We try to maximize our free time, and these are some of the steps we’ve taken to help achieve that.
I automate by using bill pay for our common, recurring bills. This guarantees our bills are paid on time with little effort. I think its important to review those bills and payments at least monthly to make sure you aren’t getting charged for anything you shouldn’t be. When I refinanced my student loans, I signed up for auto-debit, which gave me a discount on my interest rate. After 24 months of on time payment (which was easy because of the auto-debit), my interest rate was lowered even more.
Coming and Going
When we come home, we use a specific counter in our kitchen to put keys, phones, wallet, purse, etc. That gives us a single place to go when we arrive or depart the house. That limits how many times we misplace things and cuts down on frustration (now where did I leave my keys!?!)
I like routines. In the morning, there is an order for everything to be done. My wife will shower first while I take care of the dogs and kids, and then I run through the shower. The kids now know how to get dressed and fix breakfast by themselves (yes!). When they were old enough to do themselves, our mornings improved a lot. They know what they need to do, although they sometimes require some prodding. Similarly, we have routines for dinner and bedtime. The timing is not always the same, but the order stays consistent.
Don’t be Afraid to Say No
Both my wife and I like to excel at what we do. Sometimes that means taking on a lot of extra work, whether that’s professional or personal. That can lead to situations where there is a lot to do in a short period of time. Saying no to extra things can be tough but necessary.
We outsource some household activities. Cleaning and yard work were easy choices. This requires more money, but gives us more free time, either as a family or some much needed personal time. We have decided that trade off is acceptable, especially because of our high savings rate. When we were first married with lowered salaries, we did more things ourselves.
Double Dip Activities
My dad always suggested double dipping. If I had a school project that could also be used for a Boy Scout project, I would work to get credit from both organizations. Now I try to get our kids interested in the same things I like. Our oldest likes to cook now and will help me in the kitchen. That provides multiple bonuses. I get additional help, she learns how to cook, and we get to spend time together.
Our house can be messier than we like. Even with the cleaning service every two weeks, we have to deal with five people and their stuff. The kids are good about putting things, but we usually have to ask them. If someone is coming over, we try to do a quick pickup. Friends of ours say they like when we come over since they are in a similar situation. None of use will judge the other because their house isn’t perfect.
Complacency creeps in. The way to combat that is to reassess. Do we still need to be doing this? Is there another option? Ideally we would reassess our routines on a weekly basis, but that isn’t always possible due to trips, work, etc. A monthly basis is a minimum. We try to set goals for what we need to get done and evaluate if we need to make any changes to our routines. Its a constant battle to keep up.