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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 July 8, 2020

    3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

    3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

    It is easy, in the onrush of life, to become a reactor – to respond to everything that comes up, the moment it comes up, and give it your undivided attention until the next thing comes up.

    This is, of course, a recipe for madness. The feeling of loss of control over what you do and when is enough to drive you over the edge, and if that doesn’t get you, the wreckage of unfinished projects you leave in your wake will surely catch up with you.

    Having an inbox and processing it in a systematic way can help you gain back some of that control. But once you’ve processed out your inbox and listed all the tasks you need to get cracking on, you still have to figure out what to do the very next instant. On which of those tasks will your time best be spent, and which ones can wait?

    When we don’t set priorities, we tend to follow the path of least resistance. (And following the path of least resistance, as the late, great Utah Phillips reminded us, is what makes the river crooked!) That is, we’ll pick and sort through the things we need to do and work on the easiest ones – leaving the more difficult and less fun tasks for a “later” that, in many cases, never comes – or, worse, comes just before the action needs to be finished, throwing us into a whirlwind of activity, stress, and regret.

    This is why setting priorities is so important.

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    3 Effective Approaches to Set Priorities

    There are three basic approaches to setting priorities, each of which probably suits different kinds of personalities. The first is for procrastinators, people who put off unpleasant tasks. The second is for people who thrive on accomplishment, who need a stream of small victories to get through the day. And the third is for the more analytic types, who need to know that they’re working on the objectively most important thing possible at this moment. In order, then, they are:

    1. Eat a Frog

    There’s an old saying to the effect that if you wake up in the morning and eat a live frog, you can go through the day knowing that the worst thing that can possibly happen to you that day has already passed. In other words, the day can only get better!

    Popularized in Brian Tracy’s book Eat That Frog!, the idea here is that you tackle the biggest, hardest, and least appealing task first thing every day, so you can move through the rest of the day knowing that the worst has already passed.

    When you’ve got a fat old frog on your plate, you’ve really got to knuckle down. Another old saying says that when you’ve got to eat a frog, don’t spend too much time looking at it! It pays to keep this in mind if you’re the kind of person that procrastinates by “planning your attack” and “psyching yourself up” for half the day. Just open wide and chomp that frog, buddy! Otherwise, you’ll almost surely talk yourself out of doing anything at all.

    2. Move Big Rocks

    Maybe you’re not a procrastinator so much as a fiddler, someone who fills her or his time fussing over little tasks. You’re busy busy busy all the time, but somehow, nothing important ever seems to get done.

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    You need the wisdom of the pickle jar. Take a pickle jar and fill it up with sand. Now try to put a handful of rocks in there. You can’t, right? There’s no room.

    If it’s important to put the rocks in the jar, you’ve got to put the rocks in first. Fill the jar with rocks, now try pouring in some pebbles. See how they roll in and fill up the available space? Now throw in a couple handfuls of gravel. Again, it slides right into the cracks. Finally, pour in some sand.

    For the metaphorically impaired, the pickle jar is all the time you have in a day. You can fill it up with meaningless little busy-work tasks, leaving no room for the big stuff, or you can do the big stuff first, then the smaller stuff, and finally fill in the spare moments with the useless stuff.

    To put it into practice, sit down tonight before you go to bed and write down the three most important tasks you have to get done tomorrow. Don’t try to fit everything you need, or think you need, to do, just the three most important ones.

    In the morning, take out your list and attack the first “Big Rock”. Work on it until it’s done or you can’t make any further progress. Then move on to the second, and then the third. Once you’ve finished them all, you can start in with the little stuff, knowing you’ve made good progress on all the big stuff. And if you don’t get to the little stuff? You’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you accomplished three big things. At the end of the day, nobody’s ever wished they’d spent more time arranging their pencil drawer instead of writing their novel, or printing mailing labels instead of landing a big client.

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    3. Covey Quadrants

    If you just can’t relax unless you absolutely know you’re working on the most important thing you could be working on at every instant, Stephen Covey’s quadrant system as written in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change might be for you.

    Covey suggests you divide a piece of paper into four sections, drawing a line across and a line from top to bottom. Into each of those quadrants, you put your tasks according to whether they are:

    1. Important and Urgent
    2. Important and Not Urgent
    3. Not Important but Urgent
    4. Not Important and Not Urgent

      The quadrant III and IV stuff is where we get bogged down in the trivial: phone calls, interruptions, meetings (QIII) and busy work, shooting the breeze, and other time wasters (QIV). Although some of this stuff might have some social value, if it interferes with your ability to do the things that are important to you, they need to go.

      Quadrant I and II are the tasks that are important to us. QI are crises, impending deadlines, and other work that needs to be done right now or terrible things will happen. If you’re really on top of your time management, you can minimize Q1 tasks, but you can never eliminate them – a car accident, someone getting ill, a natural disaster, these things all demand immediate action and are rarely planned for.

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      You’d like to spend as much time as possible in Quadrant II, plugging away at tasks that are important with plenty of time to really get into them and do the best possible job. This is the stuff that the QIII and QIV stuff takes time away from, so after you’ve plotted out your tasks on the Covey quadrant grid, according to your own sense of what’s important and what isn’t, work as much as possible on items in Quadrant II (and Quadrant I tasks when they arise).

      Getting to Know You

      Spend some time trying each of these approaches on for size. It’s hard to say what might work best for any given person – what fits one like a glove will be too binding and restrictive for another, and too loose and unstructured for a third. You’ll find you also need to spend some time figuring out what makes something important to you – what goals are your actions intended to move you towards.

      In the end, setting priorities is an exercise in self-knowledge. You need to know what tasks you’ll treat as a pleasure and which ones like torture, what tasks lead to your objectives and which ones lead you astray or, at best, have you spinning your wheels and going nowhere.

      These three are the best-known and most time-tested strategies out there, but maybe you’ve got a different idea you’d like to share? Tell us how you set your priorities in the comments.

      More Tips for Effective Prioritization

      Featured photo credit: Mille Sanders via unsplash.com

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