Ask any mom what life is like, and you will likely hear one common answer start to emerge: busy. While very fulfilling, life as a mom brings a certain brand of crazy, exhausting, stressful, fall-into-bed-at-night-with-every-body-part-aching level of activity. Add to that the extra busyness of the holiday season, and you’ve got a recipe for potential disaster.
Lately, my family has been going through a huge transitional phase, as we’ve adjusted to two new full-time jobs, new childcare arrangements, moving to Iowa City (and away from family), sharing one car, and a pregnancy. We are definitely not unique in the level of craziness that we’ve been dealing with, but it has certainly forced us to streamline whatever we can, in an effort to spend at least a little free time together discussing something other than the to-do list.
I know most families are dealing with jam-packed schedules, so I’ve rounded up ten of my favorite ways to make life easier for busy moms. (All online, of course, because who has time to run all over town every week?)
- mySupermarket – A one-stop shop for bargain hunters in need of household items, personal care products, and pantry items. You do the shopping, they compare prices at eight different stores, including Amazon, Walmart, Target, and Costco, and put the best deal in your cart. Despite ordering from different stores, it all ships to you in the same box. You can keep a keen eye on exactly how much you’re spending to help you stay on budget, and you cut your grocery shopping trip down to just the refrigerated and frozen items. Sign me up.
- Out of Milk – As a busy mom, I can hold a thought in my head for about two seconds before someone comes along and needs my attention. Out of Milk lets me jot down my grocery list as I think of it, so I don’t have to try to remember everything I need once I finally get 10 minutes to myself. I use it on my phone to keep an ongoing list throughout the week, and then I’m automatically ready for my weekly grocery shopping trip whenever I happen to fit it in. The best part is that you can share your list with other users. If one of you adds or deletes an item from the list, it syncs to both of your devices in real time, making it super easy to split the shopping duties or have someone swing by the store on their way home.
- Pinterest – Although Pinterest can be dangerous territory, I still love it for quick ideas. Need a recipe to throw in the CrockPot? Instructions for a quick DIY Halloween costume? Help getting that weird stain out? Pinterest is my go-to first stop for help. Just be careful to ONLY use it as a tool, not for comparison. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking everyone else’s lives look so much better than yours, so if you start heading in that direction, step away!
- Amazon Subscribe & Save – These days, Amazon carries pretty much everything except the kitchen sink – scratch that, they have those, too – complete with extensive reviews so you can feel confident about what you’re purchasing. My favorite feature for busy moms is Subscribe & Save. Use this for all those pesky recurring purchases you have to make periodically, like paper towels and cleaning supplies, personal health and hygiene products, and baby items. Just decide how frequently you want each item to arrive, then save up to 15% on all your subscriptions and pay nothing for shipping. Any time I can set it and forget it, it’s a win in my book.
- Online TV – Like most families, we don’t have much time to watch TV, especially during most shows’ scheduled air times. This year, we officially became cord-cutters, and we haven’t looked back. We no longer pay the cable company for anything except Internet services, and it has made a huge difference in our monthly budget. This doesn’t mean we gave up our favorite shows, though! Instead, we subscribe to Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Prime and watch on our TV using our video game console. For a fraction of our previous cable bill, we still have access to all our favorite shows and a huge selection of movies. Plus, we can watch them on our own schedule, whether that means one quick show before bed or binge-watching on the weekends.
- Stitch Fix – Our contributor Brook first posted about Stitch Fix, and I love it, too! After two years as a stay-at-home and then work-at-home mom, I recently started a full-time job outside the home and needed to spruce up my work wardrobe. Although I love shopping as much as the next girl (and have a special place in my heart for online consignment shopping), I just don’t have much time right now to head out to the mall. With Stitch Fix, clothes that I actually like and actually fit automatically show up on my doorstep once a month. I just try them on, send back what I don’t want to keep in the included self-addressed, stamped envelope, and voila! I’ve got up to five new stylish pieces and suggestions about how to wear them. They have even been great about considering my changing shape and size throughout my pregnancy. Plus, who doesn’t love a fun surprise in the mail once a month?
- Automatic Bill Pay / Automatic Savings – After years and years (and years!) of living on a student budget, my husband and I finally got “grown-up” jobs and sat down to make some financial decisions. One of the best decisions we made was to set up automatic bill pay and automatic transfers into savings accounts. For us, this has been a great way to stay organized and on track. With a busy schedule and the chaos that comes with children, it’s so easy to forget to pay a bill and then incur late fees or interest. Most service providers provide automatic payment options, and some even let you decide the date of payment. Since setting up automatic bill pay, I don’t even have to think about my bills anymore – they come, they’re paid on time, they’re gone, and I didn’t have to lift a finger. We also set up automatic savings plans for the big stuff (like an emergency fund) and the more mundane things that inevitably catch you off guard, like auto repairs, doctor/dentist bills, taxes, travel, and even baby supplies. A designated amount of every paycheck is automatically transferred into these accounts every month. This way, we make sure we’re saving for the important things before we’re spending money on the things we could really do without (like dining out). Now, when expenses come up, we don’t have to worry as much about how we’ll cover them. We’ve been quietly building up buffers all along, without ever really noticing the difference. Even if you can only save a little bit each month, it adds up over time!
- eMeals –I have to confess that I love family dinners, but I hate planning and cooking them. It feels a bit like doing dishes – no matter how long you spend on it, you will always have to do it again. After a while, it becomes drudgery to spend the time figuring out what to make, putting together a shopping list, trekking to the grocery store with a toddler in tow, and then cooking meal after meal after meal. eMeals takes at least some of the work out of this process, while still letting you feel good about what you’re eating. You can specify your family size, eating style, and favorite grocery stores, and eMeals puts together a weekly meal plan that suits your needs, complete with a shopping list, recipes, and easy instructions. It even takes seasonal items and local grocery store specials into account to help you save money. With 15 dinner plans, including Gluten Free, Paleo, Kid Friendly, Vegetarian, and Diabetic (among others), there’s sure to be a plan that fits your family’s choices. And let’s be honest: there are some nights when a home-cooked meal is just not going to happen. In that case, OrderUp just might save the day. If you live within their delivery zone, choose from over 30 participating local restaurants, order your meal, and OrderUp will bring it to your door for a small delivery fee.
- Artkive – As our contributor Kate pointed out, kids are always coming home with mountains of paper. I love the peek into my daughter’s mind when I see the drawings she makes at daycare, but I hate the clutter of all that paper! Artkive lets me save her artwork without having to save the paper. Just download from the App Store or Google Play, snap a picture with your phone, and Artkive catalogs your children’s masterpieces, including each child’s name and age. You can even share them with other users (hello, Grandma!) or compile them into a book for printing, all within the app.
- theSkimm – As I mentioned above, one of my time- (and money-) saving tricks was to get rid of traditional TV. The one potential downside to not having TV channels is that we do miss the evening news. This doesn’t really bother me, though, because I wouldn’t have time to tune in during the craziness of dinner time, anyway! Plus, more and more young people are staying plugged into the news via the Internet instead of traditional newscasts. Enter theSkimm. Every morning, a short synopsis of current world events is delivered to my email inbox, laced with just the right amount of snark. Staying informed automatically and quickly while being entertained is a refreshing way to keep current when you’re short on time.
Still want more? Check out this list of 10 Apps to Make Your Parenting Life Easier.
We want to hear from you! What are you favorite time-saving tricks to make your life easier as busy moms? Tell us in the comments or on our facebook page!
*Stock photo courtesy of Microsoft Office Images