I often come across stories about people who give up their corporate jobs to live closer to the land (i.e. make their own artisanal cheese on a farm in Vermont or something idyllic like that.) However, scratch beneath the surface of that glowing story and you’ll realize that there is a lot of work involved in that simple life. You get up at dawn to milk the goats or cows, make the cheese, hire and fire workers or do it all yourself, market your products. Most likely you now earn less money and want to avoid conspicious consumption anyway. So on top of your cheese-making operation, you have to clean the house, clean up after your kids and pets, clip coupons, plan your menu around supermarket sales, barter your cheese for another farmer’s vegetables, learn to fix things around the house, line-dry your laundry, etc…
Why am I even writing about this hard-working cheese farmer? I’m not planning to escape to the countryside but I do sometimes fantasize about a slower-paced and less materialistic life, without considering that this ideal “simple” life is actually not that simple.
A while ago I posted about my personal battle between frugality and simplicity. I did a rundown of several areas where I choose between the frugal way (i.e. line-drying my laundry) or a simple, less time-consuming way (using the dryer). In most cases, frugality and green living won out at the expense of time.
With a full-time job and commute plus the usual commitments of life, however, doing things the frugal way was taking its toll. After all, it’s much easier to breeze into a market without a plan than it is to cut coupons, browse the sales circulars and make a list ahead of time. It’s much easier to buy lunch, throw cans in the trash, and hire a maid than it is to do most things yourself. I resolved to re-visit several areas of my life to see if I could make better use of my time.
How am I doing in this battle? Have I learned to value my time and sanity as much as money? Not really….
1 ) Cooking vs. Eating out
We still cook at home most of the time. My husband is truly a gourmet cook so this is actually a preference rather than a budgetary thing. However, if we feel overwhelmed or the dishwasher needs a break, we have a few inexpensive restaurants as back-up. I still don’t get take-out or call pizza delivery. Winner: Frugality.
2 ) Recycling
We still do this. I would feel too guilty throwing bottles and cans in the trash. Winner: Frugality/Green.
3 ) Growing vegetables
Our summer vegetables are long gone. Other than some tomatoes, a handful of baby zucchinis and one tiny bell pepper, this was a massive fail. I’m not sure if or when we’ll do this again. However, we will always grow herbs like basil, rosemary and sage because it’s important to have fresh herbs on hand. Winner: Simplicity?
4 ) Line-dry clothing
We do this 90% of the time. It is Los Angeles after all! I don’t mind this extra chore and feel the environmental benefits are worth it. Winner: Fruality/Green.
5 ) Washing and grooming dogs
We continue to do this. It’s time-consuming but we are saving money and our dogs look well-kept more often. Winner: Frugality.
6 ) Comparison shopping
I have reduced the time and energy seeking deals at drugstores like CVS and Rite Aid. Most of the time, the sale items are gone by the time I get a chance to go. Even if the item goes on sale on Sunday, the best stuff are gone by Monday morning. I imagine swarms of Money Saving Mom readers descending onto CVS like locusts! I still try to stock up during sales and print out internet coupons. However, instead of focusing on drugstore “deals”, I try to buy at Target or Walmart and buy generic when possible. Winner: Tied?
7 ) Bringing my lunch
Lately I’ve been eating out more often. I still want to bring lunch and snacks on a regular basis. I like having the time to read books or magazines instead of driving somewhere, plus it is definitely healthier to bring my own food. At the same time, I try not to feel bad if I do spend too much during a busy work week. Winner: Frugality, by a hair.
On top of the above categories, my husband and I have not outsourced any of the housework or gardening. Those chores alone can be overwhelming at times, especially when extra errands come up and take priority. The vaccum breaks. The kitchen sink is clogging up again. The car needs servicing. The list goes on and on.
I guess I’ve made some progress in terms of balancing my time and money. In an ideal world, I would achieve the “perfect” balance but this isn’t always possible. Sometimes I have more time than money; other times, I have more money than time. It’s an ongoing balancing act.
I would love to hear if others struggle with saving time vs. saving money. How do you balance the two?