What price are you paying to save money in your family’s budget? What? You didn’t realize that saving money was going to cost you something? “Lucy, let me ‘splain.” (Please tell me you’ve watched “I Love Lucy”, so I don’t feel ancient and awkward.) 🙂
I had the honor, at the end of January, to speak at our local chapter of M.O.P.S., a fabulous organization, by the way, for all of you with pre-school age children, or younger. I would encourage you to see if your own community has a chapter. The topic, for that meeting, was tips to help moms save money and live abundantly on a frugal budget. As I was organizing the thoughts I wanted to present, I realized that one of the biggest obstacles we all face in earning and/or saving money, is time. “I don’t have time to clip coupons, plan a menu, check the ads, cook at home…” I think we all understand, that no matter what, we MAKE the time for the things that are important to us. If it’s something we care about, we juggle our schedules and make it work. Saving money to get out of debt, cover unexpected expenses and have more to give is a “big deal”. And it DOES have a price. For it to work and to be really successful, saving money (or building money back into your budget) has to be a priority, something you are passionate about. If it isn’t, you just won’t do it. As wives and moms, we juggle so many hats, and if we’re honest, the ones we keep in the air, are the ones that are our highest priorities.
I laughed with the other moms at the M.O.P.S. meeting about an article I had once written, “The Legend of the Super Mom (or I Have Really Big Closets)“. The article was to encourage wives and moms that regardless of what the world has tried to tell us, no one can “have it all”, “be it all”, “do it all”, all the time. When my older girls were small and people would stop by to find us working on a homeschooling project, with the house reasonably neat and everything seemingly running smoothly, I would have to confess that there were often baskets of unfolded laundry and another of random toys and books, stacked in my very large closets. As a homeschooling mom, I can tell you that if we are having a great day with school, the dishes are done AND we had 4-H or dance or whatever, today, their is a mountain of unfolded laundry somewhere in our house. If I have a month’s worth of menus planned and spent two whole days cooking for the freezer, school has been mostly math and reading (recipes) and life skills (doing dishes and helping around the house.) Those things aren’t wrong, they are reality. Beating yourself up, having unrealistic expectations, can put a mom into such a depression that she doesn’t accomplish anything. I’ve been in that place, too. It’s not fun. BUT, you can definitely come out of it. You HAVE to come out of it. Here’s what you have to do. You have to have a plan.
I’m not talking about a rigid schedule that you never deviate from and burn yourself out on. I’m talking about spending a little time thinking about what is most important for you to achieve, prioritizing them and organizing them into a plan of action. The plan is NOT in charge of you. You have the flexibility to make it work for you within the circumstances of your day; but you cannot be flexible within your plan, if you didn’t take the time to make a plan in the first place. So, start with what you know MUST be done. Your family needs to eat; yes, on clean dishes, and yes, multiple times per day. 🙂 They’re going to need clean clothes. As much for yourself, as for the ones you love, you are going to want your home to be a reasonably clean, peaceful, comfortable place to relax and that makes guests feel welcome. Then comes fitting in those priority things like homeschooling or saving money or running a home business or blogging or volunteering or …. fill in your passion(s). Now, do you see what I mean? All those things need to get done, plus you need a date night with your husband and an afternoon with your girlfriends and even a movie night with your family. I’m telling you, now, you CAN’T do it all without a plan. And you need really big closets. 🙂 Well, and help.
Remember the baskets of unfolded laundry and random toys and books, stacked in my very large closets, when my children were small? That wasn’t wrong, it was a survival skill. The priority for that moment was to have a clutter-free, picked up environment, but be focused on our homeschool project. Two or three quick minutes of “surface” tidying, created an environment that let us be able to move on with what was important for that moment. After school was done, we divided the tasks. Part of what you teach your children MUST be the life skills that will serve them into adulthood. Even though it often seems easier to “just do it ourselves”, we have a responsibility to prepare our kids to be responsible, productive adults. You can’t possibly do all that is necessary to keep your home running efficiently and handle all your other responsibilities, without help. If you’re a mom, you weren’t meant to. Part of your job is training and managing, preparing the next generation of responsible, capable adults. I don’t care what you’ve been told or who told it to you, you cannot do it all and do it well, unless you learn to delegate, as ALL effective managers do.
Here’s another news flash! I know, I know — enough already. You are going to have to invest MORE time to make this happen. But, it truly is just that — an investment. You will reap the rewards many times over, in the future, for the time you invest right now, making this happen. Your children are capable of learning the skills that will train them to be responsible, contributing members of a family. They are NOT, however, born with that knowledge. You are not going to be able to say, “Please, take out the trash.” and have it done correctly the way you would like it done, until you have taken the time to train that child that “taking out the trash” means:
- Remove the bag from the trash can.
- Pick up any loose trash around the can and sweep the area to get anything that may have “missed the can”.
- Tie the bag shut.
- Carry the bag to the trash barrel and make sure the lid is replaced tightly.
- Wipe any spills from the outside of the trash can.
- Put a new trash bag, neatly, into the can.
- Put the trash can in its proper place.
Taking out the trash is a simple job, when you know exactly what’s expected and have done it a few times. But, if when you make that request, you have 7 steps in mind, you had better have invested the time to teach those 7 steps, ahead of time. Otherwise, you may get an open bag of trash, tossed into the garbage barrel and the empty trash can left in the middle of your kitchen floor. And in the mind of your helper, that would be exactly what you asked them to do, “take out the trash”. You haven’t given birth to mind-readers. Invest your time wisely; train to your expectations first, which will save you the time of re-doing a job, later. Training your children to help with household chores will be ESSENTIAL to you being able to juggle all the other responsibilities that come with wearing the wife/mom hat. Decide what chores are appropriately handled at what ages and then invest the time in training.
A four or five-year-old may not be able to unload the entire dishwasher on their own, but they can certainly put the silverware away. They can pick up toys and put them in a basket or toybox and they can put laundry into a hamper. They can dust furniture and fold dishtowels and wash cloths. And with a dose of grace and patience from you, they can make their own bed. They can learn to set the table, clear the table and wash the table when the meal is finished. They can empty bathroom wastebaskets and replace the bags.
An eight or nine-year-old can most certainly unload the dishwasher, though you may need to provide a kitchen stool, to help them reach higher cabinet shelves. They can run a vacuum and sweep floors. They can learn to operate the washer and dryer, hang clean laundry on hangers and distribute it to the correct closets. They can make their own beds and keep their own rooms neat. They are capable of folding larger pieces of laundry, cleaning bathrooms and completing any tasks that younger children can do.
You are also going to have to let go of some of your ideas of “the right way” to do some specific tasks. For instance, if your bath towels are not only folded, but are put away AND fit into the linen closet, it’s all good. It really doesn’t matter if the towels weren’t folded the exact same way you would have folded them. (Sorry, Honey.) Learn to discern whether something is a matter of laziness /disobedience, a lack of training or a matter of personal “style”. Laziness, disobedience or a lack of training will certainly all need to be addressed. However, if a job is done – differently, but done with skill and neatness – bite your tongue and walk away. The task is complete and you were saved the time it would have taken to do it yourself.
I was going to make some simple spreadsheet schedule/planners to share with you, but the reality is that the Internet is full of free ones. So, instead of reinventing the wheel, I’m going to link you to some of my favorites.
- Chore Charts at Chart Jungle – This page also has charts of the steps necessary to complete specific chores.
- Age Appropriate Chore Lists – Need some ideas for exactly what chores your child is capable of handling?
- Basic Household Cleaning List – This one’s great for older kids and for you, too!
- Planners & Schedules – Lots of schedules and planner pages! Whatever type of calendar you like to use, you’ll find something to fit your needs here.
A schedule, that’s right –a plan– and trained time- and money-savers to help you implement it. Those are going to be the core of what saves you the time you can invest into some serious money-making or saving activities. Some of what we will talk about in our next post will save you money AND time all in the same activity! But, to wind up today’s post, I want to leave you with a little bit of inspiration. It was one of those “epiphany” moments for me, when the truth of this hit me. I even did the math myself. 🙂 What would you do with an extra $1000? If I said that one year from today, I would come back here and give every person who comments on this post $1,000, would you be excited?!!!! Me, too! But, I’m not going to do that. Sorry. 🙂 The good news is, one year from today, you can come back here and YOU will be able to tell me that you just paid yourself $1000! It’s not as outrageous as it sounds. Did you realize that if you divided $1000 by 52 weeks, it is only $19.24? AMAZING!!!
What small changes would you be willing to make in your spending to save $19.24 a week? For many of us, it’s as simple as planning ahead for that hectic night (For our family, it’s Wednesday nights. Oy!) when you are so rushed you don’t have time to cook. Eating at home, instead of eating out might be all it takes to put $19.24 in your savings each week. For some others, it might be giving up that $3.50 gourmet coffee drink each afternoon on the way home from work, or cutting out soda (Breaking my Coca Cola habit could save our family thousands and likely improve my health, so trust me when I say, “I’m not picking on soda drinkers.”). I’m just saying that each of us, when we really weigh the difference between wants and needs and between investing time or investing money, could find innumerable ways to pull that $19.24 out of our existing budgets. In the next post, we’ll also discuss ways to combine saving a small amount of money each week and increasing it by earning a little extra cash, too, so that the $19.24 is even easier to achieve.
It just takes a plan and then working the plan! You can definitely do this!! This week, get a schedule on paper — for you and your kids. Invest some time teaching them skills that will serve them the rest of their lives and free you up to make some dramatic changes to your family finances.