Does anyone have any tips for "to buy lists in OmniFocus?

I only started using OmniFocus Yesterday, and am just starting to get familiar. But I am wondering about how to manage “to buy” lists, which can have different complexities than simple “to do” lists. So far I basically just made a “Things to buy” folder then put 5 projects in the folder, under 10$, 10-100$, 100-500$, and over 500$. Then I would categorize things i need into actions within the given categories. Of course with many “to do” projects there is often the need to integrate “to buy” lists within the same variety of projects. So that should give a basic idea of how i am trying to manage my “to buy” lists, with my projects, but I am wondering if there are better ways to do this, since I may need to have to try to sync this with some way to manage my overall expenses. I may need to determine revenues and how much I can allocate to each expenditure, when i can realistically determine a due date based on my future income, etc. Does anyone have any suggestions for the best way for me to do this, or is there a budgeting companion that might work well with OmniFocus which would allow me integrate finances into “to do” projects? @supporthumans

I’d put shopping lists in something other than OmniFocus. Perhaps in a simple spreadsheet.

However, as I understand, you are creating items that you want to integrate later inside projects. In this case, I’d put the items in place as I create the project, not separately.


“To buy” is really just another “to do” really though. So when you are going about your day and thinking “I need to go buy a lawnmower” later it would be nice to just throw that in your inbox like any other “to do” item that enters your head throughout the day. And of course, organizing those things “to buy” has a context all of its own relative to your finances, but it would nice to still integrate that with omni focus, as shopping lists are often an integral part of the brain dump. Not to mention common fields that “to do” and “to buy” can ofter share across projects. Example: A project of fixing your garage and you need to buy a hammer.

I do keep my shopping lists in Omnifocus for the “part of brain dump” reason you mention, but I keep a separate context and project for this. The ‘shopping’ context is not part of any of any of my perspectives other than the “shopping” one, so I really only see the items when I am in the process of going shopping and am looking at the shopping perspective.
Occasionally I will put a shopping item into a specific project (leaving the context as shopping), or I might flag it if I want to see it in my focus perspective but normally they live in they own, separate, mostly hidden shopping area.

What confuses me is that you seem to want to create an action to buy something AND you want that action to be in its own “grocery list” AND you want that action to be in the project where it belongs AND you want OmniFocus to manage that action in a financial planning mode based on its cost.

I will say it this way perhaps to help clarify. When you want to make a grocery list of things to buy, do it in something other than OmniFocus. When you want to manage purchases based on your finances, do it in something other than OmniFocus. Finally, when you want to include an action to buy something as part of a project, put it in OmniFocus and use a specific context for it.


I use contexts for this as opposed to specific lists. Here is my set up:

  • Shopping (parent context)
  • Consider buying (On Hold) - like a Someday/Maybe list of stuff (like “New pencil sharpener”)
  • Store - task to buy, but that requires a store visit (“Home Depot - wrench set”, for example)
  • Online shopping - task to stuff buy online (“Amazon - order next LEGO set”)
  • Shipping (On Hold) - like a waiting for list for things I bought online that need to ship to me (“Amazon - order 34557894943355, LEGO set”)

This doesn’t track financial impacts (I don’t think OF is where I would store or track a project budget anyway), but allows tasks to remain inside their respective projects for tracking while still visible together (via Contexts or perspectives).

I suppose that if there are extensive lists or frequently visited stores, that Stores could have further subcontexts, each relating to a specific store, but that feels tedious to me.

As for how to track budgets and finances, I would use a spreadsheet. Numbers is free and does simple stuff well enough.

Hope this helps,



I keep a lot of shopping lists in OmniFocus. I usually geofence them. One for every store almost.

In reference to the OP, when I might be confronted with the limitation “I need to buy a hammer to do this …”, my first choice is to put Hammer in my iPhone in a shopping app under Hardware Store. I don’t automatically add a new action item to the project list. At best, I will have an encompassing “collect the tools” action statement sequentially before the “pound in the nails” action statement.

I find it way easier to keep shopping-for items in shopping-list apps and action-statements in OF. To each his/her own.


I’m thinking I will probably initially use omni focus for the brain dump or anything scatterring in my brain throughout the day which would include to dos and to buys. Then i would have a “shopping list context” for anything in my inbox that is something i need to buy. Then during my organization phase I would take everything in the shopping list context and move it all into a more finance related app. So omni focus would take care of the “to do” aspect of shopping lists, then i would manage those shopping lists in another app. Or of course some of those “to buys” would be part of a project. So those actions would have a shopping list context AS WELL AS a “whatever project” project attached to them. Now its just a matter of choosing a good finance app. I suppose a spreadsheat would give me a lot of flexibility, but i wouldn’t mind something a little simpler. I guess what i was originally trying to ask is if there is a good companion for omni focus in terms of organizing shopping lists with to do actions. Im new to omni focus too, so wasn’t really sure what the limits were but have a better idea now. Thanks for the help to the responders. I guess I will just dump my “to buy” items in my inbox while i keep my eye out for a good shopping list/finance app. Thanks again! :)