The Financial Folly of Being Busy

Busy, busy, busy.  Most of us are super-busy:  kids, spouse, work, houses, family, friends, and other activities all join together to make our calendars look like we had a pen explosion.  Being busy can be good:  it means that we are are taking care of business and maintaining relationships.  There’s a dark side of busy, though, where being so busy means that we are sacrificing things that are important because we “just don’t have time!”

Are you too busy?  Here’s a list of clues that maybe things have gotten out of hand:

  • You forget to pay a bill on time.  You had the money, it just fell through the cracks.
  • You have take-out or go out to eat because you feel like you don’t have another good choice.
  • You have come close to running out of gas, not because of a lack of money but because you’ve been running.
  • You have woken up and realized that you are missing clothing to wear because everything is dirty.  (The worst is when your child has no clean underwear!)
  • You are failing to do proper maintenance on your body, your house, or your vehicle.

This list could go on and on, but I’m pretty sure you get the picture.

Being too busy is stressful for your family and for you, but it is also stressful on your wallet.  Every time your “to do” list grows, so do the chances for you to make poor decisions or mistakes with your money.  Some consequences are obvious, but others are a little less direct:

  • You buy more clothes because you don’t think you have anything to wear.  I have discovered that 98% of the time, if all my laundry is done, I have exactly the right outfit for every occasion.
  • Your house needs larger repairs because of deferred maintenance such as gutter cleaning, chimney sweeping, or minor plumbing repairs.
  • You have things that you don’t want, but failed to return.
  • You forget to file little things like rebates and prescription claims.
  • You pay more for travel plans because you don’t book until the last minute.

For most people, none of these things are going to put them in the poorhouse.  However, the cumulative effect can have a serious negative impact on your daily money situation.

Most people would benefit from a few less things on their calendar, and a slightly better system for keeping things in line.  Here are some tips from organization experts:

  • Have a good hard think about the things that are actually important to you, and make sure your life is trying to reflect those priorities.  This is the hardest step for most people, including me.  I spend most of my day sitting at a computer, and I don’t see “Facebook” anywhere on my list of things that are important.
  • Get and use a calendar.  Use it for all sorts of things:  meal plans, financial planning, and general calendar stuff.
  • Make and use lists.  I like to keep one long and random list.  Some people prefer to have different lists for different areas of their life.  It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as you use it.
  • Automate and simplify your finances.  This does not mean to set and forget, but rather to set up a framework so that you don’t have to remember every. single. day.
  • Build systems for things you can’t automate, and help these systems become habits.  If you always make a weekly menu while watching your child’s soccer game on a Saturday, you’ll spend less time and money in the Chick-Fil-A drive-through.  If you always throw a load of wash into the machine when you walk downstairs in the morning, you’ll have fewer incidences of no clean underwear.

I’m live in a constant state of trying to make these things happen in my life.  I know that when I am doing them well, things are happy here and I feel like I can take on the world.  When I let things slide, fun and opportunities and money seem to roll right out the door.  Give these suggestions a try, and let me know what you discover.

About the Author

Kate Horrell
Kate Horrell is a military financial coach, mom of four teens, and Navy spouse. She has a background in taxes and mortgage banking, and a trove of experience helping other military families with their money. Follow her on twitter @realKateHorrell.