VIV Mag, Easy Wins, and “Saving”

Ever thought “hey, I’d like to win a copy of 168 Hours?” This month, VIV magazine is offering that opportunity. This sleek digital mag (featuring several high-end nature lodges in remote locales that look awesome) is running an excerpt of 168 Hours in its “Last Chapter” section and is giving away 5 copies. To read VIV this month click on this link.

(or cut and paste this: and go to the “Last Chapter” section) Thanks to VIV for running this, and my glamour shot in the same issue as Iman! 

Over at BNET, I have a post about the Trouble With Easy Wins.  In Real Simple’s “Family” special edition (which I’m also quoted in!) they ran a section of three time makeovers. One busy mom of three was getting up every morning at 5:30AM to do laundry. She has three kids, but it’s still hard to believe this was absolutely necessary (and indeed, Laura Stack, the time management guru quoted in this article, thought it was crazy too). But as I thought about the situation, I realized this woman was giving in to a temptation many of us face: the easy win. Her life was kind of chaotic, and anyway, many of the biggest projects we devote ourselves to in life don’t show much progress on a day-to-day basis. Who knows if that hour spent playing with your kids will pay off in their long term happiness or success? Maybe that hour devoted to work strategic thinking time will produce your next million dollar idea… but probably not.

Whereas if you start a load of laundry it will, almost certainly, get done.

We do this at work too, feeling like we’ve done something when we answer/organize emails, or clean our desks, or check off a conference call that we’re doing simply because it’s on our calendar. Human beings love the feeling of accomplishment. The larger question is whether these easy wins are actually getting you anywhere. I noted that Gretchen Rubin’s Resolutions Chart was a brilliant way of getting around this psychological problem (and she notes that Ben Franklin had the original idea). You break your big, amorphous goals down into doable easy wins, and then check off when you win them. Getting to bed on time, check. Not raising my voice, check (or not check, if there’s a biting episode in the bath tub). Writing 1000 words, check.

Other thoughts this week: I read a lot of women’s magazines, and was somewhat fascinated by a few pieces in Redbook’s money section this month. For instance, I did not know that women who bring children along when they shop spend 35 percent more money. Yet another reason to get that grocery delivery service. It will pay for itself! But I was most fascinated by a piece called “Extreme Couponing for Amateurs,” which featured author Jamie Chase (who wrote The Lazy Couponer). As Redbook put it, she “told us how to save more than $25,000 annually on groceries and other household items in a fraction of the time” (that extreme couponing would take).

Think about this for a minute. To “save” $25,000 on groceries and other household items, you have to be spending more than $25,000 on groceries and other household items. Otherwise you’re not saving, you’re just accumulating stuff that wasn’t worth it to you to pay for (the whole stockpile phenomenon), so it’s not boosting your bottom line and freeing up actual cash. The average family spends 10-15% of its budget on food, and another 5% or so on clothes. Other household items would be maybe 5% or so, max unless you’re furnishing a whole not-so-small house. So figure that only 25% of a median family budget is in play, anyway. That’s $12,500 on $50,000. In theory it would be $25,000 on $100,000, but upper-income families devote a lower percentage of their income to groceries and other such things than middle-income families. And even so, saving $25,000 a year would imply that your whole $25,000 grocery and household item budget was reduced to zero. If you’re just managing to cut it in half (a more realistic goal for a lazy couponer) this implies you spend $50,000 per year on groceries and household items. I really don’t think many families fit in this category. Even extremely high-earning ones.



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