The Tradeoff Between Energy, Time and Money

Do you remember summers as a child when you had unlimited energy and all the time in the world to do whatever you wanted to do before the start of school?  And there was no real need for money.

Then you grew up and all of a sudden there was never enough energy, time or money for everything. Seems like with family, friends, work, church and other activities there is not enough time in 24 hours to get everything done we need to do. That makes it really easy to justify spending money on things we are able to do for ourselves, but just don’t have the time or energy to accomplish.

It is tempting to justify paying someone to mow the lawn, clean the house, wash the car or whatever else needs to be done around the house. When we do that we are trading money for the time and energy to do other things. That may be a good tradeoff, but we are using money that could be directed towards things that are more important than paying someone to do our chores.

Balancing energy, time and money can be an art form and it is different for every family and each individual, but it is important to understand the tradeoffs and make a conscious decision.

About twelve years ago, we moved back to Orlando from Atlanta. When we were house hunting, we were very focused on buying a house big enough to be comfortable but small enough to be easy to care for. It is not exactly a zero lot line house but the houses are pretty close together. The biggest benefit to us is that the home owner’s association takes care of the lawn and plants in the front yard, which saves us oodles of energy, time and also money. The side yards are filled with river rock so there is no maintenance there and the back yard is filled with mulch and plants so there is no maintenance there.

Our home is not large by any means, and that is a good thing. We can easily travel without having any maintenance cares above the normal maintenance that occurs when we are home. Just like the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears – “it’s just right!”

A smaller living space keeps us from accumulating a bunch of stuff that we really don’t need or use. It saves time because the less active living space we have, the less time we’re going to spend cleaning it and taking care of it. It saves money because a smaller home has smaller bills – lower property taxes, lower insurance rates, lower energy bills.

We also make conscious decisions about the tradeoff with energy, time and money in how we handle our groceries. Even though we are both working in the ministry out of a spare room in our home, dinner can sometimes be a challenge. We have many evenings where we have to rush off to a meeting or when we arrive home so late in the afternoon neither of us feels like cooking. That’s why we plan leftovers in to our weekly menu so there is something to eat on those evenings when there is no time to cook. It also saves money because it is cheaper to eat at home instead of the time and energy it takes to go to a restaurant.

I consciously make my menus and shopping list based on bulk buys and bogo items. There are lots of items around the house that we use every day and really don’t want to run out of, such as toothpaste, soap, paper towels, laundry detergent and toilet paper. If we run out we have to buy them at the current price. So, we try to buy in bulk or when they are on sale or when we can buy through a bogo. Even if we have plenty on hand, I’ll take advantage of a sale because I know we’ll use them and that saves energy time and money.

Over the years, I have learned that cleaning what’s dirty on a regular basis works much better for me than an all-out blitz to clean everything all in one day. Every day I make sure that errant items are picked up and put away. When needed I will do a more thorough cleaning. This strategy keeps my desire to hire someone to clean the house at bay.

Seems like some days we are in the car a lot and it’s easy to get thirsty and stop at a convenience store for a bottle of water or soft drink. By keeping a bottle of water in the car, we know we don’t have to stop at a convenience store (saving both time and money) and we stay hydrated.

There is always a shopping list on our refrigerator. If we’re running low on anything, it gets written down. When it’s time to go to the store, I start with the list and add what’s needed from my meal plan for the week. Because our schedule is so dynamic, I only shop for 3-5 days at a time. I find that works best for us as we don’t buy a lot of things that go bad because of last minute changes to our schedule. I always check the sale brochure to see what is on sale and plan meals around that so I don’t buy expensive ingredients that will be on sale the following week. Sometimes we’ll be low on something and it is not on sale, and I am pretty sure there is a sale coming up so I just keep it on the list till the next week’s sale brochure comes out.

Since meals are planned around what we have on hand, it’s very rare that we run out of items in the moment, meaning that we rarely have to make “emergency runs” to the store, and the fewer trips I make to the store, the more money, time and energy I save.

There is a great balancing act between energy, time and money. There are a lot of ways that you can spend less time and get more things done without spending the money to pay someone else to do it for you.

The first key point is energy. If you are physically incapable of performing specific tasks around the house, you may not have an option of doing it yourself. If you HAVE the energy and physical ability then it becomes a balancing act between time and money.

Another key point in the balancing act is your time. What are your priorities for spending your time? If you have the money, it may make sense to pay someone to do chores for you if that gives you more time to spend on things that are more important to you, such as time with the family. Of course, getting the family involved in helping you with the yard work can accomplish the same thing, while also teaching children about responsibility and work ethic.

And the third part of the balancing act is money. If you are in debt or you don’t have any emergency savings then paying off debt and saving for an emergency is your highest priority. Those items need to have a higher priority than paying someone to do chores for you.

If you are struggling with balancing energy, time and money, take it to prayer and God will lead you in the right direction. Remember this verse from Ecclesiastes 3: “There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens.”

For more on this topic, connect with the Compass Catholic podcast on Podbean as we discuss the balancing act between energy, time and money.

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