Take More Notes, Save Money

Yesterday I grabbed a notebook app for my smartphone and spent a couple of hours organizing the various content folders—ideas for Consumerist, gift lists for Christmas, things to look up later on a computer—so that I could capture information more efficiently. Wait, why s ths n Cnsmrst? Because The Simple Dollar argues that by keeping a notebook and using it all the time (Lifehacker calls it “ubiquitous capture”), you can end up saving money.

Their reasoning is simple: if you have an easy way to constantly jot down notes on things like prices or items you want to buy, you’ll have higher quality information to make purchasing decisions. Some uses from The Simple Dollar:

  • Write down sale prices so you can research their true value.
  • Do warehouse price club comparisons.
  • Write down recipes or other food ideas.
  • Make a simple price book that focuses on the staples. (Real price books require a near-obsessive level of dedication, so I like this idea best of all.)
  • Record great gift ideas.
  • Keep a master list of “preferred brands” and their average prices.

Lifehacker’s Jason Fitzpatrick noted that recording gift ideas lets him come up with great gifts cheaply:

A perfect example of this in action: I was having dinner with a friend some months ago. When the wine was decanted, the particular funnel that the sommelier used caught my friend’s eye-it was quite an interesting one. When we were leaving the restaurant I quickly scribbled a few notes about the style of the funnel. A little Google-fu later and I found that it wasn’t a particularly pricey item, but it would be much appreciated by my friend and show that I notice things that matter to him.

The problem, of course, is determining which “easy way to constantly jot down notes” works for you. The Simple Dollar recommends a pocket-sized reporter’s notebook, which you can buy at any drugstore for around $1. One of the readers over there suggests you avoid clutter in your notebook by keeping temporary items on a removable page:

I keep a loose page in my journal for the “To Do” and “Shopping” lists. I can move that page along the current page so it’s easily found, and cleanly remove it when completed.

Lifehacker takes the hardcore (and expensive) Getting Things Done route by suggesting a “notetaker wallet” that carries cards.

Using your phone may be more convenient for some people, and it also gives you the flexibility of snapping photos. It can also be a lot slower to use if you don’t have a good note-taking solution. Evernote is a good free option, and it’s available for everything but the Android platform (although they’re working on that, and in the meantime you can use their mobile site).

“14 Ways a Notebook in Your Pocket Can Save You Money” [The Simple Dollar via Lifehacker]
(Photo: theilr)

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.