What Should You Choose: Money or Time?

 

I think I try to choose time over money in my life. In fact, I think the value of time was one of my bigger takeaways when we started getting into minimalism, decluttering and paying off debt with ‘gazelle like intenstiy’ as the great Dave Ramsey would say. Suddenly I could equate stuff – the cost of time to maintain, the money and the hours of work that money represented, what the space to store that stuff cost us in mortgage, utilities, insurance – with time. As someone in mid-life with young kids time, the passing of it so quickly as years, the often dragging of it so slowly as hours, the dearth of it for my singular use, is on my mind often.

This piece in the New York Times attempts to answer the question what is worth more: money or time. It starts with a question for a parent of a new baby. Should the parent take the extra weekend of work, increasing their income, or stay home to have more time with their 12 week old baby. What will make them happier? The extra money in the bank or the extra hours with their new baby.

Of course, for many people there is simply no question to answer. They need the money for basic living costs. But this article examines the question for people that do have a choice. And if you’re a minimalist wannabe like me, the answer will affirm your choice to value time over money.

when it is a choice, the likelihood of choosing more time over more money — despite the widespread tendency to do the opposite — is a good sign you’ll enjoy the happiness you seek.

Reading this article made me think of our current lifestyle and from a few angles it looks and feels like we’re seriously undervaluing time. My husband is away from us 2-3 weeks a month. That’s a lot of time to give up. And although it’s not forever, at most we think it will be ten months, it feels pretty long. Why have we given up so much time so willingly?

We’re hoping to give up this time now to gain more in the future. We’ve always hoped that my husband could take a year, or even – dream scenario – be mostly retired, and while the kids were still in school. This venture my husband is working on now might make that possible down the road. Plainly speaking I make considerably less money than him so for this to happen we would have to hit a financial milepost like have our mortgage paid off to make it work. So we’re hoping that sacrificing time in the short term brings us more time later. Also, we know it’s just ten months and if it becomes truly unbearable we can always just move me and the kids over to where my husband is.

Is it the right choice? I can’t say. I think about if something were to happen, like one of us became critically ill, and would I wish we’d done things differently. Then I remember that I can’t predict the future. So right now, this ultra-long distance commute makes sense for us for a number of reasons (some that I don’t share here because they’re not mine to share).

Funny how my answer to this question has changed over the years. I clearly remember talking to a coworker at one of my first post-university jobs and asking him if the was applying for the new manager position. I assumed he would: he was smart and had been there for a few years. When he said no I was shocked. Why? He didn’t want the extra stress and responsibility and hours. He didn’t want to check email at night or have to stay late for meetings. He had a new baby at home and he said his priority was his family. And, he added, his current salary was enough for him. Totally baffling answer to me, at the time a 22 year old, debt riddled singleton but now? Sounds reasonable.

I find the question of choosing time or money endlessly fascinating. There isn’t a wrong answer here. Sometimes prioritizing income over time is the right answer in the short term for many reasons: early retirement, finite work available, paying for large unexpected expenses, trying to make a big purchase like a house without assuming a lot of debt, etc.

Are you someone that has the luxury of deciding to work more, or less, or make career choices based on giving yourself more time rather than more money? Do you actively choose to spend less on big and small things so that you don’t have to work more? Is money more important to you right now than time?

Our New Two Wheeled Minivan: The Yuba Mundo Cargo Bike

We did it. We’re a cargo biking family as of a month ago!

For many years I have watched and read wistfully about families using cargo bikes for most of their transportation. It looked like so much fun and the health, environmental and financial benefits were compelling. Stacy over at A Simple Six was the first person I stumbled upon who was moving her large family around by bike. They went ‘car lite’ five years ago and go by bike as much as possible. I was impressed and inspired. Cargo biking with my children seemed like an ideal way to get around because a) I don’t like driving, b) Vancouver has a growing network of bike paths and bike lanes and c) cycling would allow us to go places that are too far for us to walk. Also, d) it looks really fun!

But I also had some hesitations about cargo biking. Could I really do this? I’m a former athlete but I’m not naturally athletic. I don’t pick up new sports or movements easily. Also could I find a cargo bike that all three kids could fit on that would also fit in my condominium bike room. The bike parking stalls are small and you have to exit bikes through two doors and up a fairly steep ramp. I wasn’t sure a cargo bike could fit through the doors, in a bike parking stall or easily go up the exit ramp.

Am I strong enough to pedal my three kids around on a bike? Okay, I was once an athlete but in this current stage of life I’m far, far away from my past career as a rower. Actually right when I was in the process of getting my cargo bike I tore a muscle in my calf and had to stop running. When the bike arrived I had lost a lot of my cardiovascular fitness. Here’s another concern: I’m a big person. Cycling is all about power vs. weight. My fitness wasn’t great and I was going to haul myself, the bike and my kids up a hill? I was intimidated. Intimidated and my husband thought I was a bit crazy.

Can I navigate the streets with my kids on board a cargo bike? I did have some experience road cycling pre-children but it felt like a lifetime ago. I sold my road bike when I was very pregnant with my oldest son seven years ago. Since then I’ve been on a bike exactly once when we rented bikes and I hauled our younger two in a trailer. I went through the archives of Stacy’s blog and took a lot of comfort in her candid posts about her first rides with her cargo bike: yes, it took some getting used to but she was quickly able to ride with several children on board. Also comforting to read: Stacy hatched her plan family biking and going car lite and she hadn’t been on a bike in ten years! This is exactly the kind of blind faith success story I was looking for.

It’s been a month since we got the bike and I’m happy to say yes I am strong enough (and getting stronger!) and yes I can navigate city streets with kids on board. I slowly built up to riding with more weight on the bike and if my three year old will finally get on the bike for more than a photo (he’s our stubborn one!) I’ll be riding with all three on board this summer. I’ll be sharing more about getting started and using our bike but for now, here’s more about our awesome orange family hauler:

Our new minivan bike is a Yuba Mundo 21 LUX.

It can carry up to four small children and has a hauling capacity of 440 lbs. We’ve kitted it out with a Yepp Maxi Easy Fit seat for the baby, soft spot and monkey bars for our older two, a bread basket on the front that can carry up to 50 lbs and one Go Getter pannier bag with an 85 liter capacity. This thing truly is a minivan on two wheels.

Awesome things about our Yuba Mundo cargo bike:

  • it fits in our bike parking! A cargo bike with a box on it would be too wide and long for our bike parking but this long tail fits in nicely.
  • it rides like a regular bike. It has a mechanism called a ‘deflopilator’ that makes the steering heavier to compensate for the weight on the back of the bike. The deflopilator is a must in my opinion – I have ridden the bike with and without this small piece added and it was night and day. It takes some miles to get used to riding a bike with that much weight but after a few rides I was up to riding with two kids (50 + 30lbs) and another 30lbs of gear.
  • it is incredibly fun. Here’s a little video below of two of my boys on the back enjoying themselves. What you can’t see is the grin on my face.
  • this bike could help us become car free again. In the next 1-2 years some things will change for our family – school location, smaller car seats – and with the Yuba Mundo cargo bike, walking, transit and car-sharing we could once again be car free!
  • the Yuba Mundo is an affordable cargo bike. Bigger box style cargo bikes can be in the $6000+ range. A long tail Yuba cargo bike starts as low was $1000.

More to come on cargo biking! If you have any specific questions or photos/videos you would like to see of the bike in action please let me know.

 

Why I’m Doing More This Holiday Season

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Last year we had a very quiet holiday season. New baby + illness = I’m impressed we actually got a tree up. Last December is a bit of a blur to me now. I have some photos of the older two putting out carrots for Rudolph and cookies for Santa and I remember they slept in on Christmas morning, but I couldn’t tell you much more. I know they didn’t get out to a lot of the town holiday events because of inclement weather and the new baby.

This year is different: we’re in a big city, we’re near family and our baby is sleeping through the night (for now!). I am so jazzed for this Christmas, for how excited my older boys are by just about everything and that we are near our family, that we’re doing as much as we can. Yes, I’m not simplifying the holidays this year and I’m doing more than we have before.

I read Laura Vanderkam’s post 5 Reasons I’m Not Simplifying Christmas This Year and many of my do more reasons are the same as hers. *Laura’s blog and books are a must read for productivity lovers/seekers, particularly those with kids and those working a long hours job.

When you keep things pretty simple and low-key for most of the year, you can go big on the holidays without burn out. My kids have a light schedule of classes and activities and my husband and I are home most weekday evenings during the year. If there’s a once a year chance for some weekday evening fun that the kids will love, we’re going. We had a full day out the other weekend with mini-train rides, meeting Santa and getting pictures taken and watching a big Christmas parade. The kids loved it. We loved it. At the end of November we went to a street festival and watched ice carvers make holiday themed sculpture and checked out locally made crafts and goods.  Most of what we’ve been to has been within a five block radius of our home – yeah city living!

This year I’m also just letting gifts ‘happen’ instead of asking/begging Grandmas to give them a bit less. They know by now that we can’t keep large items in our small home and that we really love experience gifts. They also know we don’t keep everything. If a gift isn’t being played with or used, we’ll donate it. So my kids will get the fun of opening a gift and the person giving the gift will get to enjoy that experience. Five years into trying to ‘live a rich life with less stuff’ I don’t have to explain any of this to well meaning, love language = gifts, family members: they all know it by now.

We’ve already changed the how and how much of our gift giving. Almost fifteen years ago my siblings and I stopped buying Christmas gifts for each other and instead bought gifts for families in need. It’s now a Christmas highlight for all of us. I don’t exchange gifts with friends – we put the brakes on that years ago. Instead we try and meet up during the holidays for a meal and a good in-person catch up. My kids get gifts but I would say they receive a very modest amount compared to their peers. Sure, I could see us doing a no-gift Christmas someday but likely it would be when they are quite a bit older. I’m pretty happy with our already simplified and feel-good gift giving traditions so I don’t feel the need to simplify it even more.

I’m a domestic slacker for most of the year. Most of our meals are simple and made with a few ingredients. But I actually really like complicated and extravagant cooking and baking: I used to own a creme brulee torch! I just don’t like them enough now, with three kids and limited time, to make a complicated dish regularly. So, I might just spend an afternoon or evening with a bunch of one off ingredients making something delicious, exotic and complicated. *Heavy emphasis on the might. It’s fun to cook something not on our regular menu and the holidays is a great time to splurge a bit. Because we keep it simple most of the year and I’ve got the energy to make a tourtiere from scratch, bake cookies with the kids and their cousins or take a stab at my husband’s favorite Christmas dessert, Buch Noel.

This age won’t last forever. Our almost three year-old is knocking it out of the park with adorable phrases right now. I need to record some of them because this time is fleeting. Christmas magic and believing doesn’t last forever either. So I’m soaking it up while we have it. It is so fun. I keep saying that lately: these parts of parenting are so much fun. The Halloween costumes, the thrill that they are making gingerbread houses at school, the anticipation, the wonder. This parenting gig has really hard days to it. I’m trying to enjoy the great and magical ones to their full extent. So that means a bit of decorating, Christmas songs and candles at breakfast and letting the kids stop at every Christmas tree they see as we walk around town.

So far we’ve done a lot of holiday activities by our standards and I don’t feel burned out or stressed. We’ve done the big things like the Polar Express and the Christmas Parade and for the rest of the pre-Christmas time we’ll do some activities at home like baking and then get out to see some Christmas lights. For the holidays we’re having a planned low-key at home Christmas Eve and then back to back days of Christmas with each side of the family. I’m expecting the kids to be cranky and under-slept and overstimulated by the 27th at which point we’ll get back to somewhat normal bed times.

When you keep it simple most of the time you can go big and busy for brief periods of time and really enjoy it.

I know I’m not alone on this one: Evelyn and I had the same discussion when we chatted recently. Her children are also at great ages for the magic of Christmas and, like me, they want to enjoy all of it that they can.

How do you get the most out of the holiday season? Do you try and carve out time for relaxing or do you make it a priority to see and do as much as you can?

Do You Need a Budget?

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Are you a budget keeper or maker? I’ve made lots of budgets but only consistently kept to one once I started tracking all of my spending. It was a financial game changer. Entering each purchase has made me pause and assess if what I was buying was a need or a want and if I really wanted it and, big one, if I had the budget for it. I cannot recommend this method of tracking spending enough. If you are trying to get a clear picture of your expenses, if you’re trying to spend less, if you’re trying to pay off debt, you need a budget and you need to track your spending.

We used the opportunity of our big move back to Canada to try out another budgeting tool: You Need a Budget (YNAB). The first budgeting app we used was called Budget and it was okay but was a bit too basic for our needs. We switched to using Home Budget three years ago on the recommendation of my sister. Home Budget is good and met most of our needs but it had syncing troubles. This is bothersome when you have two people using the app and syncing to one account. Every month we would reconcile what our Home Budget app showed and every month we were off: my husband’s account showed different balances than mine. This became a lot of work because we would have to hunt through transactions to find duplicate entries that Home Budget had made and delete them. Often we couldn’t find them.  At one point we had to delete the app, and all of our data, because it wouldn’t run on my older model iPod. Frustrating.

With a new budget to make and a switch in currencies, accounts and income, it felt like the right time to try a new budgeting app.

YNAB, You Need a Budget, has been around for quite a few years and I’ve heard great reviews from blog readers and via other financial blogs I read. I’ve been curious but the price tag and the fact that it runs off a Drop Box stored database were initial turn offs. Sue me! I am cheap and lazy. But after testing running YNAB I decide we should give it a go because the functionality looked great and after a bit of poking around I realized using DropBox for the database was a) not a big deal and would b) reduce or eliminate our issues with multiple accounts and incorrect transaction syncs.

YNAB has import features for credit cards and bank account transactions but we don’t use them. For us, entering the purchases is the biggest part of keeping our spending in check. YNAB also advises that people enter transactions manually because it promotes knowing your finances and spending patterns well. And knowing where your money goes is, in my experience, one of the best ways to get in the mindset of spending less.

What I love about YNAB:

  • The sync system for multiple devices and accounts WORKS. This is key if you have shared finances and/or budgets with a partner or you want to use YNAB on multiple devices. The sync system uses DropBox on a desktop computer to store files. Sounds confusing but once you get it installed, it’s not.
  • It shows your net worth. This can be a bit scary, hahaha really need to save for retirement!, but we wanted a better system for seeing our savings, hopefully, grow.
  • The app interface is really easy to use. I love that it remembers categories based on payee name. YNAB’s interface is far superior to the other budgeting apps I have used.
  • Fantastic resources on YouNeedaBudget.com. If you’re new to budgeting and/or new to the software YNAB does a lot of hand holding via their website. They have excellent start up videos and materials to help you use YNAB and get a budget running that works for you. Far superior to any of the previous budgeting apps I have used.

What could be better with YNAB:

  • Better mortgage function. I would like to be able to put our mortgage information in and have it update by itself. Right now we manually update it each month. But I want this function offline and not synced to a financial institution. I’m picky like that.
  • Option to not run a zero based budget. One of the bigger adjustments for us was setting a zero based budget. We have to account for every dollar and ‘spend’ them either on things or moved to savings. In the past we set a budget that was less than our monthly income and just put whatever was left into savings each month. Because we had a lot of roll over categories we would have a cushion in our checking account but those dollars were accounted for in budgets. YNAB is making us adjust more for spending fluctuations in categories.
  • Price? YNAB is $60. Pretty steep if you are coming from using free or very low priced budgeting apps. But, I think YNABs price is justified. The app is excellent ant they have great support and resources on their website. I’ve been budgeting using an app for four years but I needed some help making the jump to YNAB. They made it easy. I watched a video and read a few things on their site and I was ready to use their app. They also have a big and helpful and fun online budgeting community that you can access – highly recommend joining a YNAB forum for some hand holding/cheering/extra motivation. You can get a lot out of that $60.

We’re really happy with our $60 investment in YNAB and this is me giving it two thumbs for anyone looking to start budgeting and get a better handle on their finances. Yes, you can do it all with pen and paper. But if like many of us, you have struggled to consistently track your finances and stick to a budget, YouNeedaBudget can really help.

Any other YNABers care to weigh in on their experiences? Anyone have another budgeting method or tracking method that has worked for them?

P.S. One of those BIG ebook sales is happening right now. The Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle is on sale this week: $30 for dozens of books on things like allergy free eating, Paleo recipes, Health & Fitness. I’m a big fan of these bundles both as an author and a reader. Great value!

GIVEAWAY: Do Less is now available!

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Today I am checking one big goal off my life list:

Publish a book May 2014

While I have self-published a book before, Do Less: A Minimalist Guide to a Simplified, Organized and Happy Life is my first book with a publisher. My first book that you can order in stores or online and that may be lurking on a table at your local Urban Outfitters (if you see it please let me know – no UOs in the Isle of Man). A book with an editor and an advance and a print run.

I know there are a few writers that read this blog so you’ll understand that the whole thing hasn’t felt real. Before the contract was signed I kept wondering if this was really going to happen. And when I was in the writing and editing process I wondered if the book would meet the publisher’s approval and make it to print. And after that it was a long wait to the actual publish date.

But here it is.

I’m very proud of this book. My husband has been telling me for a long time that I should be working on a book, one that encapsulates all the things I’ve learned and tried over the years, all the stories that have been shared here on the blog in the comments section and in guest posts. All the ways people have told me they’ve simplified and de-cluttered so they could focus on the things and people they really care about.

We kept talking about it and I kept procrastinating on starting it. And then F + W Publishing asked me if I was interested in writing just such a book. Writer + deadline = action.

This is a book for everyone. There are some radical ideas in it, plans for people that are looking for big change, but there are also small ways to live a bit simpler and easier. You’ll find a few lists in here, ideas for shaping and leaning out the corners of our lives that we often forget about until they overwhelm us.

Four sections make up the book – Home, Work, Money, Life – so there’s more to this book than a guide to cleaning out your garage. There are lots of ideas for spending less, enjoying the free things in life more and finding energy and time for those things we often skip out on like sleep and exercise.

As the title suggests there are also a lot of ways to Do Less in this book. Less time at the office, less housework, less obligation. Consider this a rebuttal to all those books and articles about how to do it all. This is a book about embracing that you don’t want to do it all, you want to do a handful of things, things that you actually feel fulfilled by, well. Do less and do it better.

Thank you so much to everyone that has pre-ordered the book and bought it when it hit the virtual shelves yesterday. I am so grateful for your support and I hope you find lots of ideas and inspiration in Do Less.

If you’ve found this blog helpful I would really appreciate any support you can lend as my little book launches. Tell friends about it, share it on Facebook, request it be stocked at your local library and, if you can, purchase it on Kindle or paperback. The print copy is beautifully laid out and a great size for toting around in a handbag or backpack for in-transit reading. The Kindle version is light as a feather.

This week I’m also giving away five hard copies of Do Less. Open to anyone with a North American or Western Europe mailing address. Closes this Friday at 5:00pm EST. Just follow the Rafflecopter instructions below and leave a comment on this blog post telling us about any items you recently donated, recycled or sold.

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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