Don’t Cut Yourself Too Short – How to Balance Time and Finances

There are two things in life that are the hardest to come by – time and money. The last thing you want to do is to cut yourself short with either of these.

silver scale with an alarm clock on one side and stacks of coins on the other

We’ve heard the term ‘sell yourself short’. To do so, it means you are undermining your abilities. Often the term ‘cut yourself short’ is used synonymously. One definition at Idioms.com means to end something unexpectedly or abruptly before its planned conclusion. However, their explanation refers more to a conversation, a trip, or something else ongoing.

When it comes to time and money, no matter how you spend it, you can’t get it back. But you can save them, with a little creativity, ingenuity, and planning.

Don’t Cut Yourself Too Short with Time

alarm clock surrounded by stacks of coins

Time is one of our most valuable commodities. There are 24 hours in each day, which equals out to 1,440 minutes. We aren’t guaranteed a certain amount of time to live, so we need to make each minute count.

Many people strive to live by that standard and combine it with the phrase ‘time is money’. They end up so focused on income, they forget to live. Others will tell you ‘life is short’, and end up like the grasshopper in Aesop’s fable – all they do is play. They let the necessities in life slide.

green grasshopper on a white daisy

But rather than go to either extreme, the key to a happy, healthy life is to find a balance between the two. You need to make sure you don’t cut yourself too short, but you also want to make sure you have plenty of both.

Yes, in order to survive, we have to work to produce an income. In addition to our job, we also have homes to maintain, yards to mow, errands to run, and still find time to eat and sleep.

What we fail to remember is we also need time to pursue other fun activities. In order to maintain a healthy physical and mental life, we need time to play, relax, and enjoy life. That’s when a Time Budget may come in handy.

What is a Time Budget?

a woman writing in a notebook with one hand and putting coins into a jar with the other

In order to manage our money, it helps to have a budget. A financial budget is a tool that helps us know where our money is coming from and where it is going.

A Time Budget works in a similar way. We only have 24 hours in a day. To best manage our time, we need to know what we are doing, when we need to do it, and whether or not that time is being used efficiently. It can show us at a quick glance if our time is being used well, or if it is ‘wasted’.

‘Wasted’ time gets a bad rap. But it isn’t truly wasted and can actually be one of our biggest time benefits. It can be used to either ease the burden of things we have to do, or allotted to pursuing our passions, spending it with our families, or simply doing something we truly enjoy.

How to Use a Time Budget

a calendar, pen, jar of colors, blue vase with pink flowers

To use a Time Budget, you need just a few tools. It takes a calendar, a piece of paper, a pencil, and some time. And no, this isn’t wasted time at all. Instead, it is time well-spent getting your life in some sequence of order. In the long run, it may just help you spend all of your time more wisely, and still have plenty left over to enjoy life.

To complete this exercise, just grab your supplies and find a quiet spot to sit, think, and write. My favorite way to do any activity such as this one is to settle in for an Afternoon Tea.

Divide your piece of paper into four columns. For each column, use these categories:

  • Activities – List all of the activities you participate in. This can be housework, gardening, running errands, classes, volunteering, Afternoon Tea Break, social functions; etc. If it is something you do, write it down.
  • Frequency – Make a note of how often this is done (1x/day; 1x/month; 1x/year)
  • Time – determine how much time it takes to complete this activity. Be sure to include drive time for things such as appointments, errands, etc.
  • Priority – Using the Priority Key, determine just how important this activity is. Look closely at all of the things you marked as a 1 or 2 priority. Determine which of these things are truly something you must do. If they aren’t a priority, then consider removing them from your calendar. (You can use the key as is or modify it to fit your own schedule.

Choosing what is and isn’t a true priority may take some soul searching. If you still need or want to continue doing them, see if there are ways you can either do them less often, or combine them with something else to save time.

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If you aren’t sure exactly where your time goes, it may help to keep a notebook with you. As you leave the house to go to work, write down the time you leave. Then, make a note of what time you return home. If you run errands, try to write down where you went and how much time each stop took you.

On the days you spend at home, make a note of each activity (house or yard work, cooking, etc.), and how much time it took you to finish. Add in break and mealtime, and any time spent doing a favorite activity.

By using a Time Budget, you have an opportunity to see where all those minutes and hours go. Once your Time Budget is completed, you have a good opportunity to look over all of the things that are NOT priorities, and either combine them or eliminate them altogether. And that may end up giving you more time to just relax and enjoy!

If you need a little help with your Time Budget, you can get a .pdf version free! Just click HERE!

Don’t Cut Yourself Too Short with Money

graphic image of a gold scale with the word BUDGET on one side and the word TIME on the other

As we discussed earlier, some of us do have jobs. That means spending a minimum of a 40 hour a week at the office. The sad part is, with the cost of living, many work a full time position, and still have to have a part time job to help make ends meet.

Don’t cut yourself too short. Instead, look for ways you can manage your money better. First, be sure to have a working budget in place. And then keep track of your expenses. To help you get a handle on your finances, you can check out the post HERE.

Being frugal and managing your finances shouldn’t mean you can spend any money on things you enjoy. Although these expenditures should have a line item in your budget, you can simply name it something such as Entertainment or Miscellaneous. (I dare you to label it ‘Bail Money’, even if it kinda-sorta is!)

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When you spend your money on nothing but necessities, you may feel as if you are being responsible, but trust me. That feeling will be short lived. It won’t be long before you begin feeling stifled, discouraged, and possibly become afraid to spend any on yourself at all. Don’t cut yourself too short. Instead, find ways to enjoy the benefits of all the work you did to earn it.

Donna Summer had it right – We do work hard for our money. And because we work hard, we need time to play. If finances are tight, you may not be able to jet off to an island resort for a month. But you can budget in enough to do simple things. And if you watch for sales, it may not cost you much at all.

Things you can do to treat yourself, and not break the bank:

three ice cream cones stacked with lemon, raspberry, and pistachio ice cream with the pointed end placed in jars - refecting the ideal of don't cut yourself too short - save time and money to have some fun

  • Treat Yourself (and your kids) to Icee Day – Cost: Approximately <$2 per large Icee
  • Have a Picnic – Cost: $0 to $20 (Even Peanut Butter & Jelly can be a feast when taken on a picnic!)
  • Photo/Drawing Scavenger Hunt – Cost $0 (if you start from home) to $10 (for gas to get you where you want to go)
  • Get Creative – Cost: $0 to $20 ($0 – Use what you have; a skein of yarn is usually less than $5; embroidery thread ><$1)
  • Go to the Park and Fly a Kite – Cost: $0 (if you make the kite) <$10 (if you have to buy one)
  • Afternoon Tea – Cost: $0 (bake your own cookies, brew some tea to enjoy hot or cold)
  • Visit with a Friend or Neighbor – Cost $0 to <$10 (it only costs if you need ingredients to take a cake or cookies, or even take a plant or vase of flowers to an elderly neighbor)
  • Go Local – Cost: $0 to $20 – Visit a museum, enjoy a craft festival, or take a walk through a public garden, such as the American Rose Center in Greenwood, Louisiana.
  • Play Games – Cost: $0 to $25 – Have an outdoor family game day. Build a Bean Bag Toss, play hide and seek, create a scavenger hunt, set up a badminton course, or do anything else that everyone enjoys!
  • Host a Progressive Dinner or Potluck – Cost: $15 to $30 (maybe even less, depending on what ingredients you already have available)

To find other activities you can do at little to no cost, all you have to do is use your imagination. How do you enjoy spending your time? Ask a friend or family member what they enjoy, and schedule time to do it.

Don’t Cut Yourself Too Short with either your Time or Money

white alarm clock; graphic images of a grasshopper playing a guitar and one laying on top of the clock smiling

You have 24 hours in a day. You have a certain amount of income. Don’t cut yourself too short with either. The grasshoppers of this world are right in one regard – life really is short. Time goes by quickly. We don’t want to miss out on the opportunities life presents us to enjoy the time we have. And by managing our finances wisely, and searching for inexpensive things to do, we will be able to find a healthy balance between the two.

Now – don’t cut yourself too short. Go out, relax, and enjoy. You, your friends and your family are waiting for you!

Julie Murphree is a blogger, newspaper columnist, and speaker on all things ‘Living a Simple Life on the Farm’. She is the author of \\\'The Farm Wife – Living a Simple Life on the Farm. She and her husband have 60 acres in NW Louisiana where they actively work on living as sustainable as possible.

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