Category Archives: Family

My Attempt At Doing What Successful People Do On Weekends

Time management expert  and author Laura Vanderkam has a new e-book called “What The Most Successful People Do On Weekends” (read review from House of Peanut here).  I haven’ t read it yet but the gist of it seems to be how to be more productive on weekends.  I tend to emulate or strive for simplicity and personal happiness even if it’s not the same as what “successful” people do.  I believe successful people are defined by the author as typically Type A high-powered & career-minded people who are successful in their fields.  Therefore, I’m not the target audience!

However, that doesn’t mean I can’t get good advice from books like these (and I’m sure I will once I read it..).  One of the tips from the author’s blog at least is to  plan an Anchor event on the weekends.  This anchor event should be something fun that gets you and/or your family out of the house so that weekends are more memorable and not all about chores and puttering around.

For several weekends, we’ve accidentally followed this advice.  The first weekend was very simple and not super planned-out but it was a Saturday morning excursion to a nearby park.  The next weekend was a music concert for kids at the library on a Saturday morning.  The third weekend included a date night on Saturday.  I admit that doing something fun on Saturdays, when I normally would be puttering around the house, was a good change for our family.  We tend to put off the fun stuff; if we don’t do it on Saturday or plan something, nothing fun gets done.

At the same time, those weekends felt harried, too.  The music concert took out a good chunk of morning.  We still had a lot of stuff that needed to get done.  On top of regular stuff like meal prep, cooking, putting dishes away, multiple diaper changes, and more,  I managed to do some gardening and a quick wipe-down of the kitchen and bathroom, including the dreaded chore of cleaning the tub.   My husband was busy, too, but we were too busy to notice each other’s chore duties!

After all these memorable, fun weekends, I need a chill-out weekend to decompress and do nothing!

How do you manage your weekends? Are you on board with the idea of planning fun or do you prefer to have unscheduled time, or a little of both?

Frugal Opposites?

I’m beginning to think that my husband and I are frugal opposites, not in the classic saver vs. spender situation, but we’re frugal in such opposite ways that we still somehow disagree on spending (and saving) priorities to some extent.

First off, we are both fairly frugal.  However, I am more willing to spend money when I think it saves time, like on like housecleaning, moving or computer tech help and the like.  My husband is more of a DIY-er especially related to household things like dishwasher installation, property fixes, etc..  even if it can take him a lot of time and it’s not always easy to figure out. And I guess since he’s more of a DIY-er in aspects that he’s good at, he’s also hesitant to spend money in areas just to save time (since in theory we could tackle housecleaning, for example, on our own).  After having kids, he did come around to hiring housecleaning help and I guess he was never completely against it; he just saw less reason for it than I did/do.

If any spending is remotely related to career or career-advancement, he will spend the money (or want to), while I still like to weigh the return on investment.  This is a tough one because there are countless job-related spending opportunities from books to classes to conferences.   As for measuring ROI, how do you know if that networking event or conference will result in leads and work? I tend to give it one-shot and that’s it.  Say, I attend one conference but if I don’t get much out of it, I won’t go to ANY ever again. My husband wouldn’t rule out all conferences that way; he would look into another conference or would still be open to returning to the same conference after some time has passed.  Since work-related events are often costly, this can become  a sore point.  I think I usually “win out” but I wonder if I’m holding him or myself back from true career opportunities.   He’s been creative at networking on the cheap (with real results) and I do try to be open-minded about pricier opportunities but I still have a hard time justifying that spending.

I have a harder time pulling the trigger on purchases in general.  My husband doesn’t really pay attention to small-item purchases but hesitates on big item purchases (like furniture or appliances).  I guess I believe that little things add up and this is why I still use coupons, look for  sales to stock up on household items, send in rebates, and pay attention to recurring expenses/bills.  I know that my husband doesn’t really understand why I call our internet/cable/phone provider every year.  However, one year, I knocked down $40+ per bill ($480 annually) and I’m pretty proud of that!  

Our different spending habits haven’t been a contentious issue, however, because we do always talk about big purchases.  Even if we don’t always agree, both of us have a say.  I also think that it’s been a fairly even split in terms of who “wins” in the final decisions.  In many cases, we reach a compromise by setting a budget that we both feel comfortable with, delaying the purchase a bit, or not spending at all, without the other one holding a grudge.

Are you and your significant other opposites in terms of spending/saving?  Are you both frugal yet still have different spending habits?

Who Does What..?

In the comments section of House of Peanut’s post about planning weekend fun, someone mentioned that she has to do all the planning in her household — the husband is just not the planner type.  That is such a common statement among married women that I’m wondering if anyone out there has the opposite experience? It seems that 100% of women I know online or in real life is the CEO of household logistics, whether both spouses work or not.  If the women is the only one working or the one with the full-time/ less flexible job, that does change the dynamics. But all things being equal, who does the majority of the planning (childcare, doctor appointments)? Who does the gift buying? Who does the travel planning (hotels, airfare, research)?  Who does the meal planning, if that’s done at all? Who plans the fun weekends??

Most women justify this by saying that they’re just better at planning and research (which I’m not saying isn’t true).  Yet if men can plan wars and proposals, so why can’t they plan household-related things and daily life?  I’ve also known very disorganized, flaky women who somehow end up being the planners in their households, simply because they worked on this skill.  In those cases, the husband is usually also bad at planning and once kids come along (or the woman just gets tired of boring weekends), the woman takes up the organizing mantle and reads a lot of magazine articles for tips.  Hell,the January 2013 issue of Real simple is all about organizing your life year-round. I doubt men’s magazines focus on that.  When men do focus on time-saving (like the 4 day work week), it’s to escape the corporate rat race and free up time to do things like travel the world or bungee jump…

In my household, it would definitely fall on me to plan travel and weekend fun (with kids).  My husband does more of the doctor appointment planning due to his flexible schedule though.  He’s also more prone to plan fun without kids. We both suck at meal planning… However I think if we both worked 9 to 5, I’m more likely to do the research/planning for the majority of things. 

So, question 1, who is the planner and why in your household?

On another slightly related note, who does the apologizing? I keep reading articles, or seeing comic bits, where the man is told to say he’s sorry even if he thinks he’s right in order to keep the peace with the wife (who is also implied to be illogical yet probably right anyway). Apparently my husband has not gotten that message. 

So I always end up apologizing or drag a half-hearted apology from him after months of discussion. Like the stereotypical man in a relationship, it would be easier if I just said I’m sorry and be done with it even if in my heart of hearts, I don’t think I’m wrong. So should I just “man up” and do that for relationship peace?? I never seem to get the apology I want anyway.  I wonder if men take that advice and if so, how do they not get angry at always having to apologize?

Question 2: Who does most of the apologizing in your household?  

How I’m Doing On Goals and Pseudo-Resolutions

I resolved to focus on my career, bought an interview suit, and am now on the fence about even looking.  My reason for this change of heart is that I want to enjoy my shorter commute and low-stress job. It’s not that my job is without its stresses and deadlines;  it’s just that I’m a seasoned pro here who knows my job well, including short cuts and knowing the right people to ask for help in most situations. Any new job entails a learning curve and possibly longer work hours and the main reason for our move was to increase my time with the kids.

What I have done:

  • I sort of updated my Linked In skills/profile.
  • I read one or two articles related to my field.  It’s a struggle as I’m constantly tempted by other reading materials.  Now if I can apply what I read to my work, that would be a bonus.
  • I emailed my boss about upping the game in terms of building my skills at my current job. I figure that if I’m too lame to make a serious move and check outside options or go for higher titles, then I should make the most of my current situation.

Still, it feels like the new suit hanging in my closet is a constant reminder of my backpedaling ways!

In other areas:

I ate french fries two days in a row.  I didn’t make a resolution to eat healthier but eating worse is never a goal of mine!

I have not stepped into my gym in months.

I have prepped dinner a few nights but still find it a challenge to make the most of my extra half hour per night.

I am trying to not let the house fall into utter disorder/mess before cleaning.  I sweep up almost daily and try not to let things pile up.  This is good in a way as I’m learning that big cleanings are a bigger chore and headache.  The not so good part is that I end up doing more cleaning overall.

I have snapped at my husband (and others) much too often.  Not doing well in terms of appreciating loved ones.

I’m still a stressful basket case at times (though no longer due to traffic and commute!)

I have done some armchair activism but nothing more.

I signed up for a class — nothing related to work, just fun time with the kids.   I can’t wait…

I’m taking a photo a day. It’s not about being creative or artistic, although I try my best. It’s about documenting the small things in life from a messy sink to messy desk to a messy family life.  A mess is what I got…

So even though I didn’t officially make resolutions, in the back of my mind, I still have some goals that I’m trying to achieve..or not.  How are you doing on your goals and resolutions?

Living The Rich Life

I thought it was time for me to address the cost of moving to our new rental house.  We’ve had time to adjust and suck up the high costs associated with moving from movers to new appliances to starting up gas, trash, utilities and water.  We’ve benefitted from this move in countless ways that I feel it’s well worth the extra cost, to the tune of doubling our previous rent.  That’s right, doubling, while our income has stayed steady.   Fortunately, a welcome flood of freelance income has taken the sting out of the increase but I know that at some point we have to re-evaluate our budget.

I’ve been playing with numbers for months and the most obvious hit is to our savings, which should become zero if we don’t want to spend more than we earn.  However, I’m not cutting out the 401k contribution because it does reduce our tax bill and we do need to continue saving for retirement. 

To be honest, our move into a nicer neighborhood has me feeling like the family in the TV Show “The Riches” starring Minnie Driver and Eddie Izzard as crooks who assume the identity of an upper-middle-class suburban family.  The funnier thing is that this new neighborhood is not fancy by any stretch of the imagination. It just has better schools and nicer parks than our old area.  Both areas were / are safe and quiet.  Both areas probably had the same median income and were / are middle-class, although this one seems to be a tad more solidly middle-class.

I think what really makes me feel “rich” is that the house itself is bigger and newly renovated.  After many years in our old house, things get worn (naturally) and are not replaced.  I’m sure that if we stay long enough, this house would also look more worn-down; however, it still has better basic fixtures overall than our previous rental.  The old place had linoleum in the kitchen and bathroom, plus the cheapest windows you could possibly buy.  The new place wins out just by having tiles and nicer, new windows.  I guess I’m not too hard to please in the area of decor!

Truthfully, I don’t know how long we can manage on this higher rent.  We may have to downgrade in a few years, hopefully not too soon, and find a townhouse or apartment.  For now, we’re enjoying this new place. 

I also have a feeling that I will really appreciate every day here… I’ve read that  most people get used to their status/situation so happiness from things, including houses, diminishes over time.  However, I think I might be able to appreciate this place and all its advantages for a long time.  Here’s why and I hope you have the patience to read my washer/dryer story.  For many years, my husband and I did not have a washer or dryer.  We usually waited as long as possible before we hauled 4 – 6 loads of dirty clothes and linens, spending hours in a dingy, ugly laundromat on a Sunday afternoon.  Yes, we killed time with books or web browsing but we generally didn’t trek too far and the other restaurants near the laudromat were equally dingy and depressing.  At any rate, it certainly felt like we had to base our schedule that day around laundry, not the same as doing laundry at home.  And while I have said how much I hate doing laundry, I should clarify it’s more than I feel the division of laundry should be equal and not all on one party.   In spite of my dislike for this chore, I’ve always appreciated having our own washer or dryer.  What I’m trying to say is that while I might get used to this house, years of living in a tiny space and enduring a long commute will likely make me appreciate this new living environment much longer and even forever!

The Strangers We Grew Up With…

Recently, I was having dinner with my parents and a sibling.  During the conversation, it became painfully clear to me that we had nothing in common.  This wasn’t the big revelation though.  We’ve drifted apart long ago and are not close though we’re certainly cordial.  For years, our small talk have been awkward and impersonal. What struck me was the realization that I can’t make this person laugh at anything I say.  The most response I get for any jokes / funny comments is a soft, forced smile or a tepid laugh.  In contrast, I’ve been getting to know a co-worker and she bursts out laughing at a lot of my comments, and I can also make my co-workers laugh on a regular basis. 

It’s strange when someone you grew up with and know all your life becomes just another person, more like a complete stranger I was forced to sit next to at a friend’s dinner party.

I realize that the wistful tone of this post might result in advice on rebuilding this relationship.  I have no interest in doing so as this sibling annoys me on a regular basis and I’m more than happy to keep my distance.

An Extra Hour Per Day!

As a result of our move, I’ve gain about an extra hour per day — half an hour in the mornings and half an hour in the evenings.  Even though we moved over a month ago,  I haven’t done anything concrete with that extra time, other than unpacking and decorating, but I would love some advice.

I know that some super-motivated time management gurus would suggest exercising or tackling a major project in the mornings.  After all, sleeping in isn’t really taking advantage of that extra time. However, I’m going to say now that sleeping in is my plan for the extra morning half hour.

What I am asking for is advice on what to do with the other half hour, after work. I really don’t want to waste it on watching TV or surfing the web.

Here are my ideas:

Nurture Relationships: Having more time and energy for kids and husband is always a plus. I want to really enjoy this extra time.  I promised my husband I would be less grumpy..now that can be a hard resolution to keep…

Career management: I can update my C.V., browse websites for job opportunities, update my Linked In profile, read career-related materials (which can also be done at lunch), attend networking functions.  I would love specific action items / tips.  BTW, here are some great career-building tips from Cloud/Wandering Scientist.

Exercise: At least once per weekday, I plan to take a class.  I’m also taking walks around neighborhood and can go to the park more often.  Now I can get home and take a nice walk with the kids in the time it used to take me to drive all the way home!

Cook and Plan Meals: I’ve slacked off in this area and would love to start planning healthier meals on weeknights, rather than relying on Trader Joe’s.

Chores…Ugh: I want to do some smaller chores on weeknights rather than saving them up for weekends.  With a long commute, I was tired and short on time. Now I guess I could pick up a mop once in a while. There are two almost opposing challenges to this idea. I hate chores YET I also worry that I’ll use my valuable “extra” time to doing chores.

What would you do with an extra half hour per night?