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Time Management 101: Create a Time Budget (Part 2)

For years, we’ve used a cash envelope system for much of our budgeting. For those unfamiliar with the concept, it basically works like this: We have different envelopes for each area of spending (for instance food, clothing, gifts and so forth) and we have a budgeted amount of cash that we put in them every month. That’s the allotted money we have to spend on clothes and food and gifts and so forth.

Because we have a budget, we know where our money is going, we know how much money we have to spend in each category and we’re able to make sure that we’re spending our money on what matters to us — instead of just letting it pass through our fingers like sand. Having a plan for our money and sticking to the plan gives us peace, allows us to make financial traction and frees us from a lot of worry and stress.

Budgeting our money is a no-brainer for us. But truth be told, I’d never considered how this concept could be applied to my time. To me, time management had always meant trying to find a way to be as productive as possible every day.

I equated busyness with productivity. So I’d have these big, lofty plans and make these detailed schedules, but I’d always crash and burn quickly because I was trying to cram in about 32 hours’ worth of projects into a 24-hour day.
busyness does not equal productivity

When Amy shared the concept of creating a Time Budget with me, it completely revolutionized my life.

I’d never thought to approach my time like I approached my money. Instead of starting with everything I wanted to do in a day and then trying to find a way to fit it all in (it never did because my list was way too long to begin with!), for the first time, I started with the time I had and then divvied up my responsibilities and priorities into time brackets which equaled less than 24 hours.

My Daily Time Budget

30 minutes Bible reading/journaling
1 hour with Jesse
4 hours of homeschooling, reading and playing with the children
1 hour of exercise
30 minutes shower/dress
2 hours cleaning/home management
7 hours sleeping
2 hours meals/meal preparation
4 hours blogging/computer work
2 hours of extra/”margin” time

It probably goes without saying, but I’m going to repeat it anyway: Please remember that this is my time budget which currently works for me in this season of my life. Yours will likely look much different. Do what works for you. Do not pattern your time budget after mine because it won’t work for you. I only share mine as an example, not to encourage you in anyway to emulate it — unless you want to try and get as much (or more!) sleep than I do, okay?

Keys to Success When Making a Time Budget

1. Make Sleep One of Your Highest Priorities

I used to think that burning the midnight oil would make me more productive, but I’ve actually found that I’m much more productive if I get at least seven hours of sleep almost every single night. I’ve found I’m most productive in the mornings so I make it my goal to go to bed by 10 p.m. and get up between 5 and 6 a.m.

You might be the other way around. Do what works best for you, but whatever you do, put getting enough rest high up on your priority list.

You’ll feel better and more energetic and I’d wager to guess that you’ll also find an extra hour or two of sleep at night helps you to be more productive than if you spent that time trying to pry your eyeballs open with toothpicks and get more work done!

2. Deduct at Least Two Hours for “Margin Time”

I know that there is a great temptation to fill up every single waking moment with something, but may I heartily encourage you to include at least two hours of margin time in your budget? It’s sort of like our “blow” category for our cash envelope system; we can use it for those little incidental expenses which come up that we weren’t expecting. Or, we can choose to “blow” it on something fun.

If you have margin built into your time budget, when you have someone knock at the door, or the phone rings, or the baby has a diaper blowout or the washer overflows and there’s water all over the laundry room floor, your whole day didn’t just go down the toilet. Instead, you can just stop what you were doing, deal with the unexpected interruption and then go back to what you were doing — and you know that you still have plenty of time to get everything done you needed to get done!

You know what else I love about including margin in my time budget? It means I have time to stop and really enjoy my children and seize teachable moments with them.

For instance, the other day I discovered a four-foot long black snake in our backyard. If I didn’t know that I had a time cushion in my day, being the Type A person I am, I likely would have just run on to the next task. But instead, I called the girls outside and we spend 45 minutes observing and taking pictures of the snake.

We emailed the pictures to Jesse and he looked up what kind of snake it was and researched more about it so that when he came home from work, he was prepared to give the girls an impromptu “lesson” on our backyard visitor — which they just lapped up and then enjoyed sharing with me and anyone who would listen for the next few days.

If our lives were so packed full that we didn’t have any margin in them, we would daily miss out on fun opportunities like this. Planning margin into our day gives us the freedom to be spontaneous.

3. Be Ruthless About Eliminating the Unnecessary

As Americans, I think we are sometimes addicted to busyness. We always have to be on the go-go-go. And I sometimes think we find fulfillment and self-worth in piling our plates too high. As if, the more busy we are, the more important it makes us feel.

In reality, I think our culture, by and large, is exhausted, overworked and overwhelmed.

What’s the solution? It’s really very simple: just say “no”.

Stop doing things just because you feel obligated to do them by something or someone else. Stop doing things just because you’re afraid of what people might think of you if you don’t do them.

Stop over-committing yourself. Stop letting people manipulate you into a miserable existence. Just say “no”.

Want more step-by-step help in creating a time budget and becoming a better time manager? Be sure to get a copy of Amy’s ebook.

She’s offering it for almost 50% off through midnight tonight (Friday, November 5, 2010) when you use coupon code MoneySavingMom. What she shares in this ebook has revolutionized my life — and brought so much more peace and order to our home!

Beginning Monday, I’ll be sharing more about our daily routine, my homemaking/cleaning systems and, if there’s time, some time management tips for bloggers.

If you have created a time budget, I’d love for you to share yours in the comments section so that we can all be inspired and glean ideas!

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  • I don’t have a time budget, but once again, this was really helpful to read. It’s encouraging to think about the fact that while not everyone has the same income/budget to work with in a cash envelope system, we all have 24 hours. Granted, some may feel like demands on their time are more than others, but still, 24 hours is what you have to work with. I’ve been convicted lately that I need to spend less time on “finding the best deal” and more time just playing/interacting with my children, because while sales come and go, those times with them are limited, and don’t come back again.

  • thank you. I needed to hear that about playing with your kids. I don’t know why when I add up what I do in a day timewise; I have all this extra time. I think I will start with getting more sleep and than I will be motivated to schedule more in. Or out, for that matter. Things like wasting time on the computer(:

  • Pamela says:

    Does you grocery shopping time come out of your margin time, or out of the home management time? Just curious……thanks! Very helpful post, once again.

    • Crystal says:

      I usually grocery shop on Saturdays — when we are more relaxed about the time budget.

      • Allyson says:

        @Crystal, Are your meal plans and shopping trips planned during your home management time?

      • Laura says:

        @Crystal, Hi Crystal,
        I was wondering if you go out and shop for deals during the week. For instance do you shop for CVS, Walmart, Target..etc during the week or weekend. I am a stay@home mom/full time College student, and I really need to get it together. I feel like I need better time management skills sometimes, but sometimes I am just too tired to finish homework, or fold the laundry. Did I mention, I’m about 3 months pregnant. I think the important thing is knowing we are not perfect. My husband tells me all the time to catch a break, but I feel that if he’s telling me that, then I must be doing so many things, but then why do I feel like I have things I don’t finish, it doesn’t add up for me sometimes.
        Thanks for the article. I will learn a lot from it. I will start my time management with waking up earlier. That way I have more time to do things in the morning, instead of figuring out how to finish it in the afternoon.

        • Crystal says:

          Right now, I’m doing my shopping on Saturdays for a few hours in the afternoon. Occasionally, I might stick a short trip in elsewhere in the week if I’m already going to be out. But, usually, it’s just once a week. And I rarely go to more than two stores in one week.

          I’ll talk about more how this fleshes out next week. Give yourself grace, it sounds like you have a lot on your plate!

  • SO agree on the sleep! In fact, early yesterday morning I published an entire post on the topic of sleep and productivity. It must have been the day to talk about sleep. lol

  • Nicole says:

    I don’t have school aged children yet, but how can you fit homeschooling into four hours…is it just more efficient than a regular classroom? As you kiddos get older, will you have to spend more time on schooling?

    • Crystal says:

      While I can’t speak to all situations, in our case, we’re able to be pretty efficient because we do most of our homeschooling one-on-one or one-on-two. So we can accomplish a lot in a fairly short amount of time because I’m not teaching a number of children at once. As the children get older, I foresee spending more time, but I also foresee that they’ll be doing a lot more independent work as well.

      We also make learning a very integral part of our life and capitalize on teachable moments as they come up and my husband is very involved in teaching our children when he’s home in the evenings and on the weekends (like the snake example). So there’s a lot of learning and education which goes on outside of the “homeschooling hours”.

      • Lee says:

        @Crystal, I will say that I currently teach my 2 oldest boys, one in 2nd grade the other kindergarden. It takes us 2 to 2 1/2 hours 4 days a week to do school. We are more efficient and you have to remember schools a lot time for lunch, recess, moving kids from one activity to another, etc. that we don’t have to do. As my baby gets older and they have more school I assume our time will change but so will the amount of time they do their own work will too.

    • Amara says:


      I homeschool two elementary-age children and one preschooler. We do spend about 7 hours a day homeschooling…but that has frequent interruptions (put the baby down for a nap, make lunch for all, play with the younger boys, etc.) I do find homeschooling to be more efficient than the classroom, as I have been a classroom teacher and seen both methods in action! 🙂 We don’t have to stop lessons for one unruly pupil (very often-ha!), factor in assemblies, or deal with management of attendance/ lunch count/ forms/ homework, etc. When someone needs to use the restroom, they just go. Takes less than a minute, no pass needed. 🙂 We do use a homeschooling method that is fairly parent-intensive with lots of read-aloud, conversation, etc. Other parents choose methods where children can be more independent. I will just guess that things will probably be more intense for Crystal as the children age, the subjects become more complex, and she adds children to the family. However, I believe now she has a kindergarten age and preschool age children. Four hours is probably MORE than sufficient for homeschool. 🙂 It has been helpful to me to realize my children are learning all the time. And if I’m the teacher, learning from me as the model. Gulp.

  • Lucky says:

    Yikes, if I found a big snake in my back yard I would have spent my 2 hours margin time hiding under my bed!

    This is a great concept though. It’s making me realize that without trying I’ve been budgeting my time like I budget my money. We barely spend so we can save up for a splurge or a big home project. It works for us. But for time, we tend to stay busy busy all the time and then spend a few days just doing nothing every few months. I’m not sure this is working for us. I’ll have to look at that.

  • Britt says:

    This is so great! Thank you so much for sharing! I LOVE the analogy between the financial budget envelopes and time budget envelopes. Being a full-time working mom, I often get stressed. I feel like I’m missing out on so much working, so when I’m home I just want to be with my baby. Then everything else gets put aside, which also stresses me out. I’m definitely going to implement this into my life. Thanks again!

  • Amara says:

    Oh, budgeting time for making meals. Yikes. Apparently *that* is something I imagine will fit in around my million other plans…which may explain why we have breakfast-for-dinner rather often around here. Ha.

    • Antoinette says:

      @Amara, 🙂 totally hear you! I used to get soooo frustrated about meal time and lack of time to make meal time happen. Then we started to plan. When we draw up our week’s (or month’s if I’m lucky) meal plan, we take into account what is going on in the week and adjust the complexity/volume of the meals accordingly.

      For example: this week, Tues and Thurs were booked with both husband and I getting home late and having other things outside of the home in the evening. So we made sure that our super easy meals (frozen pizza and taco’s) were on those days. (The menu isn’t set in stone – we decided to do taco salads last night instead of tacos – but still – same concept…same ingredients.) Also, my husband worked Wednesday night, so on Monday we threw some extra meat from that meal into the crockpot so he’d have some variety for the three meals he needed on Wednesday night (love those 12-hr grave shifts).

      It takes us about 10 to 20 minutes every week to do our plan/pick recipes/figure out if we have everything we need/write down “need” items on the grocery list/etc. but it’s the best 10 to 20 minutes we invest in Kitchen Efficiency :-). Plus, added bonus, while one of us is brainstorming/throwing out ideas, the other can be tidying the kitchen, cooking dinner, wrangling the toddler, cutting up veggies for something else, etc. ;-).

      P.S. our teens (and sometimes our toddler) are not exempt from the process and prep work (although we do try to spare them total involvement so we maintain our sanity ;-)…).

  • Susan says:


    Elizabeth, I’m right there with you. I’m a single, working mom. 9-10 hours a day working/commuting + 7-8 hours of sleep and there’s not much time leftover to maintain the household and raise the child. It’s tough. My only regular “me” time is early mornings, like right now. Every now and then I can nab some computer or personal time in the evenings, but I cannot ever count on it.

    Things that help:
    If possible, pay for outside help. My four magic words are “yard guy cleaning lady.” It’s not a luxury; for me, it’s a necessity. You can’t put a price on my sanity.

    Do what you can on your lunch hour. Every other Friday (which corresponds, not accidently, to my paydays) I sit at my desk, review my finances and pay bills. With the ability to pay bills online nowadays, it’s pretty convenient if you have a computer in front of you and some privacy. (And of course if your employer doesn’t restrict personal use of computers. If so, you’d need to use your own laptop.)

    I don’t do this in the hotter months, but now that the weather is getting colder, it easier to shop at lunch time and leave groceries in the car. Use a cooler for refrigerator items, or even frozen foods when it’s cold enough outside.

    If possible, take time off from work for “me” time. I do that every now and then. Kiddo goes to school/daycare, I take a PTO and do whatever I want. For example, this is how I’ll get my Christmas shopping done. Sometimes, when I’m feeling particularly run down, I take a day of PTO and sleep for half of it. I think it’s especially important to do this if you’re sick.

    • Crystal says:

      Great ideas, Susan! I so agree with the paying for outside help if you can afford it and you’re feeling overwhelmed and over-committed and can’t really cut anything from your life.

      I can’t imagine being a single mom; my hearts go out to all of you who are! I could never have the time budget I have or the margin I have in my life if my husband and I weren’t a team working together and both pulling our own weight in the household economy and responsibilities.

  • Susan says:


    You forgot “chauffer.” I spend at least 4 hours a week driving the child various places.

    In the first installment of “time management,” the author posted about limiting outside activities for her kids. That would never work for me. I have a very social and physically active only child who would be bored to tears being stuck at home with me all the time. It would not be pleasant for either of us. I use her sports and music lessons time for personal things, like exercise for myself or scrapbooking. When the weather is nice I’ll just take a walk while my daughter is at her lesson. Or I’ll take my laptop along so I can scrapbook. All my scrapbooking is digital, so it’s easy and convenient.

  • Joy says:

    Thanks so much for this post and series! I’ve been interested in learning about a time budget ever since you mentioned it, and I think this is going to be so helpful for me. I tend to make long to-do lists and then end up discouraged at the end of the day because I didn’t get it all done. We’re on a cash envelope system already, so I can’t wait to see how this “time envelope” system works!

  • Carrie says:

    I am impressed that you can actually make this work. I have tried before and failed. I can’t take even medium sized blocks of time without interuptions. (I realize that you don’t, for example, spend 4 hours all in a row, but I’m just saying that I feel like I couldn’t even do 20 minutes without interuption.) I feel like I can’t work efficiently with small children and everything I do is very abbreviated. It seems as 50% of my day is spent doing things that wouldn’t qualitfy under any label. It’s those unexpected tasks like cleaning up spills, changing diapers, working on boyscout projects, sewing on a button, referee’ing for fighting children, on the phone duking it out with the health insurance company, etc. etc. that take up all of my time. I guess that would go under household management but there’s at least 2 hours of just that. Cleaning would probably have to get about 4 hours or more if you factor in the fact that it’s so hard to get things done with constant interuptions. I kind of view it as I would a cash budget — it looks pretty on paper but is it realistic? Is there wiggle room? How do you compensate for a day where it all went wrong — how do you catch up? What about categories for shopping/company/volunteering/attending church or community functions/catching up on the phone with your mom/going out to the park or for a walk/and so much more? I can see how this would be beneficial to a point (limiting time to luxuries like fun computer time or allowing at least a certain amount of time to homeschool), but I can also see a lot of people getting so caught up in the budget that it stresses them out when it just isn’t feasible. I hope you don’t think I’m a hater — your blog is by far my favorite, and I really think you are an amazing person. 🙂

    • Crystal says:

      Thanks so much for your comment; I really appreciate it! I think it will make more sense after my next few posts where I’ll flesh things out more. But for starters, we don’t follow the time budget the same on the weekends and we only school four days a week and take Friday for extra projects, hospitality, field trips or extra things (we usually pick one big thing per Friday). That gives us quite a bit of wiggle room.

      I also bump anything that can wait (like the projects you mentioned/phone calls/shopping, etc.) to Friday or the weekends. If it can wait, I let it wait until the time allotted for it to get done.

      I’ve also found that it’s extremely helpful to have a plan and for the children to know what the plan is and what is expected of them. It obviously takes more time to do things when you have young children — and it should! But I’m also training the children to help out and to be active participants in the running of our home. The girls can now do quite a bit of small jobs during chore time, help with the laundry, play together… Because I have spent time working with them over the last two years and training them how to do chores and what is expected of them, I can tell them to go clean the bathroom and they know what to do and usually do it without really needing much oversight. It does pay off and it does get easier, if you put the time in upfront to train your children what to do and what is expected of them.

      And we never do things perfectly. I don’t believe “perfect balance” is possible to achieve. And we’ll be talking about that more next week.

      • Carrie says:

        @Crystal, That makes a lot more sense, Crystal! I am sorry if I sounded harsh. I guess I am slightly frustrated with myself because I’ve tried so many things like this and I can’t make it work. I think part of it has to do with the fact that I do try to do it all and it never works. (Of course!) But there feels like so many things that really aren’t optional. Anyway, I like that idea. In fact your comment, really gave me some ideas. Looking forward to reading more installments and thank you for understand I wasn’t trying to attack you!

        • Bonnie says:

          Carrie, Hang in there… give yourself much grace and remember that this time with young children is a season of life 🙂 It is a very special season filled with joys and challenges we as moms will never have again with our little ones. I have felt the same as you many many times!!! Whatever “budget” we create for our time or our money has to be made, and remade, and remade as our children grow and change… and we HAVE to give ourselves room for a bad day or a bad week. That was the best advice I recently received. A bad day doesn’t mean we throw in the towel on the “plan”… it just means we accept it as a bad day and we move on.

      • Andrea says:

        I so agree! Oftentimes we underestimate the importance of “chores” for children. As a child of a working mother, I and my sibling were performing household chores before kindergarten. I suspect it was one of the only ways my mother was able to manage working two jobs and raising two children! In addition to learning responsibility, we were learning to run a household while helping Mom manage her duties as well.

    • Kimberly says:

      I tried finding a way to contact you on your blog but I couldn’t. You are so not alone! Your 3 little ones will take a lot of TIME, energy, and emotions out of you. Cut yourself some slack! Would you mind emailing me at purdue1996 at gmail dot com ? I am a mom of 3 who is just coming on the other side of your stage. I would love to chat.

  • Lee says:

    I have never budgeted my time in this way, but I have kept a schedule for a while now. I always allow for flexability and bad days in the routine, but it helps me and my boys (one of which has Autism) to know what comes next in our day. Our day sorat looks like this.
    7:30-8:30 get up get dressed, breakfast, brush our teeth, start laundry, etc.
    8:30-9:30 Chores for the family
    9:30-10 reading time
    10-12 School
    12-1 Lunch and free time
    1-1:30 Chores for mommy
    1:30-2 Computer time for Mommy
    2-2:30 playtime with boy #2 and prepare snack
    2:30-3:30 boys watch 2 tv shows they like and I agree with or a movie if they want and can agree (I do crafts, read or extra cleaning)
    3:30-4 playtime with the other 2 boys
    4:30-5 Outside playtime
    5-5:30 Prepare dinner, do any extra school we have, etc…
    5:30 dinner
    Once my husband comes home my schedule stops and we spend family time together, or run errands, or whatever we need to do. Then everyone has a pretty set bedtime.

    • Jennifer C. says:

      @Lee, I like that your schedule “stops” once your husband gets home. It lets you be spontaneous and also gives him freedom to decide how he wants family time to look like that night…Mommy’s not in the background trying to finish folding the clothes or clean the bathroom when he decides it’s time to take everyone out for ice cream!

  • Carrie says:

    P.S. I didn’t meant to make it sound as though any budget isn’t realistic… the point I was making was that I think that making a time budget is just like a cash budget…. it totally works and is a great thing IF you allow for unexpected expenses and are honest with yourself. But I just don’t see a lot of that on the example budget.

    • Karrie says:

      @Carrie, I think it mostly has to do with looking at a “budget” like this as less of a strict schedule, and more of a flexible routine. If you take extra time on the phone, or on shopping trips, then you would naturally have less time in another area, and that’s okay when unexpected things come up. But you have to START with a routine as a guide, or your days will be chaotic, not knowing what to expect the day to be like. Flexibility and balance!

      • Crystal says:

        You got it! I’ll be talking more about how this works for us on Monday. 🙂 Having a plan but then being flexible with the plan is key!

        • Leah says:

          I do a schedule like this, but I always schedule in “down time” and I’ll just move things around when something unexpected occurs. So, basically, it’s a time budget with an outline for what order things *might* go in.

  • Kacie says:

    This is a really interesting concept! I might try it out. I’m not going to be too hard on myself — I’m 34w pregnant so my days are about to go to a LOT of margin time for awhile! And that’s ok. But it’ll still be good to have some ideas on how I can manage my days once I get my feet back underneath me again.

  • I love the wisdom of budgeting margin time. That seems like a no-brainer but we all schedule things too tight, and it was perfect timing for me to read that. Thanks Amy & Crystal!

  • Seeing this laid out so clearly is very helpful. You and Amy are both teaching me that there is a limit on how much one person can do.

    It is hard to let good things go. But so beneficial!

    Thanks Crystal. I’m glad you showed us your time budget. I’m excited to work on mine.

    Looking forward to the rest of this series. All the things you mentioned sharing sound great. I hope there will be time for the time management tips for bloggers 🙂

  • Karrie says:

    Thanks, Crystal. I redo the way I work my daily routine just about every month, it seems. So far, I haven’t figured one out that I’m able to stick to, but I’m going to start trying out something like this.

  • sara says:

    I love love love that the snake became a cool biology lesson instead of something to fear. I get that people don’t like snakes (my husband) but they are so important to out environment! And, a lot of times the presence of snakes means fewer mice and rats. Kuddos! Hope the kiddos had fun.

  • Kim says:

    Thanks for sharing this. I have a question. Do you include kitchen clean-up in your eating/meal preparation time ?

  • Heather C says:

    I have kids about the same ages as yours, and I was wondering where you fit in things like giving kids baths, putting babies down for naps, getting them dressed in the morning, etc. Does that get stuck in with your “margin” time?
    I was making a time budget this morning, and I fit everything fine into 22 hours before I realized that I have to do all of those things too. 🙂

    • Crystal says:

      The girls can almost do baths all by themselves now, and they both can get dressed by themselves, so this all only takes me about 15 minutes max per day since it’s mainly just oversight and taking care of Silas. I just wash the girl’s hair once a week — on Saturday evenings or Sunday mornings.

      Jesse does bedtime for the children completely by himself (yes, I know, I’m spoiled! He loves it — and the kids do, too!) and I have a 15-minute before nap routine I do with Silas (reading a story/singing a hymn) which is under the “Time With the Children” category.

      If your children are smaller or require more help with this, than I’d definitely say to putting an hour or more in your budget for this.

      • Heather C says:

        @Crystal, My oldest (6yo) can pretty much handle all of her “personal hygiene” stuff on her own, but the others need my help. But oh my! Having a husband who handles all of the bedtime routines – you are blessed!

  • Sarah says:

    This is super great. And, giving women “permission” to say “no” to things is great. We put so much pressure on ourselves. I do think, though, that saying “yes” to a few key things outside of the home is ok. I’ve heard the “say no” message so much lately, and it seems as though we are encouraging women to drop out of everything that doesn’t fit easily into the schedule/time budget. Sometimes things are worth doing that make you sacrifice a tiny bit of sanity for. What about being a Sunday School teacher at church? What about being involved in the community in other ways? We are supposed to serve as well (spiritual gifts, etc) as a God given GIFT. Yes, there are things we must say “no” to so that we are not cranky, barking mommy-zombies and so we can do the important things WELL. But, I think that fact that the message is so prevalent on Christian mom blogs everywhere that women are getting kind of an extreme “say no” message….just my two cents. I’m sure everyone will jump all over me. Go ahead 🙂

    • Crystal says:

      I think you should drop out of everything you’re doing that’s making you miserable and causing you to neglect your most important priorities. From my vantage point, I don’t think that message is being shared enough — at least according to the emails I’m receiving from overwhelmed, over-committed and exhausted women! 🙂 I’m encouraged to hear that you’re hearing this message elsewhere, because most of what I hear from mommy blogs is “do more, be more, add more” and I think women are trying to be someone they are not and over-loading their plates in the process.

      However, I think it’s you need to determine your priorities and then wisely choose what specific things are the ministries God has called you to as I wrote about here:

      • Sarah says:

        @Crystal, Yes, I do agree with that. Completely. I didn’t mean to be argumentative at all.

      • Sarah says:

        @Crystal, And, I do appreciate you putting on your list of priorities some ministering to others. (I hadn’t previously read that post). Other posts I’ve read (on other blogs) give no mention whatsoever to serving, and some have almost discouraged it, and I’ve been a little bummed by that. I do appreciate you listing what you DON’T do, as I’m sure lots of women appreciate 🙂 since it’s easy for us to read blogs (especially positive ones) and think that the writer of them does and is everything.

  • Michelle says:

    Wow, thank you so much for this post. I too am an A type, gotta get it done person. I feel horribly guilty doing anything for myself because I am just wasting time or money. I made the giant list of everything to do, felt immediately overwhelmed but plowed on through anyway. I have felt like a failure for a long time. But this method might be a solution. A way to prioritize life, get the important stuff done, and have a sense of accomplishment too. Thank you soo much for this post.

  • Laurie says:

    Thanks for the single mom that posted. I am a single mom by choice to 2 girls both adopted from China as infants. Now they are 3&6. I work FT as a Hospice RN and have a very flexible job that allows me to take time out of my work day if needed for appts,picking up kids etc. I am on a money budget and thanks to Dave Ramsey we are debt free outside of our home and have 6mos of an emer fund. For dinners everynight we usually do something than can be made up fairly quickly. Then our evening routine. I usually do all of our wash on Sat,but lately have been doing a load during the week which I have not found helpful. For fall cleaning I am taking a room a weekend and scrubbing wood floors,floor boards and washing windows. For me I have to have a good block of time to tackle these bigger projects and that is on the weekends. My children are in bed by 730pm everynight and then it is my time to be alone and just relax. I love being singe and have the best 2 girls in the world.

  • Allyson says:

    I’m looking forward to reading more! I hope you are able to share some blogging time management tips. If you have time. 🙂

  • Trixie says:


    So glad to see your post — my mom was a single mom for years and I love to read positive accounts like this. It sounds like you have really put forth a lot of effort to create a system that works good for you!

  • Jamie says:

    Loved this post. It is just what I needed right now! I have 2 children and one on the way and my husband and I are hoping to find a way for my to be a SAHM after #3 is born. Right now I am only working 2 days a week and always feel like there is not enough time in the day to do what I need to do! One question I had was how you keep track of the time spent in each category? Do you make a basic schedule of your day and schedule a category from the budget into each time slot?

  • Beth says:

    @Elizabeth, I too can relate Elizabeth. I can totally get the Time Budget made out but that doesn’t mean it’s gonna happen! I am just puzzled how others cope with having to work over, traffic delays, grocerys store lines, longer than expected wait times at doctor’s offices, surprise guests, unexpedected house-hold dramas (such as the hot water tank leaking and flooding the laundry room), unexpected business matters (the gas company can’t seem to find the check you sent that has already cleared the bank and you are on hold for a good 45 min. with them), unexpected sickness, family/friend emergencies, helping out elderly neighbors that have no one to help them, kid’s homework, and so forth. I just don’t understand how time budgeting works when you have to deal with the unexpected.

    • Amy Andrews says:

      Hi Beth,

      In the ebook I talk about purposefully scheduling in what I call “time cushions” both daily and weekly. Just like Crystal mentioned the 2-hour time margin she schedules into her day, I also recommend leaving at least 1/2 day per week for the unexpected things like you describe. Having a good chunk of open time per week not only gives you the ability to get periodic (yet not necessarily unexpected) activities like spring cleaning or wrapping Christmas gifts, etc, but it also absorbs the other things in your week that get “bumped” when the unexpected does occur.

  • Katie Martin says:

    With four kids (8,7,5,2) and one on the way (I am 27 weeks) it gets challanging (between homeschool and everyday things) what is my struggle is two of my daughters have special needs (one has cerebral palsy (7) and the other has down syndrome(5)) so there is a lot of therapies and extra doctors appointments that go along with that as well as home programs I am supposed to do in my spare time (haha). On top of that my daughter with down syndrome was diagnosed with Luekemia and although it has been two years (the first year and a half was crazy busy it seemed like every other month we would be admitted into the hospital which was an hr away from home for a week at a time) and although she is doing great we are not done with chemo and usually have one day a month (used to be once a week so I am thankful it changed to once a month) that we spend pretty much all day at the hospital for treatments (the rest is done orally at home). Then I have to spend the rest of the week trying to catch up on the school work the other two missed while I was gone, Take care of my daughter who doesn’t feel good after the chemo and run after my 2 year old as well as keep up with therapy and doctors appointments and now my midwife appointments. Thankfully my kids don’t do any extra activities thought my oldest would like to we just don’t have time.
    So all that being said how do you get back into a schedule when it is different from week to week and sometimes day to day? I feel like I am still trying to catch up from two years ago when my daughter was diagnosed and a lot got pushed back.
    I am feeling stretched thin and very emotional (probably pregnancy hormones) and need to figure out how to get a better handle on my schedule so I am not stressed out and get done what I need to get done.

    • Amy F :) says:

      @Katie Martin, That sounds really hard. I have no idea really (my life is pretty complicated, but not that complicated). It seems like your margin time would have to be huge and everything else kept to extreme simplicity? Maybe we’ll learn more in Crystal’s next installment about how to have an un-schedule or something? and in the mean time, prayers that God would give you peace and a break from the hormone rollercoaster (I’m pregnant too), and supernatual wisdom to make it work.

    • Sarah says:

      @Katie ,

      Wow – it sounds like you’ve got a lot of stress and responsibility. Maybe you could revisit your priorities and cut back to the minimum for now – catching up on school can wait, maybe you can’t do as much cooking as you used to… – just focus on the basics when you can and give yourself grace when you don’t get through your to-do list.

      It’s so easy to get a mommy guilt-trip when you’re not doing as much as you used to do or you think you should. But that doesn’t do anyone any good. Chemo, making sure everyone’s fed, and clean clothes could be enough to keep you busy until after your new baby comes! My heart goes out to you.

  • Kimberlee says:

    I am very visual so I actually made a form that keeps my highest priorities in front of me. I fill in the activities that need to be done in each category and then prioritize by writing an A by the most important items to accomplish each day, B by the next in importance, etc. I then take the A items from each category and write them in order of priority at the bottom. This insures that I get the most important things on the list done. Whatever doesn’t get done goes on the list for tomorrow.
    If you are interested, I have it available as a download here:

  • How exciting! You hit the nail on the head with what you said. Thank you for sharing. I appreciate that you are real about things and want to help your readers. 🙂

  • Hollaina says:

    Staying on a schedule is what helps me maintain my sanity in my household. My son is almost 2 1/2 and he has Autism so a routine is vital to his day. I do spend a bit of time with his therapies and taking him places, but watching his progress is amazing to me and it keeps me motivated. I keep a daily task list of things I need to get done certain days of the week. Breaking up the cleaning and other household tasks into sections and days gives me more time with my son and husband.

  • Crystal, I am amazed you get all your blogging and computer time into 4 hours. I am not sure how you manage to do it all. I have been trying to get my schedule worked out and I am having an issue with that area. I can’t get the cleaning in and everything else either.

    • Crystal says:

      I could never, in a hundred years, do it in four hours on weekdays if I didn’t have a team helping me. They do so much of the behind-the-scenes work and I only oversee the team, vet the deals, post deals, write posts and answer a handful of emails. That’s how. The rest of the team does the 6-8 (or more!) hours of behind-the-scenes work which must go on every day. I’d be sunk without them!

      Next week, I’m going to share some Time Management Tips for Bloggers which have helped me to really be able to streamline my blogging time. And I’m also going to share more about streamlining cleaning and home management.

      • Sarah says:


        I’m loving this topic. I found Amy’s book very helpful, especially with the grid she discusses. I’m amazed that you find 4 hours a day along with taking care of your kids. I’m homeschooling as well and I’m glad to squeeze in 2 hours a day when the kids are having quiet time or are otherwise busy. And yours are younger than mine! I’m curious if you spend some of this computer time when your husband is home or when you have someone else available to look after them.

        – Sarah

      • @Crystal, I am so excited to hear about how you streamlined your blogging time. I need that for sure. That and cleaning. I’d love for you to include in there how you found the time before you had your team as well. You had young children when you were doing your other blog, so I’m sure you will have some great tips that can help!

  • Angel says:

    Thank you for such a great website!
    My family also went through Financial Peace University and have been using Dave’s “envelope system” for 8 months now. We’re definitely living a new life.
    I’m excited to read the rest of this series and would love if you could include the rest of the family time schedules. We’d really love to implement this soft schedule into our daily lives but wonder how you’re able to exercise, journal/read, do things that are very important but seem luxurious, etc.? I understand he works outside of the house, so by the time he’s home and helps with the kiddos (I’m assuming you get your time then), when does he get his personal time? When does he get to exercise, read/journal, etc. ?
    Thank you for all you do!

    • Crystal says:

      I’ll be sharing a little more details on our family schedule on Monday. My husband gets up at 5:30 to 5:45 read his Bible and then goes to the gym and works out. Which is why he’s taken over the bedtime routine — since he’s gone in the early mornings.

      We’re very much a team in our relationship — both having our specific jurisdictions when it comes to certain things and then many other areas we split up the tasks and responsibilities. I know this might not work in every situation, but it works well for us since we’re both self-employed.

      • Angel says:

        Great! Thanks Crystal!
        I really appreciate you being so open with your readers, so we can see new possibilities and perspectives. Thank you.
        We are also both self-employed, we have 2 kiddos. Our son is 3, autistic and teaching me how to be patient every day. Our daughter is 12 and very active in student council and tennis. We’ve already implemented a schedule but it seems someone almost always gets left out. I’m looking forward to your future posts and learning how to streamline the few priorities we have now. Again, thank you!

  • Becky says:

    I’ve been working this week on quitting my “work day” at five or six–that is, trying to finish up chores, projects, etc., by about dinner time, so I can focus on evening routines more, without being distracted by too much multi-tasking. It makes evenings much less stressful when I don’t have a huge mess from several incomplete chores/projects while I’m trying to get dinner on, get kids to bed, etc., especially with my husband gone every other week. Then, in addition to getting to bed earlier, with a cleaner house, I also am more productive earlier in the day, since I know I can’t procrastinate on the main tasks of the day if I’m going to be done by five-ish.

    There’s a lot more I need to work on with the time management, and I love this time budget idea, but that’s my baby step for this week. It’s been a huge sanity saver, just knowing that when evening comes I’m going to be focusing on my family instead of working on other stuff still.

  • Amy says:

    I like the time budget idea, and I look forward to hearing more (how DO you keep track?) I’m going to try it. I’m also interested to hear from more moms who work outside the house.

    Monday-Friday from the time we leave in the morning until I’ve picked up the kids and get home is 11 hours, plus 8 hours of sleep (I don’t do well with less), and at least 3.5 hours total in the morning/evening for getting ready to go, cook and eat dinner, potty training, and bedtime for the kids (age 3 and 1). That leaves 1.5 hours, without allowing yet for washing dishes, preparing lunches for the next day, and some much-needed down time. Oh, and slowing down to play with the kids for a while before bedtime.

    I’m learning to make the most use of my lunch hour – run non-grocery errands, study for a certification exam, relax with a book or spend some time online. I also work one day a week from home, which gives me a few extra hours that usually go to cooking, cleaning, and/or shopping.

    The weekend is a lot more flexible but still full with just the essentials – playing with the kids, grocery shopping, cooking (extra for during the week), laundry, dishes. And potty training. I think that streamlining will be the most important tactic for me to free up time.

  • “To me, time management had always meant trying to find a way to be as productive as possible every day. I equated busyness with productivity.”
    This misconception is one that I battle with a lot!

    Thank you for this series. It re-enforced a decision that our family just made about quitting a part time job I recently took on. It takes courage to say I Quit!.
    Thanks Amy for your great book and Crystal for your willingness to share 🙂

  • Ginny says:

    One of the most important lessons I’ve learned since becoming caregiver to my husband five years ago is that God is in charge of all my days. Because I am also chronically ill, I often find that after caring for my husband’s needs, I have little energy left for anything else. When I realized that God is the one Who orders our days and that anything that doesn’t get done in a day probably was not in His plan anyway – especially if I knew I’d done all I could – I had such peace! It’s no excuse for wasting time, of course, but it is freeing. Especially on those days when doctors are running very late, or unexpected time-consuming paperwork arrives (that usually has to be sent back within a couple of days), or whatever other unexpected things come along. I like the idea of building in “margin time”, but sometimes even that isn’t enough. I only wish I’d known this when my girls were little.

    • Crystal says:

      I SO agree! Learning to joyfully rest in Him and trust in His sovereign plan — even when it’s much different than ours! — brings such amazing peace! We’re going to be talking more about this in the next few days. Stay tuned!

  • Alexandrea says:

    Since I still have a semester 1/2 of college left I wasn’t sure how much I’d be able to work this out, but the idea of budgeting appealed to me. Except for the weekends, when I’m frequently away, I’ll aim for:
    Sleep: 7-7 ½ hrs
    Journal: 20 min
    Bible: 30 min
    Eating: 3 hrs
    Care & Dress: 1 hr
    School: 5 hrs
    Work: 2 hrs
    InterVarsity: 3 hrs
    Margin: [2 hrs]
    Now all I need is 6 more timers to help me keep track of it all! I’m revisiting my old time management tool, though – an hour by hour table to check my on-task-ness. This isn’t the kind of thing one can maintain for long, but I think a week will give me a feel for how I’m doing. Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Davonne says:

    I REALLY appreciate this series! I have a one year old and a five year old of my own, plus a four year old friend, that are with me all of the time, and I’ve been working to improve my time management skills. One thing I’m interested in is hearing specifically how you break down your school days. I currently spend about three hours a day, five days a week on school, but my husband thinks I should make it less than that to give them more time in real-life lessons (cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc), and I agree, but I’m not sure how to condense school down without leaving things out. I’m also very interested in the cleaning – that is something I desperately need to streamline!

  • Davonne says:

    Maybe I should have mentioned – we are using MFW K this year, which I believe you used last year.

  • Lauren says:

    Thank you so much for this series… I got married right after college and have been a stay at home wife since then, now a stay at home mom to a 15 month old boy. For these past 3 years I have really struggled with managing my time, since in school it was pretty much managed for me with class schedules and deadlines. I excelled with an outward schedule enforced on me. But when I’m supposed to be a faithful manager like the Proverbs 31 woman…and create my own boundaries and deadlines and take initiative…Yikes! Not so good!

    I just made a time budget for myself, as you had done, and it really is amazing to see that I really DO have time for the things that I need to be doing. It’s just a matter of making them a priority and setting aside the time to do them ahead of time. Really. Amazing.

    Thank you so much for your work on this website. It is a tremendous blessing, helping me to be a better helper to my husband and mom to my son–and ultimately a better servant of my King!


  • Lori says:

    As I read through your daily time budget, I do many of the same things through out my day that you do, but I don’t seem to accomplish near as much as you do. I am a pretty organized person and usually use my time well. My husband is very helpful when he is home. What I am wondering is if you have help from neighbors, relatives, paid help, etc? When you are using 4 hours for blogging/computer time, where are the children? Or is this something you do while they are sleeping? Same for exercise…when do you do that and where are the children? I often have to get up early or wait until the kids are in bed to squeeze in my 45 minutes of exercise. I usually spend about the same amount of time you do in meal prep/eating/clean up, and I try to break down my daily household chores by day (ie, Monday wash bedding, Tuesday dust, etc.) so I only have to spend 1-2 hours of time on these things, but I do all of this while taking care of 2 and 4 year olds boys, and runing a 7 year old to and from school and activities, so these 4 hours or so of cooking and cleaning often take the whole day to accomplish. How do you manage to accomplish these things in less time while still taking care of 3 kids and homeschooling? Finally, when do you spend your hour with your husband (without little ones interrupting) and what time do you allot for “Mommy down time” (ie, reading a book, magazine, newspaper for pure entertainment, watching TV, sewing, talking to friends/family on the phone, playing a musical instrument, sewing…something that is just for you)? I guess I am just a little amazed you are able to do all of these things, care for and watch 3 children, homeschool, and still get 7-8 hours of sleep without some help.

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