Frugal, Personal Finance, Saving Money, Shopping, Work

Keep Busy, Save Money: Is it time to take your responsibilities more seriously?

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?

15 thoughts on “Keep Busy, Save Money: Is it time to take your responsibilities more seriously?

  1. Hmmmmm. Thinking back over my parts of my life, you’re pretty much right, though there was a bit of “I’m working so hard, I deserve a reward” aspect to my life when I was working long hours.

    Working in a casual clothing work environment, I tended to buy way too many clothes that I never got around to wearing to the office ’cause there weren’t enough meetings calling for dressing better. Goodwill LOVED me when I left corporate ’cause they received over 30 suits and dress with price tags still attached when I left corporate and many, many more that had only been worn once or twice!

    If I’d been as conscious of spending (and space) then as I am now, I wouldn’t have wasted all that money.

    I guess that what I’m trying to say is that being busy isn’t quite enough. You also have to be aware of why you’re buying — is it need, want or reward? And, if it’s reward, is it really something you’ll use or just something to satisfy an itch?

  2. Nice in theory if you are a spender who spends at stores but not so useful if you are a spender who spends on food. Everytime we get extremely busy we don’t have time to cook from scratch or want that moment of relaxation that comes from letting someone else cook. I need to slow down to save money, not get busier.

  3. “work spares us from 3 evils bordom,vice and need” Voltaire

    People who work have less strength to complain about menial things thats why I wish like heck that my neighbors would get jobs, they stay at home all day haten on my tree for having leaves;-)

  4. That’s very true, when people are busy – shopping is the last thing on their minds. I’m going to send this article to my friend – she wastes a lot of time and all she ever thinks about is spending money on useless things. Maybe your article will help her to be more productive with her life.

  5. I guess I would have to agree to most of this. Staying out of stores & malls definitely reduces spending. And being busy does keep me out of stores & malls.

    That works for clothing & misc. browsing purchases. The internet is still a temptation however! And there’s always a few spare minutes to browse without getting in the car & driving somewhere.

    Maybe I should stop and go clean the bathrooms!

  6. Blogging is actually one of my jobs. Although I readily admit that I enjoy blogging, it is still an obligation that I take seriously. You will note that one of my suggestions was to “take your job more seriously.” I do that with all of my jobs and I try to feel that I have done my best at each of them, including this one. There is nothing amazing about that, or at least there shouldn’t be. That said, when I work, I earn and I do not spend, and I like that math!

  7. I can relate to the comment about eating out vs cooking in when you’re working long hours! LOL Occasionally, I had to put a frozen roast in a crockpot on low just to have a homecooked meal. 🙂 I actually managed to live off a microwave, crockpot and electric skillet very comfortably for months when I got rid of my range to have a new floor laid in the kitchen.

    Being busy does help… some… but being happy with my life and what I’m doing is still the biggest influence.

  8. I’ve made shopping (other than for essentials) an event, not a way of life. Every few months or so, my mother and I go shopping. I look forward to those outings, outings I used to make all the time. Now that money is tighter, I appreciate just trying on new things (e.g., perfume, shoes). I usually don’t purchase much, but I enjoy the experience.

  9. I completely agree about the benefit of being busy is a reduction in the amount of spending for my family. For example, I cannot remember a time we went to the local shopping mall and didn’t buy something. While walking to the car, I often think did we really need this? In the recent economic times, we have made it a point to not go to the mall for the simple fact of if we had the time and opportunity to walk around, I am sure we would buy something we didn’t need.

  10. There are two kinds of spending – necessary and discretionary. If you make yourself “busier”, discretionary spending will decrease, as you pointed out. But necessary spending will increase. This past week I had to prepare for a talk. As a result, I didn’t have time to cook and spent a lot on food. If you’re busy volunteering your time to fulfill your civic responsibility, maybe you no longer have time to mow your own lawn, so you spend more to have someone else do it. If you’re constantly busy you may feel like you need a big vacation, and spend a fortune on that. It’s all a tradeoff.

  11. I had to laugh at the “Take Your Job More Seriously:” paragraph. Your advice is 100% wrong. It’s the people who work the hardest who get laid off, while the schmoozers and the kissups are kept on.

  12. Gerry — I do not agree. Good managers keep the best workers and the best workers are in the best position to find a new job if they do get laid off.

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