Writing shopping and spending lists will have a massive impact on how you view your finances and will stop almost all impulse shopping dead. Ultimately, they will save you a fortune.
The pen is definitely mightier than the sword. When it comes to shopping, it's also more effective at saving you money than savings accounts, 0% credit cards, or even loyalty points.
That's because the pen has the power to write lists. The humble list is a simple thing, but it's these basic ideas that do 90% of the work when it comes to being good with your money.
Lists save lives
You can't underestimate lists. One of the world's most successful businessmen, Charlie Munger, swears by them. He has two stories to demonstrate their power.
Before the Second World War, aeroplane manufacturer Boeing got itself into a lot of trouble when one of its B-17 bombers crashed. The pilot forgot something important and it cost lives.
Boeing's solution was to develop a cockpit checklist. After this, the Boeing 17s flew a cumulative two million hours without a single incident.
The US Government ordered 12,000 of their bombers, and the plane is given some of the credit for victory against Hitler. But it was a list that gave victory to the bombers.
The whole aviation industry now uses checklists.
The other of Munger's stories is about how 4% of patients were getting infections after having insertion lines fitted. When medical staff started using hygiene checklists, the infection rate sank to almost zero.
Saving money and time with lists
If pilots and surgeons can forget the basics and cause regular disasters, we can be sure that we do too.
Without a shopping list you'll sometimes forget to buy things. This will either waste your time going back to the supermarket, or you'll spend more money in the expensive corner shop.
Even worse, without a spending list you'll buy on impulse, which slims your wallet but not your figure. With one uncontrolled temptation, you more than wipe out all of the loyalty points you'll earn on that shopping trip.
However, if you have written down what you're going to buy, you're likely to stick to it.
A spending diary is merely a list of what you have spent your money on in a given month. This includes everything from the mortgage or rent to toiletries and holidays. With your expenditure clearly displayed, you can immediately see where you're spending too much money.
The savings you'll make by seeing where your excesses lie will probably be a lot more valuable to you than having the best savings account.
It's also a short and not very daunting step from a spending diary to doing a full budget – which is another very useful list.