Tag Archives: time

An Extra Hour Per Day!

As a result of our move, I’ve gain about an extra hour per day — half an hour in the mornings and half an hour in the evenings.  Even though we moved over a month ago,  I haven’t done anything concrete with that extra time, other than unpacking and decorating, but I would love some advice.

I know that some super-motivated time management gurus would suggest exercising or tackling a major project in the mornings.  After all, sleeping in isn’t really taking advantage of that extra time. However, I’m going to say now that sleeping in is my plan for the extra morning half hour.

What I am asking for is advice on what to do with the other half hour, after work. I really don’t want to waste it on watching TV or surfing the web.

Here are my ideas:

Nurture Relationships: Having more time and energy for kids and husband is always a plus. I want to really enjoy this extra time.  I promised my husband I would be less grumpy..now that can be a hard resolution to keep…

Career management: I can update my C.V., browse websites for job opportunities, update my Linked In profile, read career-related materials (which can also be done at lunch), attend networking functions.  I would love specific action items / tips.  BTW, here are some great career-building tips from Cloud/Wandering Scientist.

Exercise: At least once per weekday, I plan to take a class.  I’m also taking walks around neighborhood and can go to the park more often.  Now I can get home and take a nice walk with the kids in the time it used to take me to drive all the way home!

Cook and Plan Meals: I’ve slacked off in this area and would love to start planning healthier meals on weeknights, rather than relying on Trader Joe’s.

Chores…Ugh: I want to do some smaller chores on weeknights rather than saving them up for weekends.  With a long commute, I was tired and short on time. Now I guess I could pick up a mop once in a while. There are two almost opposing challenges to this idea. I hate chores YET I also worry that I’ll use my valuable “extra” time to doing chores.

What would you do with an extra half hour per night?  

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3 Hacks In 1: Save Money, Time and the Planet?

 As someone who is often caught in the dilemma of saving money vs. saving time, I appreciated this post by Laura Vanderkam about her top 10 Frugal Hacks.   These tips are meant to save you money, but not at the expense of taking away your time.  

Her post got me wondering if I could come up with my own “3-in-1” tips for those who are more financially strapped and/or want to be “green.”   In other words, can you save money, save time and save the planet?

Here are my Top 10, some adapted from Laura’s list, some new, and some which I may have written about before:

1) Streamline your errands: Plan out your day so that you can finish at least two errands in one trip.  If you’re going to the gym, stop at the market on the way home.  Getting a hair cut? Is there a drycleaner near by?  Do you need to get gas? Think it out a bit and I guarantee that you will save time and gas.  I also recommend keeping a shopping list with you at all times (by paper or on your phone) so that you can just pull it out once you’re at the store.  Bonus tip: Many retailers let you take out cash when you pay with a debit card, saving you a trip to the bank.

2) Learn to cook a few dishes well, and focus on recipes that are very adaptable with ingredients.  To me, this would include Italian rice salad, Chinese stir fry, frittatas, fajitas/tacos/burritos, and omelettes.  As an example, if you make frittata, all you need are eggs, olive oil, salt, pepper and some cheese, ideally parmigiano.  The list of possible ingredients include bell pepper, onions, spinach, leeks, sausage, ham, mushrooms, and so forth.  The same principle applies to stir fry, which you can whip up quickly with a variety of vegetables and one protein.  The green angle? Versatile recipes are also great for reducing food waste. 

3) Shop Sales and What’s In Season:  In general, if you buy fruits and vegetables that are in-season, it’s both fresher and cheaper (and better for the environment).  Not coincidentally, what’s in season is often what’s on sale at supermarkets.  This doesn’t only apply to seasonal items.  As Laura mentioned, if pork is on sale, buy the pork.

4) Use your local library:  Borrowing books or DVDs is obviously  a money-saving choice, too.   However, it’s not simple or green if you have to drive far to get to a library.  I’m including this because I assume that most people don’t have to drive far out of their way to get to their local branch.   The Los Angeles public library system (www.lapl.org) even allows you to reserve books from any of its branches.  You log into your library account, put books on hold, and get an email when the books arrive at your local branch. You can pick these up at your convenience (within a two-week timeframe).

5) For Travel, Think Local and Flexible: While I love traveling far from home, there’s no doubt that international flights exact a heavy environmental toll.  If you stay closer to home, you won’t have to shell out big bucks on airline tickets.  Hotels will still cost money but sites like www.priceline.com can save you a lot if you’re not set on exact dates or a certain hotel.  Another helpful booking website is www.backbid.com.  I tend to scour several sites for the best deal but that takes up precious time.  What I love about backbid.com is that it allows you to post up your hotel reservations and then get competing bids from nearby hotels.  If you like the new offer, you can book it and cancel your existing reservation.   

6) Use Amazon.com:  If you’re into coupon clipping and drugstore deals, Amazon.com might not offer the lowest prices on household goods.  However, if you want to save both time and money, many items like diapers and wipes are reasonably cheaper via Amazon’s Subscribe & Save option.  With Amazon Mom or a $79/year Prime membership, diaper and wipe prices even beat Costco and drugstore deals.  I’ve also found great deals on selected cosmetics, coffee and a host of other items, so it’s definitely worth comparing prices on Amazon before buying elsewhere.  I think the environmental cost of shipping is offset by fewer trips to a physical store.

7) If you must clip coupons, use www.couponmom.com:  Coupon sites like www.couponmom.com does the hard part for you by making it easier to match up sales with coupons at drugstores and supermarkets.  However, remember that driving around to get the lowest price or stocking up on things you don’t need is not good for the environment.

8) Check in on your smartphone:  I’m a bit of a techno-phobe but I had a chance to try out a fancy smartphone recently.  Most people know about free apps for scanning product bar codes and coupon apps, but the most useful app for me was Yelp.  With Yelp’s free app, I got 15% off just for checking in at a restaurant.  Checking in can be a pain if you are wrangling kids, but I often use Yelp anyway so this wasn’t a time-consuming step. This app can also save you time.  If you’re running errands and suddenly realize you need cash, you can look up nearby banks instead of driving around.  Smartphones are not necessarily a green choice, especially if you upgrade constantly, but there are tons of other apps that can help you save both time and money.  Do you have any favorite apps that save you time/money and the planet?

9) Buy and Sell Used, the Smart Way: I like the idea of buying used because I’m keeping something out of the landfill. The only downside is that it’s often simpler to dump things in the trash.  However, even if you’re short on time, you can call the Salvation Army and schedule a free pick-up.  What if you’re short on time but could use the extra cash?  I recommend listing items on ebay or Craigslist at bargain basement prices.  If you list items at very low prices, you can usually find an eager buyer quickly.  This is a nice compromise between donating and selling to make a profit.  Extra tip: Have a buyer meet you at work if your home is not centrally located.

10) Buy Organic, the Smart and Cost-Efficient Way: Buying organic is expensive but good for you and better for the environment.  If you can’t afford to, focus on avoiding the dirty dozen, i.e. fruits and veggies that retain pesticides.  In general, if the peel is thin and you’re likely to eat it, go organic (ex: apples, strawberries, potatoes, sweet bell peppers).  For thicker-skinned fruits and vegetables, you can stick with non-organic (ex: avocados, bananas).

Bonus Tip: Streamline your local deals:  I am a fan of Groupon-like deal sites, but there are so many similar sites nowadays that it’s time-consuming to keep track of deals.  I also don’t have time to read multiple emails from Groupon, Tippr, Living Social, and other deal sites.  That’s why I use www.dealery.com , a site that aggregates daily deals for your selected city or cities.  So much easier!  Note: This tip doesn’t really save the planet but I just wanted to share…

Do you have any tips to add?

Time Envy

For someone who has only occasional envy issues with the mythical wealthy Jones family (i.e. keeping up with the Joneses), I do get jealous of family and friends more often than I like to admit.  I wish I could offer a solution (i.e. how to overcome envy in 10 easy steps) but I’m not quite there yet and not in any position to dispense advice.  I do know that long-term envy is not healthy for me or anyone, period.  No wonder it’s one of the seven deadly sins!  

My envy is very specific.  It’s rarely about money. Although I do want more money sometimes, I realize that most people that earn more also work at more stressful jobs than I do.  It’s hard to manage employees and answer to demanding higher-ups.  The trade-off is not worth it for me.   For me, envy rears its head when I think about people with more free time.   

Strangely, my envy is usually directed at my stay-at-home mom friends.  I  say “strangely” because I’m not under any illusion that staying at home is easy or relaxing.  No one I know well has a trust fund or are stay-at-home and childless, two groups which probably really deserve anyone’s envy.

So right now, my envy is directed at those who have quit the rat race, especially those with school age children.  While I know it’s still work and there’s a house to keep clean on top of everything else, these friends seem to have more time to work out, read books or just visit the zoo on an uncrowded day!  And if life is anything like those depicted on mom blogs, home life is 50% crazy (kid eats crayons or throws tantrums) but also 50% slower

I fully understand that a slower pace isn’t all fun and games.   A lot of that time is spent managing a household from laundry to doctor appointments to cooking 2-3 meals a day.  However,  I also get the sense that their time is less hectic overall (again, with the caveat that this is my perception once their kids or at least one kid is in school).  When you stay home, you’re the master of your own time.  You don’t often have deadline-oriented projects.  You’re not bombarded with requests and questions via emails and instant messages.   You have time to just move at your own pace.

It’s important to note that I’m not dismissing homelife as anything less, just because it’s not as busy as work life.  Obviously taking care of children is important. ( I also do not say ‘raising children’ because I believe both working and non-working parents raise their children.)  However, I think that our society has placed such importance on busy-ness that even stay-at-home spouses have to say that they’re as busy as everyone else.  I don’t know many SAHMs who would say that they have more time than those working, so my theory is based on reading blogs and personal observation.  When I’m off on weekdays, I run into calm-looking moms strolling through malls with their kids and friends.  They have downtime to smell the roses, so to speak.   I suppose that’s the benefit of not having to cram errands in between a commute and deadlines?

These feelings of envy are often followed by guilt. I know I shouldn’t feel this way and just be happy for others.  I also know that doing endless loads of laundry and household chores would make me very unhappy!

On a personal note, I’m dealing with my time envy in a few ways.  I think it was a suggestion from Tragic Sandwich but I’m trying to take at least one vacation day per month.  If I remember correctly, she uses it for organizing but I’m not that virtuous.  However, that one extra day allows me to stretch out my time and work at my own slower pace.  I’m able to get things off my to-do list and also find time for exercise and just playtime.

That’s not to say I’m not still enjoying parenthood overall.  I love watching my kids play (they’re quite close in age) and letting them discover their own games like peek-a-boo and “let’s-roll-over-on-each-other-and-laugh” plus the usual bickering and bopping each other on the head. 

Is my impression of staying home completely unrealistic or is there a grain of truth?  Do you envy those with more money or more time?