1. I don’t listen to voice mail. In my outgoing message I make it very clear that I don’t check voice mail regularly, so if people need a quick response they should text me. Most people accept this without complaint, and it has eliminated about 99% of the problem. I do this because I find voice mail to be outdated and unnecessary, but my mobile carrier insists that I must keep it (I asked). It’s much faster and more efficient to relay information via text or email, neither of which requires me to stand around trying to decipher and write down messages from people who talk too fast or are muffled and incoherent.
2. I’m a hard sell. I have permanently removed myself and my husband from all prescreened credit and insurance offers, and I put both of our numbers on the Do-Not-Call Registry. I have also written to the Mail Preference Service to be removed from all catalog/junk mail lists, and if we do get random catalogs that I don’t want, I go to the company’s web site and ask to be removed from their mailing list.
3. I use Unroll.Me to clean up and maintain my e-mail inbox. This handy site locates all of your e-mail subscriptions and gives you the option to keep or unsubscribe. It then rolls all of your active subscriptions into one convenient, daily summary e-mail. This keeps my inbox neat and uncluttered.
4. I use Lastpass to remember all of my passwords. Now I no longer need to maintain a typewritten list of all my usernames and passwords. I only need to remember one password — for Lastpass!
5. I only run errands one day each week. I get groceries and run all of my errands on Wednesday mornings while DJ is at school (see my schedule here). Friday used to be my errand day until I figured out that it’s generally the busiest day of the week at both the bank and the post office (duh). I do all of my office work on Tuesdays, and get everything ready to go – bank deposits, outgoing mail, library materials, and a list of necessary errands.
6. Forms are my friend. Rather than reinventing the wheel all the time, I automate as many tasks as possible by creating printable forms (ex: babysitter information sheets, grocery lists, lists of current medications, etc).
7. I save time at the post office. I purchase stamps in coils of 100, and I also keep extra-ounce (21-cent) stamps on hand. I weigh letters on my kitchen scale so I know how much postage they require, and when I run out of stamps I order them by mail for free (they’re delivered with the regular mail). If I’m shipping multiple packages and at least one is being sent Priority Mail, I schedule a free package pickup and skip the post office altogether.
8. I buy extras of almost everything. This saves trips to the store, and some weeks I can skip the big grocery shopping trip altogether, and just pick up milk and produce locally. See my tips for buying in bulk here.
9. I color-code my keys. Nail polish works well for this. I’ve memorized which color is for which key – house, garage, shed – so I don’t waste time searching for the correct one.
10. I keep an ongoing grocery list. My family knows that when they open the last package/bottle of any staple item, they should write it on the dry-erase board. This way we never run out of anything. See my simple, 3-part organizing system here.
11. I keep a list of favorite meals. I asked my husband and the girls to write down their favorite meals, and I interviewed DJ. I also wrote down my favorites, and I used this information to create a list to pick from when I’m feeling uninspired about the dinner decision.
12. I don’t write checks. I pay nearly all of our bills online to avoid the purchase of checks, envelopes, and stamps. It’s also much faster. I would say that I only write 2 checks per month, at most.
13. I don’t get paper statements. I’ve signed up to receive the majority of our monthly bills and account statements via e-mail. It saves trees and time.
14. I take advantage of rubber stamps. I have one with our name and address, and I also have one that says, “For Deposit Only” with our name below it. This makes it easy to pay and mail bills, fill out deposit slips, and stamp checks for deposit.
15. I keep trash bags in the bottom of every trash can. I learned this trick by observing the custodial staff of an office building. I noticed that when they emptied the trash can, there was already a new trash bag ready and waiting underneath the full bag they had just removed. It was a Eureka! type moment. Now, in all of our bathroom trash cans, and in my office, I keep 4 or 5 grocery sacks folded and ready for when I empty the trash every week. I replenish the supply when the last one gets used.
16. I have an organized filing system….and I use it. Here’s how I set it up.
17. I make my own baking mixes. For example: cornbread. Once, when I was making it, I measured the volume of the dry ingredients – 2 3/8 cups. Then, I quadrupled the dry ingredients and mixed them up in a large square canister. Now, rather than getting out all the ingredients and measuring them every time I want to make cornbread, I just get out the canister, scoop out 2 3/8 cups of the mix, add an egg, oil, and milk, and bake. I wrote the amounts and procedure on a piece of paper, which is taped to the side of the canister.
18. I cook doubles. If I’m slow-cooking meat or poultry, I cook 4 or 5 pounds at a time and freeze the surplus in meal-sized portions. I also cook and freeze extra brown rice, barley, wild rice, and any other grains that are time-consuming to prepare. I make multiple loaves of bread, and double or even triple batches of cookies. If you’re going to get everything out and make a mess, you may as well maximize the results!
19. I schedule all the kids’ doctor/dentist/haircut appointments back to back. I figure I may as well get all the suffering and misery over with in one afternoon.
20. I keep a list of the kids’ measurements and shoe/clothing sizes in my wallet. I also keep a list of school supplies I need to replenish my inventory. This way I can buy things if I see a good deal, and I don’t mistakenly by the wrong sizes, or anything we don’t need.
21. I take advantage of our town’s lending library. All of the inventory is donated, and there is no time limit on borrowed items. Also, no fines!
22. I never apply for store credit cards, regardless of the incentive. I don’t need more credit, and I certainly don’t need another bill to pay, or another statement to examine. I have two credit cards – one for business expenses, and one for personal use – and that is more than enough.
23. I spend time with my kids, instead of spending money on them. This requires no further explanation.
24. I don’t go to “parties” where anyone is trying to sell me something. I have a standard response to avoid offending anyone: “I’m sorry, but I’m just not a party-goer.” This places the reason for my refusal squarely on me, and says nothing about the person who invited me, or the products they’re trying to sell.
25. I use my library’s subscription to Freegal. A lot. My husband and I both have library cards, so we each get 3 song downloads per week! They are completely free, legal, and ours to keep. Bee recently gave me a list of current, popular songs that she and Cakes wanted for their MP3 players, and I was able to get 4 of the 6 from Freegal! Definitely check into this to see if your local library has a subscription.[print-me/]