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Be an Organized Consumer

Enhance your efficiency as a consumer, using tips and ideas from this article.

In this article, you will find:

Keeping track

Be an Organized Consumer

In this chapter, you complete several projects geared toward improving your shopping efficiency. We begin with a systematic approach to grocery shopping and then attack the problem of catalog pile-up. We also create portable lists of categories of items like DVDs that leave you wondering, "Do I have this one?" Once-a-year shopping needs are also tough to remember, so we create another portable system for making the most of those "Christmas in July" sales. Finally, a method for capturing gift ideas so they're accessible when you're ready to buy and a tracking system for orders you've placed round out this chapter.

To do list

  • Create a template to speed up grocery shopping.
  • Replace paper catalogs with Web addresses.
  • Create media lists for no-duplicate CD and DVD buying.
  • Capture once-a-year shopping needs.
  • Write wish lists for gift-giving and receiving.
  • Set up a tracking system for orders placed.
No More Roaming the Aisles
In this section, you create maps of your frequently visited stores to use as shopping-list templates.

How many times have you gone to the grocery store for three specific things and left with a cartful? Do you ever get to use the 10 Items or Less lane?

Want to evolve from the accumulation that browsing produces into laser-guided, budget-friendly, super-efficient shopping? Great! Let's make a list!

Just kidding. We can do better than a plain old list. Instead, let's make a map.

The next time you go grocery shopping, plan to spend some extra time there to begin this project. Take a large pad and pencil with you, and start at the service desk. Ask if they have a list of the items in each aisle or a map of the store. Use these items to inform the map you'll make, but don't rely on them completely: They're often out of date or not customized to the particular store you're in.

Sketch a rough diagram of where each section of the store is in relation to the other sections. This visual representation is better than a simple list because it reminds me that if I need ice cream and batteries, I'd better start with the batteries because the ice cream will melt by the time I trek all the way over to the batteries!

Now fill in the details Walk the grocery aisles and write down the locations of your most commonly purchased items. When you go home, you'll type or write these common items into your map so you can circle them as you run out.

When you've completed your sketch and item locations, go ahead and do your shopping. Then head home to your desk. Use the Tables function in Microsoft Word to create a one-page map of the store and type in your commonly purchased items in their aisles or sections. If you prefer, you can use a ruler to redraw your draft sketch. When you're satisfied with your map, make copies and post one where it will be convenient to add to, such as your kitchen bulletin board or inside the pantry door.

You'll need list

  • Your computer and spreadsheet software
  • Your planner
  • Paper and pencil
Whenever you run out of an item, circle or write it on your store map. Now when you go grocery shopping, you'll be done in record time and will have purchased only what you need. And, of course, remember to record that transaction in your financial management system!

Some people use more than one grocery store, and some have an additional produce market or warehouse club they frequent. If this is true of you, create maps for each so you can enjoy the same organized efficiency everywhere you shop.

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