Updated on 01.09.09

The Simple Dollar Weekly Roundup: Sleepy Days Edition

Trent Hamm

I’m currently in the midst of my first Iowa winter as a stay-at-home writer – and it’s fairly tough. Many days, after taking the kids to daycare, I’m trapped at home for most of the day completely by myself. It’s too cold to go outside very much, although I do sometimes go outside anyway (and feel like I’m freezing). I tend to exercise at home as well, doing my usual fitness routine and such.

The end result of all of this is a touch of the winter blues, mostly manifested by a sense of being tired during the day. Usually, this tiredness lifts in the evening, mostly because of the interaction with my wife and kids, and weekends are pretty normal.

But there are times, during the work week, where I’d be happy to just spend the whole day curled up on the couch reading a good book and taking a nap or two.

I can’t wait for spring. I really want to open up my office window and let a breeze blow in. I can’t wait for the sun to change angles so I can get some direct sunlight into my office for the first half of the day. I’m really looking forward to restoring my daily walk outdoors.

How Much Money Would it Take For You to Compromise Your Principles? I guess it depends on the principle. If you’re talking about core principles, there basically isn’t a price. You could not pay me enough to harm my children, for example. Minor principles – like my intent to never miss a meeting I’m expected to be at – could be broken much easier. (@ get rich slowly)

How to Make Extra Cash from Your Hobbies This is a very simple breakdown of a theme I often talk about – doing what you’re passionate about and earning money at it. (@ dumb little man)

Homemade Laundry Detergent Not for Us This is actually a solid rebuttal to my recipe for homemade laundry detergent. Is it really worth it? (@ frugal dad)

How to Care (Not Worry) About Your Finances I think I alternate between these two states. And I would certainly agree that “worry” is far less healthy. (@ prime time money)

How to Start and Manage a Debt Snowball I really liked this summary of how a debt snowball works – nicely written and very clear. (@ mrs micah)

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  1. Frugal Dad says:

    Thanks for the link, Trent. I hope you beat back those blues soon! When spring arrives and you can enjoy the outdoors, start working in the garden again, etc, I suspect your spirits will be lifted.

    Enjoyed the roundup this week. Mrs. Micah’s post is one of the better “snowball” articles I’ve read on the subject.

  2. It’s funny how we all react differently to weather. My fiance is like you and doesn’t enjoy the blues of winter. I like the cool air and being forced to wear lots of warm clothes. Our boxer, thrives in the cold. Every night, he has to run circles (think 10 foot radius) as fast as he can around me. The colder it is, the faster he goes. He also wants to stay out longer whenever it gets really cold.

    When I’m feeling a bit down due to whatever reason, I find a change of routine really snaps you out of it. In your case, perhaps that would be writing about some completely different topics. Maybe work on some new fiction.

  3. Gabriel says:

    Thanks for the always excellent round-up, Trent! The link about how to make money from your hobbies was a perfect tie in for my blog and I featured it. Thanks for the heads up!

    lol at your winter blues – I have a huge case right now, and I live in sunny Texas!

  4. Kris says:

    Hi Trent,
    I can totally empathize – it is my second winter in Toronto doing the same. I have bought tickets to use the gym and I usually head over there between 9 and 10 am, after I have dropped the kids at school and daycare. Exercising really lifts my mood and helps my daily productivity.
    Spring will come sooner than later, and these long, cold days will be long forgotten.

  5. Mrs. Micah says:

    Sorry to hear the weather is getting you down, Trent. We have a sun lamp that we were given by a psychological office that was getting rid of it, does wonders for our moods…especially when I was working from home.

    Glad you enjoyed the debt snowball article (also thanks, Frugal Dad!). :) It was inspired by trying to help a friend out with her post-college debt.

  6. Jimbo says:

    Given your love of the summer have you ever thought of moving to another state in the south?

  7. J.D. says:

    Trent, I’ve suffered from the winter blues (or seasonal-affective disorder) for years. When it started setting in this fall, I took steps to fight it. I took St. John’s wort and vitamin D. I exercised. I listened to upbeat music. But most of all, I embraced the lightbox.

    I had borrowed a lightbox from a friend last spring, and thought it helped. This year I bit the bullet and ordered my own. They’re expensive, but man! What a difference. In fact, I’m sitting in front of mine right now. I use it for 45 minutes every morning, just before sunrise. I haven’t had a problem with depression since I started using this regularly.

    YMMV, of course.

  8. Amanda B. says:

    How about getting house plants? I think that having something living and thriving in your house/office really helps with cabin fever.

  9. HIB says:

    It sounds like you should start a writing meetup group or personal finance group.

    Thanks for the links!
    Good stuff!

  10. Molly says:

    I just discovered your blog and am enjoying it very much! My comment, however, relates not to money but to winter. I moved to Minnesota last January from California (and no I’m not kidding!). I had a really tough time last winter adjusting to such limited levels of sunlight and to the bitter cold. As cold as it can be, the best solution I found to fighting the “winter littles” (my favorite way to describe that feeling) is to get outside, no matter the temperature, or the wind chill for that matter. If you manage to dress properly, after a few minutes it’s not so bad… and it really helps, especially on sunny mornings. This morning it was seven below and the wind chill was twenty seven below, but I walked to work in the sunshine, and that was a good thing, despite the booger icicles in my nose. :) Good luck and keep up the good work you’re doing on your blog.

  11. Anne says:

    Try being stuck in the house WITH you kids all day and try to write…then come talk to me. ;-) You’ll be pulling your hair out in a few days.

  12. RJ says:


    Thanks, I always look forward to Wednesday mornings. Great article @ GRS about compromising your principles.

    Also, from the Midwest. Looking forward to the high of 0 tomorrow!


  13. Laura says:

    As a former stay-at-home Mom I can relate to your winter blues. I finally started making myself go OUTSIDE regardless of the weather. It helps. Nothing like frigid air smacking you in the face and sneaking down the back of your neck to wake you right up.
    I’m a newcomer to your site, I really appreciate and enjoy the articles I’ve read.
    Take care!

  14. Ken Deboy says:

    >> Many days, after taking the kids to daycare,
    >> I’m trapped at home for most of the day
    >> completely by myself.

    This is a problem???!!! Man, I would almost kill to have some days at home all to myself. I’m thinking of all the stuff I could actually get done… clean the garage, paint the kitchen and living room, fix the bad light switch in one of the bedrooms, clean out the pantry, relax with a nice cup of Baileys and coffee, do my tax return…


  15. PT Money says:

    Thanks, Trent. I hope your day goes well and the weather warms up for you. I love that first sign of Spring too.

  16. Mister E says:

    I’m in Toronto and we’re freezing here too.

    I absolutely loath the cold and snow and very, very rarely have any alone time at home. For me it would a great pleasure to be able to stay home nice and warm, all by myself for a day or two.

  17. CPA Kevin says:

    Trent, I’m with you on the winter blues. My wife tells me I get like this every year (right before tax season when I get really busy and work a lot), but for some reason this year feels different to me.

  18. Sara says:


    I live in chilly Western New York state. My husband and I love to downhill ski, and it makes the winter a) pass by faster and b) much more enjoyable. I realize that Iowa is much more flat, have you thought of trying to snow show or cross country ski?

    I hope you get a warmer, sunnier day soon! :)

  19. Lana says:

    Trent, I’m in Michigan and working a full-time job in an office, and it’s no different. We’re all yawning and struggling to make it through the day. We’ve already gotten twice as much snow this season as we normally do in an entire winter, and there’s very little sunshine. I spend all day dreaming about getting back into bed! But I think it’s probably just instinct to sleep through the worst of winter.

  20. luvleftovers says:

    “where I’d be happy to just spend the whole day curled up on the couch reading a good book and taking a nap or two.”

    That’s my ideal day!!!

    Really, it’s not a bad idea – on occasion – to recharge like that. But if you feel really guilty, and you’re not writing, commit to half a day cleaning out a closet or something, read or watch a favorite movie, and then a little nap. It’s the best of both worlds.

  21. matt says:

    Stay at home writer and you take the kids to daycare? Wasted money if you ask me….just my 2 cents

  22. oneofnine says:

    Hi Trent…I am with you all the way. I also work at home and days like today I just wanted to crawl back in bed after my husband took our son to preschool! However, I made myself (with great effort) get out of bed, have a cup of tea, and do a half hour of yoga stretches. Afterwards I felt much more prepared and motivated for work.

    Have you thought about putting your workouts in the middle of the day when you get bored? It would ramp up your energy a bit. What about going to a local Starbucks or other place where free wi-fi is available? (You don’t have to buy a coffee to sit there!) Sometimes, when I really need inspiration, I go to a local cafe and do my online work, and I’ll buy a cup of tea instead of coffee which is usually only $1.50 or so. I say it’s worth the investment for a productive afternoon of work!

    At least I am in North Carolina, where the daffodils will be blooming in March. I know you’ve got a lot more winter ahead of you in Iowa. Good luck!

  23. I am SO tired of the cold, too! I’m counting down the days until March, when we should have some warmer days.

  24. Anna says:

    Trent – it sounds like a case of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). I get it too and started to take St. John’s Wort tablets for the second winter in a row. They really help and I feel less lethargic. Also, I force myself to go outside and be as energetic as the weather allows, that usually changes my energy very quickly.

  25. Michael says:

    I’d like to comment on the scratch beginnings post. I hope everyone keeps in mind that this country is made up of people who came here with nothing. To this day people from other countries come here just for the “opportunity” to be successful. Obviously nothing is guaranteed. I meet folks all the time who can only speak a few words of english, but they are breaking their backs for the “opportunity”.

  26. Lenore says:

    Now there’s a perfect example of the different expectations for men versus women when it comes to careers. If a woman were writing this blog and trying to live as frugally as possible, her kids might not be in daycare at all. It might be assumed that she could juggle writing with taking care of them and keeping house. She might also define herself as a stay-at-home mom who writes, not a stay-at-home writer who parents. Not that her writing wouldn’t suffer for it. As Virginia Woolf so famously noted, the reason more men than women become successful authors is probably because a writer needs A Room of One’s Own. (Just an observation in relation to the earlier book review, not a criticism or condemnation. Heck, if I had kids, I’d send them away for no reason whatsoever.)

    Now Trent, about this SAD state of affairs. I mean that it sounds like you might have a mild case of Seasonal Affective Disorder, something I know all too much about. If you increase your intake of vitamin D and try to get at least 15-30 minutes of sunlight on a few square inches of your skin a day, even through a window, it might make you feel much better. You could also buy a lightbox or one of the other UV light products that simulate sunlight indoors and help boost endorphins. Good luck, and keep up the good work!

  27. steve says:

    Far from the cold causing you to feel down and not want to go out, your symptoms might be due to *staying in* excessively and not getting a good enough shot of fresh air and sunshine and activity. Particularly because when you do go out to bring the kids to school, you do it in a car and aren’t really spending much time outside. I think it might be a good idea to try going out for a bike ride or a run or at least a walk in the morning after you drop the kids off, or do it in the afternoon. Getting out in the fresh air and sunshine is very important in the winter. Unless it’s below 10 degrees F, doing active stuff outside in the winter is very invigorating, and the light has a really nice quality as well.

    The main obstacle to this is the idea that it’s “too cold”. But really, in my own experience, it isn’t true and I ALWAYS feel better once I’ve gone out and done something active outside.

    And if anyone wants to complain that “you don’t know what it’s like where i live, it’s cold”, feel free. However, I live in Massachusetts where we get some pretty decent winters and I also ride my bike (with studded tires in the winter) year round to commute. So I am tone deaf to that complaint. Nothing makes me feel better than my daily ride to and from work, or out to do shopping or errands. (typically coordinated with the commute, except on days off). I commonly get comments when I am dismounting my bike or parking it to the effect of “you’re brave doing that in this cold!” which I smile and nod at to be friendly, but the truth is that after going out on a (properly equipped) ride, you don’t feel cold at all but invigorated.

    It sounds like you may be predisposed to Seasonal Affective Disorder, and if so, all the more reason to try getting out in the light for a half hour or more each day.

  28. Deborah says:

    I’ve been reading your blog for a little while now, and this is the first time I’ve noticed you mentioning taking your children to daycare. I thought that saving money on childcare was one of your arguments in favor of one parent staying at home. Are you sending them off for socialization, or is this just temporary until you get out of your blues? Just curious. I don’t have any children, nor am I a writer; I have no idea what your daily life is like.

  29. Mark says:

    I work from home office too and the winter blues has started to get to me too; everything is so black and white, no greenery anywhere, it’s wicked cold, there’s no sun… arghhh… keeping busy is the only thing that keeps me going. So you’re not alone Trent! but we’ll get through…

  30. SS says:

    I live in the mountains. Having food, heat,
    computer, T.V., pets, kid(s). Relax, don’t get
    worried. Start your seedings inside to get a head start for spring. I want to to this. It will be here. Take your dog for a walk. Even it is just out front to get fresh air. As long as your at home and don’t have to drive you are pretty much safe. Driving is taking a risk I think. Go snow shoeing with a group of people who know the trails. Enjoy!!!!

  31. JanB says:

    I agree with Steve, you need to get outside no matter what. Invest in the proper gear if you have to but do it. I work from home and homeschool my kids. Sometimes we will not leave the house for days or weeks on end. We all (the kids and I) start to feel the way you do if we do not head out for our 2 mile hike everyday. You actually may be causing yourself to have a vitamin D deficiency by not going out and having some sun exposure (not much is needed, 10min. on hands and face usually does it). We live at 8500 feet in the mountains of Colorado, it is really cold some days and beautiful others. Don’t let the cold ones stop you. If my 8 & 9 year olds can do it (and they have since they were both 3) you can too!:)


  32. Tina says:

    Hi Trent, I love your blog. There’s always something original here, and I also love how you make it so personal. So I’m not going to bash you here! But maybe you could address this in a future post:
    The thing that jumped out at me here was that you send your kids to daycare!
    I have to agree with Lenore above, if you were a woman, you’d be working at home SO THAT you could look after your kids all day! …and I add, you would also somehow, miraculously, find time and energy to put in a full day’s work — or at least be expected to! Can you comment on this double standard of expectations for women? If your wife, for example, were able to work from home, would she be putting the kids in daycare???

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