Lately, I have been busy. Really busy. I am studying for a professional licensing exam and trying to balance 8 to 10 hours of studying per day with the responsibilities of being a good husband and father. On the whole, I am managing just fine. I hope.
That said, I don’t have any time to spend money so saving money has almost become impossible. Rather, because I am so busy, I am conserving money. The frenetic pace of my life over the past few weeks of exam preparation has taught me a few things about spending patterns. A busy person does not have time to buy things. A busy person does not have time to window shop for things he does not need. A busy person does not miss buying things.
I realize that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. At the same time, work comes in many forms and I now realize that most of my discretionary purchases over the past few years could probably have been avoided by spending more time focused on work and less time on trying to avoid it. I am not saying I am a lazy worker. Quite to the contrary, I work very hard, but in moments of distraction, boredom or conference call multi-tasking, I have found myself spending foolishly on-line (the curse of Amazon one-click ordering and deals of the day!).
I shall take my licensing exam in a few weeks and, the fates willing, I shall pass it. That will allow me to go back to work (I hope!) and to once again have discretionary savings. I do not believe, however, that I shall feel the need to start spending. I now understand that if I am truly busy at work, I should not have time to spend. If I am truly engaged with accomplishing my domestic responsibilities, and enjoying my time with my family, I should not have a need to spend. If I am leading a healthy life by eating well at home, getting to bed at a reasonable hour and participating in all of the many day to day activities that are required of me, I shouldn’t notice that I am not spending.
Of course, I shall still need to go to the grocery store and buy essentials, but I won’t have any voids to fill with unnecessary purchases. I’ll still buy gifts for my family and items for our home, but I won’t look for good deals just for the sake of finding good deals. In short, I have learned that there needs to be a good reason for every purchase, and every purchase takes time that could probably be better spent doing something else so the reason better be pretty darn good!
So what can you be doing to stay busy? More to the point, what can you be doing to stay productive? Here are a few suggestions:
Take Your Job More Seriously: Whatever you do for a living, if you are being paid by someone else for your time, your employer owns your time. If you have time to surf the web for sales while you are at work, you are taking money from your employer. If you take an extra ten minutes at lunch to stop at a store, you are taking money from your employer. Stop it! When you are at work, just focus on getting your job done.
Take Your Household Responsibilities More Seriously: Do you have dishes in your sink? Do the beds need to be made? Lawn need to be cut? Litter box need to be cleaned? If you can answer yes to any of those things, you have productive activities that you can and should be performing before you go to the mall or web-shopping.
Take Your Parental Responsibilities More Seriously: Are your kids grades not where they should be? Do your kids fall behind their peers when engaged in sports? Do your kids just want to spend more time with you? Take the time to help your kids achieve all that they can be and to enjoy the time that you have with them when they are young and at any age. Don’t force your kids to spend countless Saturdays trailing after you at the mall or in the care of a baby sitter while you are at the mall. Rather, force yourself to help your child with his or her studies or take them outside to play catch!
Take Your Civic Responsibilities More Seriously: If you have time to shop regularly, you have time to volunteer your time. There are any number of worthy causes wherever you may live. Find a cause that you want to support and start supporting it with your time.
What do you think? Are most of your wasteful purchases the product of idleness and boredom? Do you find that when you have nothing else to do or when you are trying to avoid obligations that you do have, you tend to make your most wasteful purchases? If you have access to the Internet at work, do you find that you are making most of your purchases on your employer’s time and not your own? Do you think there is anything wrong with that?