“Tryin’ to make a dollar outta fifteen cents”… No, I’m not referring to Tupac’s lyrics. That expression pre-dates the rapper’s free-style by a nearly a century. I might be dating myself here, but I remember the days when jumping rope and singing rhymes on the playground was cool. “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang sittin’ on a fence, trying make a dollar outta fifteen cents” was one of those rhymes that all the little girls sang. And it just stuck with me.
Long after I’d stopped skipping rope, and left the playground rhymes behind, I still felt a little bit like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Anytime I tightened my proverbial belt yet another notch, and squeezed all I could out of my meager paycheck, that silly rhyme would come back to me, especially the part that went “she missed, she missed, she missed like this!” Trying to live on less, trying to stretch every penny, often felt like an exercise in failure. My financial misses were often as catastrophic to watch as my discombobulated attempts at jumping rope. I fell on my face, literally and figuratively, many, many times.
Stretching My Money Meant Stretching Myself
Those early days of pinching pennies taught me a lot. I picked up invaluable lessons in frugality from watching my mother reduce, reuse and recycle, long before it became a popular environmental cause. I became an innovator and inventor just out of necessity. And I developed skills that I never thought I needed because I realized I would’ve paid someone else for those skills if I hadn’t acquired them. It turns out “makin’ a dollar outta fifteen cents” wasn’t a burden. It was a blessing in disguise, as it forced me to grow in creativity and prudence.
One lesson in particular that stands out to me is “Money is time, and time is money”. I’ve come to learn that paying money frees up your time, but giving time frees up your money. It takes wisdom to know when the time-money exchange works in your favor.
Time Is Money!
It takes a bit of extra time to pack a lunch instead of grabbing slice of pizza or a burger at a fast food restaurant. It’s not as easy to brew your own coffee as it is to drive through Dunkin Donuts. Frozen microwave meals are quick, but more expensive than ingredients we put together ourselves. Driving just a mile or two may be faster than walking, but is the needless gas money worth it? When we make the choices to put a little more time into meal preparation, grooming, cleaning, decorating, etc. we can save ourselves a pretty penny.
On the other hand, caution should be exercised here because the time–money exchange is not always worth it. Your time is valuable too. If your money-saving, yet time-consuming activities are actually taking you away from other more needful activities (i.e income-generating activities) then you should reconsider. For example, if you spend your entire Saturday afternoon bagging and freezing ingredients for quick meals, when you could be building your own business during those hours, you may actually be costing yourself money. But, if you are spending five minutes to brew your own coffee that you’d spend waiting on line at the trendy coffee shop anyway, then you just wisely put a few cents back in your own pocket.
Wisdom is Priceless
The wisdom to calculate money versus time is a skill I would not have learned had I not needed to pinch pennies. Besides being a fun reminiscence of playground days the “dollar outta fifteen cents” rhyme will always be a reminder not just of how far I’ve had to stretch my money, but how far I’ve had to stretch myself in the process. If you’re feeling like it is time to stretch every dollar and yourself in the process, I’m excited for you too! A new mindset is always the first step towards success, so if you are really ready for a change I’d recommend starting here: Why Should I Live Recession-Proof?. I’m glad I finally grappled with the answer to that question. The creativity and resourcefulness I’ve gleaned are priceless, and I’m excited to share some of those tips in articles to come!