Expert Tips for Saving Time — and Your Sanity!

Picture this: it’s lunchtime, and you’re rushing out to do a few (quick) errands before that all-important afternoon nap (AKA your hour of sanity). You’re making good time, until you get to the post office… and the line is out the door.

“Why is everyone in the city at the post office now?” you think to yourself, as your baby begins to cry and your tired toddler knocks down a display of strategically placed boxes and office supplies.

We’ve been there — we have so been there. That’s why we did our research, talked to the experts and compiled this list of insider’s tips so you can save yourself time, energy… and your sanity!

The Post Office

Ah, the post office: AKA “The Place That Always Has a Line” — always. Your best bet? Arrive a half hour after your local branch opens. You’ll miss the early birds who get there promptly at open, and all the employees will be ready to go, not sorting through overnight drop offs/administrative work.

Tip: If you can avoid it, don’t go at lunch, at the end of the workday, and just before closing. If you’re there and it’s busy — use the automated checkout if you can!

The Bank

Similar to the post office, banks experience the pre- and post-work rush — and don’t even think of doing your banking at lunchtime. Mid-morning and mid-afternoon, Monday-Thursday, are the best times to visit the teller. Fridays are packed with people depositing paychecks and taking care of business before the weekend, and Saturdays are busy with folks squeezing in their banking during the bank’s limited weekend hours. Of course, if you simply have to make a deposit or withdrawal, save yourself the hassle and use the ATM or drive-thru!

The Grocery Store

For the freshest food and least amount of traffic, head to the store in the early afternoon. Most stores stock their produce in the mornings, so you should have access to the best selection — plus, you’ll beat the lunchtime rush. A bonus? You’ll have eaten breakfast/lunch, so you’ll avoid the dreaded “shopping-while-starving-so-all-the-junkfood-goes-into-cart” phenomenon.

Take it from us: if you’re in a hurry, do not let your toddlers loose in the aisles with those mini shopping carts. Your shopping time will, at a minimum, double. And you might be liable for purchasing that entire end cap of organic olive oil your tot knocked over…

The Mall

Need to return something at the mall? Buy a new pair of shoes for your toddler? Head to the mall in the mornings, shortly after opening. Experts say that’s when stores are the best staffed — with the best employees, since the more experienced workers generally get the more desirable (day) shifts. Also, consider where your mall is located. City stores attract greater customer flow at lunch, when urban workers have their breaks, whereas suburban malls are busier on weekend afternoons.

The Salon

Kids need a haircut? Book the first appointment of the day. You’ll avoid delays caused by clients being late, appointments running over and overbookings. If you need a haircut, aim for first thing Saturday morning. You’ll avoid the typical Saturday rush, and your hair stylist will be refreshed and ready to go!

Is it Spring Formal time? Homecoming? Wedding season (June/October)? Book your Saturday appointment well in advance, as these times tend to fill up fast!


Do you need to talk to your kindergartner’s teacher about something?  If possible, schedule an appointment. While it may be tempting to pull her aside before/after school, that’s really not a good time. During these times, teachers often have bus duty, administrative work or even conferences with other parents. So, approach her and ask when a good time to chat would be — that way, you can schedule a meeting at a mutually agreed upon, distraction-free, time.

Most teachers are on email nowadays, so if it’s appropriate (i.e., not an issue that needs immediate attention), go ahead and send an email. However, remember that your child’s teacher is very busy, and probably gets lots of emails — so be patient when waiting for a response.

The Pediatrician

You book your tot’s well-check, and they tell you to “get there 15 minutes early.” So, you rush to schlep your crew to the doctor’s office early, only to wait 45 minutes because they’re “running late.” Your best bet to avoid this incredibly frustrating scenario? Book the first appointment of the day — or the first appointment after lunch. You’ll avoid the dreaded appointment back-up caused by people being late (because, with kids, being late is inevitable.)

The Zoo/Children’s Museum/Park

Yes — one of the main reasons we go to these kid-friendly places is socialization. But — if you go to the Zoo on a school holiday in the spring when it’s 75 degrees and sunny… you’re never even going to find a parking spot!

During the school year, these places are generally pretty quiet — so during the week, you can take your toddler and avoid the crowds. But, we all like family outings, and a weekend Zoo trip is fun for everyone! If possible, go to an outdoor attraction on an overcast day, as the threat of rain often keeps people indoors. The opposite is true for an indoor spot — if it’s a cold and rainy Saturday, the children’s museum will likely be packed!

Also: make sure you look into special events/deals at your favorite attractions, which will likely draw big crowds. Be aware of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, as well as summer holidays like Memorial Day and July 4th, as many places offer discounts and special events on these days.

We understand not everyone can make it to the bank at 2 pm — some of us go to work full time, or work from home… or have little kids with set schedules we wouldn’t dare mess with. If this is the case, on your next day off, try running to the bank or grocery store before lunch. Next time you need highlights, book the 8 am time slot on a Saturday. Maybe plan a random “family day” mid-week so you can enjoy the children’s museum without the crowds. Your time — and sanity — is a precious commodity!

For ways to make your family’s morning run more smoothly, be sure to read 5 Time Saving Tips for Your Morning Routine.

Photo Credits: Sarah M., ilmicrofono.

Source: Real Simple, Consumer Reports.

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Sarah is a yoga practicing, mostly vegan, coffee chugging, Jack White-loving, stay-at-home-mom to three kids 4 and under in Cincinnati, Ohio. In her free time, she does freelance work for Cincinnati Parent, Dayton Parent and Indy's Child, and blogs about her adventures with three kids in the Queen City.

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