If you are new to the idea of living more frugally, it's easy to be overwhelmed by what promises to be a never-ending to-do list of money-saving activities. When people find out that I cook all our meals from scratch, garden, can and freeze foods, make many of our personal care and cleaning products and help my hubby with assorted DIY projects around the house, and on top of that manage to find time to blog, write a book and homeschool my kids, they often shake their heads in disbelief and state they could never find time to do all those things.
Well, as is often the case, I beg to differ. I am not one of those organizational geniuses who squeezes maximum productivity out of every minute of the day. I am very fond of sleeping at least eight hours a night. And I'm definitely not one of those mega-high-energy people who loves to keep busy - in fact, I prefer a much slower pace and factor an ample amount of leisure time into most days. So how do I still get all that stuff done?
One reason I'm able to "get it all done" is that there are a lot of things I don't do:
I don't spend a lot of time shuttling kids all over the place: My 12 and 14 year old kids are responsible for getting themselves to their climbing lessons, swimming lessons and hockey practice (all of which are an easy walk or short bike ride from our home). I don't have to ferry them around to visit friends, either as most of their friends live right here on the same street as us. There are a couple of homeschooling activities located a bit further away that require us to bike escort or drive them over, but that's about it.
I don't spend a lot of time shopping or running errands: I'm able to get most of our routine errands (such as dropping off/picking up library materials, going to the bank and post office, and shopping at the neighbourhood grocery store) done in 30-45 minutes on Mondays and Wednesdays - and since I live in such a fabulously walkable neighbourhood, I'm able to do them all on foot rather than driving. Because we only go shopping when we actually need to buy something specific, we don't need to go all that often. We do two major thrift store clothes shopping expeditions per year (one in the spring and one in the fall). My husband and I share the grocery shopping duties, and often they are picked up in combination with other errands rather than making a special trip. Most of our gifts are homemade or come from my gift cupboard, so we don't spend much time shopping for gifts, either.
My house isn't ready for a Better Homes and Gardens photo shoot: While our home is usually relatively neat and uncluttered, it's not often buffed and shined to a gleam. The kids are responsible for vacuuming, and the kitchen and bathroom get cleaned routinely but deep cleaning of the rest of the house is something we just don't get to all that often.
I don't cook fancy meals very often: While I do cook all our meals from scratch, I usually keep it simple. Many of our dinners can be prepared in 30-45 minutes. I do usually put in more time and effort on our Sunday dinners, but even that isn't always true depending on what activities we have going on. We are always well fed, but I don't make it complicated.
I don't watch much TV and try to minimize my time on the computer: We don't have cable, so that helps reduce the temptation to park myself in front of the TV for extended periods. Since we watch TV shows on DVDs (borrowed from the library, of course!) it only takes about 40 minutes to watch a one hour episode of a show. Starting about this time of year, we usually abandon TV watching for spending time outside in the evening, puttering in the garden, going for walks and bike rides, and relaxing on the front porch. I also try really hard not to waste too much time surfing the net or hanging out on social media sites, which can be a huge time sink. I try to get on the computer, do what I need to do, and get off!
Right along with all these things I don't do, there are a few things I *DO* do that also help keep our frugal household running smoothly:
I have a (loose) daily routine: While our family's never been the type to stick to a rigid schedule, our days are generally organized in a loose sort of routine. Mornings I spend writing/blogging and doing household administrative tasks (like paying bills online and checking to see what's due at the library) while the kids have time to pursue whatever interests they want on their own. In the afternoons, I spend a couple of hours with the kids on more structured learning activities. Usually after that I will have a couple hours before I need to start dinner, so I will get some combination of household maintenance activities (cooking, cleaning, laundry) and exercise done in that time.
I make use of little bits of time: Many "maintenance" activities only take 10-15 minutes to complete and I use little bits of time throughout the day to get them done. I will often whip up a batch of granola (which takes less than 10 minutes of hands-on time) before starting the dishes after dinner. That way it can bake while I finish the kitchen clean up. Similarly, a batch of muffins or refrigerator bread dough takes less than 15 minutes to put together. Most of the personal care and cleaning products I make take little time to put together, too. The majority of my garden maintenance is done in 20-30 minute chunks of time, too.
I take advantage of my high-energy days: On those days when I feel particularly bursting with energy, I try to capitalize on it and squeeze in as many tasks as I can. I might spend a few hours in the kitchen, making everything from stock to yogurt to flour tortillas to quick breads, or finally get to some of that deep cleaning in other areas of the house!
I set aside scheduled work days for bigger projects: Some activities do require larger blocks of time to get them done and I set aside specific blocks of time for them. During the growing season, canning is a priority activity. Since my husband and I usually do this together and his work schedule varies a lot from day to day, we schedule in specific mornings or afternoons to get batches of preserves made. If we have a large DIY project in progress (such as renovating part of our house), we'll schedule in specific times to work on it.
I sometimes have to let things go: I'm far from perfect (just like everyone else) and sometimes things simply don't get done. While we do can food every growing season, some years we get more preserving done than other years, and yes, there have been clothes that have gotten outgrown while they've sat in my mending pile. Some of the things on our household DIY project list have waited years to get completed. I try not to be too hard on myself about those things that have gone undone and instead give myself credit for the many things that DO get done.
How do YOU find the time to fit in "frugal" activities?