Simple ways to do more with less

Some ideas for making the most of what little you have.

Simple ways to do more with less

Some ideas for making the most of what little you have.
  • Life is complicated. There never seems to be enough time, money, resources, energy or space to do the things we need to do. It's enough to make us want to throw in the towel. But there are tiny little solutions that can have a big impact on how we live.

  • Here's a list of ideas to get you started:

  • Sleep

  • If you are having trouble getting to sleep, try this. If that doesn't work, give yourself a 15-20 minute nap each day to recharge your battery. The trick is to not allow yourself to REM. Relax in a chair and hold a book in your hand. When you reach that point, your hand will release the book and it will hit the floor and wake you up.

  • Working out

  • Choose a more intense, shorter workout or break up your workout into more, shorter increments. Studies show that three 10-minute walks can be more beneficial than one 30-minute walk.

  • Shopping

  • Put a giant shopping list in a common area for everyone to be able to contribute. Plan one shopping trip per week to save gas and time. On the evening before the planned trip, scrutinize the list with the family at dinner thus eliminating things that aren't absolutely necessary. This saves money, as well.

  • Cooking

  • Spend a few hours on Saturday preparing meals for the week. Do the prep work for things you want to make fresh by washing, chopping, slicing even measuring. Use plastic re-sealable bags to keep everything portioned and fresh. Freeze the things you can so they can go right into the oven. If you're making soups or stews, put it into a large plastic bag and slip it into the pan you'll be heating it in. Pop it into the freezer. When you're ready, the frozen soup will fit perfectly for heating.

  • Energy

  • Learn when you are most energetic. For some, it is evenings while others are more energetic in the mornings or afternoon. Once you know, work your schedule around your own schedule and let everyone know. You'll be much more successful.

  • Cleaning

  • Break your cleaning down into daily, weekly, monthly and yearly. Follow the schedule to save time. Have cleaning supplies for specific tasks where you need them. Make your own supplies by using these simple recipes.

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  • Thrift shop

  • When you need something (muffin tins, Halloween costumes, prom gowns, drinking glasses), consider visiting your local thrift shop, first. It takes a little more time but can save a bundle. Many local thrift shops support charities.

  • Maintenance

  • One way to save a lot of money is to invest a little time in maintenance. Things like changing furnace filters, having your oil changed regularly in your car, cleaning the heating element in your hot water heater, keeping even pressure in your tires, purging the cache on your computer and carefully cleaning the lint trap in your dryer. Make a schedule of tasks to do one Saturday a month. Taking care of what we have significantly cuts back on the cost of replacing things gone bad.

  • Chore charts

  • Save your energy by making sure everyone contributes to the smooth-running of your household. Being the mom or dad doesn't mean you are responsible for doing everything. Kids need to learn the art of helping out to build their self-esteem. At first, it may be exasperating but stick with it until it becomes habit. Try this little trick to help. Mix silly things in with regular chores to make it more fun. For instance, a list could say: make up your bed, read a chapter of your favorite book, take out the trash, run around the house three times, do a load of laundry, play a video game.

  • Stock up

  • Keep extras of essentials on hand. When tuna is on sale, buy a case of 12. Shampoo is 99 cents, buy six bottles. Use coupons for name brand items and take the money you saved (since you would have used it anyway) and sock it into savings.

  • Make a menu

  • Working with a menu saves that awful "I've made so many decisions today that thinking about what to make for dinner makes me want to cry" feeling. Let the family know that food is budgeted for meals, but have a plastic bin of "free snacks" in the fridge for when they get hungry between meals, such as carrot sticks, apple slices, raisins and cheese sticks. Cut your food budget by using less meat to season food or finding protein alternatives.

  • Repurpose

  • When you need something, look around for things that are no longer being used, or are just taking up space. For instance, you have a new spice rack and no longer need that lazy Susan that is taking up space in the cupboard. Try putting it in the bathroom closet and using it for meds, Band-Aids, lotions or cosmetics. Use that old trunk in the attic to store board games and put it in the living room for an accent piece. Sometimes moving old things around and using them in a different way can help you feel like you have more.

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  • There are lots of ways to stretch the small resources you may be living on to make it seem like you have more until one day you actually do. Anything you can do to save money here and there, and putting that savings into actual savings, will build a nice little nest egg. Just remember that time and energy are also things you need to conserve. Finding balance and making it work are the keys. Here are some more ideas on saving money for large families.

Becky Lyn is an author and a 35+ year (most of the time) single mom.


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