Title: "All in Good Time: When to Save, Stock Up, and Schedule Everything for Your Home"
Author: Tara Kuczykowski and Mandi Ehman
Publisher: Berkley Books, 2012: 320 pages; $15
At 81, my grandmother (my dad’s mom) keeps a beautiful, warm and immaculate house. And she makes it seem effortless, too. While the 20 people in her house are devouring Christmas dinner, she’s doing what seems like puttering around until you realize that the entire kitchen has been cleaned.
And even on an ordinary day, she makes casual comments in passing that hint to her internal mental calendar and standards for homemaking, like, "Well, it’s the second week of March, so I had the cleaners come pick up the draperies and called to schedule the carpets for next month."
She once threw her back out cleaning the top of the fridge, something I don’t believe I’ve ever done unless I was in the process of moving.
My mom loves to clean and keep house, too. She and her friends have window-cleaning parties — no joke! — where one person cleans the outside and the other cleans the inside. I’d always suspected this sort of thing was generational until I started reading "All in Good Time: When to Save, Stock Up, and Schedule Everything for Your Home," by young mothers and bloggers Tara Kuczykowski and Mandi Ehman.
Touching on topics ranging from potty training to decks to flexible spending accounts and how to save money when you buy luggage, these two moms team up to offer some time- and money-saving tips in a book that reads like a savvy household management manual for digital-era families.
If your goal is to maximize the lifestyle bang you get for your bucks and the time you have to spend with your kids, here are a few of the themes they touch on repeatedly in "All in Good Time":
1. Buy off-season. Luggage, boats, digital cameras, even homes — no matter what the household purchase is, Kuczykowski and Ehman offer readers guidance on when the best time of year is to buy it.
This is generally, but not always, the opposite of the most popular time of year to buy whatever the item is, and "All in Good Time" offers specifics. (For example, the authors point out that many bike and helmet sales occur during May, which is Bicycle Safety Month.) And they offer smart caveats as well: Buying a barbecue grill off-season might get you good discounts, but you’ll be limited in selection.
2. DIY. One of the authors home-schools her children, and the other relates how her husband and a friend built a large deck for only $1,200 in a couple days’ time. "All in Good Time" encourages families trying to economize on inherently costly Disney vacations to rent a locker and pack their own food, and offers tips throughout on making less toxic home cleaning solutions from pantry staples.
3. Shop online. These ladies are bloggers and it shows: They offer a number of helpful resources for those who take their discount hunting online, and surface opportunities you might never have known about on sites you already know and trust.
For example, they recommend eBay for even the bulkiest of home improvement materials, such as gift cards and other items you might not instinctively go there to find. One of the strongest suits of "All in Good Time" is its very extensive collection of their recommendations for which retailers to tap (mostly online, but also offline) for specific purchases, and when.
4. Many hands make light work. These two give specifics on how they keep their homes organized and avoid big messes by giving every family member a share of the responsibilities on a daily basis, bringing their friends in for home improvement projects, and even tapping bloggers all over the Web for their suggestions on everything from staying well during flu season to keeping garden pests away without chemical pesticides.
5. Customize your own systems. The authors of "All in Good Time" are very clear on one point: organizational and other time- and money-saving efforts and programs are unlikely to work on a permanent basis unless you create your own systems that "take your needs, preferences, and lifestyle into consideration … and reflect your personality and vision for the space."
This theme runs throughout the book and reads as permission to forgive yourself for all the cookie-cutter organizers that haven’t worked for your household before, and start completely fresh with the realities of how your family and home operate.
The high school home economics course might have gone the way of the VCR, but these authors bring "home ec" back into style and up to date. "All in Good Time" is not just for women, moms or homeowners, though all these groups will appreciate it and find it highly useful.
Anyone with a household they’d like to run efficiently and a budget for their time and money will find this book a handy reference guide or quick cover-to-cover read to help them be better stewards of their resources.
Tara-Nicholle Nelson is author of "The Savvy Woman’s Homebuying Handbook" and "Trillion Dollar Women: Use Your Power to Make Buying and Remodeling Decisions." Tara is also the Consumer Ambassador and Educator for real estate listings search site Trulia.com. Ask her a real estate question online or visit her website, www.rethinkrealestate.com.
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