Why We’re So Bad at Saving Money, etc.

>> Wednesday, September 27, 2017

I’ve been mulling over a lot since I last wrote about our budget and desire to get out of debt. At the time when I wrote, Stephen was still home for summer break, and I was basically milling my own grain to bake homemade bread daily, cooking up fresh batches of yogurt + cheese, and generally being a model homesteading mother. I love this stuff. It’s the stuff of my life that brings me a lot of happiness. As the pace of life has picked up (here's our day in the life) with the start of school and coaching season, however, I have had a lightbulb moment.

It won’t shock any of you. But I’ve realized WHY we are so horrible at saving money even when we have the best of intentions. When life is slow and time is, well, plentiful, we have lots of energy to expend. Energy equals dollars, quite honestly. When I have lots of energy, I’m able to keep my house clean, I’m able to cook homemade meals, I’m able to mix together all my own household cleaners. When I have more energy and time, I am able to think of more ways to save money.

Heck, I’m able to think, period.

When energy and time are taken out of the equations, that’s when convenience enters. Again, this isn’t mind-blowing by any means, but when you’re just surviving everyday life . . . it can be hard to pinpoint why exactly, say, you’re driving to get a bagel and coffee (and you don’t even like coffee) in a haze and then somehow also want to fork over $20 or more for takeout on a Wednesday evening. And then your mind is made up that you may never cook again.

Convenience has both good and bad connotations, doesn’t it? 

It means easy-breezy and comfortable. 

It also means waste (packaging, money, etc.) and laziness. 

What am I talking about? Well, packaged foods and beverages come to mind. Takeout and heat-up meals are another offender. Then there’s stuff like paper towels, which we actually have successfully broken the habit of using. Then there’s this grey area of just buying things -- no matter what they are -- in the moment because they’ll help you in some way. Perhaps this is my own emotional purchasing, but like buying a small toy because my kid won’t stop screaming due to teething, and I think it will help.

Where am I going with this?

OK. So, all this stuff costs money. Time equals energy to do things like making laundry detergent, baking bread, and generally being less wasteful. When I don’t have time, I spend lots of money for both practical and emotional reasons. And then it’s this vicious cycle that’s difficult if not impossible to break. Even harder because our society seems set up to drive us into consumerism by default.

So, how to combat this issue?

One thing would be to somehow get more time. Are you snickering? I am. I think all of us would love to find the magic that would provide this luxury. Getting up earlier has certainly given me more time, but I’m using that time for work and exercise right now. Alright, then there’s having more money. LOL again. How about getting more energy somehow? I know a lot of people drink coffee. I go in phases with the stuff. I’ve mentioned it before, but it actually gives me a headache, so I’ve tried tea . . . but it doesn’t give me much of a boost. I also don’t want to be dependent on some substance all the time.

In the absence of more time, money, and energy, I think all that’s left to do is to resist the urge to give in to all conveniences. Some, sure. But I think it’s a slippery slope once you get going. Or at least once I get going, it seems like one convenience leads to another. Resist is such a heavy word. It sounds difficult and laborious. And that’s exactly what it is. Beyond resisting, I suppose it's finding balance and also finding faster ways to do the things that will make all that homemade stuff more convenient.

I had written up a series a while back, Green in 15. I suppose I need to take a lesson from myself. As an aside, I’m sure you’ve realized by now that bloggers are no more expert at anything than you are. We just like to talk and take photos of things we often do for the first time and find groundbreaking. To be fair, there are plenty of things I’ve shared in this space that I’ve honed for years and years. But there are definitely a few I’m guilty of jumping the gun on sharing.

Back to my original thoughts:

A.) I can’t do it all. I need to give myself grace if I give in to things that make my life easier. Even if that means temporarily creating more waste and spending more money.

B.) Not everything has to take such a long time. Maybe there are even some smart hacks I could try on my old methods to make my favorite DIY stuff.

C.) I can look at one thing at a time. Maybe some weeks, I just need a clear goal. Like cooking all our meals at home could be first. It doesn’t have to be difficult. I could get back into batch cooking or freezer meals. After that, I could nudge myself out of the freezer aisle and stop buying more prepared foods at insane markups. The next week, I could try out a dry laundry soap recipe that takes less time than the one I mix together by boiling. Etc.

How do you deal with this situation in your everyday life? Have you triumphed over the time/energy trappings? I’ll be sure to report back on my progress. 

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