Taking time to enjoy tea with my fall decor
Taking time to enjoy tea with my fall decor

There exists out there in the world a misconception that extreme frugality dooms you to a life of intense labor that could otherwise be provided for you through an expenditure of money.

But in our experience, that’s simply not true. Mr. Frugalwoods and I don’t live like indentured servants (except perhaps to wait on Frugal Hound)–quite the contrary! It’s all about striking a harmonious balance between the allocation of time and the outlay of money.

I used to think that money could almost always be traded for time, but I’ve come to realize that through frugality, it’s often possible to optimize for both. If you’d told me this before we’d embraced the beauty of frugality and started our journey to financial independence, I would’ve thought you were crazy.

After all, isn’t it always one or the other? Surprisingly (well, not surprising to fellow frugal weirdos), it’s not. I’ve discussed the non-monetary benefits of frugality before, but I think saving time is perhaps the most noteworthy.

Saving Both Time and Money

A haircut Mr. FW gave me
A haircut Mr. FW gave me

This is the optimal situation to find oneself in: the ability to simultaneously save the treasured resources of time and money. What could be better? But is it really possible? I’m here to tell you it is. The magic of frugality comes to the fore yet again, my friends!

A prime example are our DIY at-home haircuts. At first blush, it might seem like going to the salon or barber is a fair exchange of time for money, but in reality, you’re losing a great deal of both. Case in point: it takes me 15 minutes to buzz Mr. FW’s hair. Full stop. There’s no way he could travel to the barber, wait in line, get his hair cut, pay for the service, and return home in anywhere near 15 minutes. Same goes for my locks. Mr. FW cuts my hair in circa 15 minutes as well, which is a fraction of the time I’d spend at the salon–not to mention the commute to and fro.

It’s easy, quick, and efficient to cut hair at home whereas it’s time-consuming and expensive to outsource it–yet, most people do. Why? Because going to the salon gives the illusion of being easier. Our culture endlessly parrots the merits of having other people do things for you. However, when we actually calculate the cost, time, and benefit, it’s often cheaper and faster to do the work ourselves. This is a scenario where the frugal weirdo enjoys a cunning advantage. Rather than spend several hours and a fair amount of cash outsourcing a simple task, we’re done in under 30 minutes for both heads of hair with nary a dime lost.

Hungry for more examples?

Frugal Hound scopes out our free activity mat
Frugal Hound scopes out our free activity mat

Cooking at home: going out to eat, or ordering take-out, takes longer than cooking a meal on one’s own and, obviously, costs significantly more. Take our traditional pizza Fridays here at Frugalwoods HQ. It would actually consume more time for us to order a pizza and wait for it to be delivered than it does to simply cook our own. And I don’t even need to tell you how much money we save in the process.

Shopping used and accepting hand-me-downs: the amount of time and money I’ve saved by gratefully taking free baby paraphernalia, as opposed to toiling away in a store with new items, is considerable. Rather than waste my day comparing 17 different baby activity mats, for example, I cheerfully accepted the used one I was offered. No time wasted, no money spent.

When Time Wins Out

This issue of time vs. money also raises the question of margins: just how much time and just how much money are we talking? In the case of haircuts, where we’re talking about hundreds of dollars and many hours saved each year, the trade-off is clear. But what about contexts where the margins are slimmer?

In those instances, Mr. FW and I often opt for time over money. That might be surprising given that we’re planning to retire early and thus save as much money as humanly possible, but, our true goal in life is to give ourselves more time. Our entire raison d’être in moving to a homestead and quitting our jobs is to enable ourselves to pursue our passions–to grant ourselves the time and space to do what we want with our lives. Thus, time is precious to us and we don’t give it up lightly.

Frugal Hound demonstrating Frugalwoods-mobile's cargo space
Frugal Hound demonstrating Frugalwoods-mobile’s cargo space

That being said, we look for opportunities where the outlay of money for the time saved equates to a good deal. Our car is a perfect illustration. It would be slightly cheaper for us not to own our 19-year-old Frugalwoods-mobile. After all, we spend $400/year in insurance, about $450 on gas each year, and then a few hundred more on miscellaneous parts, repairs, registration, an emissions test, and oil. However, the time we save by owning a car far outweighs the $1,000 or so she costs annually to maintain.

Mr. FW and I used to live in the city car-less and, while it’s totally possible, we love the convenience of having a car to access Costco, Home Depot, the grocery store, as well as the luxury of driving to the mountains for hiking whenever we fancy. In this instance, we’re glad to swap our money for time. However, even by this same metric, owning a new car wouldn’t be worth it. I consider cars a splendid example of the hierarchy of time vs. money. Here’s why:

Not owning a car: the cheapest option. But, we’d lose a lot of time and freedom, which isn’t worth it to us. Since we’ve been carless in the past, I know exactly how much time and freedom.

Owning a used, paid-for car: the happy medium. We pay a relatively nominal $1,000/year for the luxury of Frugalwoods-mobile, but reap a high level of time benefit.

Owning a new car with a car payment: the cost now supersedes the benefit accrued. While we’d still experience the freedom of more time, we’d be over-paying for the privilege. Plus, the marginal gain of a new car vs. a used car just doesn’t amount to a worthwhile trade-off. Our enjoyment of a new car wouldn’t be commensurate with the astronomical costs. Frugalwoods-mobile serves our needs for a car and upgrading to a newer car wouldn’t increase the advantages of car ownership.

Our groceries on the conveyor belt. People wondered why I was photographing this...
Our groceries on the conveyor belt. People wondered why I photographed this…

Valuing time over money is also why we’re not into couponing or other intense forms of deal-finding. In addition to the fact that most coupons are for products we don’t use in the first place, I don’t want to spend hours every week assembling scraps of paper and then traipsing around town to sniff out these bargains.

Plus, since we don’t spend that much on groceries and household goods to begin with, the relative benefit just isn’t there for us. The best way to save money is to not buy stuff we don’t need and anytime Mr. FW and I try to use coupons, we end up with stuff we legitimately do not need.

I find extreme couponing to be a case of missing the frugal forest for the trees. For us, it’s preferable to simply buy the fresh, whole foods we eat every week at a discount grocery store (hat tip to Market Basket!) and focus our efforts on much larger savings endeavors. Trying to squeeze out a few extra cents per item just isn’t a wise use of my time. However, to each their own and some people truly enjoy the couponing process–again, it’s all about how you want to allocate your time. There’s no right or wrong, only an opportunity to analyze the value you’re extracting from the time you’re spending.

When Money Wins Out

Frugal Hound: not actually helpful with household chores
Frugal Hound: not actually helpful with household chores

For Mr. FW and me, the instances where money wins out over time fall into one of three categories:

1) We enjoy performing the task ourselves and thus don’t consider the time “lost.”

2) Scenarios where the money savings are so pronounced that losing the time is worth it.

3) Tasks that enable us to build useful skills in their execution.

An example of #1: cleaning my own house is a clear candidate for money over time. I actually appreciate the process (weird, I know!) and it brings me a certain degree of satisfaction to perform the rote tasks of vacuuming, scrubbing, and dusting. It gives my mind a respite and provides my body with exercise. Hence, I’m happy to clean on my own and save a couple hundred bucks each month.

An example of #2: painting an interior room. Just about anyone can paint a room. It’s not a difficult task to perform and it’s not even all that time-consuming. It is, however, rather expensive to pay a painting company to do it for you. Me? I’d rather keep the $500 they’d charge and paint it myself.

An example of #3: conducting our own financial analysis. You can certainly pay someone to build your financial plan for you, but if you take the time to do the research and create one for yourself, you’ll learn the underlying mechanics and become a much more informed investor in the process. This is a situation whereby you’ll reap the benefits of the skills you’ve gained for the rest of your life. Teaching oneself to fish is a much higher value proposition than buying pre-made fish sticks.

The room, jewelry chest & closet doors we painted/refinished
Room, jewelry chest & closet doors we refinished

In all of these circumstances, there’s also a sense of satisfaction and pride that stems from doing these tasks on one’s own. I always feel empowered and emboldened when I take on a project and teach myself how to do something new. When I refinished my jewelry chest, for example, I was thrilled that I figured out how to do it. It wasn’t a particularly in-depth or complicated endeavor, but it was something I’d never done before.

Same story for refinishing our staircase, our kitchen cabinets, our closet doors… and the list goes on. Without fail, we appreciate our own work much more than the work someone else has performed. The confidence and self-reliance we build with each new project is both fun and affirming.

The kitchen cabinets we refinished
The kitchen cabinets we refinished

Plus, the imperfections inherent to DIY work are endearing to us and serve as a catalog of the lessons we’ve learned. We joke about the mistakes we made along the way and embrace imperfection as a natural and often hilarious aspect of frugality.

Life–no matter how extravagantly you spend–isn’t perfect, so you might as well spend a whole lot less and delight in the imperfection. P.S. Nothing is more expensive than the futile pursuit of the elusive perfect.

Additionally, doing these tasks ourselves means that Mr. FW and I spend quality time together collaborating and working. These are opportunities for us to enjoy one another’s company and learn about one another’s skills. I’m very proud of Mr. FW every time he engineers something new for our home and he likewise takes pride in my work. Having respect for one another’s abilities is a central tenet of why frugality is so incredible for our relationship.

The Fallacy Of “But I Get Paid More”

Glorious After!
The staircase we refinished ourselves.

As you probably noted, all my examples of money over time are tasks that we’d need to pay someone else to do for us. In our opinion, outsourcing of this nature often doesn’t yield the level of benefit that’s perceived.

There’s a prevalent fallacy that paying someone else to do things for you makes sense if you’re paid more per hour than the task you’re outsourcing. However, this only holds true if you’re actively earning money during those hours.

There are plenty of mega hustlers out there (many of whom are my friends) who run their own businesses and hence, actually are always earning, doing, and achieving. But if you’re paying someone to clean your house and then utilizing those “saved” hours to instead, say, watch TV, are you realizing the advantages of that extra time?

This is one of those concepts that you have to carefully evaluate for your own life. There’s no one right answer here–it’s all about what you’re honestly doing with the time you’re saving by paying to outsource. Plus, if you’re not doing this work yourself, you’re atrophying your DIY muscles in that arena.

Once you become accustomed to other people doing your work for you, you’re creating a dynamic whereby you lose confidence in your ability to perform these tasks. This also builds the assumption that you’ll have to pay others for this work for the rest of your life.

Just Don’t Do It

Frugal Hound is Fancy on a Budget
I don’t wear makeup either

This is a liberating concept that Mr. FW has indoctrinated in me (well, he’s trying at least). It’s the idea that if you really hate doing something, just don’t do it. Obviously, the application of this philosophy should be circumspect and reasonable–for example, if you hate brushing your teeth, you should still brush them and if you hate exercising, you should still get your body moving.

But, there are plenty of tasks I used to busy myself with on a regular basis that brought me nothing but anguish. Now? I just don’t do them. It’s a pretty excellent part of living a life where you don’t care what others think of you. As long as we’re kind, responsible, giving citizens, not a whole lot else matters.

A classic example for me is that of wearing makeup. I used to loathe the amount of time, effort, and money that wearing makeup everyday required. Now, I just don’t wear it! Simple as that. Eliminating makeup from my regime increased my self-confidence, gave me more time, and no people or greyhounds were harmed in the process. A win all around.

This ideology works best for activities that have no inherent or longterm benefit. With this mindset, I call into question anything I’m doing because “I’ve always done it” or “everyone else does it” or “I feel like I should do it.” Beware, there be danger lurking in those phrases.

Strategic Frugality Strikes Again

There’s no sense in being frugal if it means you’re constantly at a loss for time. In my world, it’s a balance of both and it’s all about achieving a peaceful, content life where I’m learning, doing, creating, and enjoying on a regular basis. Since our desire to retire early is about recapturing our lives and our time for ourselves, we’re keen to create efficiencies with our time and our money. We constantly evaluate drains on either resource and, with creativity and frugal perseverance, it’s often possible to optimize for both.

How do you decide when to prioritize time and when to prioritize money?

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  1. I love how you walk through the whole process of figuring out where time and money each win in any given situation. That’s awesome that cutting your hair at home works well for you! I usually go to a salon to get my hair cut (twice a year, so not often hah!), but tried cutting it myself at home a few weeks ago and it was a TOTAL fail. I messed it up so bad that even a stylist couldn’t totally fix my layers. Definitely a user error on my end with thinking I could give myself complicated layers and angles. But for me, that’s one thing that I’ve decided is worth paying for. My twice a year visit to the salon is something I really enjoy, especially now that I have a toddler. It’s some much-needed “me time” that I truly don’t mind paying for. I think that just goes to show that everyone definitely does have very different ways to figure out how to choose time vs. money in their own lives. Very thought-provoking post, as usual Frugalwoods! 🙂

  2. I actually enjoy cleaning the house too. I listen to a podcast while cleaning and its a good stress reliever for me. Trading time and money is definitely a balance. We don’t do any of our own car repairs. Like this weekend I gladly paid to have my oil changed for $21 (I used a coupon).

  3. I agree, coupons are for things I never buy. Plus, generics are usually cheaper.

    Getting my hair cut at a salon is one splurge that I am not willing to cut out (pun intended). It’s time for myself and I want that hour of being pampered, having my scalp massaged, and having a my hair blown out. I try to get a Groupon or ask a for a junior stylist. I go twice a year, and I am probably still traumatized from my mom giving me crooked haircuts when I was younger.

  4. I agree that time spent on money-saving DIY brings a family closer, gives a sense of accomplishment, and makes us more useful people as we learn new skills. It’s also a form of entertainment, which can replace TV or more costly activities. On the “how much you could make side-hustling” objection–while staying at home with my young kids, I don’t want the added responsibility and pressures of a job. That’s why I’ve chosen to stay home. So for me it makes more sense to spend small increments of time on money-saving endeavors, than to be committed to a side job.

  5. I love this philosophy! It’s one that we definitely try to embrace although my husband and I have discussed that in the future “project” houses shouldn’t be part of our life, no matter how much DIY value we can add to it.

  6. Your staircase turned out beautifully. I really appreciate how you can see the time vs. money conundrum from both sides. It’s not and either or in my mind, but more of a balance of both like you outline. I suppose whenever I prioritize money, it’s because it will serve as a tool to allow me to do something that I really enjoy with my time.

  7. Over the past week, I have been ripping out the dead lawn at our rental house and preparing to plant sod plugs. The landlord is taking the cost of materials off of the rent. I did this for two major reasons. First, I knew he wouldn’t do it until the spring, which means if be looking at dead grass until spring (I live in FL). Second, I know that I can do it. It has been much more work and more money in materials, but I hope it works out! My grass literally keeps me up at night ????

  8. My personal care expenses are pretty low – no makeup, no fancy products. I do pay for haircuts (those super-short pixie-type haircuts can go horribly wrong in the wrong hands). I also pay for pedicures twice a year – usually at the beginning of sandal season where there is, ahem, a lot of work to be done after my feet have spent 9 months in running shoes and winter boots – and then midway through the summer after my feet have spent half the summer in close proximity to NYC city streets. I pay a fair bit more than the city average because I want to patronize a salon that pays its staff fairly and this is definitely something I do not want to do myself. Blech. But I take care of touch-ups and polish changes between visits.

    Earlier this year, we signed up for a vegan “meal ingredients” delivery service a couple of times a week because I was incredibly busy juggling work plus school 3 nights a week and we were also transitioning to a vegan-ish diet. The ingredients delivery service was expensive, but we thought it was worth it for a few months. Aside from the fact that we saved time planning meals and getting food (and saved money by not ordering in or going out), we found it was a good way to try a variety of vegan dishes and ingredients, and the system gently pushed me to try a number of vegetables I wouldn’t have chosen if I’d been in charge of selecting our meals and buying the ingredients. We also were happy to support a local, small business. After a few months, when I stopped spending most weeknights at school and we were more knowledgeable about menus, we cut back the service. (And then, sadly, the company went out of business.)

    1. JH – This is not a critique AT ALL of your choice to get pedicures. (I feel like I need to state that up front.) But I recently discovered something called BabyFoot. It’s these little plastic booties with natural plant extracts in it – it’s a gel. Anyway, you sit in the booties for an hour, then wait. A couple of days later, all of the dead skin on your feet starts peeling off. I legit was molting. It was disgusting yet oddly satisfying at the same time. It might be an option for you mid-winter. And I’m totally not affiliated with BabyFoot. I just tried it out a month or so ago (because I’m essentially home and bed bound due to a medical condition currently). It’s not cheap (2 sets of booties for $36 I think), but it totally works. And if someone wanted to use that instead of a pedicure, it might be more cost effective (depending, of course, on the price of the pedi).

  9. Priorities – no brainer. Living on a farm, you learn very quickly that time it takes to do things on the farm is part of the enjoyment for living here. I could NEVER live in a village, town or city again. However, I DO work in town as well, means that some things have to go as far as work at home. Those things I will not devulge because sometimes I cheat and hire a couple kids to help deal with what I’ve not done outside. Usually, I’m pretty good about the inside. But, I choose those kids wisely. I’ve lived out here long enough to know families that could use the extra $ and that is kind of my sneaky way of giving back. One of my priorities after living all these years is to look out for those who have less. So, if it means that I have even less, it doesn’t make me sad or feel unfulfilled, quite the opposite. I believe in sharing. I have a farm, food, I am able to follow three different passions as far as work goes. One of my priorities about time is to make sure I have time for my spirit to grow…or at least time to center…to get away from the noise of daily living. Just to be quiet and soak up the reality around me.

  10. I think you two may be my long lost slightly more frugal Jayhawk relatives. I totally agree with how you weigh the time vs. money choice. So many people assume they are saving time by spending money but never take the time to figure it out. I don’t use coupons either. Occasionally I will clip a few I come across and fall into thinking I “should” use coupons but then I end up not using them because when I look at the store it’s never as cheap with the coupon as the Aldi or generic product is. So I don’t use the coupon. Time wasted.

  11. I think time vs money can also be thought of as value. We do our best to buy organic or farm to table because we find a value in having a butcher provide our meat rather than a package wrapped in plastic from the unknowns.

    Cutting your hair for example what a great value. I cut my own hair with a little help from the wife. I have been to the barber and in 95% of the cases I feel like they are taking the 10-15 dollars for something I can do myself.

    I agree with your time vs money, but I prefer the word choice of value. Great post as always.

  12. It’s definitely not easy! Time vs. money will always be about priorities. The truth is, most of have limited time. Especially those of us blogging, side hustling, etc. outside of a day job. But some things we just enjoy doing on our own. For example, my boyfriend enjoys fixing cars. It gets him away from the computer. And he generally finds it relaxing! So, I’m not going to argue if he insists on fixing my brakes.

  13. I’ve given the time vs. money question a lot of thought, and I even wrote a blog post about it once! I think that your point about learning something and getting personal satisfaction from doing something yourself is very important. Even if something takes a little more time to DIY, it can be worthwhile if you’re learning a skill or enjoying yourself in the process.

    On the other hand, if, as you say, you really don’t like something, then just don’t do it! Like you, I’ve recently stopped wearing makeup altogether and it is great. I feel good, probably no one else even notices, and I’m saving money and lots of time! On the other hand, I do hire someone to clean my house every other week. I could do this myself, and I’m certainly not going to claim that I spend the time I’m not cleaning doing more productive pursuits. The thing is, I don’t want to clean. I work a lot, and spending my time off cleaning the toilet just doesn’t make me happy. I’ve made a strategic choice to outsource this aspect of my work, and I like to think I balance it out by spending carefully in other areas and insourcing other tasks, such as cooking at home.

    1. I share your philosophy. This is my mindset too, except for the makeup thing. For me, the improvement in the way I look and therefore feel is worth the time spend on applying makeup every day. I use cruelty free drugstore brands (which are relatively cheap), and while I find the application routine annoying, it really takes only 5 minutes (I timed it). So it’s a time and money investment that works for me.
      Of course if I could get away without it, I think I would.

  14. We’ve made better decisions financially, ever since we started thinking about stuff in terms of time or money. One place we do differ – is we spend the money on maids. Mostly because it allows us more time with our kids. We only have the maids come every other week – so its a good compromise… don’t need to do deep cleaning – which is hardest with two toddlers vying for your attention. Plus, its a marriage saver – because I have a much higher need for clean than Mr SSC, and if left to cleaning ourselves – well, I would probably do 95% of it, since Mr. SSC wouldn’t ever think things needed cleaning.

  15. I’m with you on the makeup. I only wear it a few times per month now – and only when I want to look extra nice. I officially give up on all of that. Putting on makeup is pain, and washing it off every time I shower is equally annoying.

  16. Great post, Frugalwoods!! I I am all about doing as much as we can. It’s a learning process and it saves money. I do get my hair cut professionally, but go to Great Clips once a year haha. I cut my husband’s hair once and accidentally cut off his sideburns. He won’t let me come near his hair now haha.

    Hope you have a wonderful day!!

  17. My mantra used to be, “If after six years of art school I can’t paint my own toenails, then I might as well throw myself off a bridge.”

    After having a baby I just wanted someone to do something for me once in a while, so I do three visits to the local nail salon for the summer. I’ll probably go back to doing it myself again when he gets older.

    I watched a bunch of YouTube videos and learned how to cut the baby’s hair. Not perfect, but passable. I always cut Mr. Cheapheart’s, but I wouldn’t let him touch mine with a ten foot pole. I go once every nine months.

    I learned the hard way what a huge mistake and financial drain buying a new car is. It nearly cost me the ability to buy a house. We plan to squeeze every last drop out of the two cars we own outright.

    Most people never consider buying a multi-family house. You just have to ask your broker to recalculate the amount they will lend you. They consider 75% of the rental income as your income. People don’t want to “deal” with the negatives that come with having tenants, but most of the time I just have to deal with someone paying 67% of my mortgage plus the ability to write off depreciation and repairs. You must understand the law regarding being a landlord and screen new tenants thoroughly. So far it has been the best decision I have ever made.

    1. I like your advice on multi-family housing. I will be a first-time home buyer in the next few years and was interested in a duplex. They’re really plentiful around my part of the country. Also able to get one in a nicer neighborhood.

      If you don’t mind, why did you go with a multi-family rather than a single family home? You said that you have children? How does that affect your decision?

      1. There was a guy I worked with who would tell me over and over about buying multi-family houses. The more he talked about it the more it seemed to make sense. I did some reading about it and Mr. Cheapheart and I went for it. We also retained his bachelor pad in a fancy neighborhood which we rent out as well.

        We have spent some big bucks getting these places up to date. We have updated the electrical in both, which unless you are an electrician, is not a DIY job, and not cheap, but vitally important. While we have done the work the units have been vacant. But at this point both mortgages are covered by the two rents.

        Our son was barely a thought when we bought our property, but we have the top two floors of a two family, so it is plenty of space. We live in a great neighborhood with parks and public transportation within two blocks. The schools are not the greatest, but we can sort that out when he gets older.

        There is a disaster every once in a while at the rentals, but it is pretty infrequent. The stress of making sure they are rented is something to consider, but in reality is the perfect job for a mom (unless you work full time outside of the home) and it has afforded me the ability to just work part time and spend more time with my son.

        Basically, the bottom line is, a single-family house is a liability/expense. A multi family is a source of income and a tax write off. Through our renovations, plus a strong rental market in our area, the rent we charge has doubled in the five years we have owned the home. I suspect in 5-10 more we will cover our mortgage. If we decide that we need to move, we can rent out our unit and then we will make quite a bit from it.

        One thing to consider is the number of bedrooms in your rental and what kind of clientele they will attract. The more bedrooms you have, the more likely you will have a bunch of college students splitting the rent or a larger family. Students come with noise and partying, with families you have to watch out for lead paint and other safety concerns in regards to children. A lot of people in the home out more wear and tear on the unit and a four bedroom does not rent for double of what two two-bedrooms would.

        My friend did a calculation and figured out that a three family is where you really clean up in terms of making money. Of course, that comes with more work and responsibility.

        Knowing the law is very important. Here in MA landlords have very few rights and it is extremely hard to evict people. Screening tenants is important. We always list through a realtor (the tenant pays the fee) because we feel it is an additional barrier to entry.

        Good luck. It is not all sunshine and rainbows, but a good bit of passive income and a retirement plan of sorts.

  18. A lot of our time versus money considerations involve food, too. For cooking vs. restaurants, we find it’s usually easiest to eat at home and cook something from scratch. And cook enough to have leftovers so we get another meal or two for almost zero prep time. Compare that to a restaurant that involves mobilizing the family and walking or driving to the dining establishment, then waiting to be seated, waiting to order, waiting on food, waiting on the bill, and finally driving back home (waiting in traffic lol). That’s a lot of waiting time that could have spent just cooking food at home.

    And grocery shopping with coupons is another fallacy we don’t succumb to. I’ve tried it and hey, it’s cool getting stuff for free or a tiny fraction of the MSRP. But many times it’s premium or name brand stuff that we don’t use. Or prepared packaged crap that just isn’t that good compared to actually cooking real food. When you’re buying the fresh ingredients, it’s really not that expensive to cook a meal yourself and it usually tastes better too (if not the first time you attempt a dish, surely by the 2nd or 3rd time)!

  19. I love “missing the frugal forest for the trees.” I see this a lot with couponing and sales. People are often shocked when they see my frugalness without coupon clipping as one of my activities. As I eat healthier, coupons for the types of food I want are rare. I’ll scan the grocery store circular when I enter to store, but that’s about it.
    Too many people focus on the deal before deciding whether or not they need something. Shopping sales and using coupons often results in buying because “it’s a good deal.” I don’t want to buy with that logic. I want to need and want the item, and then price compare. Sad that too many people look for the deal only – never factoring in if they want or need it.

  20. And it’s worth noting that valuing how you spend your time is very personal. I get the paper every Sunday and add an extra 5-10 minutes to my normal paper reading routine by clipping mostly coupons for household products and seeing if those same household products are on sale at either of the stores we would buy them at (Target or Publix). (Definitely far from an extreme couponer, but I do use them.) I’d much rather do this with my time to try and get the best deals on such products than waste the same amount of time or more trudging to Costco (which I consider to be a miserable headache inducing experience second only to the misery that is Best Buy) on a monthly or bi-monthly basis. Clearly we have different ideas on the pleasantness of Costco and physically handling advertisements, but they are both about time vs. money. =)

  21. Another up side to DIY projects is in the future transition to country living. Depending on the area you live in and the season some services or goods are simply unobtainable or difficult to access. Being able to cope with challenges that can and will arise is a huge plus.

  22. Your blog encouraged me to try to cut my own hair! It is actually a huge money saver, specially since I dye my hair as well. I agree with the house cleaning, before I start I dread it but when I’m into it I like the scrubbing and dusting, feels zen.

  23. I love this post, I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. You captured my philosophy regarding coupons perfectly. I have two questions though: How do you decide which new skills are worth the time investment it takes to learn them? And does the fallacy of getting paid more still apply if I use the saved time efficiently instead of watching TV?

  24. Timely post, as I cut my own hair this weekend for the first time. It took quite awhile for me to do the research and choose a method for my thin, shoulder length/ mid length hair (went with the ponytail method). But I can see the benefit to going to the salon for many people. My spouse doesn’t trust me to cut his hair (though I have cut the boys’ hair). I have friends with “hard” hair, as in, extra curly, requires special styling, coloring for the gray. While I happily cut my own hair this weekend, and would only get a trim 2x a year before that – I don’t begrudge people their salon time. I also think that people need to make a living, and people who do it professionally deserve to get paid.

    I’ve always thought the “but I can be earning money if I outsource” was also a fallacy. Mostly because I am an exempt employee, so we don’t get paid by the hour (my husband gets paid by the hour).

    On the other hand, there is a limited amount of time in the week/day, which becomes glaringly obvious when you have children – especially infants and toddlers. It only gets worse when the # of children increases, and if you both have jobs? I believe STRONGLY that everyone needs “down time”. So, on the TV vs. cleaning your own house thing – I don’t find house cleaning to be relaxing. I used to find cooking fun until I had children. Eventually it becomes a chore. There are times when you cannot do any chores with the children awake, and then, really, do you want to spend the 30 waking minutes each night doing chores? Probably not. This time period is reasonably short, depending on how many children you have. But here it becomes time vs. money vs. sanity. One might argue that it would be better to fashion a life that isn’t so strapped for time. I’m still fighting for a job that allows part time work.

    Once I learned to cook, I found that it was definitely cheaper and faster to cook. I also went through the process of using coupons, then keeping a price book, and then just learning what stores had approximately the best prices for each item. There are few things that I “shop around” for now.

    In the end, as I’ve had children and aged and made more money, we’ve deliberately made the “time vs. money” choices for some things. I cook instead of eating out. We do a lot of our own home maintenance. We stopped changing the oil in our cars. We have a cleaning person 2x a month. We also have a financial planner. I cut my own hair and one or both of my kids’ hair. If you add up all the “little things” to do yourself, it’s no longer little. My parents didn’t outsource anything, but then, my mother was at home and they didn’t have near the things going on – simply the sheer amount of papers from the school, and health insurance paperwork, and financial paperwork (my parents had a savings account, no investments). It really was a simpler time.

  25. This is a tough line to navigate. As we started on this journey, I just assumed money would always win out… but “strategic frugality” is a good way to put it. We need to learn about our priorities so we know what we want to do in our “ideal lifestyle” when we retire. If we don’t know what we value, we won’t know how to live. We also choose to have a car. In Alaska, it’s necessary if we want to explore anything. If the belugas are migrating through, we wouldn’t be able to go see them without a car. (Plus, transporting 3 kids in a bike trailer in the snow isn’t ideal.)

  26. It is a fine line balancing time and money. I look at my happiness factor. If I loath something and can’t not do it, then I look at spending my money on it. Hence why my floors get scrubbed by a professional every 2 weeks:) We are working hard to do more thing by ourselves but to know when we need help (like in a plumbing problem that arose recently).

  27. I’m with you. I do most things myself except 4 that come to mind as I get older.
    1. Bleaching my hair-I go to my local beauty school and in between, I can tone on my own.
    2. Changing oil of my car- I did a cost analysis of this one-once I figure the “disposal fee”, it is cheaper for them to do it.
    3. Cleaning the condo- at 47 and after 9 surgeries, this became too much. Every 3 weeks, 2 young ladies come and give it a deep clean.
    4. Costco items heavy and bulky. I use Instacart for the 36 pack of LaCroix, 10lbs of onions and so on. Even with tip, it’s worth it.

  28. In theory, I would love to do more re-finishing of cabinets/furniture and painting. However, in reality, I suck and do more damage than good. I really wish I was skilled at these things though.

  29. Long time reader, first time commenter ????

    After buying our first house, we decided to outsource our lawns. It’s significantly cheaper than what either of us are paid per hour, we don’t have to find/buy a lawn mower and our Bob comes around during the week when we’re both at work. He takes the green waste away at the end – good because we worm farm rather than compost – and my boyfriend can do the garden jobs he loves instead, like growing me potatoes.

    Win win win win win.

    Thanks for the awesome thoughts Frugalwoods, as always.

    Ps: your house viewing suggestions are directly responsible for us buying this exact house.

  30. I used to argue that I make more and have a busy life so that I needed just about every convenience imaginable. The fact is that since I have lessened the “conveniences” I really don’t miss them. I am with you, though, I don’t coupon and find that it would actually waste my money because I would end up buying products we don’t even need or use just to try to save money from the coupon.

  31. Cleaning the house is one of the things I hear a lot of people pay for because they just don’t like the chore. I also hear people say the need to clean or straight up because the cleaning lady is coming, not sure what that’s about. I don’t mind pitching in around the house, it eas to do and know its done right. I often catch up on podcast too.

  32. You had a lot of good points about insourcing on your post. The time, travel, expense with getting the haircuts done I posted a few months ago saves me a ton of money. But the one thing I really like is the bonding time doing things together. We do cleaning, the garden, cut up fruits to dry for snacks, can pickles, salsa, and cook and bake special projects together. That is a factor you cannot measure with simply time versus money. Doing the work ourselves provides an example to my children and helps develop the work ethic and responsibility to learn to do things for themselves. And learning to do things themselves develops a sense of pride in doing a job well. So being frugal is not just trying to save a dollar, it is taking charge of your life, not counting on everyone else to cater to you, it teaches respect. And as for the one on one bonding time with my guy, I love having his fingers in my hair and getting my glass of wine set out for me and knowing I never have to worry about getting a bad haircut. I appreciate that he really dreads doing the color for my hair but does it because he loves me. So frugal is a relationship builder as you do things together for each other and dot your best doing it.

    1. Cheryl–you’ve perfectly articulated how I feel about insourcing! It really is a wonderful opportunity to spend time together and, I love your comment about instilling a good work ethic in your kids. That’s absolutely what we hope to do with Babywoods as well. Thank you for sharing this!

  33. Funny you should bring this up this week, the very same week that I discovered Market Basket (thanks to your blog!). This is actually a pretty good case study, I think.

    If I had read this post two weeks ago, I would have said, heck, I am not taking time out of my evening to walk all the way to to Market Basket for groceries. It is a 20-minute walk in the exact opposite direction from my job and literally everything else I walk to. No way, man. I am stopping at Whole Foods, which is precisely on my way home, because that way I am saving tons of time, and who cares that maybe my bill was $3 higher than it would have been at Market Basket. I am happy to pay $3 to go straight home and relax.

    Now that I’ve actually been to Market Basket, I have realized that a) it’s only a 15-minute walk, tops, b) Market Basket is my new favorite place to people-watch, and c) I’m not saving $3, I’m saving $30. And for these reasons, I’ll basically be going there every week from this point onwards.

    So to analyze this, it’s sort of a combination of a couple of the things you mentioned. Money wins out in this case because going to MB is more enjoyable than going to Whole Foods, and also because I am actually saving *that* much money.

    The haircut thing I haven’t tackled yet. 🙂

  34. A lot of great perspectives in this post. Thanks Mrs. FW! Coupon clipping does not work for the DisIndebteds either. We found that we would often buy something because it was a “deal.” However, we either a) didn’t really need it to begin with, or b) could have bought the store brand for less. We run into the same issue with apps like ibotta. While there are usable rebates on ibotta or checkout51, but more often they are items we wouldn’t typically purchase. Aside from that, most coupons and rebate apps go for the middle-aisle processed foods. We cook a lot and love shopping for fresh produce, meats and other items. Coupons rarely help here. Given the scant amount of pocket change I can scrape together, I have gotten away from coupons and rebate apps and am no longer using them on a regular basis. One thing I do still use, however, is Raise.com. I can typically buy a Kroger gift card for 2% off or more. That’s a no-brainer!

  35. Love the Post and how on earth did you get FW Hound to pose in high heels so funny she makes my day every time there’s a pic..
    Hair cuts in Australia are expensive , inner city you’re handing over around $95 or $50 in the burbs (that’s Aussie slang for Suburbs). And that’s just a trim nothing fancy.. Don’t get me started on colour , cut and style, upwards of $180. I only get trims once or twice year nowdays I have same length as you but I might see if my partner will try cutting it for me..
    Totally agree on the time vs money. I don’t spend a lot but if I want something I have a saying before I purchase, which is “how many dogs do I need to groom to pay for it “. I’m a Dog Groomer & Minder) . Always makes me think twice and it works well and we comfortably live within our means this way with no debt.. Reminds me of a quote I made up this week (l have many lol) “Income is irrelevant. It’s your Expenses and your Mindset that will make you or break you”.. Another I like to use is “it’s not a bargain if you didn’t need it””.. Kisses to FW Hound !!

  36. I live in a neighborhood that surrounds itself with “outsourcing”; lawn care, housecleaning, even a massage therapist who appears at my neighbor’s house once a week.
    My husband and I are both employed outside the home, perhaps more hours a week than most others, however we also enjoy doing tasks ourselves. We take pride in working in our garden and keeping our place looking nice. When I clean a bathroom I think of it as a way to show love to my family ( a clean toilet makes me pretty darn happy). We enjoy having relaxed dinners at home where we eat healthfully ( mostly!), talk about our days, and enjoy the company of our son.
    I’ve figured out strategic ways to get things done during small pockets of downtime ( especially helpful once kids arrive). I’ll throw in a load of laundry while my morning coffee brews, wipe down a bathroom while my son gets ready for bed, pack lunches while we’re cleaning up from dinner.
    I’m also learning “mindfulness”, where I focus on a larger task and just try to think of it as a meditative experience- dusting with nice music in the background, pulling weeds and really trying to focus on the sunshine and singing birds. Thankful for what we have, and the good health to be able to do these tasks ourselves.

    1. YES! You nailed it, Kim! That’s precisely how we feel too. And a clean toilet brings me great joy as well ;). I’m also a big fan of squeezing in little tasks in between other activities–it’s amazing how much one can accomplish that way. Thanks for sharing your lovely philosophy on this.

  37. I solved the time going to/from the hair salon problem by only going once or twice a year and finding one I like one block from my house! I used to get groupons and go around town to save money, but I decided I’d rather find someone more conveniently located.

    I bought my car new and as it gets older, I’m actually liking having an “older” car more than having a new car! So I have a feeling I’ll buy a not quite as new one next time.

  38. Great post! This is always such an important consideration and I’m always amazed when people don’t value their time. I do have a housekeeper but when we move next year I’m going to see how we do without one. It was so helpful when we had two tiny babies but I’m wondering if I can keep it just as clean with a few minutes a day. Love the pics in this post BTW!

  39. Wow – that’s a vey thorough analysis!

    We generally opt to save money, but there are times I’m happy to outsource and pay for it. (My haircuts are an example.)

    I do like couponing for some things, and stocking up when I can at the lower price. But you’re right that it can take a lot of time and work. There’s a part of me that LOVES getting a great deal on something I need, anyway. Maybe I just need to get out more. 🙂

  40. *I agree on time vs. cost savings. I usually look at how much something costs to how many hours my husband had to work to get that money. Those are hours he had to spend away from the family so we could afford that item or splurge. I also use most of our ‘side hustle’ money for our splurges: going out to dinner, small trips to the beach, gifts etc. so that it doesn’t take away from our bottom line. I learned this from my parents when we would collect and deposit Oregon refund cans and use that money to buy ice cream at the beach!
    *I do use coupons, but not as frequently b/c the deals just are not there like they used to be. I find I only clip about 4 manufacturer coupons out of the newspaper each week to use. I have started using the Cartwheel app from Target, since I finally got a (refurbished) smart phone. It is easy to search and download only those coupons you need.
    *This year we outsourced having our roof redone b/c one side of our house is 3 stories and I didn’t want to see hubby or family member take a tumble.

  41. It is wonderful that you have become so DI- able before the birth of your child. It is much more difficult, and frankly, not always wisest, to put a lot of time and effort into developing new skills once children are on the scene – especially if full-time work is added into the equation. I really like your examples of time winning out and of money winning out. Given my different circumstances, my examples would be different – but the fact that you get us all thinking about these things is fabulous!

  42. Time vs Money is a pretty popular debate in the PF world. I like how you talk about it here and how you can save both at the same time. I did think about this the other day when I was tempted to go out to eat since I “didn’t have time” to cook a meal.

  43. Dear Mrs Frugalwoods. Thank you both so much for what you do, you are both such an inspiration. I’ve been reading your blog on a daily basis since I’ve discovered it a few weeks ago and I’m hooked. Each posting is so full of amazing information! I have 2 questions and I’m sorry if you’ve already answered this somewhere else on the blog. I would love to know what Mrs Frugalwoods’ favorite TV & YouTube shows are and also which books have inspired you both the most! Thank you so much!

  44. I collect coupons for things I might use, like the store coupons for products I always buy or they frequently send me a coupon for a free bag of frozen veggies! Many I know will never get used but if something healthy was already on offer and the coupon makes it almost free I’ll use it.

    There’s a national chain does car oil changes @ $19, but I have found they try to upsell; last time they recommended $600 of work, I asked the mechanic I usually use to check and it wasn’t necessary. The dealership sometimes sends me cheap oil change vouchers, I will go there then because they vacuum and wash/polish the car plus they have cakes and cappuccino while you wait!

    I’ve cut my own hair for years, then a year or two ago my son asked for clippers and started doing his. I don’t buy perfume, make-up, ‘beauty’ products, jewelry or hair color so no waste there- and interestingly my skin has not aged at all as I go into my fifties… : )

    To save time I use the 15 items or less self-checkout at the supermarket, the drive-through pharmacy calling ahead a day or two, the car places say they will complete the oil change in 30 minutes or it’s free, and goodness knows how long I’d have to wait in the hairdresser.

  45. Hiya!
    I’m curious to know what vegan/vegetarian items you buy from Costconthat justify the membership fee.


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