TV viewers launched into a 552-episode Simpsons marathon last night, and in my opinion, this is just the ticket to make late summer a bit cheerier! Everyone is talking about their favorites episodes from the series, and as I’m buried under piles of work during my six-month “busy season” I’m reminded of this little gem:
If you’re not a video-watcher, sample lyrics include “If you cut every corner, It is really not so bad // Everybody does it, Even Mom and Dad // If nobody sees it, Then nobody gets mad //It’s the American way!”
Now, I don’t advocate doing things poorly … but there are plenty of little ways to shave time and money without sacrificing the end result. But can you really nick both at once? Well, sort of… Sometimes you succeed, and sometimes you strike the balance as poorly as a skinny kid on a seesaw (source: a childhood spent as the skinny kid on the seesaw).
If life is hacking into your time and money, too, try some of these life hacks!
Take all of the makeup you actually use on a normal day and put it in one small bag. Sparkly purple eyeliner? The color palette you bought because you saw a tutorial where the girl made her eyes look like a cupcake or whatever? Stash it somewhere else! You don’t need to rifle through all of that on weekdays. If you’re anything like me, before work you just slap some brown crap on your face and hope for the best.
Honestly if it’s not the color of something you could buy deep-fried off a fast food menu, it’s too much for my face and brain to handle at 6:30 in the morning.
*Time saved: A minute or two, anyway.
Take if from a Catholic school survivor: it’s NICE not to think about what to wear every day. One option is to make your closet look like a cartoon character’s, with rows and rows of the same outfit. The other – dare I say better? – choice is to pick your outfit the night before.
I know this seems obvious, but trying on outfits isn’t even the major time-suck. It’s hanging up all of the discarded clothes later that gets you.
* Time saved: 5 minutes in the morning, plus 5 agonizing minutes hanging clothes at the end of the day (ahem… week).
It only takes a second to pour some cereal or pop some bread in the toaster. Or a Pop Tart, because we’re all adults here and can do what we want. Or a Toaster Strudel, which is a Pop Tart for children who like to pretend that they’re German. But nothing beats a semi-healthy filling breakfast – especially when you made it the night before. My favorites:
Summer fridge oatmeal: equal parts old-fashioned (not instant!) oats, Greek yogurt, and milk, plus fruit or honey or whatever.
Baked eggs: nonstick spray a muffin tin, crack in eggs, bake at 450 until center is set, and store in fridge. Toast an English muffin in the morning, add cheese and you have an instant breakfast sandwich!
* Time saved: Up to 15 minutes
* Money saved: Up to $4.25 on the breakfast sandwich!
Anyone who has to pay for parking understands the struggle. By parking my car semi-legally in a grocery store lot (I do buy groceries there) and taking the bus, I save over $200 a year over even the very cheapest lot. By “cheapest lot” I mean the one that is a 15-minute walk from work. The last time I was parked there I almost ran over a man who was sleeping in a parking spot dressed like a pile of clothes.
* Time Saved: Between negative 15 and negative 25 minutes. But I get to use that time either reading a book or being forced into conversation by a weirdo who doesn’t understand that an open book on my lap, headphones in my ears, and responding to everything he says with “hmm” or “yeah?” is international language for Don’t Talk To Me, Thanks. As a child I did get my school’s Student of the Month award for Politeness And Respect In Answering Others, so maybe this is partially my fault. Should be ruder.
* Money Saved: Up to $350 a year
At The Office
Oh, Lordy. Even the word “spreadsheet” makes my eyes glaze over in boredom. I’ll make it quick. I am SERIOUS about keeping an updated spreadsheet of my deadlines and due dates to combat those “oh my gosh did I remember to do that thing?!” moments. Then, I set corresponding reminders for those dates on my Excel calendar so I don’t miss any, because almost every day is something. The technology is there, guys. We have to use it.
* Time saved: Hours. It takes a long time to create a comprehensive annual spreadsheet, but having all of the necessary information in one spot is completely worth it.
I know everyone’s mileage varies with the work/home split, but spending 5-10 minutes checking my inbox before work can shave major time off of my morning. I can delete anything unnecessary, respond to the quick ones, archive anything that doesn’t require a response, and mentally prioritize the rest. I absolutely hate being blindsided by some major issue right when I get in in the morning. I’d rather be blindsided while I’m eating my oatmeal, so I can talk it over with my good friend from the bus who won’t let me read. [Kidding. I don’t talk to strangers, strangers talk to me.]
* Time saved: It should be a wash, but I think this can save me up to a half hour. It’s so easy to get sidetracked once you’re at your desk.
Look. I’ve called a lot of things “my jam” in the past decade or so, but to-do lists might be my main number one jam. The best thing ever is to make a to-do list and leave it on your desk at the end of the day. It leads to a lot less scurrying and brain-wracking in the morning.
* Time Saved: Can we come up with a time version of the word “priceless,” because that’s what this is. Like, the amount of time this saves me cannot be accurately measured.
When 3:00 calls I turn into an adult baby. Not like the kind I saw on this one TLC special, but in that I’m hungry and cranky and want a nap. It’s definitely tempting to head to the office vending machine, and sometimes that $1 bag of peanut M&Ms makes my day so much nicer that it’s worth it. But you can shave a lot of money by buying snacks and setting up a dedicated snack drawer. Take it from the girls who came across an empty locker in high school, bought a lock for it, and made it our “junk food locker” so we could snack during rehearsals for the musical. Peach rings for DAYS, kids.
*Money saved: Up to $2 a day, depending on what you were snacking on. Plus whatever you buy on purpose at a grocery store is probably healthier than whatever you ransom from food jail (aka the vending machine).
Bulk It Up
It takes a bit of comparison shopping, but sometimes you can save a ton of money on things like nuts, oatmeal, even cereal by buying them from the bulk bins. Plus you’re not wasting as much packaging, so even the environment wins here!
*Money saved: Depends on what you’re buying. I save up to $2.00 a pound on raw unsalted almonds! Life is a Ferris Wheel and I’m just waving from the peak, my friends.
I wear skirts and dresses all summer, so having fresh razors is important. By the way, I also won Student of the Month for Personal Grooming – twice.^ Whenever I buy razors I get really angry that the refills cost more than the handle itself. This spring I signed up for Dollar Shave Club. I pay $6 a month, get 4 blades, and the product is indistinguishable from the expensive ladies’ razors, except not pink. Which is fine. It looks dignified. As do my non-stubbly legs. Win all around.
* Money saved: Legit $5-15 per every 4 refills.
* Time Saved: one grocery store trip. More if you can’t remember what brand you use and buy the wrong cartridges. Hopeless, I tell ya.
^My third and final Student Of The Month award was for Neatness And Appearance Of Work. Put them all together and I believe I won the Type A Goody-Goody trifecta.
Pretend You’re A Duggar
Sometimes it’s better to shop like the standard American family of 20, even if you’re a single adult – in members-only big-box stores. You don’t want to buy cases of perishable food for one person, but if you have the space you can save a lot of money on paper products and shelf-stable items.
I’ll admit it. I probably do eat as much peanut butter as a family of 20.
*Money saved: up to half off of the grocery store price.
Ah, man’s best friend. Although dogs will eat anything from table scraps to literal poop, I like to feed my pup dog food. Call me old-fashioned. If your dog goes through a lot of food, consider buying the larger, bulk sizes. If you get it from some pet stores, there’s even a loyalty card that will give you a a percentage off every time, and bonus dollars for ever $50 or $100 you spend.
*Money saved: Up to $1 a pound on that mid-range of dog food that makes you feel like you aren’t dooming your dog to kidney disease nor treating it to Black Forest truffles.
I know, “go to the library” isn’t groundbreaking advice,but if there’s one thing I’m likely to impulse buy, it’s books. I’ve started keeping a note in my phone of books that look like I’d like to read. Hello, everything in the Target book aisle! Middle America, I am you and you are me. Then I check them out at the library. I read most books once, anyway. And then I lend them to people, and get annoyed that they don’t return them – even though I was never going to reread it.
* Time Saved: However long you would have spend stewing over those unreturned books
*Money saved: probably $10 – 25 per book, less your library late fees if you just can’t get it together.
I think everyone knows about Netflix and Hulu and Roku, but presumably some people are just cable people. I’ll just say that between over-the-air programming, free online tv, and an $8 a month subscription (plus a plug-in device if you’re into it) – you can pay hundreds less than your typical cable package and never miss a show. You can save even more if your parents have an HBOGo account they don’t use because they’re too busy watching Gunsmoke on Me-TV.
* Money saved: $50 – $150, depending on your TV package
* Time saved: Negative two minutes if you insist on trying to save 35 seconds by fast forwarding through a tv show’s theme song on Netflix, overshoot a minute or so into the show, try to rewind, and end up somewhere before the song started. But frankly I don’t think I should have to sit through theme songs. They’re like commercials for the thing I’m already watching.
Are there any corners we’re not cutting yet? Let us know your tricks! As Shary Bobbins would say, “If you cut every corner you’ll have more time for play – It’s the American way!”