Think a month ahead to save time & money

Each week, I plan a menu and a to-do list. In an attempt to reduce stress and plan ahead for the holidays (including a 2,000-mile road trip), I decided to try monthly planning.

In addition to using Mint to plan a zero-based budget based on our income (which I do every month), I also mapped out a month’s worth of meals, a pre-holiday/vacation to-do list, and I’m still working on planning a month’s worth of blog posts.

Using Notepad, I saved three documents on my computer desktop last weekend: December budget, December menu, and December blog schedule.

When it comes to my blog, I’m not so good at planning ahead. Between my full-time job, spending time with my husband, and home management, the blog typically takes a back seat. It’s not uncommon for me to sit down to write the next day’s blog post with absolutely no idea what I’m going to write.

This month, I’ve been pushing myself to stay ahead of the game. Not only am I attempting to plan ahead for blog post ideas, but I’ve been writing more on the weekends and scheduling posts ahead of time.

I have to say, monthly planning has made my life a lot easier.

In the past, I’ve tried similar planning using calendars and date books. For some reason, these simple little Notepad documents have worked better than anything I’ve ever tried. Maybe it’s because I spend so much time in front of my computer, or maybe it’s because they’re so incredibly simplified, like a little electronic Post-it note.

I finished my budget and menu plan last weekend. Even though my blog post schedule isn’t finished, I have a head start on the month’s posts. Most importantly, I have a place to put those ideas that randomly spring into my head.

My premature new year’s resolution is to keep it up. I tried this method to make the holidays easier, but I can see how it could save me tons of time and money the rest of the year, too.

Having a monthly menu plan has made it easier to take advantage of grocery sales on nonperishables. For example, we’re making vegetable beef stew in two weeks, so when we found beef stock on sale for 50 cents a can last week, we picked up four cans. It saved us $2.

In the future, I plan to use the previous month’s menu plans to simplify my planning process even further. Because we have many favorites that we like to make over and over, I can refer to old menu plans when I need ideas for the next month’s meals.

My monthly to-do list has made it easier to manage my time. I know what I need to finish each week, so I won’t end up with a million things to do the week before we leave town.

It’s also made my weekend a lot more enjoyable. I didn’t feel stressed Saturday morning before grocery shopping, because I knew our menu plan was already finished. I also didn’t feel rushed or guilty thinking about what I should be doing. My to-do list dictated a few tasks I needed to finish to stay on track. Once they were done, I was free to relax.

I can’t wait to perfect this monthly planning process to maximize my savings and productivity. That definitely works for me.

6 thoughts on “Think a month ahead to save time & money

  1. Sandy

    I just came across your website the other day and love it. I’m impressed with your planning ahead and organization. It really does make life easier, doesn’t it? Your blog is great; so many of your posts touch on things my husband and I are doing as well. In three and a half years of marriage we’ve paid off the credit card, my car, and are almost done with student loans. We will be debt free as of January 2009. I’m 28 and he’s 26, and we are ahead of so many people we know. It’s nice to read your blog and see another young couple focused on paying off debt, planning ahead, saving money, and just plain being wise financially. God bless!

  2. Megan

    Hey! Like Sandy, I just recently stumbled upon your blog- but I love it! You’re articles are really helpful- like the shampoo costs. I have been reluctant to spend very much on the large bottles, but in the end it really isn’t that much more than non-brand name products.

    While you’re planning your topics…I would like to see more of your insights about saving on beauty products. It’s hard for me to spend minimal amounts in this area if I want to look really great, so I usually skimp and it shows! What advice would you give?

  3. Tiffanie

    i did monthly menu planning once and i ended up changing so much due to things coming up that i didn’t forsee, so it didn’t work so well for me, lol. glad it seems to be working better for you!

    Tiffanie’s last blog post..109 in 2009

  4. Pingback: Menu Plan & Grocery Round Up: 12/13-12/19 — Living Well on Less

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