Last month I was fried extra-crispy: too many things to do in too little time before I left for a seven-week trip to Alaska. Will Chen over at Wise Bread did a telephone intervention, i.e., I sort of melted down while he was on the line.
Bless his heart – he didn’t start to make bad-cell-reception noises and say that he couldn’t hear me so we’d have to talk some other time. (Like, um, never.) Instead, he listened to me whirl and howl about so many things I wanted to do, so few days until my plane left, so many professional plans but no time in which to bring them to fruition.
Then he gently encouraged me to think about how I’m spending my time.
Am I using an available hour on tactics that will ultimately earn me more money and thus make my life easier, both now and in the future? Or am I soaking pinto beans and re-using Ziploc bags to save a dollar or two today?
Boy, I hate it when a guy 20 years younger than me is light-years smarter. But thanks, Will, because you’re right.
Why on earth was I obsessing about what to fix for dinner? Wouldn’t a strategic pizza delivery have freed up my head for more important things, or allowed me to take a long, hot soak?
I owe Will a nice fruit basket. And I owe myself the favor of being smarter about my time. So do you, whether you know it or not.
Saving, or self-sabotaging?
Not everyone has the option of getting Chinese food or a sandwich at the corner deli. Five years ago, that was me. I was back in college, working a couple of part-time jobs and grabbing extra gigs (babysitting, mystery shopping, medical testing) whenever I could. Meals were made from scratch and as cheaply as possible so that I could pay my bills and, eventually, throw whatever was left at divorce-related debt. I didn’t buy non-essential items and spent as little as I could on the things I did need (clothing, utilities).
That’s not me now. Thanks to a mix of frugality and freelance I can pay my bills and plan for the future. I can even afford to splurge from time to time. Yet I’ll panic over the possibility of spending $2.25 on the bus and opt to do my errands on foot instead.
Never mind that taking public transit would give me that extra hour. Often I’ll be too stubborn to pay $2.25 to travel a mile. It just seems wasteful.
It isn’t wasteful. It’s self-sabotaging. It deprives me of an hour better spent on stillness, contemplation, reading or sleep. As deadlines approach, it causes unnecessary stress.
I know all this. But I tend to forget it. Or, more to the point, I forget to apply it to myself even though I counsel others not to overdo it. No wonder I recently hit the wall.
My most recent post at Get Rich Slowly explores this tendency to take on more than I can handle and to obsess over the finer points of saving money. “Want to save money? Slow down” suggests focusing on doing a few things well vs. a ton of things half-assedly – which includes spending every free moment on extra work or extra frugal hacks. Give it a read and see if you recognize yourself.
Next up: Learning to take my own advice.
How about it, readers: Do you try to do too much? Do you find yourself fretting over a dollar that you feel you shouldn’t have spent (even though you really should have)? How long can you keep up that pace?