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5 Simple (But Substantial) Investments That Have Hugely Upgraded My Life

I’m all for saving money, but that doesn’t mean you’ll find me winning any awards for frugality. What’s more important to me than saving a few bucks is keeping myself sane and happy. For me, that means my focus is more on efficiency. I attempt to balance both money saving and time-saving goals to do the best I can. It’s that balance part that is the most important. Sure, I could order takeout every night and hire someone to walk my dogs and clean my house, but if I did that, I’d end up broke and unhappy. Instead, I find ways to cut corners that will still allow me to hit my financial goals. Efficiency over laziness for the win!

There are only 24 hours in a day, and at least seven of those are spent sleeping. At least for me, I am a grumpy mess if I don’t get enough sleep at night. That leaves us with 17 hours to do everything else that needs to get done. Maybe that sounds like a lot, but those hours disappear fast when you factor in work, cooking, laundry, dog walks, exercise, Netflix…My point is that you only have a set number of hours to complete the endless list of tasks you have running through your brain at any one moment. And as smart as humans are, we’ve yet to come up with a way of giving ourselves more hours in a day.

This is precisely why I favor saving time over always saving money. It might not be easy, but it’s possible to earn more money, it’s impossible to gain more time.

Food

You spend a chunk of every single day eating, and if you’re anything like me, you savor the heck out of those moments. If I could eat out for every meal (without going broke or getting obese), I would. I like when other people cook for me, but that’s just not real life. Instead, I have to balance my unrealistic desires with ways to make cooking and eating at home work for me.

1. Meal Planning

Spontaneity is not an attribute I possess. I’m a lady who needs a plan. To simplify dinner in my house, I follow a strict meal planning schedule. You may have noticed I only said dinners. That’s because I eat the same thing for breakfast every morning (a pre-made shake) and 90% of lunches are leftovers from the night before. Simplicity for the win! I keep a Pinterest board of recipes that I turn to every Sunday morning to make up that weeks schedule and then go grocery shopping. Doing one big shop each week saves time and ensures the fridge is stocked with food that needs to be eaten. If you want some meal-planning inspiration, then check out this post that emphasizes simple recipes.

2. Convenience Shopping

I have mad respect for the people who clip coupons and scan flyers for the best deals of the week. I am not that person. My shopping is done in one store, and I take what I can get. Sometimes they’ll be out of broccoli (but they always have lemongrass — thanks, Superstore), and I’ll need to substitute something else, but that’s better to me than making another stop.

I’m also a fan of using Spud here in Canada. If you’ve never heard of Spud, they are a grocery delivery service that emphasizes local products. This is often a supplement to my regular grocery shop, but they tend to have better produce and some unique products that I can’t get at my regular store. Plus, what’s better than coming home from work and having your groceries waiting for you? Prices tend to be a bit higher, but delivery is free, and you can find some great deals if you stick to the sale section.

Making use of my Costco membership is the third way I simplify the grocery buying process. It might not always be the cheapest, but the meat from Costco is always excellent quality and reasonably priced. Instead of buying meat during the weekly grocery run, we stock up every couple of months at Costco. Freezing pre-portioned servings of chicken, pork, and ground beef means we always have supplies on hand to whip up a quick dinner. It also means we won’t have to pay extra if we can’t find what we need on sale.

Sticking to a Routine

Remember how I said I’m not a spontaneous person? That carries over big time into this next section. I used to (okay, still do) give my Dad such a hard time about his lack of flexibility when it came to his morning routine. One time, for an April Fool’s joke, I hid his marmalade. Let me tell you: that was a bad day for everyone who had to come into contact with him. Without his regular breakfast, he was a different person. I’m not that bad (yet), but I like what I like, and if it ain’t broke…

3. Buying Multiples of Clothes

I own four of these Lululemon t-shirts. They are not cheap, at all. In fact, the regular price of almost $50 per shirt makes me a little nauseous. All the ones I own were on sale, so wait for that if you want to test out their greatness. Seriously though, I LOVE these shirts. I’ve had one of them for almost three years, and it is still in perfect condition. They wash well, can go into the dryer with no shrinkage, are super-soft, a flattering shape, don’t stretch out, and can be dressed up or down. I’ve been known to wear them lazing around the house and also tucked into a skirt with a cute scarf to the office. Lululemon keeps coming out with new colors, and I keep watching to see which ones will go on sale.

Those shirts aren’t the only thing I own in multiples. I like Banana Republic dress pants for work (hit up a factory store if you have one nearby) and these jeggings from American Eagle that actually feel like denim (not those flimsy jeggings you usually find). I doubt I’ll ever go full-blown work uniform (a la Zuckerberg), but stocking up on things I enjoy wearing makes life easier.

4. Same Old Products

Click through my Sephora ordering history, and you’ll quickly discover that I have expensive taste. It’s consistent, though. I’ve been using the same Clinique skincare system for years, a few go-to makeup products, and a consistent winter/summer hair product rotation. Could I find cheaper alternatives at the drugstore? Probably. But experimenting takes time, and money, and the risk of a breakout. The products I buy work, and that makes them worth the cost.

Knowing what I like also means I can stock up when there’s a sale. Sephora usually has two annual sales (April and November) when Beauty Insiders can get 15 to 20 percent off their total purchase. Plus, if you shop online, you get three free samples with every purchase — so that’s where I can get my experimentation fix.

5. Owning a Car

There’s no debate that owning a car is more expensive than not owning one. What that doesn’t account for is the inconvenience of going completely carless. Last summer, the boyfriend and I sold one of our vehicles and have been a one-car household since. It’s working for us, and while we live in a location where we could likely get by without a vehicle, it’s a sacrifice I’m not willing to make.

For the cost of maintaining one vehicle, we get to drive to the grocery store, take the dogs for adventures out of the city, drive to work when it’s -30, and visit my parents for Sunday dinner. Sure, there are other options to get temporary access to a vehicle, but none of them is as easy as owning our own.

*****

Those are all the categories of expenses I’m willing to pay more for added convenience. I’m not going to go full-on math mode (we all know I hate math) and calculate the exact value of my time, but I know these time-saving habits result in a net positive.

How do you guys feel about paying for convenience? Are there specific things you’re willing to spend money on to save yourself time? Share below in the comments!

Sarah is a Canadian personal finance blogger over at Smile & Conquer. She has been working in the world of finance for almost a decade and uses that experience to help other millennials get smart about their money.

Image via Unsplash

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