Group your errands
istock/ryasickThis is a golden rule: Never run a single errand at a time. You’ll save time, gas, energy and stress hormones by grouping your errands into batches. If you have to drop a child at a piano lesson, you can also go to the bank and deposit a check, pop into the supermarket for milk and bread or pick up the dry-cleaning. Try these other time-managements tips that successful people use.
Run your errands at quiet times
istock/_FangXiaNuoIn other words, not on the weekend (when the vast majority of people run their errands). Instead, make sure your dry cleaner, bank, doctor, supermarket, etc., are near work so you can take care of these mundane tasks on your way into or out of work, or during your lunch hour. You’ll avoid the packed shops and heavy traffic at the weekends, and have those two days just for you and your family. One of the best times to grocery shop? After dinner, when the children are in bed. One parent stays at home and one goes to the supermarket. You’ll be in and out in half the time it takes with children in tow. If you're able to get out in the morning, you might be able to save money.
Create an errand center in your house
istock/GeeratiThis is where library books that need to be returned, the dry-cleaning that needs to be dropped off, or the packages that need to be mailed, all live. Everything in one place (ideally near the door you use most often) will make it easier to run "bulk" errands. Another option: Keep these things in your car, in the passenger seat. They’ll be a visual reminder of all you need to do.
Keep an errand list with you at all times
istock/ridvan_celikThis includes both the ordinary errands that must be done (dry-cleaning, library, post office), but also those little things you keep forgetting (pick up socks for the six-year-old, make vet appointment for the dog, find organic potting compost). Use a sturdy notebook that you carry with you at all times, and make sure the rest of your family knows where it is so they can add things to the list.
Buy in bulk
istock/Freer-LawThe less often you have to go shopping for mundane items such as toilet paper, paper towels, dog food, cat litter, toothpaste, deodorant, tampons, etc., the less time you’ll spend running errands. Storage space tight? Most of these items will fit under the bed quite nicely. Save money buying in bulk with these tips.
Always include a little fun
istock/BraunSList all the things you find joyful. Maybe it’s reading a novel, writing in your diary, or hitting a few golf balls on a spring afternoon. Now, plan to include one of these items in any extended errand run. Take a novel with you as you head to the post office; you can read it waiting in line. Carry your diary in your glove compartment—jot down a few lines as you’re waiting for the car to be washed. Or ride your bike to the shops, then take a spin around a local park or nearby countryside.
Keep your grocery list on the computer
istock/LighthousebayMost weeks, you’re buying the same things anyway; having a master list on your computer makes it easy to add and subtract items. Organize the list in the same order as the shop you usually use. So, for instance, if the produce section is the first area you see, fruit and vegetables should be first on your list. Hit the print button and off you go!
Use the Internet for as many errands as possible
istock/_martin-dmThese days, you can bank online, order office supplies, buy garden perennials, shop for shoes and do your grocery shopping online. The Internet, used sensibly, can save you hours of time and immeasurable stress. Worried about giving a credit card number over the Internet? If the website uses a secured server, then it is safer than giving your credit card over the phone and, in some cases, using it at a shop.
Keep an "errand bag" in the car at all times
istock/seb_raThis includes such things as bills that need to be paid, stationery and envelopes for writing letters (yes, letters!), pens, an envelope of coupons, your calendar, magazines that you haven’t read and a good book. Then whenever you’re sitting in a waiting room, stuck in traffic, waiting for a child’s over-long football practice to end, you can also be completing other tasks on your list and/or catching up on your reading.
Keep a cooler and a basket in your trunk
istock/olesiabilkeiThe cooler is to keep frozen and cold foods cold while you run errands; the basket is so you can carry bags into the house without making umpteen trips.