A To-Buy Hack: Have a Running List

I’m a list person. Phone, paper, whiteboard, calendar, back-of-an-envelope; you name it, I’ve put a list on it.

While most lists have a designated timeline – from a list for today’s tasks, to appointments and meetings that might be scheduled weeks in advance, to the groceries I need for Friday’s supper – there are items that I recognize simply need to be addressed/purchased at the next convenient time.

These lists can involve to-do’s, but I tend to capture “tasks” in one of my other list hubs (calendar/daytimer/GoogleTasks/paper). More likely, I’m recording things that I need to buy at some unspecified time – either when they’re on sale or I’m at the store that carries said item.

And for this, I’m partial to using a phone app called AnyList. It allows me to easily create and add items to appropriate lists. I did not research this decision too intensely – the app was highly rated and one of the first that showed up in the App Store. For a maximizer, I satisficed early and haven’t felt the need to look further.

My categories include:

  • Gift ideas, largely for Christmas. Not kidding: this year, at 1:00 PM on Christmas Day, I was already adding to this list for the FOLLOWING Christmas. I may have a problem. When I think of a gift idea, I record the gift and the recipient as a single line item.
  • DollarStore
  • Costco (I only visit a few times a year)
  • Specific grocery-store chains
  • General grocery

I only visit the DollarStore every few months. There aren’t too many items I source from here, but it is a go-to for gift bags, stocking stuffers, and miscellany I can’t necessarily find elsewhere. Buying travel-sized Kleenex probably doesn’t warrant a special trip, but if I go to add it to the list and notice I’m running low on my favourite Vildea dish scrapers, gender neutral gift bags for an upcoming birthday, and sidewalk chalk, I can confidently head out knowing I’ve kept track of what I need.

For years I would trek to the store, buy a handful of things, and leave – operating under the sinking suspicion I was forgetting something. Inevitably, the moment I walked in the door, I’d remember the tissue paper shortage plaguing our family…

Now, if I’m wrapping a gift and notice I only have a few sheets of tissue paper left, I simply add it to the running list*. Then, if something critical comes up and I’m heading to the store anyway, I have all those incidental items recorded.

I do this for groceries as well; in addition to having categories for specific stores (I quickly skim the front page of sales flyers each week to identify what deals might be relevant), I also have a “General Grocery” list. When I finish the bag of Italian seasoning, realize my non-stick cooking spray is almost empty, or my daughter points out our peanut butter stockpile has gotten dangerously low (anything below 3 jars; we love our PB), I add it to the list. These are items I can get at any grocery or box store.

While this running list concept isn’t life-changing, it does make everything function just a little bit smoother and the time investment is negligible (download an app, set up categories and you’re done). You can get all fancy and link accounts with other household members, tie it to your smart-speaker so you can add items via voice command…but I haven’t yet felt the need.

Go ahead. Try it!

*If I know I can’t add it to the list immediately (i.e. my phone isn’t on/near me), I will temporarily add it to some other list, most likely the whiteboard in the kitchen. Once I transfer the item to my AnyList app, I remove the hard-copy form and move on with life!

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