so on. Then, use that information to compare the prices of this new store to the one you regularly shop at. Is this new store offering better value for the things you buy? Finding the store that offers the best prices on your staples can make a huge difference in your routine food spending.
9. Exchange insurance information. In a fender bender, it’s often vital to exchange insurance information with the other person in an accident. I’ve been in accidents before where the other person was attempting to get off the hook because they didn’t have paper with which to exchange such information. With a notebook right in hand, such excuses won’t matter – information can easily be exchanged and repairs can commence as quickly as possible.
10. Write down a phone number on a “for sale” item. Perhaps you see someone selling their car (or some other large item) themselves with a phone number in the window. If you’ve got a notebook, it’s really easy to jot down the necessary information so you can call the person up later when you have appropriate additional research in hand to ensure that you’re getting a good deal.
11. Keep a “master list” of preferred brands. Consumer Reports often ranks the quality of various household items – toothpaste, shampoo, trash bags, paper towels, etc. – as well as the “best buys” for each one. Having this information in hand can help you easily get the best bang for your buck when you’re standing in the store trying to decide which item to buy.
12. Write down things you want instead of buying them, as per the “thirty day rule.” The “thirty day rule” is pretty simple. Whenever you’re tempted to make a major purchase, instead of buying, just remember the item, put it back on the shelf, and walk out of the store. Give yourself full permission to buy the item in thirty days if you’re still actively wanting it or thinking about it. I actually suggest jotting down the item if you want. Later, you can research the item a bit, figure out if it’s what you really want, and if the thirty days go by and you still want it, you can carefully comparison shop and get the best bargain you can find for it.
13. Keep a detailed errand list. There are always errands that need to be run, ones that are often important to good financial health. By keeping an ongoing errand list in your notebook, you can kill two birds with one stone – for one, you don’t forget them, and for two, you have access to that list all the time, particularly when you’re actually out and about.
14. Make an omnipresent “big goal” reminder. Since I use my pocket notebook all the time, one great technique I’ve found for keeping my mind in the right place is to start off the notebook by writing my big goal on every single page of the notebook. At the bottom, I write “Are you helping yourself get the country house today?” Writing it on every page of the notebook takes a while, but that action alone pounds the message into my head. Then, whenever I look at the notebook, I see that reminder in my own handwriting and it keeps me on a better path.
To put it simply, I couldn’t live without that pocket notebook. It’s an essential part of my personal and financial life.