How are you today? The common refrain we greet each other with, rushing to the next pressing item of our day. More often than not, the response has become “busy.” You likely respond with it yourself more than you would like to admit. Being busy seems to have a positive connotation that we associate with being important or doing well. Because of these positive connotations, we often forget to consider the high costs of being busy and find ourselves in constant motion.
As a high performing professional, balancing your expanding responsibilities at work and your family at home is challenging. If you are working on a side hustle, then there isn’t’ any time left over. You have too much work and too little time to fit it into.
All this busyness has costs. You intuitively know this, but the list of costs doesn’t show up as a line item in your budget. Many of them are subtle and only show their true cost over time.
If you take the time, you find that it adds up to a significant amount of money each month.
Have you stopped to think what you could save by slowing down?
A Quantifiable Cost: Fees and Interest
This one is obvious. When you are too busy to keep strict accounts, you let things slide. By the time you stop to see where it is all going, you can be amazed at what you spend on fees and interest.
Time scarcity causes you to rush your choices, rush purchases and miss payments. These small things all add up to real money.
SOLUTION: Take the time at least once a week to count the costs and follow your financial vital signs.
Automatic Bill Pay Isn’t So Great:
Have you finally stopped to look at your statements only to notice that your phone bill is $20 higher? Then you realize that has been that way for six months and you never noticed it.
Automatic bill pay is sold as the solution for the first problem of being busy, missed payments. By decreasing friction of the payment transaction, it limits the psychological pain of paying for an item.
Today you can buy an item with your phone and then pay the bill automatically without ever knowing how much you actually spent on it. Great for business, one less thing to worry about, bad for your budget.
SOLUTION: Fight the trend and introduce some friction to your transactions.
Friction may mean paying with cash up front for items or sitting down each month and writing a check to pay your bills. Reintroducing friction will help you to take proper account of the total costs.
This is a tough balance, we keep our automatic bill pay on for some accounts and have introduced friction on others.
Subscriptions and Utilities Silently Add Up:
When you are too busy to watch where it all goes, it goes faster. Subscriptions you thought you were going to cancel don’t get canceled. Utilities get inflated because they pass a price increase and you don’t notice it for half the year.
SOLUTION: Keep strict accounts. Find at least an hour out of your week to do the tally and pay your bills. Some things in life you have to do daily, some can go weekly, very few important things can only be looked at on a monthly basis.
Your finances need to be accounted for on at least a weekly basis if you are trying to regain control over your budget.
A Challenge For All: Food Costs
Your family is on the go and picks up fast food on the way home from the ball field, piano, ballet, gymnastics, gym, swim team, soccer, etc.
Perhaps you stop with friends at a restaurant on the way home from work for a quick drink or two.
Both appear to be minor decisions that we make every day, but these small decisions have major costs. This cost has two parts. The first part, the more immediate part is the cost to our bottom line each month.
Eating out more than eating in and planning meals shows up fast in the form of higher food costs each month. Convenience foods and prepared foods are convenient but not cheap.
Eating out is happening more and more. Americans spend more on eating out than they do on groceries today.
How do you fix this problem?
SOLUTION: Thought and preparation. Food and grocery are almost entirely discretionary costs. You do have to eat but unlike a mortgage payment, how much and what is completely up to you.
Don’t let your schedule make you physically ill. Take the time to plan your meals for the week. Sunday Prep Day is becoming more common in our family. A single large meal on Sundays and a second meal precut and bagged for later in the week help stop the question of: “What are we going to do for dinner?”
Snacks and lunches are premade and pre-bagged for grab and go out the door mornings.
Feed your body the nutrients it needs, not calories you grab on the go.
The Most Important Cost: Health Costs
The most significant cost of being busy is the long term implications on your health. Being busy affects your health in multiple ways. Lack of sleep, poor dietary choices and lack of exercise are common with busy individuals.
This busy triad is associated with increased stress and levels of stress hormones.
These choices lead to biological costs that include cardiovascular disease, obesity, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, gastrointestinal problems, and asthma.
The psychological costs are equally dangerous and include anxiety, depression, and addictions.
As you can imagine, these effects can quickly spiral out of control, compounding into illness and poor health in time.
SOLUTION: Slow down and pick what is most important. Everything else can wait. Once you start putting some of the extra activities in your life on hold, you will suddenly realize you can live without them quite easily.
A great book on this subject: The Compound Effect
More Missed Opportunities:
When we are busy, we tend to skip on depth and emphasize breadth. We spread ourselves too thin resulting in a lack of effectiveness in any one task.
By being a jack of all trades but a master of none, we miss opportunities for real success in particular areas.
Advancement in any activity requires time to develop your skills and build the relationships needed for improvement.
If we are too busy to live a mindful life and notice what’s going on around us, we miss out on paths we could have taken, relationships that may have enriched us, and growth openings that may have changed the course of our lives.
SOLUTION: Don’t let busyness spiral your life out of control. Take the time to keep strict accounts. Take the time to plan your meals and don’t skip exercising.
Start today; there is no better time than starting today.
Every garden needs to be pruned. Take the time to eliminate something that you don’t have to be doing and use that time to count the costs.
Warnings & Examples
A Wise Man Learns from the Mistakes of Others: Be Wise and Sign Up