All of us Nest Eggers will calculate to a real pay raise for 2020: that’s because of the excellent stock and bond returns this year. (I describe our pay increase for 2020 here and the prospects for another real increase for 2021 here.) In the old days, I’d likely plan on saving more from a real pay increase but that makes no sense now: we have to spend or gift more from pay increases now. Saving makes no sense. This post describes my thoughts on what we’ll do with ours in 2020: I’m focusing on lowering stress and buying more enjoyable time. Have you sorted out what you’ll do with your pay raise?
As I look back on prior posts, I laid out my thinking of “What’s Money For” in a series of posts last March and one in July. (See here, here, here, here, and here.)We should think of using our money for BFFC: the Basics – which don’t really change much over time; Fun – fun experiences almost solely from travel and spending for less stress for Patti and me; Family – our money can help them enjoy now and be more successful in the future; and Community – Patti and I try focus our giving to reduce human suffering (see here).
== Small $$$ signal, but it’s enough to think about ==
Our pay raise for our spending in 2020 is not large. It’s just a 2% real increase over 2021. On top of the 1.6% inflation rate, that means our paychecks – the monthly amount we pay ourselves from our Fidelity account – will increase by 3.6%.
We clearly have the all BFFC options, but I want to focus on spending that small increase for 2020 to lower stress and give us more free time. The article I cited before “One surprising way money can buy happiness, according to scientists” states, “People who buy time by paying someone to complete household tasks are most satisfied with life . . . yet very few individuals think to spend money in this way.” And I just finished this book, “Happy Money, The Science of Happier Spending”. It similarly says, “Most individuals fail to use their money to buy themselves happier time.” The question we should ask is, “How will our spending change the way we use our time?” When we focus on our time rather than our money, we act like scientists of happiness, choosing activities that promote our well-being.
== We spend to enjoy ==
Patti and I already do a pretty good job of freeing up time and avoiding tasks we never did like or no longer like:
• We pay for help around the house. Most of these tasks have migrated from somewhat enjoyable many years ago, but now fall in the unenjoyable category. Cindy helps clean inside. (That was never enjoyable for either one of us!) Doc routinely cuts the lawn and does the minor outside work; RJ does a great job on planting the annual flowers; Joe and his crew do the major cleanups and trimming; Kapps does their thing to keep the grass green. Steven does the windows and the leaves on the roof in the fall. (I stopped climbing ladders ten years ago.)
• I cook a complete meal from scratch only about twice a week — but we don’t eat out that much either. Our local Food Shoppe is 1/3 mile away. We find that picking up one of their two-person meals for $12 – and we’ll have leftovers – complemented by our vegetables and even naan bread saves us a lot of time. Plus, the food is really good. We also have lots of other carryout places for diversity within ½ mile. Our current favorite is Aladdin’s.
• I “outsource” our bill paying. I’ve automated our payment of routine bills (utilities, phone, internet, credit cards, mortgage) through PNC BillPay. I rarely hand write checks. Setting this all up took time, but now it’s stress free. I think I’ve handwritten and mailed fewer than ten checks this year.
• We don’t drive long distances. I think our max driving time is six hours. More than that is not enjoyable to us. It’s much more relaxing for us to fly and rent a car if needed. Patti plans way ahead and always gets low fares and rentals. It’s often cheaper to fly and rent a car than it is to drive.
== We can do better ==
Here are things that have been unnecessarily stressful for us this last year. We can buy lower stress.
• Get help for winter snow removal. I used to like to do this, but I no longer want to get the snowblower out to keep the walks and drive areas clean. Doc said he’d do this for me this winter. He’ll make the call when there is enough snow. I’ll keep my mouth shut if he come when it’s iffy on the amount of snow or if the weather forecast says it will melt later on.
• Get help with the Christmas decorations. Our house looks great when we get the decorations up, but we don’t consistently get them up. It’s become a bit of a chore. That’s partly due to my poor organization of what to buy, when to buy it, and where to buy it. I have this all down now in my 2Do app for next year. should be a snap. We also need help getting the Christmas tree from the basement up to the landing on the second floor. It’s an awkward task and really not 100% safe for Patti and me to do this by ourselves. We had Doc and his wife Barb help this year. That was great. After Christmas I’ll have them come back to help put it away. They’re both agreeable to helping next year on the last Sunday in November 2020 – if Doc isn’t deer hunting.
• Get help for Spring and Fall cleanings inside. I don’t really see that much need, but Patti wants our house to be really, really clean inside. She complains at times that it isn’t clean enough. Cindy can come extra, and Doc and his wife Barb can help. I put down to schedule two special clean ups: one in April and one in November. Those will make Patti much happier.
• Get the cars detailed every spring. This is not a stress reducer since I spend very little time on keeping our cars clean. We drive so little now that they just don’t get very dirty, and the car wash is just 2 miles away. But they do look great after I get them detailed, and I get a bit more pleasure riding in them. The cleaner they are the less I’m inclined to think about buying a new car. I have not had them detailed on any regular schedule. I added reminders in 2Do to call for appointments in the last week of March for early April.
Conclusion: All Nest Eggers will have a real increase in their Safe Spending Amount for 2020. We all need to think what we’ll do with the extra pay. We certainly know we have no need to save any of it. This year I thought more about spending on a few things around the house that would reduce stress or add a bit of pleasure: bye-bye to winter snow removal; get the Christmas decorations up painlessly; power clean the inside of the house twice a year; get our cars detailed each spring.