Between commuting, work, chores, and kids, the week can quickly become overwhelming. It’s certainly a lot to juggle, and that’s before you add in socializing, extracurriculars, and finding some time for yourself.
Your weekend — which doesn’t necessarily fall on a Saturday and Sunday — might seem too short as it is. However, if you can set aside a little prep time, you may find you could save time and money during the week to come.
Meal prep may be the first thing to come to mind, and rightly so. Preparing lunches and dinners in a large batch, or at least creating lists of what you’re going to make, can keep you from a last-minute splurge on delivery or eating out.
Not only will you be saving money, you’ll avoid the pressure and anxiety that comes from having to decide what to make on a hangry stomach. Bonus points here, because a nutritious diet can also help keep rising stress stay at bay.
There are many ways to meal prep, and identifying what makes sense for you and your family might require a little trial and error. It starts with making a plan, and getting to the grocery store.
Next, it might mean making a large batch of basics (such as veggies or meat that can be a base for a variety of lunches and dinners) works best. If you prefer to graze throughout the day, prepare a variety of snacks that you can quickly grab as you head to work. Even if you’re buying frozen lunches to take with you through the week, chances are those cost less than eating at a restaurant throughout the week.
Set a standing date with yourself every week or two to review the bills and logistics that come with being an adult.
Take care of bills that aren’t on autopay to ensure you don’t wind up with late fees, compare your bank account balance to upcoming major expenses, and schedule appointments. If you’re keeping a budget, take a moment to see where you stand. You could also review your subscriptions (to make sure you’re not paying for something you don’t use), order gifts for upcoming birthdays, or anything else that you’ve pushed off until “later.”
The tasks often don’t take a long time, but staying on top of things piece by piece means you don’t miss bills and incur late fees.
When it comes to prioritizing, taking care of yourself is often the easiest task to move to the bottom of the list. Sometimes other commitments take precedence, and other times, you might not realize the need for self-care until you’re burnt out.
It doesn’t matter what you pick for self-care — could be working out at the gym or taking a long walk with your dog or reading a book — as long as it recharges you. To start, review your calendar for the upcoming week, find times when you can incorporate self-care, and figure out ways to make a commitment now when your willpower is strong.
If getting grounded is what you need, add 10- to 15-minute appointments (with yourself) to your calendar that are strictly for decompressing — perhaps that means using a meditation app, stretching, or zoning out with a few cute cat videos.
Planning outfits for the week offers multiple benefits. First, you can hit the snooze button in the morning and stay in bed a little longer. Second, you’re eliminating a decision from your morning, which can help combat daily decision fatigue. Third, you might even save yourself money if find a few outfits which you feel you could wear on repeat during the week (e.g., black shirt and blue jeans, every day, like Steve Jobs.)
Your work and lifestyle will inevitably play a major role in these decisions. But even if you have a work outfit that never changes, think about which clothes make sense for when you’re heading to the gym, a happy hour, or something else after work.
A stealth expense often comes in the form in the guise of having to get places fast or not keeping your ride in decent condition. Starting the week with a full tank of gas can literally keep you going.
Remember, if you stack rewards from various gas perk programs, you can often save a bundle. If you don’t have to drive — and can carpool or use public transportation — using the weekend to figure out your plan can save you money and time too. If you can save $20 on tolls and gas every week, that’s more than $1,000 you can save in a year.
While adding extra work to the weekends can seem like a chore, planning ahead of time is often easier and less stressful than leaving things until the last minute. And remember, you don’t have to do all of the things above, pick what suits your needs best.
Louis DeNicola is a freelance personal finance writer and credit enthusiast. You can find him on Twitter @is_lou.
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