Remember when I mentioned that we’d been thinking about hiring someone to mow our lawn?
Well, we did it. And I must admit that for a frugal-to-a-fault gal, it feels pretty weird to be paying a guy to do something we are perfectly capable of doing ourselves.
But for 90 minutes twice a month ($60 total), we found a fantastic guy who not only mows and edges, but also trims all of our overgrown bushes — chores which were easily taking us my husband five to seven hours per month.
(Amazing how much faster a professional can do something with the right tools and experience!)
Two years ago, we never would have hired our great lawn guy. We just couldn’t have found $60 in our budget; or rather, if we had, it would have come at the expense of something truly essential – like our already pared-down grocery budget!
Today, we are fortunate to be earning a bit more than before, and are therefore able to consider different choices.
Most of those added earnings are being funneled toward our savings goals, but we are using some of it to give ourselves a bit of margin. Not margin in our financial budget, but margin in our time budget.
Those five hours, for example, that my husband would have spent on the lawn, he can now spend with our family – coaching our oldest’s baseball team or teaching science to our boys. (We decided to keep homeschooling right on thru the summer, to keep their skills “fresh” and also, honestly, because we didn’t quite finish up our curriculum from last year. Oops!)
That’s a great trade-off we’re able to make, and one that we fully recognize as a luxury.
As another example, I used to “do” the CVS thing every single Sunday. I couldn’t afford not to take advantage of the free toothbrushes and cheap laundry detergent.
Today, between the increased demands of KOAB and our homeschooling schedule, I don’t make it to CVS more than once a month. Our stockpile is definitely thinning.
And while I know I can get my personal care & household items for pennies on the dollar at CVS if I roll my ECBs, instead I’m electing to take advantage of Amazon’s additional 20% discount for Subscribe & Save items.
I don’t save as much this way, but it’s still better than I’d do for the same items at Target, even with a sale. And since we’ve bumped our food & household items budget a bit, I can absorb that trade-off.
A few years ago, a friend of mine wanted to get into the “drugstore game”. I taught her what I knew and she quickly became a master. But within a few weeks, she realized that her new “hobby” was taking more time than she had. With a demanding two-career family, she just didn’t have the time to devote every Sunday to her CVS visits.
So she scaled back and focused instead on the basics of saving money – updating her price book and sticking to a simple menu plan.
Those basics are what keep us in line today, too. Not getting free shampoo costs me maybe $5-$10/month. Not menu planning costs me several hundred dollars. (Ask me how I know – and how many times I’ve had to be reminded of that lesson!)
Just as life ebbs and flows, so do our personal finances — especially since we are “blessed” with variable income.
Two years ago, we definitely had more time than money. Today we have a little bit more money and seemingly a lot less time.
In the future, the time-money balance may swap again and so we’ll need to make different choices.
I’ve found that the key to continuing to live not just within our means, but below them is to constantly fine-tune our priorities. One day, please God, we’ll have more money than we know what to do with and all this tinkering will be unnecessary.
But in the meantime, we must make the most of all of our resources — including both time and money — by constantly balancing between the two.
Does the “more money than time vs. more time than money” paradigm play out at your house, too? How does it affect your decision-making?