I've written before about how having enough money to buy some conveniences is one of the things that I think makes me a happy working mom. In fact, buying time is one of my favorite things to do with my money these days. When I did the time tracking exercise as part of my "life reorg", I was horrified by the amount of time I was spending on chores, so I set out to find more ways to buy time, using some of the ideas in the 168 hours book and also some ideas of my own. Some of the ideas didn't work for us- for instance, grocery delivery didn't end up saving any time. But, I think the basic premise is sound, and I am still looking for new ideas. So I thought I'd post a list of some of the ways I buy time, and see if any of you have new ideas for me.
- The biggie is the housecleaning service. We've recently decided to increase the frequency and get the cleaners to come every other week instead of once a month. This was a result of our big argument about chores. I finally convinced Hubby that it just isn't worth the money we save to try to do the cleaning ourselves- either it doesn't get done, or one of us thinks the other is slacking and we waste time and energy arguing over it. We still do some touch up cleaning and a smattering of "deep cleaning" chores, but soon, I won't have to worry about who is going to dust or clean the bathrooms.
- I buy a lot of things on Amazon. Really. I rarely go to Target, or even the drug store, anymore. I signed up for Amazon Mom, which gets me free Prime shipping as long as I keep buying things like baby lotion and toddler wipes. I was reluctant to sign up at first- I was sure there would be a catch. There isn't, as far as I can tell, and I am glad I signed up. Here is a list of some of the things I've bought on Amazon in the last few months:
- A new watch (my last one fell off at some point and I didn't notice)
- Art supply boxes to organize the abundance of crayons, markers, and stamps Pumpkin now owns. I think I'm going to buy another one and a matching box for papers.
- Princess band-aids. God forbid we run out of these.
- Markers and a book of mazes for a birthday gift for a day care buddy.
- The Paper Bag Princess, which I paired with a princess coloring book for a birthday gift for another day care buddy.
- A Farm Animal Train Set to add to Pumpkin's train empire (a birthday gift for her).
- The Brome 1055 Squirrel Buster Mini, because Petunia likes to watch birds in our backyard, and the stupid big birds broke our last feeder.
- Quick Fix Meals- to add some variety to our meal rotation.
- Biokleen Bac-Out Stain & Odor Eliminator. We relied on this product heavily during Pumpkin's potty refusal stage, and have now discovered that its pretty good at getting out various food stains, too.
- A fishie bath mat so that we could start giving Petunia baths in the big tub with her big sister, allowing us to consolidate down to one bath time.
- I could go on, but you get the idea. Just about the only thing I won't buy on Amazon is clothes for me- it rarely turns out well.
- I don't clip coupons or compare prices across different grocery stores. We go to the store nearest our house and the only coupons I use are the ones the store gives us. We do a Costco run once every couple months or so, mainly for beer, diapers, graham crackers (still beloved by both my girls), and various paper products. And we go to Trader Joe's about once a month, too, since they make the only American breakfast cereal Hubby likes and they stock New Zealand cheddar cheese (which is very tasty- try it sometime).
- I make use of a variety of convenience foods- as I outlined in an earlier post.
- I'll pay more for things like frying pans and dishwashers to simplify kitchen cleanup. I still love my scanpan and dishwasher.
But I also hear women whom I know are as well-off as I am say that they can't afford some of the things I do. That may be true- just like you never really know what is going on inside someone else's marriage, you never know the true state of someone else's finances. However, there are choices I make that compensate a bit for my refusal to clip coupons or comparison shop. As I mentioned in my comment on Liz's post, I don't get manicures or pedicures. Heck, I don't even paint my nails. I don't see the point. I only manage to get my hair cut about three times a year, and I use Suave shampoo and conditioner and Pantene hair gel (each about $2-3 per bottle)- and I swear I can't tell the difference from when I used to use the expensive stuff from my salon. I'll admit that my hair could use slightly more frequent trims, but a braid works well for the last month or so before I finally get around to going in for a cut. I don't have a huge wardrobe, and I tend to buy with an eye for quality and styles that will last.
It is all about choices, really, and the right choices will be different for every individual. But I think we have to own our choices and be aware of the trade offs we're making. There is an old adage in project management and software development- you can have two of the following: fast, good, and cheap. In any project, you have to find the combination that makes the most sense for the situation: what is fast enough, good enough, and cheap enough to make the project a success? I think something similar applies to working motherhood. You have to balance between time with the kids, money, and time for all the other things in your life. The balance you come up with will depend on your situation, but it will always be a balance.
So what's the balance in your house? Do you buy time? If so, how?