The months of September and October are tough ones for me. They are when I work overtime, a lot, to hit a big deadline at work. It doesn’t seem to matter how long a ramp we give ourselves, it’s always a scramble at the last minute. This year, at six o’clock on deadline day everything looked like it was going well, until I found a broken forumula in a spreadsheet that had me up until midnight fixing it. Oh the joys.
I have missed three weddings in the past two Septembers, and this year finally managed to attend one because we were more prepared at work.
When I work overtime, it also means that my commute changes. I go from being able to jump into a vehicle that I’m not driving, to driving an hour each way by myself. AKA, I have to be alert for two more hours.
All of this whining has just been to set the scene, don’t worry, the story turns positive.
This year, my spouse ended up taking a work trip the week of my deadline. It was a bit of a last minute trip, which compounded the challenges. Thankfully, we put some effort into being more prepared than we ever have been before and that led to savings instead of wanton spending.
How I Save Pennies When I’m Stressed
Food is by far the biggest struggle when we are tired. I have, in the past, come home later than the grocery store and most of the restaurants in town are open, ruling out picking up a rotisserie chicken on my way home.
Instead, my spouse cooked a giant vat of stew Sunday afternoon, before leaving on the work trip. It may not be sexy, but having a meal ready to grab for lunch and dinner, for several days, is a godsend. The *last* thing you want to do after you have been gone for 14 hours is to start making dinner. The vat of stew saved not only massive amounts of stress, but I probably would have dropped $5-10 on prepared food every night, if it hadn’t been available.
Additionally, it meant that I was eating healthier food, without salt and preservatives or other junky things.
That is a perfect segue into my next point about food: having food at work.
I watched my boss eat stuff out of the vending machine, like pop, chips and chocolate bars. My body is NOT used to eating that stuff (unless I’ve been drinking and I’m at a party, then all bets are off.) Plus, when you are stressed out, it is the last thing that your body needs to try to process.
Did I eat too many Clif bars? Sure did. But, a Clif bar is much, much better than a bag of chips!
They also cost less, as I had my Mom pick up a few boxes of them for me from Costco, dropping the price to a much more reasonable $0.88 each.
In addition to Clif bars, I always have a bag of apples in my office, as well as sunflower butter and oatmeal.
I make a concerted effort to start eating snacks, starting around 3:30, when I know that I am working overtime, because I know that I need to be alert in order to drive myself home.
This year’s advanced planning on the food front kept me healthier, less stressed out by the idea of having to find food for dinner and lunch when I got home, and absolutely saved me money.
Exercise and Appointments
This year, my spouse’s last minute trip turned what is otherwise a very minor chore into something that required more effort – taking one of our vehicles in for some routine repairs.
Normally, we just drop one vehicle off in the evening, and the next day I get dropped off at the dealership instead of at home. Easy Peasey.
My spouse wasn’t there, so when I dropped it off in the evening, my ride home happened to be 7 hours away. Not very helpful, that spouse.
Naturally I could have called a friend and asked them to give me a ride home, but I decided to treat this as a silver lining in my week: an excuse to get some exercise.
I donned my reflective biking rain jacket, grabbed a can of bear spray, and drove to the dealership. Then, I walked home at a brisk pace, which took about 20 minutes.
It’s not exactly the greatest exercise in the world, but it did mean that I snuck some exercise and fresh air into a week that would have been summarily devoid of anything more strenuous than walking down the hallway to confer with a coworker. When I got home, I felt great, and it didn’t cost a dime.
I also didn’t see any bears, which is always a plus.
The next night the vehicle was ready for pick up. The dealership processed my credit card over the phone, left the receipt on the seat and stuck the keys in the gas cap.
I reversed the process and walked to go get it. By then a neighbour and a friend had both offered to give me a lift, but I was determined to sneak the exercise into my day. (No bear sightings, again!)
The Moral of the Story
To steal from the Scouts, “be prepared.”
It is amazing how much planning ahead can save you, in stress, in mental effort, in money and in health.
Just like meal planning, strategizing in advance can help you avoid a lot of mental clutter and financial clutter.
PS: Another silver lining is that I get paid overtime (not everyone in my position does). So, my paycheque was substantially larger that week, and there have been several more hours since. It’s my only chance during the year to earn overtime, and let’s just say that it is a LOT more lucrative than focusing on blogging.
As a side note: Deadline number two is looming and hopefully I will be posting more regularly again after that!