Why an At-Home Mom Invented a List-Making iPhone App

This is a guest post by M.T., the creator of Cross It Off!, an iPhone app featured in my free-ads-to-readers program. (See the end of the post for the latest on the advertising program.) 

There was a time in my life when I would go to the grocery store without a list.  How could I know what to buy until I’d seen which produce looked best or what the sales were?

How Lists Save Money, Time, and Stress

I can’t believe how long it took me to realize how much food was going to waste because I wasn’t shopping with a list (because I didn’t make specific plans for meals after I got home, either).  And wasted food is wasted money.

Without a list, too, it took me forever to get through the grocery store.  And time is money.

And leaving all those decisions until the last moment, exactly when I’m confronted with a million choices and clever setups trying to distract me?  Stressful.  And stress is costly, too.

Now, if it’s not on the list, it doesn’t get bought.  I mean, if I realize I forgot to put hummus on the list, I’ll buy it, but I’m not going to buy the juice boxes my son is begging for or spend time dithering in the personal care aisle wondering if we’re running low on toothpaste while my son is crying, “I don’t wanna have a list!  I wanna go without a list!  I wanna just see things and buy ’em!”

Can’t Find a Solution to Your Problem? Make One

My only problem with lists (other than that I, too, would sometimes like to “just see things and buy ’em”) was keeping the scrap paper handy and finding a pen and keeping my teething baby from eating it out of my hand as I pushed the cart around.  Also, writing the same things over and over again was annoying.

I tried a bunch of shopping list apps for my iPhone, but they all felt complicated and tedious, like I was jumping through hoops for the app instead of just making a list for myself.  I always ended up going back to paper because I didn’t want to be bothered creating a super master database of every item I ever bought. I just wanted to quickly modify the list I’d made last week before leaving home, and then cross out each thing as I picked it up in the store.

Having minored in Computer Science in college, I knew enough to know what I wanted in a shopping list app and knew it must be possible, but didn’t know anything about programming for the iPhone.  It seemed daunting.  So I kept trudging around the store with my rumpled, chewed-on scrap paper lists.

Funneling Frustration into Productivity

At some point, though, my building frustration and the months of encouraging nudges from my husband tipped me over the edge.  I downloaded the tools and a few how-to books and got started.

I soon figured out why my “super simple” app didn’t exist yet!  It wasn’t so simple.

But now I’ve been shopping with my own app for nearly a year and it was all worth it.  Yesterday, my other errands ran long and I found myself not yet at the grocery store, with only half an hour before preschool pick up time.  I didn’t have any paper with me and couldn’t have found a pen to save my life, but I sure had my phone.  Two minutes in the car adding a few last things to the list, then in and out of the grocery store in 15 minutes with a week of meal ingredients for us and a bag for the food pantry to hand over when I picked my son up from school… on time.

Oh, what a good feeling!  So, even though I do sometimes “just wanna see things and buy ’em,” I love my lists and the money and stress they save me.  And I definitely don’t miss paper.

M.T. blogs at What There’s Time For about the sublime, the surreal, the mundane, and the hilarious of life as a stay-at-home mom with a serious knitting habit

Note from Amy:  For more on mom inventors, see this recent article in the New York Times If Moms Can’t Find It, They Invent It.

Next Phase in Frugal Mama Advertising

I was so happy to be able to support some of my readers who have started their own businesses or enterprises, like Cross It Off!, by offering free ads last month. Even though this weekend marks the end of the program, I will extend the offer to readers who have not yet participated until I fill my ad space with full-price sponsors. I will also be offering advertising discounts for Frugal Mama readers who are also small business-owners. If you would like to participate, please contact me at info [at] frugal-mama [dot] com.

My job now is to create a media kit with advertising rates and identify companies with which I would like to collaborate. It’s important to me to partner with businesses who make high-quality products or services that I can stand behind. Next step is to find someone who help me sell the ad space, probably on a commission-basis. If you have any ideas, I’m open!

Photos: crumpled shopping list, shopping carts, Cross It Off! iPhone App

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  • Heidi March 2, 2012, 1:00 pm

    Hello! Someone in my Myspace group shared this website with us so I came to check it out. I’m definitely enjoying the information. I’m book-marking and will be tweeting this to my followers!

  • lilsunflowerz January 5, 2012, 9:23 pm

    I just downloaded Cross It Off earlier today! I noticed the ad when I came to your site looking for a bread recipe. I thought, yes, this is exactly what I need!

    • Amy January 5, 2012, 9:30 pm

      Hey there lilsunflowerz (I love that name!),

      I’m so glad you found me and Cross It Off! It’s my mission to help people make life easier, and I’m so glad we could make a difference. Did you like Kara’s bread recipe? Come back and let us know about the app too.

      Take care,

      • M.T. January 6, 2012, 3:55 pm

        Thanks, lilsunflowerz! I hope you enjoy using the app!