Too Many Baskets, Not Enough Eggs

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Maintaining sanity through time management, money management, and prioritization.

When I was growing up, there was a shining pillar of frugality in my life.  She exuded her standards quietly, without drawing attention, but as I got older I came to realize just how powerful they were.

She was a stay-at-home mother.  Her husband had a nice job that (I assume–I never asked) made plenty of money.  Her children and I were friends.  But when we all went shopping together, we’d always go to discount stores and use coupons.  It confused me as a kid.  They didn’t need to shop at these stores for food, clothes, or everyday items.  But they did.  And they did it happily.

As her children got older, moved away and started having families of their own, I came to realize what their family did spend money on:  family.  While brand-name clothing wasn’t on the shopping list, this woman wouldn’t bat at eye at flying across the country to visit a grandchild, take care of one of her own, grown, adult children when they fell ill, or to go to a birthday party.

And I think that’s kind of beautiful.  Her example not only taught me what mattered in her life, but it also taught me that in order to be able to afford the things that really  matter, you may have to give up some of the things that really don’t.  When you have the right perspective, giving those things up isn’t a sacrifice; it’s an active and rewarding choice.  She also didn’t have a personal finance blog, which makes me question my own vanity-levels as her simple example taught me more than any preaching could have done.

But there was some preaching.

We also went to the same church, and on occasion she’d teach my Sunday school class.   In the religion of my youth, you didn’t go around asking people about their income, but you were taught sound money habits as a matter of spirituality from a young age.

Her lessons stuck with me.  I received 52 over the course of every single year, and hers are the ones that I still remember.  Her father was also a very frugal man.  At several points in their family’s life, something bad happened.  A job was lost.  A medical emergency came up.  What could have been chaos crept up on them as it does at certain points in all of our lives.

But their family didn’t suffer monetarily at any of these times.  They had the financial means or opportunities to obtain those means because her father abode by the adage, “Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.”  He always had a side hustle going on.  They always had savings.  They were always okay.  And there was all kinds of peace that came from that knowledge.

My egg shortage.

Like I said, I’ve always remembered her lessons.  As I became an adult myself, I tried to live them.  I’ve tried to always have something going on on the side.  While it’s sometimes been a struggle, I’ve tried to always have a decent emergency fund.  I’ve tried to diversify my baskets so that everything will be okay always.

Recently, I came to the realization that I have a lot of baskets.  Like a lot.  They’re labeled “Family,” “Work,” “Side-hustle Blogging,” “Health Insurance,” “Car Insurance,” “Professional Development,” “Tutoring,” and so on into oblivion.

I also came to the realization that the eggs aren’t just my money; they’re my time.  Here’s my mathematical proof:

Time=Money  and  Money=Eggs —–>  Time=Eggs

I was spreading myself so thin. I was adding more stress to my life in order to feel secure.  In order to order the future, I was sacrificing a lot of the beautiful things about the here and now.

I’m not getting rid of any baskets.  But I have changed how I manage my eggs.  Call it a lesson in time management.  Call it a lesson in money management.  Call it a convoluted metaphor.

Pick the Necessary Baskets, Then the Ones That Yield the Most Eggs.

There are things that will need to be done whether I’m excited about them or not.  The health insurance and car insurance baskets need to be filled, whether I enjoy the time I put into making the money to get the eggs in there or not.

But those baskets are depleted each month and then need to be refilled.  So after I meet my necessities, I’m keeping an eye on whether the eggs are disappearing or if they’re creating more eggs on their own.  My old, massive cell phone bill? That was definitely a self-depleting basket.  So I altered what I was doing.

But when I put eggs (both time and money) into my professional development basket, something amazing starts happening.  My “Work” basket starts filling up a little faster each month.  I do a better job, have better skills, and have to spend less time processing tasks in my brain.  If I keep investing in that professional development basket, I’ll be making more money for the same amount of work.

The same thing goes with blogging.  There are so many tasks to get caught up in.  But only focusing on the ones that either grow audience, deepen my connection with my audience, or increase income will allow me to get those eggs multiplying faster.  So I’m not going to waste as much time on the things that ultimately don’t matter.

Family First

But the first basket that needs to be filled, regardless of necessity or spontaneous egg reproduction, is “Family.”  And a large part of that is not being  stressed out when I am spending time with them.  Turning off technology.  Turning off all the tabs in my brain.  Just enjoying our moments together as they happen.  It really doesn’t matter if we live in our own house or rent apartments for the rest of our lives; if I miss those moments with family, not so much out of time-constraints, but out of preoccupation, then none of the other baskets matter.  Because in my quest to secure my life, I will have missed life itself.

27 thoughts on “Too Many Baskets, Not Enough Eggs

  1. Petrish @ Debt Free Martini

    I agree that family comes first. Sometimes my daughter will suffer for I do work a full time job and try to write in my spare time. One day she opened up too me and told me that I spend most of my time on the computer. It broke my heart that she felt neglected. So I had to quickly learn how to manage my time and still make sure her needs where met. I never want her to look at me when she gets older and say I was too busy to spend time with her.

    1. femmefrugality Post author

      I’m 100% with you on that sentiment, Petrish. I try to only do the writing after bedtime, but it’s the incessant phone checking that’s killing me.

  2. Joyce @ My Stay At Home Adventures

    ” in order to be able to afford the things that really matter, you may have to give up some of the things that really don’t.” This is so true and something I learned not to long ago. Wish I knew this and had this kind of influence when I was growing up. I had good people that did good by me but I think I had being successful a tad bit mess up. Great post Femme.

    1. femmefrugality Post author

      Irony of all ironies, this lady left such a huge impression on me, but it only occurred to me to write about her after three and a half years. I’m still altering my perception of successful. It’s kind of like looking into a warped mirror sometimes.

  3. donebyforty

    Fantastic post…maybe my favorite of all you’ve written. And that egg time equation is hilarious.

    Will have to think about where the eggs are currently. Too many, I think, are in the personal finance basket.

    1. femmefrugality Post author

      Who said girls weren’t good at math?

      In all seriousness, though, that means a lot. It was kind of cathartic to write, and as I was putting words to “page” I was thinking about some of the conversations we’ve had about personal finance obsession. Maybe I’m finally finding a way out of it to more balance. Here’s to hoping it sticks.

    1. femmefrugality Post author

      I told a family member in all seriousness the other day that I know we can handle everything we’re doing: his job, my job, his school, our kids, etc, etc, etc. We just needed to be able to function on less sleep or add more hours to the day.

      I got laughed at.

      Never enough time. Here’s to living the best life possible with the hours that we are given!

  4. vickie

    Family is everything. I’m glad you found that they are the ones that matter most. Finding that balance to juggle everything after you spend time with family is the way to go.

  5. Tonya@Budget and the Beach

    Great post! I agree there have to be checks and balances in life. There always seems to be some “cost” with whatever you are doing, but you have to find the one that works best for you. You may be working so much it costs you your health or good relationships with your family, but yet you are making big bucks, or you spend more time on your health and family, but you may not be “rich.” Plus the word “rich” means different things to different people. Rich to me encompasses many things like good friends, family, good health, being able to enjoy leisure activities, etc. I like to create as much balance in my life as possible, so I’m not willing to work from the crack of dawn till midnight just to make more money. Not worth it to ME.

    1. femmefrugality

      I’m with you on that. Though sometimes I get all out of whack. I’ve heard it said a lot that you either have a surplus of money or a surplus of time. Hoping to find equilibrium, because obviously lately neither has been true. :p

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  7. Mel

    What a terrific example. I feel like I learned a lot of money management lessons from my church when I was growing up too and they were always along the lines of be responsible with your money because it allows you to prioritize what’s actually important.

  8. cottageretreatist

    Totally agree family comes first! I am so glad we’re in a position now where we can have a contingency to drop everything to see/help them if we need to!

    You had such a wonderful inspiration for your frugal ways! Do you still keep in touch with the woman or her family?

    Natalya @CottageRetreatist x

  9. Abigail @ipickuppennies

    Just saw this one.

    You have no idea (and I hope you never do) what it’s like to be a Type A personality inside the body of someone with chronic fatigue. After many years of fighting against my limitations and trying to get everything done, I slowly came to realize that I had to prioritize. We might need groceries, to mail a package and to get gas. But we don’t necessarily need all of them today. So tackle the biggest/most imminent one first. Set the next goal for tomorrow. And so on.

    It’s made my life — and sanity — a lot easier. I think most of us need to remember that you can only hold so many priorities in your head at one time. (Literally. One of my professors wrote a book about priorities and decision making. Your brain can deal with something like 4-5 at a time. No more.) Of course, addressing some of those priorities involve putting down your computer, tablet or phone. So… baby steps.

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