How To Buy More Time With Your Family

I realize this doesn’t apply to everyone (and is absolutely a first-world problem), but I suspect many of the busy career-oriented dads reading this blog have more money than time at their disposal. Luckily the one can be traded for the other- there are many ways to buy yourself time. This time can then be better spent on being a great dad than on housely tasks that sap your (and/or your wife’s) energy. Here are a few examples of things we can do to buy time. Your mileage may vary, and I’d love to get your ideas in the comments section.

If you can afford it, you can spend $ to free up more time to spend with the family
If you can afford it, you can spend $ to free up more time to spend with the family

Cleaning Service

Before Nick started crawling, we never realized how quickly our floors and carpets became disgusting. After a few crazed weeks of constant sweeping, mopping and vacuuming, we broke down and hired Merry Maids (I’m happy customer, this is NOT a paid endorsement). Immediately, we had the peace of mind that our floors would be professionally cleaned every so often, and all we needed to do was maintain this cleanliness with a quick sweep-and-swifter each day. So much time saved.

Even better is that we know that, every two weeks, our showers, toilets, countertops, sinks, rugs, etc. all get thoroughly cleaned. This has saved us so much time and psychic energy. Who has the time after work, parenting, and getting the boy to sleep to spend an hour scrubbing the bathroom? It was seriously sapping morale to know that housework was never fully done. It has saved us so much time and emotional energy to have professionals clean the house every other week.

The best thing is cleaning services are comparatively inexpensive. For most of us, cutting back on a few other things is enough to swing the expense

Prepared Foods

I’m not a cook, and the only item on my “future wife wishlist” that Amy did not far exceed is “enjoys cooking”.  So, in our house, time spent preparing a big multi-ingredient meal is work. However, we’re kinda into healthy eating and are not the kind of people who are happy to eat microwaved frozen chemical chunks with some foodstuff mixed in. We’re also not made of money, so frequent eating out or ordering in is a stretch.

Instead, we often buy good prepared food (fish, chicken, etc.) from a local natural food store (Old World Marketagain I’m happy customer, this is NOT a paid endorsement) and the weekly Nyack Farmers Market.  This costs more than cooking ourselves but far less than eating out (and healthier and yummier, too). A quick salad or some easy side-dish is within our cooking capabilities, and together, these make for good meals. The best part is, we’re not stuck in a kitchen and can spend extra time playing with Nick or helping with his homework.

To pay for the cleaning service and prepared foods, we only have to cut back a little on some other expenses. Well worth it to us.

Lawn Service

I’m cheating here; I don’t have a lawn service, although I hear they are not particularly expensive.  Instead I have a small lawn.

When Amy and I were house-hunting several years back, we got some great advice to avoid buying more house/property than we felt comfortable with. After all, your stuff should work for you, not the other way around. To me, raking, mowing, gardening, etc. are chores rather than relaxing or invigorating activities. As a result, one of the things I looked for in a house was a back yard big enough for a kid to play in but small enough to easily maintain. Luckily, we found a house that fit the bill (it helped that, in the NYC suburbs, big lawns almost always come with a house and a property tax bill too expensive for us anyway).

I don’t have to put much more than a ½ hour weekly mow to relatively small front and back lawns (and I split ownership of a small mower with a neighbor- the Beer Fire guy- with a similar lawn), raking is just one November afternoon, and watering is not something we need to do where we live. I don’t stress much about occasional weeds and the clover and mint that is slowly replacing sections of grass. Best of all, I can play Frisbee or baseball or light-sabers with Nick in the yard instead of spending my time maintaining it (Nick is not quite old enough to make mowing, raking, shoveling etc. true father-son activities).

If you have a larger property, I hear basic landscaping services aren’t very expensive. It may be worth it to free up the time.

Anyway, these are three ways dads may be able to use money to buy ourselves more time to be an active parent.  What do you do to buy time? Let’s discuss in the comments section.

12 thoughts on “How To Buy More Time With Your Family

  1. Ahhh “buying time” — I totally relate to this idea. Here is what my wife and I have done (and not done): We use a cleaning service that comes every other week — as you said, this has helped enormously. I HATE cleaning so this was a big one. We hired a lawn service to mow our grass — we are renting our house and it’s definitely a bigger lawn than I feel I can handle. Again, very worth it.
    In terms of food, my wife and I do a lot of cooking but we aim for simple meals that don’t require extensive prep work. We’ve tried the prepared foods route (e.g., Whole Foods) but usually end up unsatisfied with what we get.
    What we would like to hire is a “mother’s helper” who would come a few times a week to assist with some basic household chores such as laundry and cleaning the kids’ bottles. We haven’t found one yet and it might be too costly, but I feel like too much of our time is taken up by that kind of housework — we’d much rather be playing with our girls!

  2. For the prepared food, my family used the Schwans food service for quite a while. We recently got into the habit of cooking again. But for about two years we just used Schwans. You place the order online and the truck drops off your order on your doorstep. It is very easy.

  3. Whether its shoveling snow, raking, or stacking firewood, I always liked getting my son and 2 daughters to join in. It can be a hard sell to kids, but ultimately, working alongside with them is a great way to spend time with them. The key is to keep things light, and try to have fun with it (I tend to be a bit of a taskmaster, so I need to concentrate on that point).

    • A great way to get stuff done and combine chore time with family time. My son’s not quite old enough to be of help- but he wants to- so I let him “help”, often biting my lip bc i don’t want to criticize or discourage him.

  4. Great suggestions Scott. For me, I don’t mind the cleaning.. (And don’t think I can afford hiring anyone). As for meals, I try to plan simple quick (but healthy) meals ahead of time for the days I know will be late from work or just too hectic. I try to prepare it the day before and have it ready to throw in the oven. Or make 2 extra meals on Sunday, so 1 for mon, 1 for tues then leftovers on wed. Hope this helps someone else out there!

  5. Here are a few things I haven’t seen mentioned yet that I find extremely helpful in saving me time:
    Dry cleaning – I try to get “wrinkle free” low maintenance clothing whenever possible, but when something I have does need to be ironed I take it to the local shop. To me (with my poor ironing skills) it’s well worth it.

    Car washing – when my daughter is a little older, washing the car may be a fun activity for a warm summer afternoon. For now (and forever when it comes to washing it in the winter) it’s well worth it to take the car somewhere to have it washed. I also often splurge and have them vacuum it, too.

    Travel agent – I’ll never forget when my wife and I met another family on our trip to Alaska. They had better everything booked than we did and were paying less because they had a great travel agent arrange it. If you find a good one (and that does take some up-front time and effort) you can end up saving time AND money – win/win/win.

    Personal trainer – I was amazed at how much easier it was to get in a killer workout when someone else was totally in charge of it. This may only save you a little time (e.g. your trainer may come to you, but you still have to do the work), however it can save you a lot of psychic energy (if, like me, you sometimes obsess about your workouts). It can also get you to “just do it” which is the most valuable thing of all…

    Deliveries – I’m amazed at how many places will deliver things, often for free. For example, my CVS will deliver my prescriptions to my home. I just refill over the phone and have them drop it off. The dry cleaners will even pick my laundry up. If you have a place you go often, ask them if they’ll pick up or deliver. You never know…

    Regarding the things mentioned above, here are my $0.02:
    Food – we use FreshDirect (also not a paid advertisement – we just really love the food and service). We could live on FreshDirect alone, but we also get prepared foods from the super market. I also have a slow cooker which lets me make big batches of things when I do prepare a meal. I try to always cook enough of whatever I’m making so that we can eat one meal, have leftovers one day, and freeze some.

    Cleaning – we use an individual (not a service). We went this route because we get to know our housekeeper as a person, and because we could negotiate what gets done. So when our housekeeper comes she does the laundry (even puts it away) along with cleaning everything. It may cost a little more, but it’s a huge relief.

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