How did you have margin in your life when Jesse was in law school and you NEEDED to work a lot? I’m in that place, and while it won’t last for ever (another 2 years or so), I’m wondering how to add margin when I have to work the amount I do and I’m also homeschooling my kids. Thanks! -Melissa
Truthfully, Melissa, I didn’t do a good job of having margin. And I really regret it now. Working too much during the law school years and then during the first few years after law school were what landed me in the pit of despair that I write about in my book, Say Goodbye to Survival Mode.
I stayed home a lot — mostly because we only had one car for much of the time and Jesse used it to go to work and school every day. So that helped. But I also feel like, in some ways, it contributed to my eventual burn out. Because I was home so much, we lived in such a small apartment, I didn’t have many friends, and I only had one child, so I filled up the time and loneliness with lots and lots of work.
I don’t regret all of the things I learned during those years as much of the trial and error laid the foundation for MoneySavingMom.com. But I do regret not taking enough time to breathe and slow down.
After my husband graduated and started working full-time, I continued to work really, really hard because I’d become so accustomed to it and we also had financial goals that we were trying hard to hit. We didn’t have much of a cushion financially, so I was hoping to help build that up.
Then, we had our second child and my husband lost his job. As a result, I went into full gear mode just to keep us afloat. There are seasons when you have to just power through, but the problem was, once he found a steady job again, I continued to push hard and fast.
I think that once you’ve experienced so many years of barely making it and you see the potential to actually start to get ahead, it’s hard not to just go for it. So I did… with guns blazing. And then I paid for it dearly, as I chronicle in my book.
I tell you all this, just to let you know that I didn’t do things the right way and I wouldn’t recommend going about things the way I did. I wish that I could go back and re-do some of those years. But I can either live in regret or let my mistakes serve as lessons to propel change for how I live my life right now.
With this in mind, here’s some advice I’d give to you in your situation (based upon the mistakes I made):
1. Cut Out All Non-Essentials
If you’re in a very busy season of life, strip down to the bare basics. Now is not the time for scrapbooking, enrolling in extra classes, or tackling the attic organization. Say no to everything that’s not essential in order to free up breathing room in your schedule.
Focus on the most important priorities — things like keeping your family fed, making sure they have clean clothes, and making sure that your health, your marriage, and your children are the priorities. There are different seasons of life and there will be plenty of other seasons when you can add in other things. But right now, you have enough on your plate, so guiltlessly say no to anything extra.
2. Get Up Early
Every family (and mom!) is different, but I encourage you to give getting up early a try. I’ve found that the early morning hours — especially anytime before 7 a.m. — is prime time to get blogging and business work done.
Why? Well not only am I really fresh and energetic since it’s the beginning of the day, but there are very few distractions and interruptions since most people aren’t online yet and the rest of my family is asleep!
Note: If you want to start getting up early, but you really struggle with following through, you might find my 30-Day Early to Rise series a helpful starting place.
3. Hire (or Barter for) Help
It’s hard for frugal people to hire help. I totally get it. But if you can swing it in your budget, buying yourself a little breathing room can be priceless.
Think about what areas in your life you are struggling with most — is it administrative tasks for your business, house cleaning, food preparation, or something else — and talk to your spouse about possible solutions. It might mean cutting back more, hiring a virtual assistant for a few hours each week, hiring a babysitter for a few hours each week, or something else.
Figure out if there’s a way you can make it work and then guiltlessly move forward with your plan. It just might be the best $25 or so you spend each week!
If you don’t have any wiggle room in your budget, consider if there’s a way you could barter for the help you need — swapping babysitting with a mom one afternoon per week, swapping a few business projects for helping someone learn a marketable skill, or something else. Think outside the box and ask your spouse and close friends if they have any ideas of solutions, too.
4. Plan a Once a Week Coffee Shop Date
When I had my second child, one of the best things we ever implemented was my once-a-week mornings at the coffee shop. At first, it was really hard for me to leave the girls with Jesse because I’d basically never left them, ever, since they’d been born.
But after the first few weeks, I realized just what a difference it made in our home and family. It gave me time to plan the week ahead. I came home re-energized and refreshed for the week ahead. And Jesse got to have a special morning with the girls.
If this seems like something that might work for your family and schedule, talk to your spouse and see if there’s a way you could experiment with something similar. Maybe it’s not every weekend, but every other weekend, or one evening a month.
5. Give Yourself Grace
I know I say this often, but it bears repeating: give yourself grace. You are in a hard season of life. If your house is messier or you feel behind, don’t beat yourself up. Just do the best you can do with the time and energy you have, ask for help (if possible), delegate (if possible) — and let the rest go!
What advice and suggestions do you have for Melissa?
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