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Procrastination Makes for Easy Frugality

Procrastination Makes for Easy Frugality

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    We’re used to thinking of procrastination as a bad thing. We should avoid procrastinating; if we do something now, we don’t have to worry about it later. But when it comes to our personal finances, procrastination isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Sure, we need to get our bills paid on time, but by practicing putting off other expenses we can save money in the long-term.

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    Procrastination and Saving

    The longer we can put off a particular purchase, the more opportunity we have to save up for it. Some people like to replace certain items as soon as they show signs of wear: cars, clothes, equipment of all sorts. But that approach doesn’t get full value out of those things that we’ve already bought — and it makes it more likely that we’ll have to make a purchase on credit, paying more than sticker price when all is said and done. With a little creative procrastination, you can also increase your chances of buying whatever you’re after during a sale. If you can keep an eye on prices from a particular vendor for as little as a month, you can often take advantage of a sale.

    While nursing a car that’s on a downward trend isn’t great, it can get a few more months of transportation out of it. That’s a few more months you can be putting money in the bank for a down payment on a new ride. You can patch clothing or stretch the life of equipment and extend their utility in just the same way. Some people will argue that fixing up something broken will actually cost you more than purchasing something new: putting a new transmission in an older car can cost the same as purchasing another car entirely. I’ll admit that there isn’t really a way to put a patch over a broken transmission, but there are a lot of problems that you can solve with short-term fixes. Remember, you’re just trying to delay a purchase rather than avoid it entirely. If your car (or whatever you’re trying to procrastinate replacing) is to the point that it’ll be more expensive to replace in a few months — you’re expecting towing fees, an accident or a similar problem), then go ahead and replace it. But if the problem is along the ‘duct tape the mirror in place’ lines, try procrastinating.

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    Procrastination and Forgetting

    Making a policy of procrastination can plug a hole in your pocket. Most of us have wandered through a store and discovered that we really need something — maybe a new television or a book — that we didn’t even know we wanted when we entered the store. Stores are designed to create that feeling. There’s nothing wrong with wanting those cool toys, but it’s generally worthwhile to try to procrastinate buying them. Set a time limit: if you still really want that must-have product in three days, you can come back for it.

    You’ll find, though, that most of the time you’ll actually forget all about that item you absolutely ‘needed.’ Procrastinating is a way to limit unnecessary purchases without feeling like you’re depriving yourself. I’ve actually tried to make a policy of procrastinating about more than just impulse purchases. If I see something advertised that seems absolutely awesome, I don’t automatically add it to my shopping list or even my wishlist. If I still remember about it a couple of days later — then I add it to my lists. Procrastinating doesn’t mean that we can’t buy stuff — it just helps us narrow our purchases down to stuff we really want.

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    Procrastination and Renewing

    Waiting to renew subscriptions and memberships can pay off. If you put off paying for a renewal, you may find that you don’t really use the service you’re paying for all that much. And if you do like it enough to renew, it’s still worthwhile to wait to renew: because companies want to ensure that you’ll keep paying them, they’ll often offer deals to those customers with subscriptions or memberships about to lapse.

    My favorite magazine is notorious about this: the first reminder to renew that I received this year was for the full price of the magazine. But by the time I actually renewed, I had received several offers, each cheaper than the last. I only paid about $10 for the full year’s subscription — about a fifth of the normal price — and I didn’t miss an issue, since I received the first offer about six months before my subscription would have lapsed. This style of procrastination can take a little more planning than others — it’s useful to set yourself some sort of reminder of the last day you can take advantage of a particular deal or the last day you can renew without having to re-sign up for a service.

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    What Else Can You Procrastinate?

    I have noticed that procrastinating is only an effective strategy when it comes to spending money. If you’re trying to save or earn money, procrastination isn’t a practical solution. But within the spending category, it can be a simple strategy to keep money in the bank.

    I know that plenty of people have saved money through a little practical procrastination. Let us know the ways you’ve been able to take advantage of putting something off to save money in the comments.

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    Last Updated on September 18, 2019

    How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    Note-taking is one of those skills that rarely gets taught. Almost everyone assumes either that taking good notes comes naturally or, that someone else must have already taught about how to take notes. Then, we sit around and complain that our colleagues don’t know how to take notes.

    I figure it’s about time to do something about that. Whether you’re a student or a mid-level professional, the ability to take effective, meaningful notes is a crucial skill. Not only do good notes help us recall facts and ideas we may have forgotten, the act of writing things down helps many of us to remember them better in the first place.

    One of the reasons people have trouble taking effective notes is that they’re not really sure what notes are for. I think a lot of people, students and professionals alike, attempt to capture a complete record of a lecture, book, or meeting in their notes — to create, in effect, minutes. This is a recipe for failure.

    Trying to get every last fact and figure down like that leaves no room for thinking about what you’re writing and how it fits together. If you have a personal assistant, by all means, ask him or her to write minutes; if you’re on your own, though, your notes have a different purpose to fulfill.

    The purpose of note-taking is simple: to help you work better and more quickly. This means your notes don’t have to contain everything, they have to contain the most important things.

    And if you’re focused on capturing everything, you won’t have the spare mental “cycles” to recognize what’s truly important. Which means that later, when you’re studying for a big test or preparing a term paper, you’ll have to wade through all that extra garbage to uncover the few nuggets of important information?

    What to Write Down

    Your focus while taking notes should be two-fold. First, what’s new to you? There’s no point in writing down facts you already know. If you already know the Declaration of Independence was written and signed in 1776, there’s no reason to write that down. Anything you know you know, you can leave out of your notes.

    Second, what’s relevant? What information is most likely to be of use later, whether on a test, in an essay, or in completing a project? Focus on points that directly relate to or illustrate your reading (which means you’ll have to have actually done the reading…). The kinds of information to pay special attention to are:

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    Dates of Events

    Dates allow you to create a chronology, putting things in order according to when they happened, and understand the context of an event.

    For instance, knowing Isaac Newton was born in 1643 allows you to situate his work in relation to that of other physicists who came before and after him, as well as in relation to other trends of the 17th century.

    Names of People

    Being able to associate names with key ideas also helps remember ideas better and, when names come up again, to recognize ties between different ideas whether proposed by the same individuals or by people related in some way.

    Theories or Frameworks

    Any statement of a theory or frameworks should be recorded — they are the main points most of the time.

    Definitions

    Like theories, these are the main points and, unless you are positive you already know the definition of a term, should be written down.

    Keep in mind that many fields use everyday words in ways that are unfamiliar to us.

    Arguments and Debates

    Any list of pros and cons, any critique of a key idea, both sides of any debate or your reading should be recorded.

    This is the stuff that advancement in every discipline emerges from, and will help you understand both how ideas have changed (and why) but also the process of thought and development of the matter of subject.

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    Images

    Whenever an image is used to illustrate a point, a few words are in order to record the experience.

    Obviously it’s overkill to describe every tiny detail, but a short description of a painting or a short statement about what the class, session or meeting did should be enough to remind you and help reconstruct the experience.

    Other Stuff

    Just about anything a professor writes on a board should probably be written down, unless it’s either self-evident or something you already know. Titles of books, movies, TV series, and other media are usually useful, though they may be irrelevant to the topic at hand.

    I usually put this sort of stuff in the margin to look up later (it’s often useful for research papers, for example). Pay attention to other’s comments, too — try to capture at least the gist of comments that add to your understanding.

    Your Own Questions

    Make sure to record your own questions about the material as they occur to you. This will help you remember to ask the professor or look something up later, as well as prompt you to think through the gaps in your understanding.

    3 Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    You don’t have to be super-fancy in your note-taking to be effective, but there are a few techniques that seem to work best for most people.

    1. Outlining

    Whether you use Roman numerals or bullet points, outlining is an effective way to capture the hierarchical relationships between ideas and data. For example, in a history class, you might write the name of an important leader, and under it the key events that he or she was involved in. Under each of them, a short description. And so on.

    Outlining is a great way to take notes from books, because the author has usually organized the material in a fairly effective way, and you can go from start to end of a chapter and simply reproduce that structure in your notes.

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    For lectures, however, outlining has limitations. The relationship between ideas isn’t always hierarchical, and the instructor might jump around a lot. A point later in the lecture might relate better to information earlier in the lecture, leaving you to either flip back and forth to find where the information goes best (and hope there’s still room to write it in), or risk losing the relationship between what the professor just said and what she said before.

    2. Mind-Mapping

    For lectures, a mind-map might be a more appropriate way of keeping track of the relationships between ideas. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of mind-mapping, but it might just fit the bill.

    Here’s the idea:

    In the center of a blank sheet of paper, you write the lecture’s main topic. As new sub-topics are introduced (the kind of thing you’d create a new heading for in an outline), you draw a branch outward from the center and write the sub-topic along the branch. Then each point under that heading gets its own, smaller branch off the main one. When another new sub-topic is mentioned, you draw a new main branch from the center. And so on.

    The thing is, if a point should go under the first heading but you’re on the fourth heading, you can easily just draw it in on the first branch. Likewise, if a point connects to two different ideas, you can connect it to two different branches.

    If you want to neaten things up later, you can re-draw the map or type it up using a program like FreeMind, a free mind-mapping program (some wikis even have plug-ins for FreeMind mind-maps, in case you’re using a wiki to keep track of your notes).

    You can learn more about mind-mapping here: How to Mind Map: Visualize Your Cluttered Thoughts in 3 Simple Steps

    3. The Cornell System

    The Cornell System is a simple but powerful system for increasing your recall and the usefulness of your notes.

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    About a quarter of the way from the bottom of a sheet of paper, draw a line across the width of the page. Draw another line from that line to the top, about 2 inches (5 cm) from the right-hand edge of the sheet.

    You’ve divided your page into three sections. In the largest section, you take notes normally — you can outline or mind-map or whatever. After the lecture, write a series of “cues” into the skinny column on the right, questions about the material you’ve just taken notes on. This will help you process the information from the lecture or reading, as well as providing a handy study tool when exams come along: simply cover the main section and try to answer the questions.

    In the bottom section, you write a short, 2-3 line summary in your own words of the material you’ve covered. Again, this helps you process the information by forcing you to use it in a new way; it also provides a useful reference when you’re trying to find something in your notes later.

    You can download instructions and templates from American Digest, though the beauty of the system is you can dash off a template “on the fly”.

    The Bottom Line

    I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface of the variety of techniques and strategies people have come up with to take good notes. Some people use highlighters or colored pens; others a baroque system of post-it notes.

    I’ve tried to keep it simple and general, but the bottom line is that your system has to reflect the way you think. The problem is, most haven’t given much thought to the way they think, leaving them scattered and at loose ends — and their notes reflect this.

    More About Note-Taking

    Featured photo credit: Kaleidico via unsplash.com

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