Last night, for the first time in many, many years, my husband Brian and I went grocery shopping together. As I told MNN’s business blogger Melissa when she asked for personal finance goals, we’ve decided “it's just time to get our act together and use our financial resources more intelligently.”

We haven’t had a budget for groceries in a long time. I buy what we need, try to waste as little as possible, and pay what needs to be paid.

In order to set a budget for groceries, we need to understand what things cost, so as I threw things in the shopping cart last night, Brian kept a running total. Instead of using the calculator on his iPhone, he decided to search for an app to help him do it. He downloaded Shopper Tally, a free app that’s compatible with the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad.

This app is so simple; it’s brilliant. If you look at the photo above, you can get the idea of how it works. If an item cost $2.38 cents, you hit the dollar button twice, the dime button three times, and the one-cent button eight times. If you make a mistake, you can subtract by hitting the minus buttons. The app keeps a running tally of what you’re going to purchase. Unlike the too-sensitive calculator on my iPhone that I always mess up the total with halfway through my grocery trip, the Shopper Tally app is easier to keep accurate. There aren’t nearly as many buttons to push to make mistakes on.

Keeping a running tally as we went along made us think twice before putting non-essentials in our cart. We were able to keep the shopping trip to the amount of money I had estimated it would be.

It was good to go shopping with Brian. He’s been very removed from the price of groceries for many years, and he was very surprised at what things cost. As we go into the new year with the determined goal of getting our financial act together, he’s going to have to learn some things and I’m going to have to learn some things. We’re going to need tools that help us with our goals. Shopper Tally is one simple tool (that’s free!) that will help just a little. 

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