“Time is money.” You’ve heard that phrase, right? But I argue it isn’t. Unlike money, you can never make back the time you waste. Yesterday is gone forever, and unless we find dramatic new technology to cryopreserve ourselves and freeze time, we cannot get it back.
But money is also money. And if you think about it, we waste a lot of it. The good news is, there are hacks that will make you richer and thinner.
In this part 1 article I will share 5 things to consider when working on your “financial fitness” (note, this is not professional financial or investment advice – for that, consult a professional financial advisor!). By following the steps of this “cleanse”, you will hit the reset button on your priorities and have more time to focus on your physical and nutritional fitness goals. And have more money to buy awesome workout gear.
In Part 1 of this series, I am focused on saving money on services. In part 2, coming in the next newsletter, I will share my tips on how to use coupons, loyalty programs and other hacks to save on the stuff you actually buy.
How to do a financial inventory, DAOFitLife style
Obviously this is not a prescriptive approach. But here is how my husband (who is very frugal) and me (who is very opposite of that) approach it to manage our finances when it comes to “stuff”:
- Make a list of all the stuff you “need done”
- Go through the “need done” list, and evaluate whether outsourcing really benefits you from a time, money, and fitness standpoint.
- Use a money management device like Mint to keep track of what is going in and what is going on, and what you are spending your money on.
- Set a monthly budget and track whether you are meeting it or exceeding it greatly.
I am going to go through several common categories of stuff that people need and have the option to pay someone else for and evaluate some considerations. I will also include some categories of what I call “unintential throwaway money,” meaning money you do not deliberately throw away but do so because you have a subscription you do not use.
The DAOFitLife Financial Fitness Guide on Services
Ordering food out (on your dime): You would be astonished to find out that ordering out accounts for consuming about 900 extra calories a week! Not to mention, you could pay a fraction of the cost to buy the food and make it. But you may need the time. So what to do?
DAOFitLife Solution: Use the little black dress meal planning method to have a go-to list of lean proteins and sides (carbs and fats) to be able to throw meals together easily. Once you figure out your LBD combos, make “menu” of quick meals and base your grocery shopping list off of that. This way, you always have the ingredients around and you are not burying your face in your fridge or pantry looking for something. I have enclosed the downloadable template with some LBD and meal examples at the end of this post. One-pan sheetpan recipes can take less time than ordering and waiting for the food, and you can take shortcuts like using frozen, pre-chopped veggies. Establish a limit to how many times you will order in a week, for example, 1 or 2. In that infrequent instance, you can order something you really want as a treat (following the 80/20 rule).
If you are traveling for work, then you probably get a per diem which is a nice perk but have to eat out more often. So follow my guidelines in the posts on ordering at restaurants, eating on the go, and ordering in!
When considering day-to-day lunch options, try one of these hacks:
- DIY bento boxes or prep a salad the night before to go with your own dressing in a container. It takes only a few minutes and it is something you can do while you are cooking other food or right before you go to bed and are cleaning up the kitchen. It is hard to justify paying 20-30 dollars for a salad every single day!
- Another economical choice would be to keep wraps and lean proteins in the fridge at work with whatever condiments you would use – mustard, for example – and make a quick wrap or two at work. Or pre-pack and store a few burritos in the fridge. For example, you can make a seven layer burrito and keep a couple in there for a few days
- If you do not have fridge storage space, consider making a non-fridge sensitive wrap, like one with nut butter (almond, cashew, sunflower seed). To make it crunchy and more hearty, consider adding an ingredient like sesame seeds.
See the below article for more money lunch-saving ideas.
Shopping for food, supplies, etc.
Shopping: Ordering food and supplies online is incredibly easy and saves time. For example, many back to school shopping lists even have one-click kits you can order so you do not have to wander aimlessly in staples looking for the right kind of colored pencil. Ordering groceries skips over standing in line and commuting time to and from the store, in addition to the time you would spend there. In most cases, you can get free shipping but there are usually fees associated with fresh food delivery services.
DAOFitLife Solution: Consider this article from PennyHoarder on how to save money on grocery delivery fees. Or consider shopping in person once a month. For me, something about shopping and choosing my food and produce myself connects me to my purpose to achieve health. I enjoy shopping alone, and doing at least 3-4 trips around the store to get extra steps in. For everyday items, like paper towels, toilet paper, and “dry” items like nuts, these are best to order in bulk from a retailer such as Costco (who also delivers). Try spending one trip a month going in person and explore the perimeter (skip the packaged food and prepared food aisles). The key to avoid hassle for grocery stores is to go during non-peak hours, which is usually early in the morning on the weekends or mid-afternoon during the week. This is much easier to do when we work from home. If you live near a store, think of it as a nice way to take a break and save money from delivery fees.
Rideshare: Believe it or not, we once existed without shared ride services. Now with a tap of a button, it is so easy to have someone come by and take you door to door without much thought. But after the fees and tipping that is now the convention, these costs can add up.
DAOFitLife Solution: First, consider whether you really need to save the time on the rideshare. Could it be saved another way, like getting up earlier? For example, if you have a call, consider walking while you take the call and time your walk to synch up with the call if it is not one you have to do in front of your computer. A walk to and from the office even if it is 30+ minutes can fill your step quota. Also, do not discount the value and convenience of public transportation, which is much cheaper and often you have reception to catch up on emails. Or consider compromising to your destination. Take the rideshare one-way, or walk for some of the distance and then call the rideshare. Avoid going in high-traffic hours where you will have to pay a surcharge, or consider splitting the costs with friends. Another option is to choose the less expensive “economy” options – personally, I find these drivers much more entertaining to chat with at times! At the end of the day, the more you view rideshare as a luxury and not a necessity, the less dependent you will become on that option.
Medical care: One really low-hanging fruit to save time is to bulk and mail order prescriptions. We all know how frustrating, and how big of a waste of time it can be to wait in line for a script (especially when the pharmacist then says they don’t have it in stock!) Sign up for an HSA or FSA to be able to use pre-tax dollars for everyday medicines. In most cases, generic medicine whether prescription or over the counter is just as good. Here are some other ways you can save on medical care. The best thing you can ultimately do is preventative – stay healthy, eat well, exercise and lower your alcohol intake. Medicine can do wonders but if you pay attention most doctors are very interested in your diet and exercise regimen, and it is not because they are nosy – it is because these factors are the foundation of good health. Being diligent about regular screenings is important, also, because it can catch issues that may become bigger problems down the road if not addressed, and these are usually fully covered through an employee benefit plan or by insurance as preventive care. Finally, read through and understand what your insurance plan actually covers. You might be surprised by how many covered benefits you are leaving on the table – for example, I did not realize my medical plan covered some costs for acupuncture, and since I have been getting it regularly it has definitely made a difference in my holistic health and wellness. https://www.realsimple.com/health/preventative-health/reducing-health-care-costs
Babysitting: A good on-call babysitter for date night is priceless, but much of the time if you hire them at night you are paying them to watch your kids for two hours and then paying them to Snapchat with their friends for the remaining hours between when your kids are asleep and when you come home.
DAOFitLife Solution: This tip is from my good friend and Managing Director at a professional services firm. She has two kids under 8, and she and her husband hire a babysitter for when they want to go out on a date, like most couples do. The genius idea she has is to go on “day dates”, like a late lunch and a movie. This way the babysitter is with the kids while they are mostly awake and has the opportunity to get help with homework and other activities.
Personal training: Hey, I love my personal trainers. Many of them have become good friends. However, they are very expensive. The reason most people hire personal trainers is twofold: 1) To have accountability in showing up at a certain place and time; 2) Because they need someone to show them how to work out.
DAOFitLife Solution: Not saying fire your personal trainer if you have one! However, consider scaling back your number of sessions so that you can learn to be less codependent. For one thing, you cannot pack your trainer in a suitcase. Unless you are Beyonce, you also probably do not want to pay for them to travel with you and your glam squad. What I noted was that many of the trainers I work with have a playlist of “go-to” moves, and each session, I wrote everything down, including the whole routine. I also would observe trainers with other clients and if I saw an interesting exercise note that in my phone and transfer it to my exercise “library” later. You can access that library, which is a combination of moves I learned from trainers and media, in my strength training post here. As far as accountability, there are more economical ways to be accountable – sign up for group fitness classes, or have your workout clothes right by your bed when you wake up (I call it fireman style). The more self-reliant you can become, the more sustainable your fitness will be.
Fitness apps: These are really easy to download and subscribe to and pay needless monthly fees. It was not until I created my own YouTube Channel with curated workout playlists that I realized, why pay a bunch of different apps when you can workout for free from so many different options and categories. Here is a link to my ab playlist, for example:
Binge watching and reading
Subscriptions: Entertainment, music, working out, meditating, weight management, recipes, therapy and countless other services are available in apps. Many of them have 7-to-30 day trials. The problem is the ease of the transaction allows us to download and then “forget about” what apps we are not even using, yet the provider collects a steady stream of revenue every month. It can truly become unmanageable!
Also, how many times have you accessed a paywalled article by signing up for a “free trial.” The “free trial” has to be the most clever markting technique. You pay to read it, you forget about it and before you know it 50 bucks is out the window a month and you don’t even realize it.
DAOFitLIfe Solution: Consider options that are one stop shops like YouTube premium, were you can watch movies do a lot of free workouts and there’s also a separate music app that you get for free if you have a subscription. For each of the streaming services you have, consider whether you were actually getting value out of them or whether you’re just queuing up a bunch of things to watch and not watching them. Another option is to buy shows or rent movies transactionally. For example if you want to watch a certain series on a streaming service or channel you can actually just purchase the series instead of having to subscribe to the whole service. Chances are, if you are a busy working professional you don’t have time to watch everything so try to consolidate to only one or two streaming services at a time. You can always rotate subscriptions out and cancel or freeze existing ones so that you have some variety.
For articles, a lot of times other free sites will already publish the same article. Or if you are doing research, try to see if you can get the same information from an unrestricted publication. If you are only paying to access the article and do not have interest in the general publication, I strongly suggest a workaround.
There are also certain apps that help track and manage your fitness.
Cleaning and housework
Cleaning, Home projects and Laundry: Most of us outsource cleaning our homes and condos – for those of you in the suburbs, this may also include landscaping services. Totally worth every penny in many cases. The decision lies in having housekeepers come every two weeks or once a week. Over time this price difference can matter. The other factor is laundry. I do not know one person who likes doing it or the time that it takes.
DAOFitLife Solution: The answer will depend on how big your family is, how many pets you have, how big your house is and how often you have guests over. The higher you are on the spectrum of any of these answers, the more it may be worth it to outsource your cleaning or laundry. However, if you have a condo or a smaller family unit, and only one or no pets, bi-weekly cleaning is usually more than enough. To ensure maintenance between cleanings, you would basically need to wipe down counters daily and wash your towels/sheets between the cleaning visits.
For laundry, you have several options for outsourcing. You can negotiate your cleaning service doing laundry, which may have an incremental additional cost of time they need to spend and additional fees. Most cleaning services do not have an issue with folding and finishing drying existing loads, including putting clean sheets on the bed. Again, if you are not a large household, for regular clothes, you can probably wait and wash/dry these before the cleaners come and then have them fold. You can also change your sheets during the week but then wash both sets and have the cleaning service fold the additional set and put the clean linens you want on the bed. If laundry is too much of a hassle and you need it done more often, then consider a washing and folding service (here are the top 6 of 2022). When it comes to workout clothes however, note – you should NEVER put them in the dryer. Wash all tight sports bras and leggings inside out and let them air dry. Otherwise they will have a very short shelf life and you will have essentially wasted hundreds of dollars. Finally, consider trading one home project off that you normally outsource. Mowing your lawn (without sitting) can burn up to 225 calories, and gardening is a form of meditation that also burns up to 300 calories! This is a way to get your cardio from NEAT instead of jogging for 30 to 45 minutes, which is what you would have to do to burn the same calories but without the pretty flowers or yummy sweet tomatoes. Be sure to refresh your memory with my post on NEAT:
Expenses of not waking up looking like “this”
Beauty services: During the pandemic, many of us became “experts” in DIY beauty. Given how hard we all work, it seems that we are certainly entitled to splurge on hair, skincare, massages and other aesthetic needs. If you look at how that all adds up, you may want to consider where you can flex versus where you absolutely cannot negotiate.
DAOFitLife Solution: Decide your priorities. If your nails need to be flawless and you really hate doing them yourself, then manicures are worth it. I used to get hair blowouts (professional shampoo and styling) once a week until I invested in a Dyson Airwrap and now I have learned to love washing and styling my own hair. Another hack is to make your services last longer and worth the money you pay. For manicures, consider getting gel, as it lasts longer and has much less of a chance of getting ruined. For hair color, do NOT wash your hair for at least 3 days to let the color seal, and do not do any sweaty workouts, either. Another way to save money on coloring especially if you have a good relationship is to blow-dry your own hair at the salon or let your hair air-dry (which is better for your hair). You can easily buy your own hair treatment masks, wash your hair at night, and leave the mask in with a shower cap all night then rinse out the next moring. Your hair will feel like butter the next day! For facials, consider investing in a microdermabrasion scrub like this one from Dr. Brandt.
Take advantage of bulk discounts,which are added by some providers for recurring services. If it is not advertised, ask about it. Many service providers also offer promotions for first-time clients and a discount for pre-booking your next appointment.
Splurging on a massage is an excellent investment, but an expensive one. Little do many people know they are flushing money down the toilet when they do one of the following activities immediately prior or after the massage: 1) Eat a large meal right beforehand; 2) Exercise [other than light walking] within 24-48 hours afterwards 3) Drinking alcohol within 24 hours afterwards. Failure to drink a lot of water will cause the toxins just released to keep floating around and leave you feeling even more sore.
One thing you can invest in to keep your massage bill down is a nice foam roller. I highly recommend this Trigger point foam roller to have on hand, or you can use one of then ones at the gym. For excellent resources for your back and neck check out my companion post on tech neck:
Finally, consider what you can do to enhance your natural beauty. Drinking enough water, eating healthy fats and getting enough protein go a long way to achieving glowing skin and healthy hair. If you don’t believe me, read the following article on 4 diet options that are better than botox! Above all else, reduce the amount of refined sugar in your diet and do not go out without SPF, even if you are not going to the beach. You will give these expensive beauty service providers much less to work with! In addition, a good diet can counteract depression.