Monday, February 18, 2008

No, I Just Thought About It More.

Many years ago, Amy Dacyczyn, author and publisher of The Tightwad Gazette was informed by someone that they could never be as creative as she was, as it was a natural talent.  To this, Amy replied "No, I just thought about it more".

The thing about living below your means, frugality and practicing thoughtful spending is that it takes planning.  It takes thought.  It takes foresight.  It takes thinking about what you are going to need - for food, for clothing, for vehicles, for housing, for heating and everything in between - in advance of needing that thing.  If you know you will need or want to purchase/obtain something in advance, the time allows you to shop around, look around, and find the best possible thing at the best possible price.

I was thinking about this in my kitchen tonight.  I spent about an hour in there, having a little time to cook in between work deadlines.  As I was preparing dinner, I was also cooking something for my lunch at work for the next 2 days, packing my husband's lunch, filling the butter keeper, putting bread for my breakfast of toast for tomorrow in the toaster oven, and filling the olive oil jar.  

It wasn't so much that I was multitasking, but that I was employing foresight.  Dinner tonight isn't something that will have leftovers, so I needed lunch food.  And since I'll be at work late tomorrow, I'm making enough for the following day as well.  And this one hour investment of my time in the kitchen allows me to spend much less time on a busy night.  

In the same vein, I headed upstairs to pull out clothes for the next few days.  The last thing I want to do at 5:30 in the morning is choose an outfit, so I make a point of picking out clothes in advance.  

Employing this approach is also why last December, after the holidays, I was buying gifts for my nephews and nieces next birthdays.  I put them in a closet, and pull them out at the appropriate time.  Great gifts for great prices.  It's also why our garden pays off - I decide in January what I want to eat in June.  

Those who aren't big fans of planning - and I am married to one of those people - do not understand how anyone could want to plan what they eat, wear, and so on.  But it helps - our lives are infinitely less chaotic when we plan.   And while planning things all the time isn't always fun, it has allowed us to steadily check off a series of goals.

Our biggest goal is to downshift in 10 years.  December 24, 2018 is the day we are planning to get me off the corporate ladder.  This takes a huge amount of planning, savings, and thought, and it's not going to be easy.

The goal is the thing that keeps us looking forward.  It's what gets me into the kitchen when a takeout pizza is calling.  It's what has kept us from buying things we don't need, instead choosing to invest the money both literally, and into our home.  

The savings gained by thinking ahead is hard to estimate.  I can calculate easily what we save by taking lunch.  But the cumulative effect of looking ahead has literally saved us thousands, if not tens of thousands, over the years.  And over time, foresight and planning tasks become second nature.  I don't even consider if I feel like packing lunches any more, it's automatic, built into my schedule.  So are many of the other things we do.  

I believe thinking about things pays off.  I know it does - I look at our home, our bank account, an our life, and I have proof.  But it's not always simple to learn how to plan ahead, or change existing habits.  I goaled myself to change 2 expensive habits a month.  I still do, although there are fewer now to change.  

So think a little - what is it you need to do tomorrow, next week, next month.  Look around for that thing.  Try making it yourself.  You'll thank yourself later.


Sarah said...

You said that you are the planner in your rlsp and you hubby is sort of along for the planning ride.

How does that work out for you? Has your husband learned to plan also or do you do the planning for both of you? Do you ever feel resentful that you do all fo the planning and he gets the benefits of it?

Maybe he offers something of value that equals out your planning efforts. Maybe the fact that you will retire in 2018 but he will not makes you feel like the division of labor is equitable.

I'm asking because this is a challenge I have in my marriage and I would like to hear what you have to say about it since you said that you do all of the shopping and all of the lunch packing and it seems most of the cooking. Do you ever get tired of it? When you were in the kitchen keeping your life moving along where was your husband? Was he doing something fabulous or was he watching tv (like mine would have been)?

Ms.Moneypenny said...

You know, it's funny, but it more drives him nuts that everything requires a plan and a list. I admit I'm not so great at flying by the seat of my all.

It honestly doesn't bother me. Sander does the bulk of the renovations, since he's more skilled and precise, whereas I tend to get impatient with stuff like that. So if me cooking and packing lunches means that our wiring gets redone, I don't mind.

As for where is he, he does quite a lot. Right now, when I'm very busy, he does the dishes, often packs his lunches, and every night, regardless, he grinds fresh coffee beans and sets up the pot to brew in the morning.

He also cleans quite a bit. When we make an agreement that something renovation-wise needs to get done, I manage that stuff. But when we're not doing renovations, he's in the bathrooms cleaning as much as I am. I am lucky that this hasn't been a struggle for us.

And he takes care of me in a lot of other ways. So I'm actually pretty thrilled with him about the things he does.

In your case, what does your husband do for you and your household? Is it equal - not necessarily the same - but equal? Or are you carrying all the weight?