Sense & Centsibility Blog

Planning 101: Save Time & Money and Reduce Stress


If there is one area in my life that I struggle in, it is planning. For example, Father’s Day is always on a Sunday…so I of course had to pick up a gift on the way to my dad’s house. I knew this was going to be bad news because I was solo with a 2-year-old who has a mind of his own and an infant in a baby carrier. And I knew that Walgreen’s carts are not big enough to hold two kids so I knew it was going to be a nightmare. It went well until my 2-year-old locked eyes with a toy and I had to literally drag him kicking and screaming to the photo kiosk while juggling my infant in his carrier. It was awful. My super mommy strength came out. Why, oh why, didn’t I pick up the pictures before the day of?

And then I had girlfriends over for dinner last night so of course I had to run on my lunch break and get the food. I have a retirement party today so I have to go get the gift beforehand…and I have a baby shower on Thursday and – you guessed it – I’ll most likely get the gift the day of. I can’t remember a time where I went to a wedding or birthday party and wasn’t preparing the gift and writing in the card right before going in. I’ve even been known to fill out the card at weddings while the bride and groom are cutting the cake! It makes me crazy! So why can’t I get better at this? The scrambling around brings so much stress to my life because I really do care about giving people nice, thoughtful presents.

I mentioned this to my husband and I said he’s pretty sure that I am in the majority and not the minority and that most people struggle with planning. So last night I sat down and researched how to be a better planner. I am really going to try to do these. If you struggle with planning I totally recommend trying them with me. We can do it!

1. Put up a calendar in your kitchen


This sounds so simple. I recommend getting a dry-erase calendar and putting it up in a central place in your house like the kitchen. Keep it updated. I even go as far as color coding different things. Doctor appointments are blue, parties are red, vacations are pink, etc. I also live by my calendar on my iPhone. It is coordinated with my work calendar so I can keep track of my schedule when I am away from my home. Some people still like day planners. Do what works for you. But remember: the key is to look at it often and keep it current.

2. Pick a time on Sundays to look at your week

This is crucial and I think I avoid doing it because I don’t want to think about Monday! But, that is silly because I am always so unprepared. Pull out your planner, calendar on your phone, or gather around the calendar in the kitchen and look at what you have to do and where you have to go for the upcoming week. Do you need to buy anything? If yes, coordinate trips so you can buy multiple things at once. I struggle with this. I swear I could make 5 separate trips. Try to do them all at once.

3. Prepare, prepare, prepare

Can you get anything ready for your week? Wrap presents, fill out cards, put stamps on envelopes, etc. It’s all about saving time. For example, every day I need to get 5 bottles and a diaper bag ready for daycare. Why, oh why, don’t I do this the night before? It is so stressful doing this before work. Preparation is key!

4. Coordinate your schedule with your spouse and double or triple check

My husband doesn’t remember anything…ever. I reminded him through email, calendar invite, and text about the retirement party I have to go to today so he can leave work early and pick up the kids from daycare. I swear I reminded him 10 times and still yesterday around 3pm he had a breakdown when I reminded him that he needed to get the kids after work. I thought I was going to lose it! So coordinate calendars (Google has a great app) and follow up a million times. Everybody hates changes to their schedule. The solution here is no surprises.

5. Lists, lists, lists

I am to-do List obsessed. They are my favorite. Heck, sometimes I actually put things on my to-do list that I have already completed just so I feel better about myself! Lists work. I even break them down into different categories. To-do, to-buy, to-call. And write down everything . I hate that I have to write this next sentence but I really do because t’s been known to happen with me. Don’t lose your lists.

6. Stock up if you can

Now this one is tough because it requires buying stuff before you actually need it. But trust me when I say this one is HUGE. Buy gift bags, tissue paper, an assortment of cards and even some small gift items like toys, lotion, candles, etc. Have them on hand and you won’t need to run to the store every time you need a small gift. I really do want to get better at planning because when I am prepared, it affects other areas of my life in a positive way. I won’t be as stressed or as short on time and I won’t (usually) overspend on a gift, all three of which will improve my home life and relationship with my husband and my kids. Planning helps me budget for time and money…and encourages me to stick to it. You can do it, too!

Want to be prepared and save money? Read DIY Gift Ideas: How to save while giving. And even if you’re prepared for events you know about, most of us get stressed out every once in a while, if not daily, about finances. So check out 6 Ways to Reduce Financial Stress.

If you need a little bit more support in achieving your financial goals, give LSS a call at 888.577.2227 to schedule an appointment. Our Financial Counselors will empower you to take action to eliminate your debt, create a spending plan, and much, much more. Don’t wait to improve your financial future – take action today!

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Author Kate Swenson is a Project Manager with LSS Financial Counseling.