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The 3 Checklists I Depend On To Avoid Super-Expensive Last-Minute Spending

Today’s post on the real costs of poor planning comes from Mr. Apathy Ends — follow him on his blog or follow him on Twitter.

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin

Last month, we were having a few consistent quality issues at work. While mistakes do happen, repetitive simple mistakes do not go unnoticed at most companies. After a few discussions, my boss gave me a book called The Checklist Manifesto. The author is a renowned surgeon named Atul Gawande, and the book focuses on using simple checklists to avoid mistakes:

“We have accumulated stupendous know-how…Nonetheless, that know-how is often unmanageable. Avoidable failures are common and persistent, not to mention demoralizing and frustrating, across many fields — from medicine to finance, business to government. And the reason is increasingly evident: the volume and complexity of what we know has exceeded our individual ability to deliver its benefits correctly, safely, or reliably.” – The Checklist Manifesto, Atul Gawande

I think my favorite example in the book is about a hospital that had incredibly high infection rates for a common procedure. Before implementing a simple checklist in their operating rooms, their rate was higher than 75% of the hospitals in the nation. After three months, the infection rate was down 66% and outperforming 90% of the hospitals in the nation.

Our lives are incredibly complex, juggling full-time jobs, bills, family, friends, kids, pets and maybe even a side hustle to make some extra cash. The same way surgeons know certain techniques can prevent infection, you know last-minute purchases can cost more money. Unfortunately, both things still happen.
Poor planning has cost us thousands over the years, if not tens of thousands. A few examples that come to mind:

1. Forgetting to pack something for an out-of-town wedding: Nothing like having to buy a new pair of dress pants because you simply forgot the ones you already own.

2. Impulse buying on vacations: Sunscreen is a lot cheaper at your local store than the beach resort, nothing like 250% markup!

3. Last-minute gifts: Anniversaries and birthday parties always seem to sneak up on you; I have paid for expedited shipping more times than I care to admit.

4. Late fees: Redbox is usually a pretty good deal…it’s not, though, if you forget to return the movie (I own a $30 copy of a crappy movie that I will never watch again).

Then there are the obvious planning misses in everyday life, which seem insignificant at the time, but can add up to large sums of money. Being a personal finance blogger, I try to apply everything I learn to my current financial situation and if a checklist can work to keep people alive in dire surgical situations, I bet it could help me save a few dollars.

When reviewing our most recent credit card statement, I focused on costs that were a direct result of poor planning. Unsurprisingly most of them were related to food and being on the run during the summer – to try and help us, I threw a few simple checklists together.

A few checklists we are adopting:

1. Daily

  • Go through this after work to prepare for the next day
  • Lunch packed
  • Coffee made – (we are cold-press drinkers)
  • Juicing vegetables prepped (we make fresh juice every morning before work)

2. Weekly

  • Go through this Sunday — mostly to prepare for another week of work
  • Grocery shopping for planned meals
  • Clothes cleaned/folded (easily my least favorite thing to do)
  • Review appointments or commitments  for the week
  • Review our plans for next weekend — Do I need my fishing gear ready?
  • Dog food — We order from Amazon, so we need two-day notice

3. Monthly

  • Review bank/Credit Card statements for inconsistencies, unknown purchases
  • Check credit score
  • Ensure all bills are paid
  • Check auto-transfers for saving/investing accounts (I have had a few of mine randomly shut off)

Most of these items are directly related to personal finance, and some of them align with time management or, as Matt put it, being efficient. If I did not find a way to become more efficient, I wouldn’t have time to start blogging and connect with a ton of like minded people. For that reason alone I think it is worth using a checklist.

If you see repeatable financial or time wasting mistakes in your life, set up a few simple checklists to run through at scheduled intervals. You will see improvements, if you can follow them, and if you want more proof I highly recommend reading the entire book.

Do you use a checklist to plan or prepare for the day, week or month? Anything I missed in my checklist that could benefit everyone?

Image via Unsplash

  • bextannya

    Does the book go into details of how checklists can help at work? I personally take 10-15 minutes at the end of every day to write down my to-do’s for the following day. What I need help with is organizing and categorizing the little bits of information I learn on a daily basis, they eventually becomes important to know at a later time.

    • Summer

      What you might think about doing is just keeping an informal, easy to add to, running list of notes. Use Google Keep or even just a Word doc—whatever is easy enough to access that you’ll actually remember to use rather than feeling like it’s a chore to keep up with—and during your end of the day info sorting, jot down the tidbits you want to be sure to remember. You can make different headers (or a different note document entirely) for various categories, ie; ‘stuff I want to remember related to project management’ or ‘sales ideas’ or ‘software how-to tips’ or whatever the case may be. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I know that with myself, if I start to get too rigid and structured about my organizational habits, they fall to the wayside real quick. If I just have an otherwise blank document of some sort that I can easily open and start typing into, I’ll store various bits of info and other things I want to be able to recall quickly. It’s not pretty, but no one else will ever see it so it really doesn’t matter. I also keep a good old-fashioned spiral notebook (again, nothing pretty or ~inspirational~) at my desk to take notes with during calls and keep a casual to-do list when something pops into mind. For me, it’s easier to jot something down quickly by hand than to try to type coherent notes while on the phone. The notebook is a total mess but at least I know it’s there *somewhere* and I can flip through until I find whatever detail I need.