“So, what’s The Simple Dollar about?” people will ask me when I tell them what I do for a living.
“Oh, it’s mostly about getting your life straight with money as a big part of the equation,” I say. “I talk about things like frugality and how you can use them to pay off your debts and get some freedom in your life.”
They then look at me like I’m from another planet and often follow that with, “I don’t have time to be frugal!”
Whenever I hear a statement like that, I immediately rewind to an earlier time in my life and I quickly recognize that such a statement usually points to two major problems in a person’s life, both of which can be fixed to create a much more worthwhile life for anyone. Let’s look at both of these problems.
Time management problems
This is simply the “I don’t have time” part of the equation. If you’re finding that your schedule is so full that you have the inability to even attempt something simple that may be helpful to you, then you’ve got some time management concerns that some simple techniques can help to alleviate. Here are five such techniques.
Say “no.” Many people are afraid of doing this, so they keep adding more and more to their plate until they can’t handle all of the tasks at hand. This is a dangerous situation to be in because it means that you’re going to start letting people down, which is far worse than saying “no” in the first place. When someone comes to you with yet another thing that simply seems like too much for your schedule, just simply say no.
Eliminate the chaff. Look through the activities and responsibilities that you have already on your plate and cut some of the less important ones. Simply resign from a committee, step back from another year of being a Scout director, resign from your league basketball team, or ask to be removed from a project where your skills aren’t being effectively used.
Focus. When it’s time to get stuff done, eliminate distractions. Pull the ethernet cable out from your computer. Turn your cell phone completely off. Disconnect your office phone. Pull the blinds. Close your door. Actually get some work done, instead of just working for a few minutes and then bopping over to the latest distraction.
Keep a list. Whenever you think of something you have to do or something you want to think about later, add it to the list. Then, when you’re done with the task at hand, just turn to the list instead of wandering off and trying to think of what you need to do next.
Make routine tasks as efficient as possible. If you can figure out how to shave a few minutes off of something you do every day, then you suddenly will find your time multiplying. Three minutes saved doing laundry can make the difference in convincing you to load the dishwasher tonight instead of going to bed. The clean dishes tomorrow mean one less task to worry about, giving you the space to take care of something else in your life (like one of the frugality tasks below).
Not understanding frugality
On the other side of the equation is the “time to be frugal” part of things. The assumption here is that frugality must be a time sink because the first thing or two they imagine a frugal person doing seems like a giant time sink. In truth, many frugal tactics end up being time savers as well over the long run, in addition to saving money. Here are five examples.
Install a programmable thermostat. Once one is installed and properly programmed, you’ll basically only have to touch your thermostat a few times a year. Not only that, because the furnace or A/C unit in your house is running less (assuming you programmed it sensibly, with the heat and/or the air conditioning turning off at night), you’re saving money as well.
Install long-lasting energy efficient bulbs. In areas where you don’t need perfect lighting, install CFL and/or LED light bulbs. Both will last for far longer than normal bulbs (meaning less time spent changing bulbs), plus they’re much more energy efficient, meaning your energy bill will drop with continued normal use of the lights.
Wire your entertainment center to a master switch. If you have an outlet in your family room that is wired to a switch, then just plug your entertainment center in via that outlet. Then, when you’re ready to go to bed, just flip the switch and everything loses power. No standby devices sucking down energy, plus it’s much easier to turn everything off at night.
Make double/triple/quadruple meals. When you’re actually making a homemade meal, such as a casserole, make doubles or triples of it and sock them away in the freezer. The next time you come home, feel lazy, and are just tempted to order something for supper, pull the ready-made meal out of the freezer and toss it in the oven. Instant homemade food, much cheaper than delivery.
Purge your overstuffed closets. Getting rid of unwanted stuff via yard sale or eBay means more cash in hand. It also means it’s quicker and easier to actually find the closet items that you want or need.