6 Reasons You Should Keep a Master Purchase List
If you’re in any leadership role, you’re eventually going to be handed a budget or a credit card or a checkbook (kids: ask your parents) and told to go on a shopping spree. Whether it’s Vacation Bible School or a Costco run for kitchen supplies or an Amazon free-for-all for a campus launch, acquiring stuff is an unfortunate buy-product of ministry (#didyouseewhatididthere).
In today’s Uncle Danny’s Productivity Tip, I’m imploring you to write that junk down. A master purchase list (MPL) has saved me untold time, headaches, and money.
Here are six reasons why you need a “master purchase list.”
1. It adds consistency to your ministries.
I believe that consistency is both kind and strategic. Kind because similar products (from seating stanchions to communion cups) help your volunteers and guests know what to expect. Strategic because it’s hard to mix and match items that don’t match.
Example: we’ve historically purchased the same brand of parking team radios across all of our campuses. That way, whenever we have a larger all-church event and need to combine different radios from different campuses for one ginormous parking team, all of those units talk to each other.
I recognize that may be a problem / solution unique to multi-site, but are there similar products you use in different ministries that you’d benefit from bringing all under one brand, tech spec, etc.?
2. It allows you to compare prices over time.
On my MPL, I have columns marked “per unit cost” and “date of per unit cost.” Every time I purchase that particular item, I update the price and the purchase date.
That allows me to see pricing trends over time. If a parking vest increases 5% with a year in between purchases, well…that’s just inflation. If it increases 35%, that could also be inflation (hello 2022!) but it could also be a sign that I need to shop for a new vendor.
3. It gives you a backup plan.
From time to time I’ll find that my trusty sign stand has been discontinued, or has skyrocketed in price, or is no longer carried by retailers (and I’m not about that wholesale life). In those situations, I find a new product, but I don’t totally ditch my first love. My MPL has a tab titled “alternate / discontinued items” where I put those products in time out. That tab gives me a historical view that says “Hey, you used this before and it was great. If your fancy new sign stand doesn’t work out, here’s an old standby.”
4. It helps avoid “Where did we get that?” syndrome.
Maybe you’re young and you have all of your brain cells and people my age hate you for it. But if you are of (ahem) a certain age, remembering whether that particular product came from Amazon or Lifeway or Home Depot can be daunting (and that Lifeway / Home Depot Venn diagram overlap is nothing to sneeze at).
In full disclosure, the vast majority of the items I purchase come via Amazon. It’s easier and cheaper and I’m a lazy purchaser, after all. But there are plenty of things that Amazon doesn’t carry, so my MPL has a column that’s dedicated to “Vendor,” where I’ll toss that info. (I also have a separate “Vendor” tab with account numbers, usernames, etc.)
5. It makes your life easier (and lets you get back to ministry).
But back to that “lazy purchaser” thing. Before I developed an MPL, I spent an embarrassing amount of time scouring my Amazon order history, trying to figure out the brand or size or quantity of something I ordered. And every minute I spent doing that was a minute I couldn’t spend with my team or volunteers or congregation. Taking 20 seconds to document a purchase on your MPL will save you 20 minutes sometime down the road, I pinky-promise you.
6. It provides continuity after you leave.
You’re eventually going to roll out of your purchasing role, whether it’s through raising up another leader or a promotion or a job change or a retirement or an alien abduction. Set up your successor for success, and hand off that MPL so there are very few hiccups in your absence.
My MPL is always being tweaked, but here are some key columns / information I’d recommend you include:
- Item name (obviously)
- Item specifications (size, item count, color, etc.)
- Portable / permanent (in multi-site world, this is important. I obviously don’t buy storage shelving for a facility we set up and tear down each week)
- Vendor (see #4 above)
- Budget (because there are some items that I’m responsible for purchasing, but they come from a budget I don’t control)
- Ordered by (the opposite of the above. There are items others purchase, and it keeps me clear on the chain of command.)
- Link (this is the second-most important column, after the actual item. You should include a hyperlink to the actual product page.)
- Other “as-needed” links: I have some add-on columns for campus launches where hundreds of items are at stake and I need to keep up with shipping dates, arrival dates, label and assembly notes, etc.