"When was the last time we did this? Is it really a year already? In school we were inseparable!" Mary thought that Suzy was right. Along with Jen, they made a great trio.
"Who has the time? I just read that working women end up with an average of ten hours less free time per week than housewives or employed men. I don't know about you guys, but the treadmill I'm on just keeps going faster!" Jennifer laughed as she spoke, but there was an edge to her voice that Mary noticed.
Suzy jumped right in. "What's killing me is that there's always something on my calendar. I close one appointment book at work only to open the one for home. It's crazy."
"I can solve that one." Just like in the old days Jenny was always ready with advice, wanted or not. "Back last January I started keeping one calendar for both home and office. I got tired of wasting time calling people back because my 'other' calendar was somewhere else. Now I can look quickly and even decide that the day's schedule is so tough that I'll want to just veg out in the evening.""That's good, Jen. What opened my eyes was the week that I kept a log of where I spent all my time. I never told Joe, but he was right. I did find some things that consumed time without really 'using' it."
Mary saw the opportunity to learn something so she asked Suzy, "Tell me how that worked. What'd you do, keep a stopwatch?!"
"No! Just wrote down what I did on about ten minute cycles. One thing I found was that there were some people who could take a lot of time on the phone just telling me their problems. Almost felt like I was running a shrink's office."
"Oh, so you don't want me to call anymore!" Mary just couldn't resist a good needle. Suzy quickly responded, "Not you guys. I put you under 'entertainment'!"
"Well girls, one thing that works for me is that I never take a briefcase home." Since Jennifer was an attorney it was an unusual comment. "It keeps me from kidding myself that I can catch up at home. Forces me to be super efficient at work. I figure that I'm leaving one full time job for another. If I have extra energy at home I'll work on something that needs to be done there."
"I'll tell you one thing that I've brought home from work. That's having an organized desk at home. I keep all of our family records within an arms reach of that little desk in our bedroom. Bills, insurance, medical records. I got tired of looking for stuff everytime I needed to pay the bills."
Mary shook her head. "Organization's good, but I can't believe that super woman stuff. You know, the wife who works all day, has dinner ready at 5:30. The house is neat as a pin and even the spice rack is in alphabetical order!"
"You're right about that super-mom stuff, but I'd die if I didn't keep organized." Jenny had always been one for order, Suzy thought. "Back last year I reorganized the kitchen. Got rid of stuff that we never used and put seldom used things in the basement. Now I can actually get to the Tupperware without messing up a whole shelf every time. And you can laugh, but I put all the canned veggies together in one place and the soups in another. When I'm fixing dinner in a hurry every second counts. Makes it easier to put together the grocery list, too!"
Suzy, who had always been interested in cooking, pointed out that you could save more than a few seconds by planning meals two at a time. "I've got a lot of recipes that I can cook tonight's dinner and a second batch for the freezer. There's always a couple of choices in there when I'm in a pinch. With the microwave it's even faster than going to Mickey D's at rush hour and sitting in the drive through line."
"Ooh, I like that!" Mary was never a fan of fast food. "My favorite is the slow cooker. I love coming home to the smell that tells everyone that super's ready. No more of that 'when are we gonna eat Mom' stuff."
The three kind of migrated towards the kitchen. "What bugs me is housework." Jenny continued as they settled around the dinette. "I start with the intention of cleaning one room. But then I see something along the way that needs to be picked up. Next thing I know three things are started and nothings finished!"
This was Mary's strong suit. "It really all boils down to a schedule. If I spend about 15 minutes everyday the place looks picked-up. Then there's the once or twice a week chores like laundry and cleaning the bathroom. Thursday evening is vacuuming. I want to get it done so I won't let myself get distracted by the fact that something needs to be dusted."
"Don't John and the kids help?" Suzy was the mother of three. "Our kids started helping when they were about eight. It's not like they're slaves. But, they understand that it's not fair for them to sit around and watch TV while Mom kills herself!"
Mary, who was at the counter putting the finishing touches on some munchies, couldn't help but get philosophical. "Do you guys hear us? Remember the time that Jen's mother came to visit? She took one look at our apartment, mumbled something about the three of us being unfit for our gender and started to pick up the living room! And now we're busy trading ideas on how to keep a clutter free kitchen!"
It was to be expected that Jennifer, the lawyer, would provide the closing statement. "So we've gone from discussing whether Bobby had the best legs to how quickly can you make dinner." She winked at Suzy. "You know, Mary, I always thought that your John was the best looking guy in shorts."
Spotting a trap, Mary replied without hesitation. "Yep, that's why I married him!"
Gary Foreman is a former financial planner and purchasing manager who currently edits The Dollar Stretcher.com website and newsletters. He's been featured in MSN Money, Yahoo Finance, Fox Business, The Nightly Business Report and he's a regular contributor to US News Money and CreditCards.com. You can follow Gary on Twitter or visit Gary Foreman on Google+.
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