Updated on 09.22.14

How a Carrying a Notebook Can Save You Money

Trent Hamm

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.

Fourteen Ways a Notebook in Your Pocket Can Help You Save

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.

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  1. George says:

    Might be picking nits, but items 1-4 & 10 are ways to spend money (albeit wisely) rather than save money…

  2. Vicky says:

    :) Great post. I use my phone for nearly all of these things.

    For prices, I just scan the barcode and save the item for later to look it up.

    For notes and other various things, I just write a quick note in my phone.

    I also use my phone as my main piece of budget equipment – I have an app called Loot that helps me keep track of all of my accounts very effectively.

  3. You’ve written about this in the past, and it encouraged me to carry around a piece of paper each day (I couldn’t do the entire notebook, so I made the idea my own).

    What do you think of Google Notebook?

    I always seem to lose my piece of paper once every week or two, and now I’ve started to “back up” my information by copying it to Google Notebook every few days.

  4. John says:

    How big is your pocket notebook?

    (Great post as always!)

  5. Tamara says:

    Like Vicky, I use my phone for almost all of these. The only one that won’t really work is leaving a note for a friend at their house.

  6. Like Vicky and Tamara, I also use my phone to do this. There is a nice app on the Iphone called Notespark that allows you to write notes on your phone or on the internet. The application then syncs to make sure your information is always up to date.

    I know you can’t leave a note for someone this way but to make up for that, I can just send them a text or an email.

    – SingleGuyMoney

  7. Jenni says:

    I used to do this, but women’s clothes aren’t useful to hold something like a notebook. Maybe I will try keeping one in my purse.

  8. Another Dave says:

    I started doing this around the same time you started talking about it online. It was a carry over from work where I’m constantly having to keep notes. I figured it would help me with daily life adn start journaling. It works great. I had to laugh about the furnace filter point because the wife and I did that last night! I carry a leatherbound journal. Pages are 4.5″x6.5″ so the book is slightly bigger overall. And I use it for a million reasons. My biggest issue is finding consistant notebooks. I hate when I find a product I like and want to keep using, but they are discontinues after the first one I purchase!

  9. I always have 2 pens with me as well.

  10. evi says:

    I have a piece of paper (a very long one, in fact – just a couple of inches broad but as long as a legal-pad-page) in my calendar and put everything that comes to mind on it. It works like a charm.
    I love #14 – it sounds odd at first and will probably look weird to other people (e.g. if you leave a note on their door ;->), but who cares? It’s a great reminder!

  11. Peggy says:

    Ah, I used to carry all this and more in my PDA before it bit the dust. Can’t afford a smart phone. It helped quite a bit to have a place to jot down things in my head before they either got lost or kept me awake at night.

  12. Little House says:

    Like Vicky, Tamara and Single Guy Money, I too use my phone for things like these. I make notes to myself about groceries, gift ideas for friends and family members, I even made a note to myself after visiting a museum about a prefab home called the Lustron.

    Obviously a notepad or paper works just as well, but I find it’s just as easy carrying only my phone. Besides my purse becomes too cluttered anyway with scraps of paper receipts, deposit slips, and tissue!

  13. Craig says:

    Having a small notebook is a great way to compare prices, keep reminders of sales or dates and just to take notes. With phones now, that has replaced the notebook.

  14. Another Dave says:

    I see alot of notes here on using phones for this task. I use mine for appointment reminders, and un-expected photo ops. (like catching a pricetag w/ options. Or For-Sale Signs on the side of the road quickly) But I’m curious to the use as notepads. Do you folks have Qwerty keys, or basic phone text? What type of phones? I have always had a basic phone, and only have a camera because I can’t get a decent phone w/o one. Do you text alot with them, therefore have more use already? I’ld like to see some more discussion on this.

  15. Perry says:

    I’ve thought about carrying a notebook, but I already carry a phone, pocket knife, change pouch, keyring and iPod Touch and don’t want to have more stuff to carry around. I can and do use my phone and iPod for a lot of these purchases but inputting text on those devices is so tedious and timeconsuming that I often just skip it. As for using the phone’s camera, I have a hard time getting a decent shot in any but the most ideal conditions. Not to mention the hassle of getting it from my phone to another device (such as a PC) where it would actually be useful.

  16. Perry says:

    I meant to type ‘purposes’, not ‘purchases’ in my previous post.

  17. Robin says:

    I love this idea, and have my own, but my main problem lies in keeping all 14 of these ideas organized. It’s difficult at the end of the day to organize the shopping list items vs. blog post ideas vs. good sale prices vs. contact info. I suppose just putting these in the appropriate places when you get home works, but sometimes I need to go to the grocery store right after work, and trying to find the 5 items I wrote down within the course of a day and 6 notebook pages is a little daunting. I think I need to find a good way to organize this information before I just start writing it down – any ideas?

  18. Another Dave says:

    @ Robin- I keep a loose page in my journal for the “To Do” and “Shopping” list’s. I can move that page along the current page, so it’s easily found, update the list, and cleanly remove it when completed. It also saves me Journal space in the my book since those are temporary entries. Once they are crossed off they are usually not needed agian.
    I also keep a .txt file on my computer desktop for this purpose for the journal purpose. It’s an easy place to copy/paste things found online for remembering later.

  19. leslie says:

    I use my iphone for all of this and it is much more practical for me than having to carry around a notebook and a pen at all times. I ALWAYS have my phone on me! I wouldn’t always carry the notebook (for one reason or another).

    Also, instead of just writing down the sale price of an item; I can take a picture! This is also extremely useful if you’re trying to color match something from home (at least to use as a guide). Which can save you from buying the wrong color of fabric or paint!

  20. Megan says:

    I’m totally on board with the whole “pocket notebook” thing. I have a small Moleskin book that my mother-in-law gave me for Christmas that perfectly fits in my purse that I use to jot down notes and Christmas ideas and my husbands never ending list of CDs he wants to own.

    The thing that I have trouble with, is what I do with the information after I’ve put it in the notebook. I’ll start a list of groceries on one page, and then I’ll have a completely unrelated idea and move to jot it down on a different page, and before too long I have a bunch of random ideas on seven different pages and I can’t remember where I put the information when I want it.

    Do you run into that at all? If you do, how to you resolve it? And if you don’t, what do you do to avoid it? How to you process the information?

  21. Des says:

    It’s funny, one of my new years resolutions was to carry around a pocket notebook for some of the very reasons mentioned here. Another thing it can help you do is track those small impulse buys that add up and how much they cost. Like the daily chococlate bar or coffee.

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