A well-crafted watchlist is critical to smart investing: It can help you find attractive buying opportunities, and it can save you from rushed, emotional decisions by slowing down the process. The Fool now offers MyWatchlist.com, your free customized hub to follow the performance and Fool news and commentary about the companies you're watching.

But what to put on your watchlist? In the latest entry in our ongoing series, Motley Fool analyst Jim Royal shares three companies he feels are just too cheap to pass up. And unlike many of the articles in which our analysts and advisors offer up their ideas and specific catalysts that would vault the stocks from their watchlists to their portfolios, Jim says all of these are ready to buy now.

The retail world is rife with companies that are downright cheap with very little in the way of downside risk. The shiny latest things have stolen much of the spotlight from all three of the unloved and overlooked companies at the top of Jim's list, but that doesn't take anything away from the sturdiness of the businesses.

Buzz has been wrested away from Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) by the likes of Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) and Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL), but Microsoft isn't the same company that would have pouted over the lack of attention a decade ago. No, Microsoft's a mature company now, albeit one that still has the ability to grow 10% to 12% every year. Take its massive cash hoard out of the equation, and Microsoft trades at a modest earnings multiple under 10. And there's no questioning its dominance with Windows and its Office suite, so the company's not going away. Its growing dividend will reward investors who hang around.

The story at Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT) is strikingly similar. Investors have been taken with higher-end retailers such as Williams-Sonoma (NYSE: WSM) and Nordstrom (NYSE: JWN) over the past year while Wal-Mart stock has pretty much treaded water. Today, the retail behemoth trades at roughly 14 times earnings, offers a healthy and growing dividend, and is eyeing new growth opportunities in both urban centers and internationally. And like Microsoft, Wal-Mart's downside risk is negligible.

Gap (NYSE: GPS) isn't as secure an investment -- the retailer hasn't grown revenue much recently, and it has shown a penchant for missteps. But the company has no debt, a lot of cash, and a reasonable and growing dividend. And counter-intuitively, its recent blunder in rolling out a despised new logo, made Jim stop and take notice. "Seeing so much outrage about the brand showed me that people still care very much about this company," he says. "I put it on my watchlist, looked into the business, and I saw that it's really cheap. I'm pretty much ready to buy."

And that's exactly why it pays to watch. You can make smarter investing decisions with your own version of My Watchlist, new and free from the Fool. Click below to start following one of the stocks mentioned above:

Roger Friedman doesn't own shares of any companies mentioned, but they're all now on his watchlist. Google, Microsoft, and Wal-Mart are Motley Fool Inside Value recommendations. Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers choice. Apple is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. Wal-Mart is a Motley Fool Global Gainspick. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Microsoft. The Fool owns shares of Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Wal-Mart. 

We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.