Follow Your Frugal Bliss

By Carrie Kirby on 4 September 2008 9 comments

"I would never have time for that!"

Anyone who has spent a little too much time running her mouth about her frugal accomplishments has heard that line. And it can be a bit insulting. After all, why is everyone else so busy and important, while I apparently am the only person around who has time to clip coupons and shop for loss leaders at grocery stores?

Then I realized that usually, when we say we don't have time to do something, what we mean is we don't WANT TO allocate any time to that particular activity.

And you know what? That is perfectly reasonable. After all, we all have to balance our lives: Most of us need time for earning income, time for managing our households and other responsibilities, and time for R&R. Taking on a new money-saving activity usually means pushing something else out, or becoming more efficient.

But if you're here at Wise Bread, you're probably looking for ways to cut down on your financial outflow. So here's my tip for getting started: Don't clip coupons if you don't have time for it. Find ways to save that you will make time for, because you don't hate doing them. Find something that suits your personality and your situation, and you're much more likely to fit it in somehow.

I "shop aggressively" because I am by nature an opportunity seeker. I love finding things of value that not everyone knows about -- whether it's a thrift store sweater or a free-after-coupons bottle of laundry detergent. I have managed to find a few hours in my busy week to clip and print out coupons, and study grocery flyers, not just because I'm thinking about how much money I will save but because it's kind of fun for me. Yes, I'm a little freaky-deaky that way.

On the other hand, I hate doing housework. So when I hear suggestions to save money by hanging out my laundry, I sigh and feel overwhelmed. And here's a convention that might surprise you: I have a cleaning lady who comes twice a month. She saves me about two hours of heavy cleaning a week. So you might say that I could quit clipping coupons, spend the amount I pay the cleaning lady on groceries, and spend the time saved to scrub my own dang bathtub. But I don't WANT to. Much like skimping on groceries makes a friend of mine feel deprived (she recovered from an eating disorder so it's a sensitive area), heavy cleaning makes me feel like a drone and makes me resent my husband for doing less than me. Strategically grocery shopping, on the other hand, makes me feel clever and like I'm winning a game and doing well by my family.

Below are other examples of how you can find frugal moves that fit your personality. Once you enjoy one frugal change, you'll probably be ready to a frugal change that you at least don't hate. For example, even though I don't really love cooking, I've gotten myself to make more and more things homemade. Who knows, maybe if I get far enough down the frugal road, I'll be able to cajole myself into setting up that clothesline.

  • If you're an environmentalist: Instead of thinking about groceries, you'll get more internal rewards from driving less, replacing paper towels with rags, using cloth diapers and, yes, hanging out laundry.
  • If you're crafty: There are so many great suggestions on this site for making gifts, things for your home and personal care products for very little money. Reading these tips makes me feel lightheaded, but for you, they might be just the encouragement you need.
  • If you get a charge from doing things independently, look for ready-made things you could make or grow yourself. Raise those chickens, or for a less radical move, make milk into yogurt. Make your own bread. This option is especially good if you have small children at home and you want to give them a little crunchy granola "how things are made" experience. A good book with recipes for such homemade products is Ruth Yaron's "Super Baby Food." (That's an affiliate link.)
  • If you detest all of the above, but your home budget is still not balanced, you might be better off taking some spare time to increase your income. Depending on your situation, that might mean overtime hours, consulting on the side, or a little work from home tutoring or doing call center work.
  • If you truly cannot spare any extra time on a recurring basis, but you need to save money, focus on what you can change about your life that won't take extra time. Consider taking a half day to examine and overhaul how you run your household and to plan. You will probably find that changing a few things -- like switching service providers or refinancing a loan -- will save you money without any outlay of time beyond that first planning day. You may even find that some moves will save both time and money -- such as making a plan to simplify your life by cutting out excess shopping, or getting rid of a costly hobby that had become more obligation than fun.
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Guest's picture

It's so good to know I'm not crazy for hiring a cleaning lady twice a month. I am willing to make cuts in other areas of my life to have this....otherwise, I would probably go crazy.

Guest's picture

I cook a lot, I garden a lot and I try to be frugal in general. So yeah, I get that, "I'd never have time for that" response on a fairly regular basis.

Then I came across this fantastic comeback in Nigella Lawson's, Nigella Express cookbook:

"I don't wish to sound unsympathetic. Obviously, the fact that I am writing a book expressly concerned, as it were, with good food that can be pulled together quickly, establishes, I hope, my bona fides in this regard, but I have to own up to some degree of impatience. The thing is, whenever people, perhaps showing a slightly patronizing amusement at how often I cook (and maybe it's that which irks), claim that they themselves never have the time to cook, it makes me feel uncharacteristically aggressive. What I want to point out is that they are hardly using the time they save by not cooking writing War and Peace."

Guest's picture

Kate, I love the quote! I find the "I don't have time" attitude really annoys me in some of the comments on Wisebread articles -- but my sore spot is the environment. Seriously - are our lives so busy that we can't manage to recycle a phone book or put yoghurt or berries in reusable snack size containers ourselves?

My answer is no. It's not a lack of time, it's sheer laziness. I don't think we should skimp when it comes to things that affect the environment.

Guest's picture

I like your do-it-yourself suggestions and certainly understand we don't all want to turn our lives into full time arts-and-crafts/menial labor...I'm a big fan of division of labor, but doing some things for yourself is a big part of life. For children, it can be a great character builder, so losing some time to inefficiencies or replacing other things you want to do might be worthwhile.

Seeing that you can use your mind to do things on your own, and that we make conservative resource allocation decisions is a great thing for children. Personally, I really like your bread baking advice!

Guest's picture

I abhor emptying the dishwasher. I have no idea why but I hate it. So I wear a tiara when I do it. For some reason, it makes the act just a little more bearable.

I'm queen of the repurpose. I keep a lot of things around that my friends laugh at me for not throwing away. Until, that is, they see those objects reincorporated into something else that's fun/fabulous/awesome. Most of the people I know look to me to be the "what's a cheap and creative solution for...." guru.

Guest's picture

I would rather clip a thousand coupons than scrub a tub. I also have a cleaning lady (bless her) who comes twice a month to do the hard core cleaning. This is an absolute must for me if I am going to be a working mom.

Guest's picture

Henceforth I shall wear a tiara during all my least favorite household tasks.

Guest's picture

I solved the "I hate to empty the dishwasher" problem by never filling it. I live alone and wash all dishes by hand now, and let them dry on the counter. (I also don't cook, so, yes, fewer dishes overall.) When I need a coffee mug or a plate, I grab a clean one from the dish drain and viola. Never needs to be put away. Plus, I save all that electricity and hot water.

Guest's picture

And I thought I was the only one who wore a tiara during housework! Ha ha -- it sits on my piggy bank, while I'm not wearing it.