Think about how you typically plan your meals for a week. First you decide what you want to make each night. Now I'm a bachelor and cooking for one. For me, I have a basic structure for each meal. It's meat, carbs, and a vegetable. and I don't want any leftovers because I probably won't eat them. Therefore, all of my cookbooks stay in the cupboard because most of the recipes are designed to feed 2-6 people. I bought a 12 pound bag of rice and several flavors of Mrs. Dash. So, the carbs pretty much taken care of for at least a year aside from the occasional potato here and there because I'm sick of rice. Each week when I go to the store I'll buy3 or 4 kinds of meat. Pork chops, a steak, some kind of fish, maybe even some chicken breasts. I keep four or five different kinds of frozen vegetables around. Remember, I'm cooking for one and I'm not picky enough to get fresh vegetables and prepare them. I'll grab some milk and some juice and I'm out the door for under $25.
When it's time to cook dinner, I throw on the rice because it takes 20 minutes. At around 14 minutes I'll throw the meat on and season it. At 7 minutes, time to flip the meat. At 5 minutes, start the veggies. Everything gets done at the same time and dinner is served. It's a very simple routine. I have enough variety to go probably 3 weeks without eating exactly the same meal. This works for me. If I do want to change things up a bit, I go out and eat and let someone else do the work. My point is that I have a basic plan. A framework that may include some variations. This is not much different than having a good financial plan and then basing all of your decisions on your basic plan. "Do I need this insurance? or "Should I make this investment?" or "Can I really afford this vacation?" or "Do I really need a new car this year or can it wait?" All of these decisions become easier to make when viewed through the lens of a plan that works for you.
One other parallel I might point out is that I'm a bachelor, as I said, and my plan probably wouldn't work for a family with children. This is no different than a financial plan. Everyone is different and every plan should be too.
Monday, I think I'll talk about making a list.