Running Errands

One of my least favourite tasks is running errands. In the winter, the heavy snow and below-freezing temperatures make driving difficult. In the summer, there are always delays and detours due to construction. Errands are time consuming, and if you’ve got lots of errands to run, you can feel like you’re on the go all the time.

To simplify the errand process, make a list before you start of all the places you need to visit: hardware store, dry cleaner, grocery store, etc. Check the websites for business hours. Pre-order items either using the website or calling the shop to make sure they have the items in stock. Sometimes checking the shop’s social media sites such as Facebook or FourSquare can provide you with valuable tips such as the closest car park to the shop.

It can be helpful to choose one day per week and do all of your errands. I used this method when I lived in Montréal. I did not schedule clients on Tuesday mornings and I did all my errands at once. When I moved to Ontario I had a corporate client and was in the office from Monday to Friday. I tried to batch my errands for Saturday mornings but the activities of our two busy teenagers often interfered with my errand-running routine. So, I changed the way I did things and started doing one errand per day on the way to or from work. I planned out 4-5 different routes taking me past various spots such as post office, dry cleaners, and grocery stores. I was only home from work a few minutes later or I had to leave for work slightly earlier, but the result was that I only had to leave the house once per day. I also tried to plan different routes to and from children’s routine activities so that we could quickly pop in and drop something off or pick something up.

It is even more frustrating trying to run errands in a new city when you don’t know where the shops are and you don’t understand the traffic flow. When I first arrived in Montréal, I used a satellite navigation system (GPS or Sat-Nav) to get around town. It kept telling me to make left turns, but in Montréal left turns are not permitted at most intersections. I gave up on the GPS and started using a paper map to plot routes that avoided left turns. This saved me quite a bit of time and made driving easier.

Now there are some great apps, programs, and websites to help you plan your routes to save time and save fuel.

Google Maps is an all-round great tool for plotting a route from Point A to Point B. You can adjust your route by clicking on the highlighted route and dragging it to a different street. Google Maps will tell you the distance traveled in miles or kilometers as well as the time it takes. Google’s Street View lets you see the place you’re going to visit. You’ll be able to familiarize yourself with the area before you even get there.

Driving Route Planner will let you choose multiple stops and optimize routes for you to choose from — shortest, fastest, or as entered. It will print driving directions and maps, email you the route, or save it as a GPX file to load into your own satellite navigation system. You can even add durations to stops so you know how long the total trip will take including stops.

When I was driving back and forth from university to my parent’s home, I had a CB radio in my car (I blame the Dukes of Hazzard). The CB was great because I could listen to other drivers and be able to avoid accidents and traffic jams. Needless to say, one of the most fun driving apps I’ve seen in a long time is Waze, a social networking, traffic and navigation app. Similar to Driving Route Planner, it can optimize your route for you and because it is interactive, taking input from fellow drivers, Waze will instantly update your route to avoid traffic jams. Waze will also learn your preferred routes to different places. Please dear readers, be VERY careful when using Waze because you should be 100 percent focused on driving. Check your local/state/provincial laws regarding handheld devices in vehicles, as the fines can be hefty. It’s best to have a passenger along to help you at least while you’re learning the route. Saving time and fuel is important but keeping the roads safe is even more important.

17 Comments for “Running Errands”

  1. posted by adora on

    I’d also suggest doing errands on Saturday mornings, people don’t wake up until 11am. It takes me 2 hours to do things on Saturday mornings what takes 6 hours in any afternoon.

    If you need something specific. Such as an item in IKEA, I’d suggest checking the store availability before you leave.

    It takes me an hour a week to plan my shopping list, prepare coupons and research the routes. But I have save at least 5-7 hours per week with careful planning.

  2. posted by maddashin on

    I order everything through Amazon and now have a milkman. I live in congested area in northeast and traffic is absolutely horrendous. It can take three hours to do a run!

    I order groceries etc. right on line.

    Milk from the milkman.

  3. posted by Katie on

    Monday nights seems to be best for us in terms of grocery shopping, Target, etc. It’s so much easier to find parking and get through the store. The only down-side is that often they have less people working the checkout lines, so sometimes the lines take longer. If we go after work, though, usually we can grab a quick dinner out around 7 pm and be done with errands by 9/9:30.

  4. posted by momof3 on

    live in the suburbs of chicago. lots of coupons used, routes planned so that I would as least gas as possible. Lucky with several big name and smaller independent grocers to choose from, let alone the big box retailers. Never hurts to save a few cents on any shopping trip, or to eat at a restaurant, or buy at a department store when coupons are a dime a dozen in the newspapers, sale flyers in the mail, on the back of store receipts, or on flyers left on the door! For several years, when the kids were small, we would “save the savings” in a jar and that was our budget for our camping trips. What a cheap way to vacation–if you have the gear already–$10 for a spot with electric! A ten night trip cost $100, easily saved from coupon use!

  5. posted by Michaela on

    I try and do certain errands in the morning on my way to work – such as post office, drop off UPS/FedEx packages, go to the bank, drop off any misc. items – and I try and schedule all my appointments first thing in the morning.

    Other errands, such as grocery shopping – are done immediately after work and on my way home (before I get home). If I get home first, chances are I don’t want to go anywhere. And if I leave work a few minutes early I can usually miss the after work rush.

    Then we do the “fun” errands on a Friday night or the weekends. For example, Target, TJMaxx, Starbucks, and some other large retailers in are one shopping area and we would go there and hit all the stores at once (whether actually shopping, or just looking). Batching as much as possible makes it easier.

    And my personal rule is to do AT LEAST one errand per day. That way I at least did SOMETHING, instead of letting things pile up and stress me out. Learning this trick has made my life MUCH easier.

  6. posted by WilliamB on

    If I have more than a couple of errands to do, I make a list. Then I remake the list, putting the errands in the order I want to do them. If it’s a really big trip, I also include what I want to do there (am I going to Target to buy or to return, and what items?) and what I need to bring with me.

  7. posted by DawnF on

    @WilliamB nailed it ~ make a list and then re-make the list in order (include place and what needs to be done/bought). I do the same thing and it always works like a breeze. I also make my list directly on an envelope so I can store my coupons, receipts, etc. right with my list ~ makes everything efficient and speedy!

    Have a great day Unclutterer folks!

  8. posted by danielle on

    I agree with @WilliamB and @DawnF regarding making a list in order of the stops you plan to make. That way if you have to skip one stop for any reason, you can just move on to the next place without missing a beat.

    I try to run some errands on my lunch hour as well. This not only gets the chore completed but also forces me to take a break from work and get some fresh air, instead of eating at my desk every day.

  9. posted by Andrew on

    In Calgary, Alberta the expression goes that there are only two driving seasons: Winter and Construction.

  10. posted by MJ Ray on

    Montreal has a wonderful metro system and you drove everywhere? Isn’t that a way to waste fuel, money and time while making the city less pleasant for others?

    Metro or bike and metro are often good combinations, getting stuff done while getting some exercise.

  11. posted by Erin Doland on

    @MJ — I’m trying to imagine Jacki pulling her horse trailer through the Montreal Metro. Ha! I can’t imagine horses are legal riders of the public transportation system. 🙂

  12. posted by [email protected] on

    I am SO with you! I hate wasting time running errands but they have to be done. I group them and map out my route. I can get an amazing amount of errands done in a short amount of time using this method.

  13. posted by Julie Bestry on

    Erin, I was just about to comment when I saw yours. I think it’s important to recognize we all have different needs (for organization, for errands, for life…). Not everyone lives within walking or biking distance from even the best public transportation. (My mother can drive downtown from the suburbs in her city in roughly the same time it would take her to drive TO public transportation!) One can’t maneuver multiple small children safely on public transportation, or take their pets with them (and sometimes the pets are the errand). And yes, gracious, those horse trailers need space. 🙂

    Jackie, tell us how it’s been running your errands in the UK. We need a follow-up once you’re all settled! Learning new stores, new products, new routes must be fascinating and exhausting.

  14. posted by Elizabeth Brogan on

    I live in the UK and I have to say I don’t entirely understand the idea of doing all your errands on one day. Maybe it’s the scale of what folks define as ‘errands’ that I don’t get. For me ‘errands’ mean quick visits to post office,library, bank or quick visits to shops to pick up small items (pint of milk, shoe repairs, small additions to fresh fruit & veg).

    To me, the weekly supermarket shop or a visit to Ikea or any big DIY warehouse is an event in itself. Likewise with clothes shopping. I can’t see these as errands. Am I wrong?

    By the way, unlike the earlier poster who chooses Sat mornings for errands, I find Sat late afternoon & evening better. All the pushchairs and small children will have gone and yyou can get round in no time! (Apologies to those of you with children but come on – wouldn’t you think it was quicker to get round without them?)

    Maybe it’s because I’m in London and so I have all sorts of shops on my doorstep wherever I am. But I can’t entirely get the idea of saving up all the week’s errands and doing them all on one day.

  15. posted by WilliamB on

    @DawnF – I like the envelope idea. Seems like there are always a few extra around.

  16. posted by Jacki Hollywood Brown on

    In running errands I’ve made the list and re-made the list and plotted it out in the order I needed.

    Wherever I could I walked, rode my bike or took public transit. There are times when a car was required. For example, I could not carry 200 lbs of shelving or a dozen large, plastic bins clients on the Metro.

    In Montreal I plotted routes in order to avoid left turns. It’s a city where there are no rights on red lights & at most intersections, left turns are not permitted. I didn’t have a horse trailer in Montreal but we did have a Grand Caravan that was almost impossible to drive and park in the downtown core so those were the “Metro Errands”.

    I’m doing the same thing here in England, drive where necessary, walk & bike other times. However, I avoid intersections with right turns – thankfully most intersections are roundabouts.

    For Erin & Julie – Horses aren’t big users of the public transit mostly because people are not inclined to carry apples and carrots at all times.

    Elizabeth – Weekly groceries might be one single trip, and for us organisers, we could easily spend all day at IKEA or HomeBase. Living in the UK is different than living in North America. In the UK, you’re only a few miles from a good grocery store. In many North American suburbs, you could be 10 miles from even a news agent so you just can’t pop out to pick up a container of milk. So in North America, it is worthwhile, while you’re out, to see what other quick stops you can add on to that trip.

    As well, if you’re trying to avoid shopping at the same time as families with children, choose dinnertime – any night of the week.

    Andrew – Yes, Winter and Construction but in other parts of Canada there is another name for the Construction Season – Mosquitoes.

  17. posted by Melanie on

    I think a better approach to the whole errand issue, especially for a site called unclutterer, is to give strategies on how to eliminate the need for so many errands (and not just on how to do them more efficiently).

    Here are some examples. Reduce trips to the post office, by either purchasing stamps online or from an ATM; or purchasing a years worth of stamps at one time; or reduce your need for stamps by paying bills online and using other online forms of communication. Eliminate the need to go a dry-cleaner by not purchasing dry-clean-online clothing. As one poster above said, purchase groceries online and have delivered; including using a milkman/dairy delivery service. Reduce the need to go to the pharmacy by ordering on-going prescriptions by mail. Shop by mail whenever possible. Download e-books from the library onto your e-reader instead of going to the library. Do your grocery shopping at a store that has the ATM for your bank, and eliminate having to go to the bank while also eliminating ATM fees.

    I do grocery shopping. A couple times a year spend an afternoon clothing shopping. We shop for supplies if we are doing a home-improvement project or planning a party. But as one poster said these are events, not errands. I really can’t remember the last time I had to run an errand (unless stopping for gas on the way home from work is considered an errand). There are too many other ways to get things done without having to physically travel somewhere. That’s what I call uncluttering.

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