A saver learns to spend (guest post)

profile pic(Laura’s note: I’m on the road this week and will be bringing you a few guest posts on my favorite time and money themes. Today’s comes from Anne Bogel, better known online as Modern Mrs. Darcy. Please go visit her blog!)

by Anne Bogel

I once heard there are two kinds of people: Spenders and Savers. I’ve always been smug about my status as a born Saver: I’m in my early thirties, but I’ve had a mortgage and an IRA and a money market fund for over a decade. I’ve never had credit card debt or a car loan. I calculate things like return on investment and cost per wear. 

But sometimes my Saver status works against me, because my frugal nature keeps me from spending money that ought to be spent. 

I run a blog, and do an increasing amount of freelance writing and editing. I work part-time in the legal field; I homeschool my four kids. My life is more than full. 

I’ve had a little household help for a few years; I’ve known for a while now it was time to hire more. But I’m a born saver: I love the idea of paying someone to fold my laundry, but I also love keeping my money in my own bank account. 

I tried to convince my inner Saver that hiring help would let me get more work done, for more profit, but this line of reasoning remained unhelpfully abstract. 

The breakthrough came when I realized this decision was about more than money. It was about choosing between two different versions of my life. 

As an example, let’s look at a typical Monday, pre-help: We start our homeschool day at 9:00. I have 3 students on 3 different grade levels plus a mischievous preschooler, so I rotate between kids all morning, trying to keep everyone on task, working one-on-one as needed. I do reading lessons, I quiz them on spelling words, I check multiplication problems. (I run downstairs to put the clothes in the dryer.) I help them summarize stories and enter the Rosetta Stone password. (I get my youngest milk, again.) I explain long division, I correct grammar, I turn on a history audiobook. (I change over the laundry and finally check my email.) We break for lunch, then during our daily “rest time” I do private writing lessons with each child and anything else we didn’t get to in the morning while my baby naps. 

But here’s what our Mondays look like with help: I work one-on-one with each child in math and writing, and read a story aloud to my youngest, in a blissfully unhurried fashion. My mother’s helper checks the kids’ work, quizzes them on their multiplication tables, and runs through their spelling flashcards. She sets them up on Rosetta Stone and their typing program. When the dryer buzzes, she changes the laundry over (and folds it!) She gets them snacks and drinks and turns on their audiobook while I slip away to bury myself in my work for an hour. Later, during rest time, the kids read and play independently while I get back to work. 

When I frame it like this, I’m happy to pay for help. We all have a better school experience, and I pick up 3 extra hours to work.

When I thought this decision was only about the money, my inner Saver had a hard time coughing up the dough. But once I realized spending a little extra cash fundamentally changed my way of life, the decision was easy. 

It all came down to how I framed it.

Anne Bogel loves strong coffee, long books, the social graces, and social media. She puts a timely spin on timeless women’s issues at her blog Modern Mrs Darcy. Follow her on twitter here.

21 thoughts on “A saver learns to spend (guest post)

  1. I love this idea of homeschooling that focuses on your core competencies. Just as teachers in schools can be more efficient when they get help with grading papers (either human help or tech help), so can parents. Just because you’re homeschooling doesn’t mean you have to do everything yourself. I do wonder, sometimes, how parents with small kids and school age kids make it work, and I suspect that adding another adult might help a lot.

    1. I suspect it has a lot to do with everyone’s individual needs and personalities. In my house, we could get through a day of homeschooling without outside help–but it would take most of the day.

  2. Yep, the right kind of help can pay off in so many ways! We would give up a lot before we’d cancel our 2x/month house cleaner. Not only does she do the cleaning tasks we hate the most, she keeps us from fighting about chores 🙂

    And for a while I had a babysitter for just a couple of hours per week so I could get a bit of extra work done (on non-daycare days) – it brought my stress level down immensely, and my 2yo loved that someone was coming over to play with her…

  3. I love this idea of reframing. We have homeschooled for so long now (I think we’re finishing up our 16th year) that I forget that homeschooling “counts” as something I do. For instance, yesterday I was having a hard time keeping my focus on my blog work after only a few hours of it. I mentioned to my husband that I couldn’t ever do an 8 hour work day. He reminded me that by the time I’d started the blog work, I’d already put in a full day of homeschool. Oh yeah. Forgot that. My kids are older, so a mother’s helper isn’t a solution, but maybe there’s another way. I’ll have to think on that.

    1. An 8-hour homeschool day takes more out of me than (almost) any day at the office!

      My oldest is only 10, so I have no personal experience teaching teens at home, like you do. One of my mentors told me that every college-bound kid should have the opportunity to work one-on-one with a tutor before they head off to school, and take a course entirely from someone who is NOT their parents, and I have those things in the back of my mind as I (very casually) think through what our homeschooling situation could look like in 5 years, if we keep at it.

      1. Anne, my teens do take core classes from people other than me. In fact, my son has taken most of his classes from others. Some college classes and some with a fantastic homeschool group we have here. It also helps that we’re pretty relaxed homeschoolers, especially for the younger kids.

  4. I am so with you on this. I am expecting in the fall (our third), am a physician who volunteers very part time in a free clinic, and married to another physician who works 100 hour weeks frequently. I am going to start classically homeschool this fall, and realize I MUST plan to prevent burnout. So I have a wonderful lady who cleans the the house already for us 2x per month, and in the fall I asked her to increase to weekly. She is wonderful and so grateful for the work. I am by nature a saver as well, so I used to think I could never pay someone to clean my own house. But, it is SO worth the time I gain and am able to invest in my kids, my medical reading, and my writing. And employing people who need work is the great way to help them.

    I might have to look into mother’s helper down the road. Not even sure how to find one. I think my dream is still a french tutor who will babysit.

    1. If you’re near a university, post an ad. Our local Tier 1 research university (pre-internet) had a list of people who were willing to tutor in their native language for somewhat above minimum wage.

      1. Sarah, you’ve mentioned the French tutor on my blog before (and I think it sounds wonderful!) But I didn’t even remember before I read TG’s comment that I served as a German tutor/babysitter when I was in college. I responded to an ad that a local resident had left with my college’s “help wanted” department. I was a student, not a native speaker, but I’d still like to think it was a great experience for all parties.

  5. We had an informal (free!) program in the church when my kids were toddlers where young teens “interned” as mother’s helpers in the afternoon or on summer vacation. I often farm out my 13 year old son to a friend with an active 4 year old so she has a few hours to herself, too. If you can’t afford to hire a mom’s helper, there’s probably a young teenager who would love the chance to come over and help in the afternoons.

  6. This is a great way to re-imagine how we spend our time and money, Anne. I know I’m having a problem with hiring someone to clean. Totally stuck somewhere in the “but I can do that myself!” and “never mind that way of thinking – I could be doing more fulfilling activities with my time than these laborious tasks!” My goal this year is to try it and see how much a few paid-cleaning episodes free my schedule (secretly afraid I’ll fall in love and never want to go back to doing it all myself…) lol

    1. Elizabeth, I’m still learning what is worth it to hire out and what isn’t. I’ve only had a cleaning person come to my house a few times. Our theory was that we might as well try it and see what happened.

      (I’d be very interested in hearing about your experience if you decide to give it a go.)

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