A few weeks ago, I presented a seminar at a women’s retreat entitled Life Hacks. It wasn’t much. It didn’t quite come together as I hoped it would and really, I felt way out of my league giving the presentation.
My goal was to encourage women to think about the areas of their life that give them the most “problems” and give them ideas on how to solve those problems – even if it’s different than how their mother would do so. Or their sister. Or someone on pinterest. Or a blogger.
What works for you now might not work for you in 5 years. But try something! And if that something fails, try something else!
Anyway…here are my tips just in case they are useful to anyone other than me! (Yes, some of them contradict – and that’s okay – different strokes for different folks!)
Life Hack Ideas
- A life hack is anything that makes your life easier!
- Think about the things that give you a high “ROI” (Return on Investment). It might be things that:
- Save you money!
- Save you time!
- Save you frustration!
- It may not always be the cheapest thing in the short-term, but in the long run, it should save you in at least one of those areas (money, time, frustration).
- Pretty is awesome. Practical and do-able are double, triple, quadruple awesome!
- Don’t dwell (too long!) on what you don’t have – time, money, house plan, skills, etc. It’ll just hold you back from what you do have and what you could have!
- Know your limitations! You don’t have to do it all yourself!
- Don’t be afraid of “failing”. If you try something and it doesn’t work, try the next thing. It may be the perfect solution for you – but in a few years. In the meantime, something else will be the perfect solution.
- Life care:
- Plenty of sleep.
- Know what’s important and what isn’t.
- Remember: You don’t have to do this alone! Find friends with gifts in the areas that you’re struggling.
- Once-A-Month freezer cooking.
- Build 5-8 weekly menus and then rotate through them.
- Plan your menu weekly.
- Plan your menu bi-monthly.
- Plan your menu monthly.
- Plan for leftovers.
- COST = Cook Once, Serve Twice.
- Base your menu based upon what you have on hand.
- Base your menu on what’s on sale that week.
- Base your next week’s menu on what’s on sale this week.
- Simplify side dishes. Make 1 dish to last 2-3 meals.
- (Learn to) Love raw veggies! Serve with ranch dressing or dip. Great, easy, healthy sides.
- Spend a couple of hours when you have the time making a few extra meals for the freezer.
- When doing freezer meals, keep to a theme for meals that use many of the same ingredients (i.e.: on one afternoon, do a few chicken meals. On a different day, do a few beef meals.)
- When you make something freezable, make 2-3 of that item and freeze the rest.
- Let kids be responsible for 1 meal/week.
- Let husband be responsible for 1 meal/week.
- Spend an hour browning hamburger and storing in ½ or 1 or 2 lb servings in the freezer.
- Spend an afternoon roasting, then shredding small roasting chickens. Freeze for future meals.
- Get a dinner buddy. Offer to make dinner for her family once a week if she’ll do the same for you.
- Prepare breakfasts for the week in bulk. Oatmeal packets. Frozen homemade waffles/pancakes.
- Make a week’s worth of sack lunches at one time. Doesn’t matter if you’re going to eat them at home, at work, at school or in the van.
- Let your kids be responsible for their own lunches. Make “lunch kits” in the fridge, but they need to grab items and assemble them.
- Organize your most used recipes into 1 cookbook.
- Put recipes in plastic page protectors in a 3-ring binder.
- Create a short list of “In Case of Emergency” meals that take 10 minutes to throw together and work in a pinch. (Sandwiches, frozen pizzas, tacos, etc).
- Generate a list of favorite crockpot meals.
- Use a drawer to place your most often used spices in. Put label side up for easy grabbing.
- Put your serving dishes into storage. As you need an item, get it out. What you don’t use in a month, consider giving away or keeping in storage for special occasions.
- Borrow instead of buying a roaster, punch bowl or fancy serving dishes if you seldom use them.
- Keep a set of dishes at kid’s level to allow them to easily unload the dishwasher and set the table.
- Have 2 trash cans – one for recyclables and one for everything else.
- Standardize your food storage containers so that lids are interchangeable. (ie.: Use all Pyrex or Tupperware or Rubbermaid). Tis okay to be brand loyal sometimes!
Google Docs – A way that might be handy for organizing recipes.
Passionatepennypincher.com – She has some great, super easy recipes as well as sharing deals at popular stores like Target, CVS and Walgreens.
Pinterest.com – Of course!
TasteOfHome.com – Usually pretty simple recipes with common ingredients.
LynnsKitchenAdventures.com – A Nebraskan who blogs and has great recipes that I find easy and totally do-able! She also publishes regular menu plans.
MomSavesMoney.net – Omaha-area deals on grocery shopping plus she teaches classes in menu planning, couponing and even budgeting. I blog here with weekly and monthly menu plans.
SixSistersStuff.com – Just like it says, 6 sisters who share recipes.
365daysofcrockpot.com – Lots of crockpot recipes!
- Look for blogs/websites that list shopping deals that you’d actually take advantage of. Let them do the work for you!
- Read blog/websites/books that help you grocery shop or meal plan.
- Buy wrapping paper & tissue after Christmas. Solid red, white or green means that you can use it for almost any occasion.
- Get a grocery shopping buddy. Split your list up.
- Build a grocery stockpile, as big or as little you need. Things typically go at their bottom sales price every 3 months or so.
- Price match! Every store has their own policy and some even vary by store. In Omaha, the following stores price match, to some degree:
- Wal Mart
- Some Hy-Vees
- Bag N Save/No Frills
- Look into alternative sources of items – Amazon pantry, Azure, Bountiful Baskets, etc. May not be the cheapest, but might be the easiest and best use of your money for the time and effort involved.
- Submit for rebates.
- To YOUR own budget, be true!
- Buy things during their “season” of when on sale.
Passionatepennypincher.com – She has some great, super easy recipes as well as sharing deals at popular stores like Target, CVS and Walgreens.
MomSavesMoney.net – Omaha-area deals on grocery shopping plus she teaches classes in menu planning, couponing and even budgeting.
Ebates.com – When buying online, many stores offer “cash back” through here if you start here. Can be from 1% to even 25%. 3-4% is more common, but it’s free money!
Popular “rebate”/”cash back” sites – ibotta, savingstar, checkout 51, pinpoint, receipt hog, shopmium, shopkick
RetailMeNot.com – Coupon codes. Can be used with ebates.com too.
TotallyTarget.com – Great deals at Target. Also see: coupons.target.com, cartwheel.target.com for more ways to save at Target.
- Each night, pick out the next day’s clothing. Yes, even yours!
- Put bed on risers to allow for more storage under the bed.
- Store shoes in sweater organizers.
- Consider behind-the-closet-door as a storage option for shoes (wire baskets) or other small things.
- Use a small peg board or bulletin board to hang necklaces or other jewelry from.
- Use craft organizers (like the types for beads) to store small jewelry.
- Install hooks instead of towel racks to help kids hang up towels.
- Buy each kid their own toothpaste.
- Use a silverware divider to store kids’ toothbrush & toothpaste.
- Use a plastic cup to store kids’ toothbrush & toothpaste.
- Use a clear plastic shower curtain (even if you have doors) to be able to watch kids when bathing, but still let them splash.
- Use a tension rod under the sink to hold up cleaning supplies.
- Use small containers to hold small things – like an empty tic tac container for bobby pins.
- Have a small make up bag that contains your daily essentials.
- Use a shoe organizer behind a door to hold cleaning supplies or other essentials.
- Use clear plastic drawers to organize things inside closets or under the sink. Medicines, cleaning supplies, hygiene needs.
- Use a metal magazine holder for curling iron or hair dryer. Keeps the cords contained.
- Invest in Bankers Boxes (or other bin storage) that works with your bedroom layout.
- Install a lower clothes rod for younger children to be able to hang up their own clothes.
- Store kids’ clothing in baskets in closet rather than drawers or hanging them up.
- Store kids’ clothing in “sweater” organizers in closet.
- Each week, set out 7 outfits for each kid, one for every day of the week.
- Label where kids’ items go with pictures in addition to words.
- Invest in Bankers Boxes (or other bin storage) that works with your storage area layout.
- Any shelving is better than nothing, but shelving that doesn’t waste a lot of “vertical” space above your totes/bins/baskets/boxes is best.
- Install coat hooks for each member of the family for coats and backpacks.
- Create a designated place for shoes. I like wire bins that are easily washable.
- Create a penalty for anyone whose coat is not where it should be.
- Put a basket at the top and the bottom of stairs. Items that need to go up or down should be put in there.
- Get rid of clothes that don’t fit or you don’t like anymore. Better to have 5 outfits that you love than 20 that you don’t.
- Get a bin for each member of the family. Clean clothes go in there and each person is responsible for putting away their own.
- Let a friend simplify your wardrobe.
- Organize clothing by season.
- Organize clothing by size.
- Organize clothing by gender.
- Buy kids’ socks with sizes imprinted on them. Or find some way to mark them.
- Buy kids’ socks only in white, with few exceptions.
- Ask your husband to be responsible for his own work shirts.
- Have work shirts professionally cleaned.
- Hire a high school girl to iron clothing. Keep a “To Iron” basket nearby.
- Keep a separate laundry bin for each color type.
- Make kids responsible for their own laundry (if old enough).
- Only buy bedding in solid colors.
- Use the same bedding colors for all kids’ beds.
- Only buy towels and sheets in white – you can bleach them!
- Store bed sheets by “type” – flat sheets in 1 basket, fitted sheets in another, pillow cases in a third.
- Store bed sheets inside of one of the pillow cases.
- Keep an empty basket/bin/box in kids’ room for clothing as they outgrow it.
- As kids outgrow clothing, put a safety pin in an obvious place on a kids’ clothing before washing. Then when it comes out of the laundry, you know it’s too small.
- Loan other people the clothes your kids have outgrown. Let them store it for you!
- Take digital pictures of the clothes you loan or borrow from someone. Makes it easier to get those items back to the rightful owner.
- Consign or sell clothing once it’s outgrown.
- Keep a stash of diapers & wipes in every area where you’re likely to change the baby.
- Pre-measure bottles of formula or the water that makes bottles.
- Borrow things that you’re only likely to use for a short season – bouncers, exersaucers, swings. Even clothes!
- Likewise, loan out things that you own, but only use for a short season – bouncers, exersaucers, swings. Even clothes!
- Buy gender neutral when you can, especially on big items. Even if it isn’t as fun.
- Keep realistic expectations around professional pictures. Sure, you might want 1000 pictures of when they’re born, but are you really going to be able to display that many?
- Create a paperwork drop zone.
- Look at the incoming paperwork just once a week. Handle it right then and there.
- Sign up for level payment plans when possible. Especially at utility companies.
- Save a small buffer in your checking account. Save enough so that you can pre-pay the next month’s bill, almost eliminating the chances of a late payment.
- Automate bills as much as possible. Even if you have to over-pay (i.e.: if a bill fluctuates a little bit like a cell phone, always pay $5 more than the typical amount so that you’re always covered.)
- Sign up for paperless when possible, especially for accounts that are on automatic payments.
- At Open Enrollment time, look into HSA/FSA (Health Savings Account/Flexible Spending Accounts) for medical bills.
- Bulk buy your stamps or buy online at usps.com
- Put a buffer in your checking account – it’s just as easy to “manage from the top” as it is from the bottom, but way less stressful!
- Find a budgeting system that works for you.
- Go to a cash-basis budgeting system for as many categories as practical. Pay yourself weekly, bi-monthly or monthly.
- As soon as you pay this year’s taxes, start your envelope/box for receipts for next year’s taxes.
DaveRamsey.com – A budgeting & finance management author, including classes.
TheSimpleDollar.com – Usually very practical about money, getting out of debt and other financial resources.
YouNeedABudget.com – A budgeting tool. (I haven’t personally used.)
Mint.com – A way to manage your money and pay bills through them. (I haven’t personally used.)
Quicken – Software to manage your accounts & payments. This is mostly what we use, then it gets summarized into Excel for budgets and spending reports (for us).
- Remove 1 item from your home every day.
- Commit to removing 1 trash bag of items each week. Donate, give or sell. Let Goodwill be your storage system.
- Do what you can with what you can.
- Have someone else clean your house. Pay or trade services with them.
- Have a Sunday night meeting with family to sync up calendars for the week.
- Let a friend decorate your house.
- Use a blog reader (Feedly) to organize blogs. “Must read” vs “might read”.
- Create a pinterest board for “Love it, but not gonna happen” items. That allows you to keep your other boards more practical.
- Keep notes on what you did for each holiday. Food you made, gifts you gave, places you went. Include tips for next year (aka: Don’t forget to buy grandma her Snickers bars!)
- Public libraries – Don’t buy what you can borrow! For Omaha Public Library, you can even reserve & hold books online, making it a quick stop to return & check out.
- Public libraries – It might be fun for each kid to have their own library card, but it can be a hassle to keep on top of when things are due. If kids are still young enough to not manage it on their own, just use a family card.
- Lots of cords for the computer? For video camera? Camera? External Hard drives? Back up systems? Label each end with a piece of tape to make it easy to identify which cord is which. Then you can even store them inside a box, poking a hole outside the box for each cord.
- Store a little bit of each paint that you have in a separate container for quick touch ups. Glass baby food jars work great, but so do cheap plastic storage containers.
- Keep a list of each paint color you’ve used and where you’ve used it. Especially if you tend to use similar, but not exact colors in different places.
- Pay your hair dresser to teach you how to do your hair. Schedule it like you would a hair cut, but instead, ask her to spend her time teaching you.
- Have things you don’t want any more? “Sell” them on facebook, even if it’s for free. Easier than arranging to meet a stranger, via craigslist.
Flylady.com – Cleaning plans and inspiration
Keeperofthehome.org – She has great cleaning recipes that are multi-purpose. Simple & few ingredients usually equals cheaper and simpler to implement!
Feedly – A way to organize blogs.