How To Be Frugal With Your Time, Not Just Your Money

Frugal Hound trying to figure out how to use her money

What do you do with your time? The most common topic of conversation here on Frugalwoods is “what do you do with your money?” but I posit that how you use your time is directly correlated with how you use your money. In my opinion and experience, time and money are our two greatest resources and the resources with the power to impact every single facet of our lives. I’ve heard folks say that their health, their family, their children, or their pets are their greatest resources, but I think that all of those wonderful elements of life aren’t resources; rather, they’re the products of how we use our resources–namely, our time and our money.

The number one reason why Mr. Frugalwoods and I wanted to achieve financial independence and move out here to our homestead was to control how we use our time. Controlling our money was the crucial first step in making this happen, but ultimately, our goal was to have complete discretion over how the hours in our day are allocated (of course, as parents, how our time is allocated is a totally different story for a different day… ).

Empower Yourself To Use Your Time As You Want

I didn’t want to look back on my life at age 90 and realize I’d spent the bulk of it sitting in a cubicle in an office doing work for other people. And so, I committed myself to radically changing the way I utilize my money–I stopped spending, I started saving, and I invested. My money bought me my freedom, but what I mean by “freedom” is that my money bought me the ability to decide how I spend my time. Yeah, money is important, but money without control over your time is worthless. What’s the point of having mountains of cash if you’re not living the life you want to be living?

Using my time as I want: in the garden!

In this way, choosing frugality over spending is a way of empowering yourself to do the things you want to do–not the things you must do. It’s easy to get slotted into a predetermined mode of existence. It happens to most of us without our even realizing and it happened to me for sure. We find ourselves with a job, a mortgage, bills, debt, day care payments, fill in the blank payments, and so, we have to keep working a job we might not like in order to support a lifestyle we might not enjoy. Inertia keeps us going in a direction we might not have chosen, but that we see no alternative to. We work for the weekends, we look forward to vacations, we hope things will get better without taking any action steps towards improvement. Why do we do this to ourselves? It is possible to break out of this cycle. It is possible to regain control of your life. But it takes discipline and an overarching sense of knowing what it is that you do want out of life. And, contrary to popular myth, frugality is not inconsistent with using time wisely–I find there are many ways to spend both less money and less time. More on that concept here: Time vs. Money: How We Choose.

My question for you now is: what do you want to do with your time? And how does that compare with our initial query of: what do you do with your time? How far out of alignment are your answers? My answers to those two questions used to be poles apart. I was working in an office for other people in the city and didn’t have kids while what I wanted to be doing was working at home on my own business in the country with kids. Now that I’ve brought that aspiration to fruition, I find that I still have room to improve on my daily routines. How I use my time every single day equals the life I will have. Everything I do or don’t do will be reflected later on through either regret or pride.

In the past, I simply trudged through a day, a week, a month. I didn’t bring much intention to how my hours were used. I was young (I still am, right?!?) and I sort of assumed I had loads of time to accomplish things in the future. I was also a victim of doing things I thought I was “supposed” to do, as opposed to things I wanted to do. Now, I find myself in a very different iteration of life, with very little time to myself–that’s what parenting and homesteading will do to you. As a result, how I use my time underwent a dramatic shift. I get more done in less time and am actually far more productive than I used to be pre-kid and pre-homestead. This is not due to alchemy or magic, it’s due entirely to prioritization. Ruthless prioritization. I’ve discussed this concept before, but today I want to dig into concrete examples.

Conduct A Time Audit

If you find yourself not accomplishing the things you want (which probably applies to all of us… ), perform a time audit. In exactly the same way as we all track every dollar we spend, we’re going to track every hour of our time (hint: if you’re not tracking your expenses yet, I use and recommend the free service of Personal Capital for this task). You don’t have to do this forever, but for a day or for a week write down how you use your time. Where do the hours of your day go? What are the activities that comprise your life?

Eliminate Things

View from our lower field

Now that we all know how we use our time, what can you eliminate entirely from your routine? Back in 2014 when Mr. FW and I outlined our plan to quit our jobs and move to our homestead, I had the realization that the ways in which I used my time and my money were inconsistent with my longterm goals. Another element of this exercise is to uncover if–like me–you have unrealistic expectations of how much you can accomplish in a day. I fight that battle with myself all the time and it’s an ongoing struggle for me to understand what’s reasonable for me to get done. It’s such a problem for me, in fact, that I have an entire post dedicated to the topic: The Tyranny Of Time Optimism.

Through my own time audit, I learned I was wasting both my time and my money on short-term desires that did nothing to get me closer to my aspirations in life. You all know the full story of how we stripped away all of our unnecessary spending, and if you’d like to follow the steps we took to save over 70% of our income and reach financial independence, you can take my free Uber Frugal Month Challenge. What you might not know is that around that same time, I eliminated tons of time wasters.

Parallel to my desire to move to our homestead was my desire to build up my online business and I couldn’t do that (while working full-time) with all the drains on my time that I’d incorporated into my life. I wanted to start doing the things I’d always said I’d do–namely, writing for a living–and so, I eliminated activities that didn’t bring me fulfillment and didn’t align with my priorities. Why waste time doing things that don’t matter in the long run?

Here are some of the things I stopped doing in order to claw back more hours in my day:

  • Painting my finger and toe nails. I did this ritual myself, which made it cheap in terms of money, but not cheap in terms of time. I spent hours each week on my home manicure/pedicure. By giving this up, I regained those hours and saved money on nail polish as an added benefit. I now paint my nails once or twice a year for special occasions, which makes it a fun treat as opposed to a weekly time-draining chore.
  • Watching TV. Mr. FW and I watch one show together every night, but that’s it. No TV during the day, no second TV show, no movies (too long). We could eliminate this one TV show, but we enjoy relaxing together on the couch and it’s part of our evening wind-down ritual after Babywoods 1 goes to bed. (side note: here’s how we watch TV for free).
  • Daily hair and makeup. I greatly simplified my morning routine and stopped wearing makeup most days. I usually put my hair up into a simple bun, which takes very little time and lasts all day. I started having Mr. FW cut my hair and, as a result, saved a boatload of money. But most profound of all, I became more confident in who I am and what I look like. I occassionally wear makeup for fun, but it’s no longer a daily preoccupation and time suck.
  • Cleaning the house. OK, I didn’t stop cleaning the house, but I did decrease the frequency of my cleanings. We still pick-up the living areas and clean the kitchen every night and I clean our main floor bathroom and vacuum weekly, but other stuff… doesn’t get done quite as often. And you know what? It’s totally fine and it takes me much, much less time.
  • Shopping. I don’t shop anymore. Groceries are essentially the only thing we buy on a regular basis. Ceasing my trips to thrift stores just to browse or in search of great deals on clothing served to: save time, save money, reduce stress, and reduce the amount of clutter in my home. I still cruise garage sales on occasion but I try to focus in only on things I know we need.

Watching TV: not something we spend a lot of time doing

What I realized in either eliminating or reducing the amount of time I spent on all of these activities is that I’d been dedicating precious hours of my life to things that ultimately don’t matter to me. Watching TV doesn’t make me a happier, more productive person and a lengthy morning routine doesn’t mean I’ll have a better, more fulfilling day.

Identifying and then eliminating drains on my time that serve no lasting purpose is an ongoing quest for me. I question my routines constantly and I question the things I choose to do because I only have so many hours in a day. Between parenting Babywoods 1 and working from home and helping out on the homestead and being pregnant, there’s only do much I can accomplish in a given time frame.

Thus, the things I decide to do have to be in alignment with my longterm goals. Given this, there’s a whole lot that I just don’t do. For example, people are shocked that I don’t do arts and crafts–I mean, come on, I’m a frugal momma on a homestead! But frankly, I hate arts and crafts and don’t want to spend my time on them. So, I don’t. I’d rather do yoga in my free time and so, I do.

In that same vein, there’s a whole lot that I don’t spend money on. How my time and money get used are unique to me, very personal, and related to what I want my life to look like. How you choose to use your time and money will necessarily be different because your goals, your circumstances, and your likes and dislikes are different than mine. The key is that you do what works for you and what makes you happy.

What About Required Stuff That I Hate Doing?

It’s easy to chop out unneeded activities (like surfing social media and watching TV), but then there’s a whole slew of things–we’ll call them chores–that we have to do but might not enjoy doing. How to handle this category of items? I approach these required tasks with several guiding principles:

  1. Enshrine efficiency
  2. Delegate
  3. Create a routine

Frugalwoods feet on our clean floor (I don’t paint my toenails anymore… )

First, efficiency. For everything I have to do, I find ways to do it as efficiently as possible. I get to this point of efficiency primarily through trial and error. I consider the most efficient time of day for a chore and the best way to get it done. For example, the most efficient way for our laundry to dry outside is in the morning when the sun shines onto our back porch.

Hence, I start loads of laundry first thing in the morning before I even eat breakfast. If I don’t do this, I’m left with partially dried clothes that have to be brought inside to dry overnight, which creates more work for me. By leveraging the sunniest part of the day, I economize the time I spend doing laundry. (This works in the wintertime too when I dry clothes in our kitchen taking advantage of the morning sun that streams through our bay windows).

Mr. FW and I apply efficiency-oriented principles to everything we do and we look for ways to streamline our work. One of the primary ways that we get things done with a toddler underfoot is knowing what we can do with Babywoods 1 and what we can’t do with her. Let’s continue with laundry. Babywoods 1 LOVES to “help” me fold and put away laundry; hence, I save that chore for a time when she’s awake. Folding laundry during her naps would rob me of the opportunity to do things I can’t do with her around (namely, writing). Hence, my days and my weeks are largely oriented around things I do with Babywoods 1 and things I need to do alone. When she’s napping or with Mr. Frugalwoods, I am usually on my computer working. And when she’s with me, we are doing an active chore together like emptying the dishwasher or picking tomatoes in the garden.

Babywoods 1: 100% happy with how she uses her time

Second, delegation. This works if you have other people living in your household. If you live alone, this point may be moot, although let me know if not! Mr. FW and I have a clearly divided list of household responsibilities that we very rarely (if ever) deviate from. We have this division of labor for several reasons:

  • It eliminates (most) fighting over household tasks. We don’t argue over who will get the baby up or cook dinner or take the trash out because these are all enshrined in our division of labor. There are fewer decisions for us to make in a day because we both know what’s expected of us.
  • It engenders fairness and equality. There’s less resentment in our marriage because we feel that this division of labor is equitable and so there’s no argument over who is doing more work for the family.
  • It allows us to specialize in our areas of expertise. By doing the same chores over and over again for many years, we’ve both gotten better at what we do and refined our techniques, which in turn allows us to get our chores done faster.
  • It ensures everything gets done. We don’t get to the end of the day and wonder why the floor is dirty and what we’re going to eat for dinner and who will take Frugal Hound out because we’ve each taken care of our respective tasks.

Laundry drying in the warm sun

Thirdly, routine. Similar to our division of labor, we both adhere to a routinized schedule. I always do the laundry and clean the downstairs bathroom on Mondays. Mr. FW always goes to the grocery store on Mondays. This routine creates even more efficiency by eliminating time spent dithering over when to make a grocery list and also lets the other person know what’s happening in the household on a given day. It eliminates the mental energy of trying to determine if the bathroom is dirty or not (it is), it simply gets cleaned every Monday, no questions asked.

Mr. FW, our household cook, utilizes efficiency and routine in how he approaches our meals. Rather than cook every single night of the week, which between working and homesteading and parenting he never has the time for, he only cooks once or sometimes twice a week. Seriously. He whips up a huge batch-o-food once a week (right now it’s kale, chard, and green bean stir fry to use up all these veggies from our garden) and then we eat that all week long. Other times, he’ll freeze large batch meals and we’ll defrost something different each night. Either way, we eat inexpensive, healthy, home cooked meals every night with a fraction of the time and effort.

Enshrine efficiency into everything that you do with an eye towards spending your time (and as a result, your money) in ways that YOU enjoy and in ways that YOU want to–not in ways that you feel you must or have to.

Set A Bed Time

Where we are at 9pm

I want to mention another ironclad element of our routine: a strict bed time. Before getting our lives together–both financially and in terms of how we use our time and what we want in the long term–Mr. FW and I went to bed… whenever. We stayed up late. We were tired and grouchy every single morning. We stayed up even later on the weekends, which threw off our entire sleep cycle.

It took us YEARS (we’re not fast learners), but we finally figured out that we both need A LOT of sleep. Like a lot. And so, we go to bed at 9pm and then read for awhile and turn our lights out at 10pm. Every night. We wake up when Babywoods 1 wakes up, which is always sometime between 6:30am and 7am. I told you, we need a lot of sleep!

No matter how much is undone at 9pm, no matter how many unread emails we have, no matter how tempting another TV show sounds, we go to bed. It’s non-negotiable because we both operate better, feel better, and are just generally nicer people with a full night’s sleep. Trying to cram more work into the wee hours is not a way to create greater efficiency (at least not for me). For me, it’s better to do less and still get all of my sleep than to eat away at those hours of rest and compromise my ability to function (and function happily, might I add). More sleep makes me more productive.

Closing Thoughts

I want to mention that while this system works remarkably well for us, it might not work for you. However, I know people who are unhappily stuck in patterns of using their time and money in ways that are frustrating and unfulfilling to them. The goal here is to identify what works in your life and what doesn’t work and what you can change to improve how your week flows.

I am fond of saying that, “in the end, the only person who will care how you’ve lived your life is you,” and it bears repeating here because how we use our time is perhaps the best indicator of the type of life we’ll have. How we spend our money can prevent or enable a lifestyle, but ultimately, the true measure of who we are is how we use our time. How do you use yours?

What strategies do you employ to ensure that your time usage is in alignment with your priorities?

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83 Responses

  1. Time wasted is a larger problem that money wasted alot of times. It’s pretty easy to see that you’re wasting money, but I think we can trick ourselves into thinking we use our time for good things. I know we waste more time than we mean to at times, for the sake of doing something good.
    My husband is all about being efficient, so he’s regularly trying to make us, as a family, be more efficient. I try to do things as batches, like if I’m writing, I try to write a rough draft of 3 or so articles before I move on to the editing stage. I also make larger batches of things, like cookies, and freeze them in dough balls. Cookie dough, ready when we have somewhere we need to bring a dessert for!
    I’m not great at being efficient with my time during the day, or as good as I’d like to be. I actually was getting ready to go over my time and schedule to fit in more time to work on my blog, so this came at a good time! 🙂

    • Louise says:

      On one hand…I agree with you that it’s good for your husband to make sure your family is being efficient. You don’t want to waste time and miss out on the things that are really important.

      OTOH, I feel like obsessive tracking of time, efficiency and productivity is a negative obsession. If I’m relaxing, I’m relaxing… no you can’t make me efficient then.

      “Take a few minutes for yourself out of the day and do the dishes”

      “Try doing chair push ups to keep your body toned (for yourself) while you wait for the water to boil instead of (browsing the web, talking to your partner, texting your friends)”

  2. Mr. Tako says:

    Cutting out unnecessary or frivolous activities is helpful, but efficiency is everything! After having two kids I realized the importance of utilizing every possible minute, so I try to make every minute count.

    Focus is also really important when trying to improve efficiency. With a couple kids around, there’s always a lot of distractions. One of the ways I improved my efficiency was finding times/places where I could focus to get things done. It was a huge help!

  3. My wife and I employ a lot of the same strategies. We try to get in bed by 10 pm each night and up by 7 am to maximize our days. We try to avoid time sucks, which includes TV and people that don’t provide maximum amounts of enjoyment. One of the things that we’re doing now that we’ve paid off our house is using some of our money to increase our time doing activities that we enjoy more. We’re not going crazy, we’re still saving 65% of our take home pay but we’re still really enjoying life 🙂

  4. I agree about auditing your time. A couple of years ago, I started auditing/tracking in Excel every single minute I worked and then I realized I was working too much unpaid overtime. So I started to slow down and tried to find ways to become more efficient and FRUGAL with my time.

    But now with the blogging, it’s getting busy again and I’m not sleeping enough hours. There’s so much to do especially at the beginnin. Hopefully with time, it will get better 😊.

  5. Mrs. Kiwi says:

    It is amazing how much time I gained back by stopping shopping. We were never crazy spenders, but when we were bored, instead of doing something that we wanted to do we would just waste the hours.

    My husband suffers from daily constant chronic pain, which really focused us in on using our time efficiently and fighting to get hours back in the day. Even with the pain we have grown so much by using our time efficiently.

  6. Money provided me the opportunity to take a risk and leave my full time corporate job. This opened up significant time to focus on spending quality time with our two little kids and achieve a dream of starting my own company. Now that same corporate job is contracting me for 20 hours a week. This is a fantastic balance between pursuing a dream of mine and spending ample time playing with the little ones.

    Congrats on finding whats important to you and making the necessary changes. Not everyone learns this or finds the oppurtunity.

  7. Yes! This is a current focus for my husband and I. We are trying to assess our life and whittle out the things that are non-value add or don’t align with our goals.

    I transitioned to working full time remote for my company last year (we moved across the country). On the efficiency front- I now use me “coffee breaks” during the day to do a quick load of laundry or a round of dishes. These tasks used to pile up all week while I was spending my days in the office and commuting. Now, I can get a few of these items done during the day so I have more time with my husband and son in the evenings and on weekends.

    I also find that grocery delivery (Amazon Prime, Google Express and Shipt in our area) have been key! I hate grocery shopping and I alway ended up going on the weekend when lines were long and I wanted to be hanging out with my family. Now, I just don’t go to the stores, I have more time with family and I am happier 🙂

    And thank you for pointing out that: “The key is that you do what works for you and what makes you happy.” It is easy to compare our lives with others, but we need to remain focused on the fact that each of our lives is unique and will look very different!

  8. Mitch says:

    A wonderful post. Too often those who embrace frugality (and like me, minimalism) miss the point. You capture it well. I think time-saving is one of the reasons for the explosive growth of online shopping for basic, everyday items. Frees up so much time……

  9. Taking a look at where you’re spending time is almost as important as a budget. It’s like having a running journal of your days and increasing/reducing things that aren’t or are working.

  10. This is such a great question. I think about whether I have spent my time efficiently almost every five minutes of the day. What have I done in those five minutes? What progress have I made? What results have I accomplished?

    Those questions keep me on the go and help me assesses my productivity. Sometimes it does get exhausting questing the purpose of my minutes all the time. But at the end of the day, saving time helps save money and live a more meaningful life!

  11. I’m a night owl, and I love the quiet time to write or just enjoy the quiet. But more and more I’m realizing what the lack of sleep is doing to my health. I think it’s time to set an actual bedtime for myself and make myself stick to it.

    Last night I wrote down a list of all the things going on in my life. It’s no wonder I’m stressed! I can barely keep up with blogging these days, and that’s something I started for myself. I’m disappointed that I can’t seem to make the time for it these days. I think I need a time audit so I can see where it’s leaking through the cracks. Thanks for the suggestion.

  12. I’d summarize some of what you said as

    Money = Financial Independence = Freedom to live how you want

    I couldn’t agree more. My life after FIREing is very different from my life when I worked at a Cubicle Farm. Gone is the long commute, long meetings, hermetically sealed office windows, and working in the middle of the night.

    Now I do what I want whenever I want – within reason, of course. I get to spend much more time outdoors, reading, spending time with Mrs. FF and friends, and much more.

    “It’s easy to get slotted into a predetermined mode of existence. It happens to most of us without our even realizing and it happened to me for sure.”

    Indeed, it is! I call this the life of the Oblivious Wage Slave and it makes me sad. As you point out, there is a better alternative. You can change your spending habits, save more, invest more and eventually shatter your Wage Slave chains.

  13. Marina says:

    Great post. My challenge has been to figure out what it is that I want to do with my time. I know that I don’t want to spend the next 20 or however many years sitting in a cube working for other people on their timelines, but I am not quite sure what alternative I do want. Unlike you, Mrs. FW, I don’t think I would enjoy living in the country and being home with my kid(s) all day 🙂 And so I find myself stuck in the same patterns of going to work, living for the weekend, and realizing that time is just going so fast.

    I have prioritized paying off debt and saving/investing, so for now my goal is to buy a (hopefully) reasonably priced home and have enough saved to at least make some job changes. Your story is very inspiring though, and certainly is a lot better than the constant consumer message we get constantly.

  14. Thank you for a wonderful and thought-provoking article. You reminded me about the importance of focusing on tasks like writing when I have alone time, and not wasting those precious quiet hours on household chores. A few more thoughts: It helps me to figure out my Top 3 priorities each morning, so that no matter what surprises come along I can stay focused on getting those very most important things done. Sometimes if I’m procrastinating, I’ll set the kitchen timer for 15 minutes and do things in chunks of time. Finally, I keep a running monthly “victory list” and jot down the accomplishments I’m proud of. These nerdy tasks keep me motivated. Thanks again for a great post!

  15. We utilize a lot of these strategies. Unfortunately we are not as good at them these days as two young boys really throw a wrench in finding time for yourself and chores. They also make scheduling tough. This is a big reason my wife became a stay at home mom now part time consultant. More time to mitigate some of the inherit chaos inefficiency.

  16. This is such a good point. I often get so wrapped up in different ways to save money and resources that I completely forget about the time cost associated with that activity. I definitely need to do a time audit since I feel like I waste a lot of time. I love your ideas about setting up a family routine and having a clear division of chores that everyone in the family agrees with to avoid disagreements. That’s definitely something I’ll try to implement.

    It’s true that for most people who want to retire early or have more money, what they really want is more time. Having the ability to control how you spend your time is one of the best parts of being financially independent. However, we can start looking at what is sucking up our time starting today and make the changes we can right now. At least that’s my plan. 🙂

  17. Emily says:

    Wow, we are such kindred spirits! I, too, no longer paint my fingernails or thrift for fun. Such little things, but they become burdensome (and thrifting adds up!) I wholeheartedly agree with questioning everything in your schedule and asking “why do I do this?” ” should I keep doing this?” I never worked in a cubicle, but I am so thankful I was able to quit my job at Trader Joe’s a year and a half ago to stay home with my boys. I highly recommend the book “your money or your life” on the topic – as it goes into the “real costs” of working. Once you add it all up, some of us might be paying to work between the commute, daycare costs, food out, etc. Thank you for sharing your insight into crafting your dream life!!

  18. Michaela says:

    I really, really love this post! I am so inspired by thinking about how different my life could be and how I could actually do those things I always end up not even starting because I’m doing other things, e.g. watching TV and painting my nails. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately and this has come at the exact right time. Great post, thank you!

  19. It’s evident from how much you get done during a day/week/year that you’re a fan of ruthless prioritization and time efficiency. I really liked seeing the things you cut out in this post, because it helped me question some of my own time choices. I’ve never done a time audit, but so many efficient and accomplished people have undergone this exercise that I think it’s time to do one (no pun intended, there!). One of the other really great ideas that I’m going to think about is division of labor. Mr ThreeYear and I have a much more informal division of labor, but I think there’s a great deal of efficiency in not assuming which roles we’ll take on, but actually making it a more formal arrangement. Thanks for this thought-provoking post!! And enjoy spending your day just as you want (well, mostly! Being a mom of a toddler inevitably means a wee bit of inefficiency in your day, no?!).

  20. Erin says:

    Another way a time audit can be a huge benefit–I used to feel guilty every single day that I hadn’t gotten more done. I tracked my time for a few weeks and discovered that I was in fact using my hours very well, and my unrealistic expectations were the problem! Seeing it all on paper helped me let go of the guilt and be proud of what I was getting done.

    That was back in grad school… In my current stage of life I wholeheartedly second your advice about dividing with-baby and without-baby activities!

  21. JD says:

    I needed this! I am not getting to bed early enough, ever, and I know I need to sort through my daily tasks and figure out where I can pare down. I never watch TV, I only read a little before bed one night or less a week, and I hardly ever shop — I’m just trying to do too many things, some to save money, like making my own laundry soap and bread, some because they need to be done, like doing laundry and cooking meals. I also work full-time. Somewhere, something has to give. Thanks for the push I need to evaluate my life. As a person with an autoimmune disease, rest is vitally important, and it’s foolish of me to let it be the last thing on my list.

  22. Brenna says:

    I am a very busy person (by choice for now…) and prep cooking is a godsend! Fitness is one of my goals so home-cooked meals are the best thing for me to keep an eye on the details of my diet. Making a plan for the week’s meals also allows me to make a list that is exactly what I need and nothing more and plan ahead for some frugal dishes. It’s a great example of how you can orient different goals in the same direction, in this case fitness and frugality!

  23. Kate says:

    I love that you’ve touched on this topic of not only being frugal with money but time. It’s something my family has done since we went down the frugal path and it makes a huge difference in all areas of life (and far less stressful).

  24. I love this! It’s all about finding a balance of your money and time for frugal living. It’s not all about money at all. For me, I know TV is my absolute time nemesis. I can look up and two hours will have floated by. When you work all day and only have the evenings to yourself, 2 hours is most of your free time! It’s awful. I did a No TV Tuesday experiment a few weeks back and it was outrageous how much I got done when I gave myself that time back.

  25. Clara says:

    This is so true! For years, I have loved this quote by Annie Dillard, from “The Writing Life” (Often, just the first sentence is quoted alone, but the whole paragraph is beautiful): “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time. A schedule is a mock-up of reason and order—willed, faked, and so brought into being; it is a peace and a haven set into the wreck of time; it is a lifeboat on which you find yourself, decades later, still living.”

  26. Erin says:

    I grew up on a farm, and my parents are from long-time farming families, so the concept of doing certain tasks on certain days, division of labour, and basically never having an idle moment is deeply ingrained in me. If you were going to watch TV you had better also be darning socks, knitting, whittling, perusing the stock ads, hooking a rug, etc. My city friends marvel at how efficient I am! 😉

  27. Nora says:

    This is a great reminder, thanks (for this and all your inspiring posts!). My husband and I are well aware of how precious time is as we are resident physicians (OB and Medicine) and work 70-90 hours a week. (I know that probably sounds horrifying to many people but it is very important to us.) Letting go of things, like shopping, has been freeing. I’m also a fan of combining activities, such as biking to work (exercise + transportation) or listening to library audiobooks while I clean.

    Where I run into trouble is that I sometimes feel I *must* waste some precious time every now and then–reading useless news, for example, after a long day. It’s hard to talk myself out of this, even though I regret it later, and there are a million more rewarding things I could do (a walk, a good book, early to bed…). Does anyone have a way you convince yourself to “waste time” in a more wholesome way when you are feeling lazy?

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I love combo activities too!!! My daily hike with Babywoods is my combo exercise, outdoor time, and easy childcare time since she just hangs out quietly in the stroller ;). Regarding the “wastes” of time you mention, I do think it’s important to build in time to relax and rejuvenate. Mr. FW and I consciously choose to watch one TV show per night together, even though TV is clearly a “waste” of time. It’s a conscious choice we make to relax and unwind. So I think as long as it’s a planned for activity, you shouldn’t feel guilty at all.

  28. Cubert says:

    It’s crazy how much time we spend thinking about these things… 😉

    Nice post as always, Mrs. FW!

  29. Jill says:

    I didn’t do an actual time audit but I have slowly been casting away certain things that I don’t feel a need for anymore. Since I am an empty nester I have been able to do more “me” things – reading, meeting friends for lunch and attending festivals – that I enjoy. And I’ve realized that I don’t enjoy shopping ( no more keeping up with the joneses), or watching tv as much and I’ve been able to clean less also as there are no little hands and feet to make our house dirty. So part of my time has changed due to life circumstances but also it has changed from being more frugal and realizing my priorities. I like my life alot more now.

  30. M says:

    Love this! I am trying to do batch cooking too. For my toddler, I make her lunches in huge batches (waffles, pumpkin pancakes, salmon croquettes, meatballs etc.) and the morning that it’s needed, I pull it out to defrost (so my babysitter can give it to her while I’m at work). She still gets delicious homemade food; but I only have to prepare it periodically. For snacks, my husband and I take muffins to work. I triple the amount of muffin batter and freeze most of the batter into a bunch of containers. At the beginning of the week, I defrost the needed batter and bake it into muffins. This is faster than prepping batter each week (and washing said dishes!); and waay cheaper/healthier than going to the store to get snacks! Only downside – my freezer is often stuffed so I have to be careful with the timing of my cooking!

  31. thalia says:

    A great post, Mrs. FW. Your time audit is a great idea. I did this at work, and found it very powerful for me and my colleagues. We were all running around saying, “We’re so busy; we’re so tired.” And we were, and with good reason.!Our time audit revealed we were trying to do too much and not doing the activities and projects that felt most important. The time audit was a great catalyst for a discussion of priorities. And bonus: I became more productive at home because I didn’t return home after work and collapse on the couch with a glass of wine. I had the energy to do the things I wanted to around the house.

    And I second the early bedtime. I do that too (wish I could get my partner to, too). I have an autoimmune disease that really flares up if I’m exhausted and stressed. I have learned the hard way not to skimp on sleep.

  32. thalia says:

    PS: The App ATTRACKER is really useful for doing a time audit. You can make your own categories, and you just click one when you start it and again when you stop. It then does the analysis, which can be daily, weekly or even yearly, if you’re inclined. It was eye-opening, especially when I realized how much time I was on email!

  33. Amazing how having a kid can get you to sleep MORE than you did before. Like you, I need a good 8.5-9 hours of sleep on average, and since our son wakes up the same time on a Saturday as he does on a Monday, we had to force ourselves into a regular 7 day a week bedtime to be ready for those early weekend mornings.

    I’m now MORE rested on a regular basis than I was pre-kid because my wake and sleep hours are the same 7 days a week instead of pushing hours on the weekend and trying to reset every Monday morning (being more rested only happened after he started sleeping well, of course!)

    As far as leaving things undone to go to sleep, I find I’m way more productive in my waking hours when I get enough sleep, so I more than make up for the time lost from an earlier bedtime.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      So true!!! Babywoods 1 gets up at the same time every single day, which seriously motivates us to get into bed! It’s a good system for the whole family 🙂

  34. Georgio says:

    An unexamined life is not worth living…”Socrates”

  35. Oldster says:

    When I was in law school, I had a professor who was a world class sprinter. She had a system for not wasting time. There were 5 things she wanted to accomplish in life. If how she was spending her time did not further one of those 5 goals, she did not do it. That time use system got her to the Olympic Trials (but not the Games), and made her a very successful academician with a great family life. She just would not spend time doing things just to make others happy or because “everyone” was doing it. I’ve always found that system of time management fascinating. It seems like your ideas fit very well into what my professor was trying to accomplish.

  36. I’ve stopped doing some those things as well (even shopping) to claw those hours back. Painting my nails is a huge time waster and painting my face is literally money down the drain. Although I’m not saying we are walking around like ugly savages trying to be frugal. I’m just saying, appearances matter less seen other areas of self care are optimal. I doubt those nail paint fumes are good for anyone.

  37. Nicole says:

    I just love your wise, optimistic, and sensible ways of living! You’re so encouraging! God bless you and your family.

  38. Laura says:

    I found the book 168 Hours by Laura VanderKam really helpful with a time audit and just time management in general. Her website also has great tools for doing a time audit. My struggle right now is Twitter/Facebook/Instagram. I want to spend less time on those, but I’m finding it hard to disengage!! Anyone have tips for managing social media consumption?

    • tess says:

      May I suggest cold turkey. Just like ripping a Band Aid off. 😉

    • Sarah D says:

      I know this first comment will sound ridiculous, but it has helped me to realize that most of the stuff on social media is of very little value — most of it is boring, repetitive, or infuriating. I do look at FB and Twitter regularly, but I don’t spend more than 5 min at a time, since I get to a point where I’ve seen the stuff below that point already, or it’s mostly things that stress me out. To be sure: I think using social media to keep up with friends is a great thing. I just think that *most* of what’s on there is more frustrating than enjoyable and that recognizing that has reduced my desire to spend much time there.

      Second, I’d suggest finding something to replace it with—my suggestion is audiobooks, since they are entertaining but you can still do other things (I love to listen while I exercise, clean, and drive to do errands, and while walking around the grocery store). It’s a way to keep the brain engaged with something interesting but passive (which is why I think we tend to gravitate toward FB etc).

  39. Anastasia ORourke says:

    I am a consultant and used to tracking my time for work. BUT when I did a time study on myself that also included non-work time I was pretty surprised. I did this thanks to a great book by Laura Vanderkam: I Know How She Does It. Applies to men too! For example, I found it very helpful to think of time in the day as tiles in a mosaic.. Thanks for raising this topic!

  40. Cutting time on watching TV was a big factor for me. When I had cable, I used to watch before/after work and various times on the weekend and now I spend maybe 30 minutes a week watching TV because me and Mother with Cents have our one show we watch per week.
    With cutting off that time watching, I am now either reading a book, working on my blog or looking a my finances. Now I have to figure out a way to cut down my time looking my phone. So much you can do with a phone nowadays, it’s tough to put it down.

  41. Jennifer says:

    Are congratulations in order?

  42. Mary in Maryland says:

    Born frugal. I painted my nails once in seventh grade and spent the next week chewing it off. First year college my roommate told me I could do makeup in less than ten minutes per day if I wanted to be more attractive. I thought I got enough male attention without makeup. I’ve never owned a TV (but I do have three sewing machines.) My big bedtime hack–I often get overly involved in a book before bedtime. I put the reading lamp on a timer. When it goes off at ten, I finish the chapter and go to bed.

  43. Ilene says:

    I have been living with the guilt of mismanaged time for decades. Thank you for this post. You have inspired me to try once more. I will begin by writing up a sample day..one step at a time!

  44. Cheryl says:

    BEST article ever!! Getting financially fit has proven your thoughts to me over and over. I just wish I had’nt wasted so much time over the years learning this.

  45. Jane says:

    I loved this article! Routines and cutting out unnecessary activities is something I’m really into. Here are some things that have helped me: 1. limiting my Facebook usage to 5 minutes, twice a day. Facebook can be a serious timesuck! 2. Only watching a TV show on Saturday nights, if at all. In fact, we are about to sell/donate our TV and DVD player, as they just don’t get used and are just taking up space. 3. Embracing minimalism, which means I have less stuff to clean. I clean the kitchen every night after dinner and vacuum our carpet daily (made necessary due to cats and toddlers), but other than that, I just clean the bathroom once a week and rotate the other rooms of our small apartment so that I focus on one a week. It works for me. 4. I have a weekly routine on a spreadsheet so that I know I’m making time for things that are important to me, such as meditating, exercising and working on a novel I have been wanting to write for years. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t always adhere 100% to the routine, and it’s nice to be flexible and spontaneous, but having it tends to keep me on track for doing things that make me happy and not wasting time with stuff that doesn’t add much value to my life.

  46. My days *are* spent sitting (or standing – love the standing desk!) in a cubicle, working for other people. I don’t love cubicle life – I’d rather be outside all day – but it offers me a chance to work with my community, keep a well-priced insurance plan (something I didn’t have for a very long time), and develop a variety of skills. I work all day, go home, and side hustle at night. On the weekends I have more flexibility, and I use my time to do what I love: run, hang out with family and friends, clean the house (yup, I like that!), and read.

    The way I spend my time now, while not super exciting or as creative as I’d like it to be, reflects my deep determination to get out of debt. In its own way, it’s an adventure.

  47. I so agree with your article. Early this year I came into contact with minimalism. As I started letting go of excess stuff, I got more energy to do the things I always wished I would have done when I wasn’t working. When I found your blog the suggestion of a Uber frugal month already seemed doable. Together with my husband we decided to do a Super frugal August, only using 250€ for groceries and not shopping at all. The month wa supposed to yield a bigger savings per centage, which it did (over 60% ). But I also found myself spending more time on projects I had sought to start a long time! I have been a great TV-watcher, but that time has gone down drastically! Thanks for an inspiring blog Mrs. Frugalwoods !

    • I’m starting to get rid of my excess, too! It is crazy how much time we spend maintaining things just because they’re there. My summer wardrobe was quite small, but I had everything I needed. Now that autumn is here, I plan to do the same with my fall/winter wardrobe.

      Awesome that you cut your grocery bill! I was able to decrease mine by a few hundred in September

  48. Gail says:

    Wonderful and timely articul. You have certainly got me thinking about how I use my time.

  49. Sandi says:

    I wore full-makeup today for a family portrait. For the first time in a looooong time. Sometimes I put on a little, but today was full-on. Both kiddos told me they ‘like’ me ‘better without all that junk.’ I love them : )

  50. Allysgrandma says:

    I’m so curious about the responses to this timely article, but I don’t have the time to read them right now because I am in bed and very tired after getting my two granddaughters to sleep. It is the first time the 3 year old has spent the night away from my daughter and her husband.

    I just did a week long tracking challenge hosted by Laura Vanderkam, the author. It was very revealing to me about my time usage. I have been retired a year and am not quite where I would like to be as far as things I want to get done in my home/garden. My husband and I split household chores 36 years ago when I was going back to work full-time after our second daughter was born (20-1/2 months after our first)!

    Thank you for the interesting article. I find it fascinating and congrats on your pregnancy.

  51. Cindy in the South says:

    I went back to a cheap flip phone because facebook was a time suck for me. I do not have a tv nor computer at my house, and I can only access certain websites ( like this) at the library computer near where I work. I go there for lunch breaks and read your great blog! Work can be my time suck, and I have to set strict boundaries, otherwise, I would be working seven days a week. I have realized I like to stay home more than travel, so on my off days, I am staying home more, and that is ok. I like to visit family, so if I travel, it involves them except for my one beach trip a year I do for work. Everyone has their own preferences. I just do not care about pleasure travel or sightseeing travel and realize I never have. IT is something I have always felt guilty about not really wanting to do. Thank you for your excellent points.

  52. Laurie says:

    I used to cringe and loath cleaning the bathroom (my particular chore), until I simply did the whole thing from start to finish and timed it. 40 minutes. Now, when my inner child starts to throw a fit about it, I remind myself that 40 minutes out of a week is nothing to complain about and then I just do it.
    Time awareness is vital…this has helped me so much in many other aspects of “I don’t want to do it, but it’ll only take 10 minutes to actually do, unless I whine about it for 30 beforehand.”

  53. Time is so valuable! I’ve realized how much time I spend maintaining stuff that isn’t even that great. I let that houseplant die because I didn’t take care of it. Should I replace it? No. If I killed it once, I’ll kill it again.

    I also spend a TON of time on my finances. I read about PF, redo my budget, check my progress, make debt payoff spreadsheets, etc. Why do I do all that? It’s not all necessary to do as frequently as I do.

    I’m going to budget my budget time (haha). I’ll spend x hours at the end of the week for review and x hours at the end of the month working on next month’s.

    Chores are a time suck! If I routinely did a specific chore on a specific day each day/week/month, I’d feel much less stressed.

    I’m going to give these a try this month! Thank you for the ideas! 🙂

  54. One of my favorite topics! I’m with you – money and time are our most precious and limited resources. Attention is a third, but could be considered a subset of time. Sometimes it’s nice to separate out though because your available attention in a given day is much less than your available time. I have only so many hours of focused thought I can direct toward something.

    In the end, I think fulfillment and satisfaction come from aligning these with the things that are most important to you. Those who do it well are likely some of the most satisfied people you’ll meet!

  55. Budget Kitty says:

    Right now there is a great divide between how I spend my time and how I’d like to spend my time. That’s out own fault for getting into debt in the first place but we are working on digging our way out and spending our time more purposefully rather than just working all the time to pay the bills.

  56. Rachel says:

    I’m curious how you approach the topic of time when it comes to socializing. I live in a community with a lot of close friends and family nearby. (And I mean a lot, I have a big family.) I love hanging out with them, and feel it’s important to keep those relationships healthy. However, since there are so many, this means I’m constantly running myself into the ground, especially since I’m an introvert. I try to say no to the events that aren’t as important to me, but between working 40 hours a week at a desk job, trying to keep my apartment somewhat livable, volunteering, and seeing all my family a reasonable amount, I can’t seem to quite stay on top of it.

    I’ve thought about cutting back to part time at work, but I’m also trying to build savings for future endeavors, so it may not be the wisest plan. Giving back to my community is important to me, so volunteering needs to stay. Have I mentioned I’m also running a blog in my spare time?

    Anybody have any ideas on how to make a day a few hours longer, or how to live on less sleep? 🙂

  57. Ms. Raggedly says:

    I think a lot of work places would benefit from this post too – I’ve worked for so many people who are just so terrible at being efficient, delegating, and functioning on a routine. Or sometimes one of those is there but the other two are elusive. But you can’t change anyone who doesn’t want to be changed! You can just make sure the information’s there for when they want it – which is why I’m grateful for blogs like these!

  58. Mm says:

    Thanks for another great post Mrs Frugalwoods! I found your blog when my income lowered, and was feeling worn out despite more hours to myself. Reflection on your posts led to a far more meaningful life over the past half year. I’ve invested less time and energy in what doesn’t matter to me, and opened up space for a life I want more.

    I realised I hate regular shopping, even at lovely places like markets with excellent food. It became mind numbing.
    Solutions:
    – Be honest about what we need and go to the supermarket once a week.
    – I’m creating large garden beds with flowers, fruit, herbs and vegetables. We now don’t have to shop for fresh greens, and I’ve always loved gardens anyway.
    – Making our own sourdough bread is easy and relaxing, inexpensive, doesn’t come in plastic, and means one less trip to the shops.
    – Buying all our medicines at once means one trip to the pharmacy per month, instead of four. Just that in itself can save 18 hours per year assuming 30 minutes round trip. That time can be better spent!

    These days I have more hours at work, but also more hours at play. Thank you!

  59. Tash says:

    Thanks so much for your post Mrs FW. I have a toddler and a baby and have a lot of trouble with time management and unrealistic expectations. But I also struggle with procrastination. This, despite my rational brain telling me ‘You’ll regret this!!’ Rational Brain is always right but Subjective-Pleasure-Oriented Brain never learns. Any advice or suggestions for when procrastination gets a hold?

  60. fred smidlap says:

    a pot of beans every week is pure gold in our house. we use a different variety of dried ones that take nothing except soaking overnight. sometimes they’re vegetarian but usually have some leftover meat if it’s around. once they’re cooked we have them in different ways all week. one night a side dish, maybe jammed into a tortilla, or a main course. it’s all about the routine. the other time saver for me is wardrobe and a 20 minute morning routine: 2 or 3 pairs of pants with workout clothes underneath. same shoes, socks, t-shirts has freed up a shit ton or time over the years…and a 13 minute commute.

  61. Tom Beem says:

    So much good stuff here. It reminds me of a book I read recently, the 4 hour workweek. It essentially asks you to view your time as money, and the you assess your life. Lots of great stuff there too!
    For me, by far, the biggest problem area is TV. I love it, and watch entirely too much, normally at night. I still haven’t figured out a way to fix that. Althrough, I KNOW if I gave us tv for a year, I’d have an entirely different more richer life. All the best. Tom

  62. Eric says:

    Somehow I just now found out about this great blog! I enjoyed the thoroughness and well thought out points.
    Appreciate people that are living it out!

  63. This is a new concept to me: being frugal with your time, and I like this idea. Just like money, time is limited, and we got to find ways to use it on those things that matter the most. I’m going to do an audit for myself, and get it better. I can tell that you run the day more efficiently than many people do: you write, take care of the baby and the whole family. That’s a lot of work. Thanks a lot for sharing the tips.

  64. Time is a valuable thing. We tend to waste a majority of our life in the cubicle. I am working on changing this, I want more time to work on things in life I value, ironically this will come in time!

  65. JoeHx says:

    One piece of advice I’ve heard on the Internet is “don’t put it down; put it away.” If you get in the habit of putting things away when you’re done with them – dishes after eating, putting clothes in a clothes hamper instead of scattered around the house – then you don’t have to spend as much time later cleaning up then you would if you didn’t put the things away in the first place.

  66. Getting enough sleep is mandatory, if you don’t want to lose your minds. I found out that freelancing, household chores and a 3 year old kid are less energy consuming when I’m not exhausted anymore 😀

  67. How did you perform your time audit?
    Did you keep a notebook or use a spreadsheet? I’d like to start doing this as early as this weekend and trying to figure out the best way to go about it.

  68. Anders says:

    Hello and thank you for this post!

    I’m stuck at a job I don’t really dislike as such. It just eats all my energy and time. I know this. People around me know this and notice it, mainly because I’m turning more and more into a mindless zombie every day. No offense to zombies.

    I found this post to be rather eye-opening for me. I’m working on starting an online business while working a job that on average keeps me from hope for 11 to 12 hours per day. I want to spend time with our daughter too in the evenings. Oh, and we need to eat after work too. Most often cook as well. So the evenings consist of a hectic rush to throw together some sort of food (which lately has been increasingly bad for our health – we used to eat healthy too). After eating an spending time together it’s bedtime for our daughter. After she’s down for the night I have perhaps 1 to 2 hours before I start crashing.

    For some time now, my inner voice has been saying that this isn’t really living. Not the life I want for me and my family anyway. Oh, forgot to mention that this year started with me being burned out also and being on partial sick leave for half the year. You’d think that’d be a good wake-up call to throw in the towel. But no.

    I guess that little thing Pandora let out, hope, is ever-present. Things just might get better and a magical fairy might turn it into the best job ever. I’m still waiting.

    Frankly, though, I know that it is inertia and complacency, as well as dependency. We have our financial situation more or less under control. We’re not able to save quite as much as 70% every month, but we average 50-60%. So, we’re ok in that aspect. But money, or rather income, is a funny thing. You get sort of addicted to it.

    I know that if I could generate an income of around 50% compared to my day job today, we would be doing well anyway. But… I just don’t take the step I need to and quit. If I quit my job I would get the time I need to be able to bring momentum to other things in my life – more time with my family, side-hustle, online business, and a few other projects on the side. But I’m scared.

    I agree fully with you though, about time. It’s a resource. It’s our most finite resource. Money, we can probably always make more of that. It’s abundant out there. Time, not so much. Especially time as in moments. Moments we miss because we’re busy doing things that don’t push the needle. Time we spend working our behinds off for someone else’s benefit. Time we miss out on spending with our children and our family because we’re too busy chasing someone else’s dream.

    Sorry, that was a long rant and confession. I guess I just got triggered by your post. The things I needed to read to sort my brain out a bit more. Again, thank you, I appreciated your post greatly.

    All the best to you!

  69. Jessi says:

    I’m just looking forward to the day when I’m awake past 8:00 again. I am so exhausted from being up at night with the (now 8 month!) baby, work (which I really enjoy and don’t want to leave), and coming home and taking care of said baby. As soon as she is asleep, or as soon as my husband is done with his kitchen chores and takes the baby, I’m done. I’m exhausted.

    I have already let nearly everything else go by the wayside. Surely someday I will sleep again, right?

    I am so thankful I have a husband who does all the food stuff, and I am glad I have low standards for the cleaning I do.

  70. Isa says:

    This might just be my favorite post of yours! I WANT to do more with my free time, like read, write, paint,play with my kids, spend more time with my hubby, exercise, etc…. But very often I instead find myself “just quickly looking something up on the Internet” that ends up taking a lot of my time and making me disconnect from the rest. So…. I need to set some guidelines around my screen time. And, like you, go to bed at a decent time (also related to screen time late in the day…). Thanks for the reminder!

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