All the parents out there know the mental load is real. I’m a busy mom of a three-month-old and a two-year-old. I work full-time from home, I grocery shop, I meal plan, I nurse, I clean, I do laundry, I organize play dates, I run the household, I try to work out, and I basically manage my entire family while still trying to have a personal life and maintain some semblance of intimacy with my husband. It sounds like a lot on paper, but this is the new reality for so many of us out there. Let’s just say the “juggle” is real.
Part of my (never ending) load is to balance the family’s budget and make sure we have enough squirreled away for the future. That means watching what we spend and making sure we get enough bang for our buck on the things we do buy. But sometimes, with so many other things going on, I have to stop and ask myself what my time is actually worth. Could I make life a bit easier by splurging for a service or convenience that I’d otherwise never shell out hard-earned dollars for?
That’s a hard yes.
Here are seven conveniences over the past several months that I’ve learned are absolutely worth spending my money on these days… when we can afford it.
After I gave birth to my second baby I started ordering weekly meal kits. I was still frugal about it, and shopped online for the best discounts and then cancelled services after a week or two in order to see what the next one had to offer. And let me tell you, it was a game changer. Suddenly I had most of my ingredients prepped and ready to go, a recipe at my fingertips and best of all I didn’t have to figure out what we were having for dinner three nights a week.
Cost: $30-70/week depending on the service.
Time saved: All of that time shopping, plus most of the meals were made in 30 minutes or less.
Bonus justification: Usually when I’m spent at the end of the day we’ll just order in. But think about that for a second. If I spent roughly $20 on takeout three times a week (and $20 is a low estimate), that’s the same as a week of delivered meals. At least this way we were eating healthier and we didn’t end up throwing extra food out at the end of the week.
Online grocery shopping
As far as I’m concerned only fancy people have time grocery shop—an activity I confess to secretly loving when I’m actually able to do it. I know, I’m weird. Now though, by the time I bundle up the kids, take them into a supermarket, deal with them either screaming and throwing things out of the cart or running amok up and down the aisles, and then bundle everything and everyone back up into the car to get ourselves home, it’s the most exhausting part of my week. Like, I’m tired just writing that sentence.
So now, I’ve discovered the joys of online grocery shopping. Basically I go to the store’s website, pick all of the groceries I’ll need for the week, and then tell them when we’re going to come pick them up. Often I’ll send my husband for them on the way home from work. He just pulls into a designated space, calls a number, and they come right out. Easy peasy.
Cost: $5 service fee
Time saved: All of the time you’d spend shopping, plus the checkout line if it happens to be busy.
Bonus justification: Because I’m shopping online I can do it any time of the day (I can also start and come back later if I get busy), and I avoid a lot of the temptation of buying junk food and other unnecessary items. So really, I might even be saving some cash here.
Buying coffee instead of making it
I totally subscribe to the theory of saving the money you’d spend on a daily takeout coffee and banking it instead. I’m a coffee fiend and while I love a fresh, hot cup from a fast food joint I would always, always, always make my own cuppa Joe. Now? Well if I’m going out somewhere with the kids you can bet I’ll be buying a coffee at a drive-through. Doing so allows me to a) have the freshest, hottest cup of coffee possible and b) means I have one less thing to carry out of the house with me when I’m already struggling to get two tiny humans out the door.
Cost: $2-5 depending on the size and place you get it from.
Time saved: Honestly it’s about on par as making it. And maybe even a bit quicker if you arrive at the drive-through during off-hours.
Bonus justification: Drinking a hot cup of coffee, even if it’s while I’m driving to a play date or bringing the kids home from an appointment or outing, gives me a tiny bit of serenity in an otherwise chaotic day. Plus it keeps me alert and able to keep up with the toddler, which is no small feat after a long night up with the babe.
Prewashed and packaged produce
Before kids I was that person who would buy a whole head of lettuce or a bunch of spinach and painstakingly wash every single leaf before drying it and tucking it away in the fridge for the week. I’d scoff at people who bought pre-cubed squash in a bag or foiled potatoes ready to throw on the grill. Okay, so frugal me still scoffs at some of those things, but let me tell you that spending a few bucks more on prewashed produced and bagged salads saves me loads of time. I don’t know if I’ll ever go back.
Time saved: At least 20 minutes a week.
Bonus justification: Some of those boxed greens mixes and bagged salads are really, really good. Currently I’m obsessed with the Sweet Kale Chopped Salad Kit from Fresh Express.
This one is for my husband, who works a fair distance from where we live. Given the housing market these days I think that’s a trend a lot of people are beginning to relate to. Anyhow, because Hubby’s drive was about an hour and 20 minutes each way (he’d spend two-to-three hours in the car daily), he started taking the toll highway where there was less traffic. What. A. Game changer. Now he’s on the road an hour less than before, he doesn’t have to deal with the same level of commuter stress, and he’s home earlier to help out so I’m happier too.
Cost: $60-80 week
Time saved: Five hours a week.
Bonus justification: Because we use this service so often, we now get up to 60 km free on Sundays, which we use when visiting extended family and friends.
I’m lucky because I’ve got a really good support system in place in terms of people to help me out with the kids. My mom and mother-in-law are willing to take my toddler whenever we need them to, and my two brothers-in-law and their significant others are awesome about coming by when they can to help watch the kids so that I can get things done. But here’s the thing: they all work full-time too, and while it’s awesome to be able to use them for help we also don’t want to take advantage. That’s why we regularly pay for a sitter two days a week for the toddler, to give me time to bond with the newborn and to try and get something done around here during the day. I also think this one is 100 per cent worth it for couples who need a night out together and don’t have family that can step in.
Cost: Various—we pay $100 a week
Time saved: Again it varies, but I get two days a week out of it.
Bonus justification: Everyone needs time to themselves, especially busy parents. Before having my first baby I met with a postpartum counselor to talk out some of my fears of trying to balance it all once the baby game, and that’s one of the first things she told me. I took that advice to the bank.
A cleaning service
Okay so full disclosure, this one is more of a wish-list item and not something I’ve personally invested money in just yet. I have a feeling when the kids are a bit older and even more unruly I will absolutely look further into it, but right now I’m just too damned tired to care that much if my house is cleaned from top to bottom every week. But if we did spend hours dusting, polishing, vacuuming and cleaning each week, I know I’d rather be able to spend that time doing something together as a family, and would totally invest the money to have someone else do the cleaning.
Cost: $50-100 per week
Time saved: 2-3 hours per week
Bonus justification: I hate cleaning to begin with because I get way too into it. By the time I’m done scrubbing a bathroom I’ve taken a toothbrush the grout, rearranged the cupboards, taken off the showerhead for a bonus clean and before I know it, two hours have gone by. If someone came in to do that stuff for me, I’d be a much happier person.