When I was in college and, later, working my first jobs, I never had a regular schedule. The jobs I had back then were either temporary or service oriented. Sometimes I’d work nights, sometimes days, and sometimes both. I worked holidays, weekends, and other times when no one else could or would work. It wasn’t until later that I was able to get a 9 to 5 job. When I did, I immediately discovered the frugal benefits of having a regular schedule.
When I was working all hours of the day and night, it was difficult, if not impossible, to plan things like meals or shopping trips. Since I never knew more than a few days in advance what my schedule would be (and, with temp work, where I would be), I found it hard knowing what I was going to make for lunch or dinner. I didn’t know which of those meals I’d be eating at home and which I’d have to pack in a lunchbox. Sometimes I didn’t know if I’d even have a lunch break or access to facilities like a microwave or refrigerator. As far as shopping, most of it was done on the run, without benefit of a shopping list, coupons, or careful comparisons.
When it came to cooking, I was often too tired to bother and I wasn’t able to make too many meals ahead of time, since I never knew when I’d be home to eat them. Sometimes I’d get in the middle of cooking or doing some other frugal activity and the phone would ring with my boss or agency asking if I could come in right now. Since I needed the money, the answer was almost always to drop whatever I was doing and go to work. After a while, I just gave up trying to pursue any time intensive/sensitive tasks like cooking meals in advance, planning elaborate shopping trips all over town to get the best deals, or making DIY projects instead of store-buying.
I couldn’t even do things like gardening or many outdoor projects at all since I never knew if I’d be home before it got dark or if I’d be sleeping through the day and working at night. I tried growing some container plants, but then I landed a job that required a lot of travel and, without proper care, they all died.
I remember those years as a blur of work, take out meals, missed appointments, and trying to sleep at all hours. When I finally settled into a regular schedule everything became much easier. I had whole weekends now to make meals ahead and carry out shopping trips so I could get the best deals. I always knew that in summer I’d be home in time to go out in the garden or mow the grass. I could actually make and keep appointments instead of flaking out at the last minute and incurring cancellation charges. Just getting regular sleep helped a lot.
Frugality is much easier when you have a regular schedule that you can plan around. When you know when meals need to be on the table (and which meals those will be), meal planning is easier. Cooking ahead is easier when you have blocks of uninterrupted time. When you know that you will always have a microwave or fridge at work, it’s easier to know what you can make for lunches. You can save more money when you can take your time in the stores and you have tie to clip coupons and plan your purchases. When you have blocks of time, you can plan and do other things like DIY and home repair projects yourself without hiring them out.
If you want to be more frugal, I would advise that you try your hardest to find work that gets you on a regular schedule. Frugality hinges on the ability to plan things like meals and shopping trips, to take care of things before they become huge problems, and to take advantage of limited time offers like sales. All of this is much easier when you have a predictable schedule.
(Photo courtesy of Sadie Hernandez)