Ever stop to think how much extra money you spend just because you've run out of time -- time to fix dinner, time do the laundry, time to think about how much money you're spending because you've run out of time?
Here are a few ideas to recapture some of those lost dollars. You won't have time to do them all, and you may decide your time's just too important to spend it dusting. But if you make a few changes and stick with them, you can recapture some of the money you shell out just because it's easier and faster to have someone else do life's little chores for you.
- Daily dose of coffee. If your first stop of the day is the Starbucks on the corner, think about making a one-time investment in a coffee pot with a programmable timer and a travel mug for your daily cup-o-joe. With your coffee on automatic, you eliminate any excuses about having enough time to make a pot in the morning. (You do have to remember to bring the travel mug in from the car at the end of the day.)
- Office snacks. If you've got five spare minutes, try to estimate how much you spent at the office vending machine. If you don't have the time, don't bother. (It's depressing, anyway.) Instead, pick up your snacks at the grocery store and stuff them in your desk drawer for the afternoon munchies. You can probably get a pretty big bag of trail mix for the same price as a couple of the 1-oz. baggies in the office vending machine. As a bonus, you'll probably end up snacking on something healthier than potato chips and peanut M&Ms.
- Dinner on the run. If only we all had time every day to fix lovely, nourishing dinners and share memorable family moments. Impossible when it takes a computerized planner to work out the kids' activity schedules. Replace some of the inevitable fast food meals by making sure you always have supplies on hand for one or two instant dinners. (I favor a can of black beans, salsa, and tortillas, myself. Two minutes in the microwave, and it's an instant burrito. Even better if there happens to be cheese without mold on hand.) If the cupboard's completely bare and you must run through the drive-through lane, shave a few dollars off the bill by skipping the drinks.
- Weekly housecleaning. We love to live in clean houses, but we hate the chore. If you hire someone to vacuum and clean the bathrooms for you, think about stretching your cleaning service to every other week. You'll cut your cleaning bill in half, and you probably won't notice much more of a mess unless you have a very active household. If you do, put your active kids to work and have them do a few basic chores in between professional cleanings.
Laundry. If a well-pressed oxford shirt must be part of your working wardrobe, you may just drop them all at the dry cleaners for laundering, starching, and ironing. That's likely something you can do yourself, and you can probably find the time. If you can walk and chew gum at the same time, you can probably also watch television and iron shirts. (Consider it one way to justify the cable bill.) For your other dry clean-only items, see if you can stretch out the time between trips to the cleaners with an at-home dry cleaning kit. Procter & Gamble
(NYSE:PG)makes the Dryel kit, and Clorox (NYSE:CLX)makes one called FreshCare.
- Manicure. You may not want to give up this precious half-hour of indulgence, but you're perfectly capable of doing this job yourself. (Use clear polish if you have doubts about your left-handed application skills.) If you don't want to give up the luxury completely, think about going every other week, or just ask for a polish change at every other appointment. Wean yourself off artificial nails to really cut your costs.
- Expensive dates. When we're too busy to get the daily chores done, we're probably too busy to talk to our spouses. It's important to take some extra time out to reconnect, and it's tempting to head to the fanciest restaurant in town for your occasional date. Remember that it's most important to have fun and spend time together. Save the special destinations for the special occasions.
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Fool contributor Mary Dalrymple cannot chew gum, iron, and watch television at the same time. Nor does she own stock in any company mentioned in this article. She welcomes your feedback. Starbucks is a Stock Advisor pick. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.