This article is presented by Kelly Whalen, Consumerism Commentary staff writer who bought a second car with her husband last weekend.
As a busy mom of four and work-from-home parent, I often get told people don’t know how I do it all. It’s simple, I don’t. These are some of my techniques to save time, which means more money in my pocket, and more time for my family.
Whether you are a busy parent or a single person with a demanding job, most of us have a few items on our to-do list that stay there endlessly. After a hard day’s work the last thing we want to do is clean the soap scum off the shower walls or spend an hour cooking a healthy dinner.
While most of us think having help is only for people making six (or seven) digit salaries, there are ways to make your life run smoother without costing you all your hard earned cash.
Start by making a list of all the obligations, errands, and chores you do in a week. The best way to do this is personal finance style. Write down what you are doing as you go. You’ll want three columns: one for description, one for time (include driving time), and one for cost.
After a week or two you will have a solid idea of what you are doing, and how much money and time it takes. Now you can go through and order them from most to least important. I don’t know about you, but scrubbing the floor is usually the last thing on my list.
Now we start Round One of eliminations. Take anything extraneous, say that extra trip to the grocery store, and cross it out. Errands that can be combined should be grouped together.
Next, you want to look at what is costing you the most that you value the least. Value here isn’t referring to money, it’s referring to what you care about. For me that might be dry cleaning. For you it may be the car wash you get every week.
Now here’s where the tricky part is. You want to save say ten hours a week so you can earn more at your side gig (ahem) or spend more time with your kids. How do you do that without breaking the bank?
The most obvious way to lighten your load is to hire someone to help you. While the cost may seem prohibitive, it can be cost effective if the payoff (time, more work hours) is worth it. Examples: hiring a babysitter, virtual assistant, or house cleaner.
Consider trading your services for something else you need. You can find people to barter with in your neighborhood, church, at your kid’s PTA, or on Craig’s List. For instance I have traded organizing services for pet care.
Bank on it
Have you heard of Time Banks? They are organizations that are aimed at helping members find free help in exchange for services performed. Think of it as bartering on steroids. For instance I could do some bookkeeping for one member, and in exchange I get time banked, and can use it to have another member fix my leaky faucet. Don’t have a local Time Bank, consider starting one.
Drop it off the list
Maybe you are an over-volunteerer like me, or maybe you have been doing the same thing for awhile and are looking for a change. Consider dropping everything off your list that you aren’t passionate about. Don’t be afraid to say no if new opportunities arise.
Reduce your needs
Try cutting back. If you go to the dry cleaners once a week, try cutting back to every other week. Next time you are shopping look for clothes you can wash and wear at home. Instead of getting an oil change every 3,000 miles check your car’s manual which likely tells you that you can wait until you hit the 6,000 mile mark.
Have you considered trying Alice.com to get your toiletries delivered? You don’t even have to think about it when you need toilet paper, it arrives on your doorstep at regular intervals. If you sign up through my affiliate link you get a $10 credit after you spend $50. Other examples include getting a coffee subscription, and of course automating paying your bills.
Another time saver is partial outsourcing. This could be ordering groceries online so that you can pick them up, signing up for a CSA, or getting the USPS to pick up your packages and drop off stamps.
I’ve found success in all these methods, and it has been eye opening to see how easily I can outsource some of my obligations, and get rid of others, while improving my bottom line, and my quality of life.
What about you? Have you outsourced some of your obligations? Tell me what you did, and what worked and didn’t in the comments.
Photo credit: Still Thinking
Published or updated February 11, 2010. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.