Creating the Most Time-Efficient Personal Finance Plan
In my early years, I used to focus A LOT on frugality. When we got married in 2005, my wife was still in school and I was just starting my career. My frugal efforts included clipping coupons. I would spend hours online or driving around shopping for the best deals. I would get at least 5-6 different quotes for service jobs/handywork. I would spend hours a week grocery shopping. My wife and I would spend a few hours a month cleaning our home. I would spend 1 hour every week cutting my lawn. I would drive miles for a deal on a used item I found on Craigslist.
In my early years, I would also spend a lot of time on investing. I spent time reading about different companies to invest in. I used to read the day-to-day fluctuations in the stock market and the news behind it. I spent time looking at my portfolio for the opportunity to rebalance or harvest losses. I used to evaluate potential rental properties and go out with realtors to see them.
Both of these strategies saved me a lot of money (being frugal) and made me money (investing).
After some time, I noticed that frugality and investing ate up a lot of time. I had to do something.
Why My Approach Changed
My approach has certainly changed over the years. With each new child, I became more and more focused on time-efficiency (what is going to get me the greatest return in the least amount of time). I still had a full-time job and wanted to maximize my time with the family outside of work. In the early years when we had our first 2 children, I continued my frugal and investing efforts. That strategy worked for a while, but I noticed that it ate into my time at home after work. It was fine when we had no kids, but I wanted to spend time watching them grow.
By the time the 3rd and 4th children came, forget it about it! I had no personal time. From the minute I was done with work, it was off to the races with school pick-ups, homework, activities, dinner, baths, and bedtime.
How My Approach Changed
I took inventory of what I was doing to save money (frugality) and what I was doing to make money (investing). I knew that to trade time for frugality meant that I would be spending more on things. I also knew that spending less time on investments meant that I wouldn’t make as much on investments. I was willing to make the trade. My wife and I had stable jobs in the healthcare field, spent way less than we earned, and we were willing to spend a bit more to get some time back.
We knew these trade-offs will be worth it for the sake of our own sanity and for keeping our family the center of our lives. Here’s what we did:
Of course, life isn’t as clean as a spreadsheet. It’s hard to quantify a lot of the time trade-offs, but its a good start. We’ve probably saved about 6-7 hours a week as we migrated to the more efficient method. We hope that we’re using that time more for the family, but it’s quite possible that we just replaced that time doing other things. For example, I have been focused on earning more and making a bigger impact at work. This has proven to be a successful strategy as I’ve been able to increase my total compensation by 12.5% a year for 15 years (compounded). More to come on that in a future post!
It’s hard to quantify if we’ve lost money or saved money with this time efficient strategy. We’ve definately lost money on the frugality side. However, we’re not sure we lost anything on the investing side. Index investing is much cheaper and produces better returns that individual stock picking.
All in all, whatever money we have traded for more time with the family is worth it. What trade-off’s have you made to get more time back? Comment below!