Real Costs of Poor Planning

Today’s post on the real costs of poor planning comes from Mr. Apathy Ends. When you get a chance, check out the great articles he is writing on his blog or follow him on Twitter @Apathy_Ends.

“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 3 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:

Out of town wedding – forgot pants – Nothing like having to buy a new pair of dress pants because you failed to pack yours for a wedding.

Vacations – Sunscreen is a lot cheaper at your local store than the beach resort, nothing like 250% markup!

Gifts – Anniversaries and birthday parties sneak up on you, I have paid for expedited shipping more times than I care to admit.

Late Fees – Redbox is usually a pretty good deal……it’s not a good deal 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


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)


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 use Amazon so we need 2 day notice


  • 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, some of them align with time management or as Matt put it – being EfficientIf 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.

Take Away:

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?

Thanks for having me today Matt!

28 comments… add one
  • [email protected] Jun 20, 2016, 6:07 am

    Love it! We are cold-pressed coffee drinkers too! Great lists and the more you put these in to action the fewer decisions you make each day/week. It gives you more time and more creative energy too (working on a post on that now!) One thing I did was always have the clothes picked out and ready for the next morning too (might not be as big of an issue for guys). Standing in front of the closet debating what to wear was a huge time waster. I said “DID” because now I work from home unless I go out and consult, so that isn’t a big problem for me anymore 🙂

    • Apathy Ends Jun 20, 2016, 4:24 pm

      Cold press is the best!

      I think that is the next step after getting our clothes folded and in the right spot, I usually don’t have a hard picking what to wear – more searching for matching socks

  • The Green Swan Jun 20, 2016, 7:42 am

    These are great tips! I find myself doing a lot of these same things. It’s easy to get lazy sometimes though so good reminders. I also find it hard to organize the week when we’re traveling on the weekend. Need to make an extra effort to stay on track!!

    The Green Swan

    • Apathy Ends Jun 20, 2016, 4:26 pm

      After forgetting to many items for fun weekends, I have morphed into a weekend planner with a list before we leave – sometimes driving Mrs. AE crazy with how long the list gets

  • Jon Jun 20, 2016, 7:59 am

    I loved that book and have implemented many checklists myself. They say that people get decision fatigue, so automating as much as possible with checklists frees up your mental energy for things that truly deserve it.

    How do you implement your checklists? e.g. on paper, in an app, online?

    At work I make a weekly checklist of things to accomplish that week and then a daily one for things that must get done that day. For household maintenance items, I use an online reminder tool.

    Nice post, thanks for sharing!

    • Apathy Ends Jun 20, 2016, 4:28 pm

      I printed out a pretty simple excel sheet to track everything – but may try the app route

      The book is great – a lot of interesting stories to keep you engaged

      Our builder set us up with an online reminder tool – great for changing the furnace filters

      • Jon Jun 20, 2016, 5:47 pm

        That’s funny, I use mine to remind me to change the air filter as well, and to change the batteries in our smoke detectors!

  • Stefan - The Millennial Budget Jun 20, 2016, 8:42 am

    Checklist are a great way to reduce the decision process. Ever since I started blogging I have found myself using checklist more frequently as there is a lot that can be forgotten. I like to write down my list and stick it up on the wall but I know people keep it on their phones etc.

    • Apathy Ends Jun 20, 2016, 4:30 pm

      In the short time we have been using them I have already noticed improvements – definetely reduce the decision making time

  • Ms MoneyPennies Jun 20, 2016, 10:29 am

    That sunscreen one burned close to home (pun intended). I forgot some while hiking but I figured the $10 tube was cheaper than skin cancer in the future. Good planning could have prevented the spend though!

    Along with poor planning, poor or under estimation of costs always gets me. I try to make check lists for spending situations and estimate the costs ahead of time. Doing a little research on the costs of items makes me rethink the spend. Once in the store it is harder to change course for me.

    • Apathy Ends Jun 20, 2016, 4:32 pm

      I have the same habit – I always think everything will cost less than it actually does (probably because I am not willing to part with money for the cost of most things)

      haha – the sunscreen will never be forgotten again, along with the aloe

  • FinanceSuperhero Jun 20, 2016, 10:48 am

    For many years, I floated by without checklists and relied on my typically-strong memory for most tasks. As a creature of habit, some things just come naturally to me. For example, getting the coffee pot ready before going to bed, setting out clothes for work the next day, and running the dishwasher usually happen like clockwork.

    I have recently started making daily and weekly lists because I noticed that certain tasks had begun slipping through the cracks. Like you, AE, these missed tasks were being to cost me and Mrs. Superhero, primarily through unplanned dining out.

    I have tried using a variety of apps for planning purposes in the past few months, but other than setting alarms on my Calendar app, I prefer hand-written checklists at this point.

    Great post!

    • Apathy Ends Jun 20, 2016, 4:35 pm

      I am the same way Mr Superhero! I used to depend on my memory for almost everything. I started to forget minor things I committed to in meetings at work and had to start writing everything down on a list.

      good to know on the app front – if I find one that works particularly well I will share it

  • Distilled Dollar Jun 20, 2016, 12:32 pm

    Glad you could make an appearance on my site today AE!

    The forgotten pants reminded me of a time I had to pay $15 for one white undershirt before a wedding. I felt that pain of forgetting to pack everything.

    The checklist is something I’ve begun to implement more of these past few years. It also helps to not have to remember so many small details as I travel around. It would be ideal if I didn’t need to keep things written down, but it is far better to get everything done than to have anything slip through the cracks.

    Your post reminded me how pilots might be brilliant when it comes to planes, but they always go through a full checklist before take off — just to make sure all things are in order.

    • Apathy Ends Jun 20, 2016, 4:38 pm

      There is a few chapters about pilots in the book! They have people dedicated to making and researching checklists at a airplane manufacturer.

      Nothing like overpaying for clothing you already own (on top of already paying a ton of money to travel to a wedding, get a hotel and gift)

      Thanks again for having me!

  • Biglaw Investor Jun 20, 2016, 3:21 pm

    I try to systematize everything, so checklists are the way to go. Once you have a process in place, you can run through a process to optimize, automate or outsource it. Lawyers are driven by checklists!

    Isn’t that photo from the Eisenhower Decision Matrix?

    • Distilled Dollar Jun 20, 2016, 3:25 pm

      I can speak to the photo since that’s from me. I had to look up the Eisenhower Decision Matrix, but it looks like a carbon copy.

      The picture is also of Stephen Covey’s four quadrants of time management, but now that you mention it, I’m not sure where the concept originated.

  • Matt Spillar Jun 20, 2016, 4:57 pm

    Great post! I think for me the biggest example of money saved when I plan properly is with food. It’s so easy to stop by a restaurant when you’re hungry and haven’t planned ahead. When I do plan ahead, I make sure we have enough groceries to cook meals and I bring lunch/diner when I work late. It’s been so helpful to avoid spending money on meals out! It doesn’t take longer than a few extra minutes of prep and can save hundreds of dollars over time.

    • Apathy Ends Jun 22, 2016, 8:22 pm

      Food is definetely the most consistent one I have noticed, its so easy to find a place to eat

  • Thias @It Pays Dividends Jun 20, 2016, 8:39 pm

    I try to utilize checklists often and encourage the people in my department to use them as well. There is a lot of power in knowing that you hit all the steps to make sure something is completed correctly! Nice post!

    • Apathy Ends Jun 22, 2016, 8:23 pm

      Thanks Thias!

      They are great at work for anything that is repetitive, prevent a lot of easy mistakes

  • Our Frugal Escapades Jun 21, 2016, 8:24 am

    I used to keep a master list to keep control of our schedule, but when I left work I let it fall to the wayside. This post served as a great reminder that I shoukd still be keeping a check list to stay on track!

  • Arrgo Jun 21, 2016, 9:45 am

    A few times I forgot my coupons when going out to a restaurant or grocery store. Another time I had some free bonus dollars to spend at Kohls they sent me that I for got to use until it expired. At the time, you think it will be easy to remember but with so much going on its easy for a few things to slip through the cracks and I hate it when I miss out! I put a few reminders on Google calendar and also put a note/ list on the end table by my front door.

  • Linda @ Brooklyn Bread Jun 21, 2016, 4:27 pm

    Great post. I am a true believer in lists. Any time you can get something out of your head and onto paper (or your phone, etc), you do a magical service to your brain cells. No matter how hard I try to simplify and minimize, things are popping into my head at all times. I have found the only way to neutralize the corrosive effect of that is to put them to paper. The never-ending stream of to do’s loses all its power to confuse, overwhelm and otherwise stress me out once pinned to a page. And it’s always less on paper than what it feel like in your head.

  • Tina @thisisadultlife Jun 21, 2016, 8:05 pm

    This is so true. What I find when you try to outline this for people is that they feel overwhelmed. This breaks it down nicely into a manageable amount for even the most right brained thinkers. Even starting with just one item in each category can help people build habits that save sanity and money.

  • Financial Slacker Jun 22, 2016, 2:27 pm

    I use a checklist for packing when I travel. Not only does it keep me from showing up without pants, it also keeps me from over-packing.

    And Ms. Financial Slacker left town this week for a business trip and left me a daily checklist for kids, pets, and house. Honestly, without the list I would probably forget something (hopefully not the kids).

    Good topic for a post.

  • Pamela Jun 23, 2016, 10:14 am

    I really like your daily, weekly and monthly checklist. I think I will implement something like that for myself. I am finding small things get missed because there is so much little things to take care of.
    Checklists are the best and I thought I was good at making checklists, but I think that was when I was living on my own and only needed to take care of my needs. Now that I am married, there are additional chores, responsibilities that have been added on (with my husband helping of course), so in order to get back to the same zeal I had about staying on top of things, I need a check list desperately. Thanks!

  • Latoya @ Life and a Budget Jun 23, 2016, 12:24 pm

    Lately I’ve noticed a few things slide under the radar that I’m usually on top of. I think I’m going to create a personal projet in Asana since I look at it everyday for my side hustles. You’re right, it can be costly!

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