How can I save money when I’m so busy?

I get it. It’s 6pm, you are on the way home and the thought of cooking once you get there is as appealing as cleaning under your husband’s toenails. One quick stop through the drive-thru and $20 later you and the kids are fed and happy with the busy lifestyle, but your finances aren’t.

I used to live calculating how much I could spend on lunch that day while still being able to pay the bills. My savings were non-existent.

  • save money with auto deposits

On your lunch break, smoke break, or “I’m going to pretend I smoke to get a break” break, ask your HR department how to change your paycheck details. Deposit a small amount from each paycheck into savings. It doesn’t have to be a lot, I auto deposit $30 each paycheck into a little, off-to-the-side savings account. It doesn’t sound like much, but since that money is separate from my paycheck, I don’t plan it into my spending.

  • save money with a hobby

This sounds counter-productive since I am telling you to save money and time. But you see, I have an issue called “wandering-mouse syndrome”, when I have down time I tend to get on websites. Not good websites that encourage me to save money either. These are bad websites where people are sharing how such-and-such an item is on sale and I should buy it RIGHT NOW! Now, instead of spending that $20 on another crockpot that is on sale, I pick up my toilet paper origami and make roses instead. (I’m totally kidding about toilet paper origami. I knit, but if you do tp origami, nobody’s judging)

  • Turn your shopping trips into money

My dad told me when I was little that I should find something I love and find a way to make money from it. Well, I did. It’s called mystery shopping and it’s a real thing. When I stop for coffee (the few times I buy coffee instead of making it at home), I make sure that I am getting paid for observing how they greeted me, how clean the place was, and how well my coffee was made. Might as well pay for that indulgence somehow, right?

  • save money by being too busy to go to the store

The other side of the spectrum is avoiding stores altogether. Just like ‘wandering mouse’, ‘wandering steering-wheel syndrome’ is just as dangerous and spendy. I know that I will get myself into big trouble if I go into stores like Target, Ross, or Hobby Lobby, so I don’t. I will buy something off Amazon before going into those stores because I know I will come out with what I need plus a cart-load of other stuff that I don’t need, but really want.

  • GET OUT – IN A NICE WAY

I work full time, and have about 3 side-hustles that I am currently engaged in, I don’t get out a lot. When I do, it used to be costly: a night out with the girls, an expensive dinner-date, or a movie. When I am getting the itch to socialize now, I do it in a smart way: Dinner date – instead of going out to eat we meet for lunch in a park (or in our offices when it’s winter and bring our own lunches). Girls night out – we take our kids with us to the park or the mall play area and talk while our kids try to kill themselves and each other. Movie – I go to a matinee or some friends and I (and all our kids) get together to watch a movie in the cheap comfort of somebodies house.

  • Put the card away

I know it’s tempting to swipe that plastic because it’s so much quicker than having to juggle change, but I will spend more with a card than with cash. With my budget clips in my wallet, what I have in that clip is what I can spend. I don’t have my card there to pay for an extra cost. My debit cards stay at home in envelopes where I can’t get at them except when I have planned on using them for a purchase like gas. Making your money harder to access freely will keep you from spending it without thinking about it.

  • shut off one-click ordering

Whoever invented One-Click shopping was a genius, a very rich genius too I’m sure. Having credit cards stored online or at stores is not a wise move if you struggle with saving money. Too often I add something to a wish list and see that little “order now” button. It’s so tempting to make that wish into a reality with one little click. Turn off this option and delete your cards from the site, it adds the hassle of having to enter in your information each time you order. When I have to physically enter my card number, it makes me really think about if I ‘need’ the item or just ‘want’ it.

  • Make a visible goal

This winter I was able to pay cash for a computer I had been saving for. I knew that if I wanted to start my own business I would need a nice computer and had researched what I wanted. Once I knew, I printed off a picture, wrote down the price, and placed it on my fridge. Every time I would post my budget spreadsheet or a bill to the fridge (it’s my money place), I would be reminded that I was working towards that goal. Whenever I set aside money for that goal I would note it down so I could see the amount grow. Now I am saving for a swing-set for my kids and am almost halfway there.

  • plan ahead for meals

I know how busy life gets as your kids get older, and as you take on new responsibilities. It’s hard enough to make sure everyone is fed without throwing in football games, second jobs, or volunteering. I know that next week I will be running around every evening after work, so I plan for snacks. Having the kids chow down on PB&J’s and carrot sticks in their car-seats rather than French fries and hamburgers is healthier for them, less stressful for me, and much better for the budget.

  • pack it in

I work in an office and I am convinced that the vending machine is the devil. It happens every afternoon, I am getting bored with reports and updates and salt starts sounding really, really good. $1 later and I am the proud owner of a little bag that is 80% air and 20% salt and grease. I just eliminate the middle man now, when I am grocery shopping I plan for the little snack cravings that hit when I’m busy. A $2 bag of chips that will last me a week of snacking (at least according to the judgmental bag). It is worth the weird looks I get in my office when I bring in grocery bags filled with snacks to save a ton of money on snacks.

  • BE TOO BUSY FOR THE GYM

Are you paying $20-$50 per month for space on a treadmill you use once a week? I did the gym scene for a month, (it was a free trial). It was a hassle to have to pack extra clothes for my workout, plan the time into my day, and then decide not to go anyway since I was too busy. I started looking online for free exercise videos and found one on YouTube I like that lasts 7 minutes, makes me sweat, and I can do it while my coffee brews (although it would be nice to do it outside in some picturesque setting). Now I can take my gym time and focus on my toilet paper origami instead.

How do you save money as a busy person? Is it by planning ahead, or by actively pursuing saving money?