For the last couple weeks I’ve done something marvellous, I’ve put myself to bed on a Friday evening at the same time as wee girl goes to bed (8-8:30). Surprisingly my worry about not being able to fall asleep was needless, I think I was asleep each time sooner than she was. And I’ve noticed a big difference, Saturday mornings I wake up feeling like this is going to be a very good weekend. And if history repeats itself, it will be.
The difference is I feel like I have more energy and instead of thinking of all the things I need to do, and feeling like it’s just one more thing after another, I’m carving out more time for fun. Good old fashioned (frugal), family fun.
Through the frugal journey I’ve really learned that your state of mind is perhaps the most important variable in how well you cope with a tougher road. Kindness, compassion, help, go so so far and is an important and needed lifeline, but as does your attitude. It doesn’t mean you have to have your head in the sand and not be realistic about what you are facing, but facing it mostly with a smile and savouring the good, however small, makes a big difference in how you cope, what you’re able to do, and getting rid of the sense of entitlement that is so so crippling. I know, I’m guilty of it too at times! ;)
I was reading an money advice column in a Saturday paper one week, about a couple that was having a hard time deciding what to do. Both didn’t have much after a divorces and arrived in their relationship with a child each, with a need for three bedrooms quickly followed by four when they unexpectedly had a baby, they found themselves in high rent, no savings behind them and in their mid 40’s feeling like they were in the same position as they were in their late 20’s, but with time quickly evaporating. What was interesting was that they lived frugally and hadn’t had a vacation in 4 years, except they had exorbitant “other” costs – turns out one weekend a month or every other month, they went away. I felt for them, they explained it was their way to cope with the grind of full time work, rental space that they didn’t find adequate for their growing family’s needs, utter exhaustion of work, parenting, still coping with divorces and not being able to take short cuts – dinners out, a trip to the nail salon, vacations, part time work. Only that monthly/bi-monthly weekend away was in fact, if they really thought about it, causing them more stress. It’s money in the hundreds they have to now come up with on a regular basis. And that’s the thing, sometimes it’s really hard for people to see where they could save, and it’s really hard for people when they feel they need escapes from life. Even if those very escapes are making life far far more difficult than they need or deserve.
Many people who don’t know our financial situation recommend things like weekends away with the children, or even a holiday in the sun. Part of coping with all this and getting the rest that is so important. I begrudge no one that, and in fact if finances afford it, it would likely be a good decision (if you can get health insurance!). But I’m trying something different because of our situation and what I believe about simplicity, instead of thinking I need an escape, I’m trying to make our home more holiday-like. I want our life to be less in need of escaping, and more in need of embracing. Sure I can’t snap my fingers and get the sun or beach to meet us at the backdoor, but I can keep on top of housework so I’m not constantly catching up, I can (as best I can) get errands done during the week so that weekends are free, I will plan a fun activity, however frugal, each weekend for the children and I, and I am determined to get more rest. And those 9 hours on Friday night seem to carry me through perfectly and in many ways separate Mon-Fri from the weekend.
Vacations are wonderful and can be a really important part of family life that I always suggest friends budget for – but the thing is, about 11 1/2 months a year, you’re at home. The less stressful you can make the vast majority of your life, the better. Then a vacation is a bonus, not something to run away to, or financially recover from.