I spend a lot of time outside and, if I’m inside working, my desk faces the road. As such, I know a lot about what goes on in my neighbor’s lives. (Disclaimer: I don’t spy on people, but when you’re driving back and forth in front of my house and piling your purchases in the driveway, it’s hard to miss.) The thing that always amazes me is how much money they seem to spend on the weekend. They come and go all day long, driving here and there and emptying purchases out of the back of their cars. (This goes on all year so it’s not limited to Christmas shopping, either.) In addition to the buying, I wonder how much gas money they burn with all that running around. Then after a day of coming and going, they head out again most Friday and Saturday evenings at supper time, so I assume they are going out to eat and, probably, to a movie or a club.
I’m not against fun. I’m not so frugal that I don’t enjoy a dinner out now and then or a good movie once in awhile. I do save those things for special occasions, however, and don’t make them an every week kind of thing. I’m also not averse to shopping, when there’s a need. I’m also not unaware that the weekends are when many people need to run a few errands and take care of some chores. But it seems as though many of my neighbors and, judging by the crowds in the stores and restaurants on any given weekend, make whole weekends out of running around, shopping, and eating out. It seems to be well beyond what it required for errands and chores. It’s as though, despite the fact that they have homes laden with every gadget and entertainment option available, they cannot stand to stay at home, just enjoying life. (Which is what I thought weekends were for.) They have to be out there, amongst other people, getting the latest and greatest of everything. They seem to feel like they’re missing out on something if they’re not at the hip restaurants, the latest movies, or the newest shopping mall.
In the case of my neighbors (and you probably know some similar people), I have to laugh at times. These are the same people who like to tell me that they never have any time to themselves or time to just relax. They like to whine that they don’t have any money, as they unload the new Wii from the car (that they’ll never play with because they’ll be too busy running around to fool with it). They complain that there just isn’t enough time or money to do the things they really want to do like read, catch up on some sleep, pursue a hobby, bake, or play with the kids. “But,” I think to myself, “If you just stayed home instead of shopping and eating all weekend, you’d have the time and money to do all of those things.”
Which makes me wonder: What’s so wrong with a frugal and quiet weekend at home? Most weekends, I don’t leave the house. I go out of my way to take care of any errands during the week while I’m already out and about for work or other appointments. That means I don’t have to fight the crowds on the weekend and I can shop in relative peace. Since I don’t shop for entertainment, prefer to watch movies at home, and rarely eat out, I am content to spend the weekends at home in pursuit of other things that matter to me. And I even more content to keep all that gas money in my pocket.
Despite my frugal weekend strategy, I don’t feel that I lack for entertainment or fun. In fact, I feel that my weekends are very rich and give me a chance to grow as a person and connect with my family in ways that I would miss if I were running around shopping all weekend. So you can see what I’m talking about, here’s what I did this past weekend:
- Slept in on Saturday and Sunday, only getting up when I was ready.
- Took my time reading the weekend edition of the paper and clipped the coupons.
- Watched two movies rented from Netflix while cuddled up on the couch with my spouse and big bowl of popcorn.
- Made Sunday lunch and invited my parents over for an afternoon of conversation and catching up.
- Played a couple of board games with my spouse and parents.
- Visited with my other frugal neighbor over the back fence for a while and traded ideas and tips.
- Read a few books.
- Had some “private couple time” with my spouse — and no, I’m not spelling it out for you.
- Worked on a needlework project.
- Played with the dog.
- Went for two runs and took a leisurely stroll around the neighborhood with my spouse.
- Worked on organizing the family photos (an ongoing hobby/project that I’m not sure will even end).
- Worked on my not-so-great-American novel that I’m sure will never see the light of day but is fun to work on nonetheless.
My husband engages in similar relaxing activities. He has a chance to do some woodworking, call his parents for a chat, visit with the neighbor who is restoring an old car, watch his beloved NASCAR, and play some computer games. As the seasons change, our activities change and we head outside more often to play Frisbee or nap in the hammock.
This down time leaves us ready to tackle another week, gives us a chance to explore our interests, and gives us a chance to just be together as a couple instead of just checking in with each other once in a while. Years ago we joined in the weekend frenzy, but finally learned that we just ended up more frazzled, broke, and disconnected than we were before the weekend. Since we started spending more frugal weekends at home we’re much better off financially and we are more connected as a couple. We have the time to talk to each other and our families and are more aware of what’s going on in each other’s lives. That, to me, is priceless.
This isn’t to say that I don’t do some chores on the weekend. I’m not a total slug. I do yard work, garden, clean the house, make repairs, do some baking for the coming week, and pay some bills. And on special occasions we do go out to dinner or to an event. But the free time I gain by not running around town mindlessly shopping and dining gives me an even balance of work and play on my weekends.
I’m not saying that you should give up the things you find genuinely fun and rewarding. If you love going to the movies every weekend and can afford it, by all means have at it. Or if you are a devotee of sport and go to games every weekend, enjoy yourself. However, if your running around is mindless and doesn’t bring you any real joy, maybe you need to rethink your weekends. If you’re simply going out to be in the loop or to “see what’s out there,” you might be better served by staying home. By giving up the weekend frenzy and staying home, you’ll save a ton of money by not shopping and wasting gas, you’ll probably improve your relationships, and you’ll have time to pursue those hobbies and activities that you’ve always wanted to get around to. Maybe you can finally stop feeling like you have no time or money left over for yourself.