Friday, May 24, 2013

Flourishing: By the Numbers


Sometimes it feels like I spend my whole life doing dishes or picking up junk off of the floor.

But I guess I don't...

Per week:
sleeping   64 hours
cooking/dishes    16 hours
cleaning/chores/child care    13 hours
church/spiritual    11 hours
driving    10 hours
eating/grooming    8 hours
screen time    8 hours
reading/writing    6 hours
misc.    22 hours (things such as exercising, making phone calls, playing the piano, or socializing)

I took the trouble to fill out a little time-tracker worksheet a few weeks back, when I was posting about time, and it was actually rather encouraging. I only kept record for one exact week, which is bound to be off from the average in some way or other -- in this case a nasty blister kept me from exercising my customary amount, and I had more church work to do than usual -- but it was still fascinating.

What surprised me: that I only spent 39 hours on what I would consider 'mom jobs', but that a quarter of that was schlepping around in the car. I really thought it would skew more towards dishes than driving. And that the total would be higher. (Though, note from some professional time-trackers, time use is just as hard to pin down as diets and people always overestimate their work hours.)

But, taking into account that my church time and exercise time would normally regress to the mean, I think that's not a bad life. It's one that would have been unbelievable to many of my past selves; I wonder what the breakdown would have looked like for my childhood, my college life, my newborn-babies stretch, etc.?

Note: I only kept track of what I was doing on the hour every day, without rounding up or down to what I may have been actually doing most of that hour.


So, I'm not that good at teasing out what goes to taxes and our pre-tax contributions to retirement and health care, but when we get our paycheck home for 'discretionary' use, here's what tells me we've (roughly, rounded) spent in the last 12-month period:

Mortgage and home maintenance    30%
Savings    15%
Tithing and charity    10%
Student loan payments    9%
Food and dining    7%
Vacations    5%
Utility bills (incl. phones, internet, trash, power, water, etc.)    5%
Transportation    < 4%
Kids' school/activity costs    < 4%
Clothing    2%
Gifts    2%
Out-of-pocket health, dental, vision    < 2%
Entertainment    < 2%
Misc.    whatever's left, around 5% (things like home decor, craft items, life insurance, sporting goods, cleaning supplies, lawn and yard care)

In the 7 years since S. graduated from law school, we've gone from having no job and negative net worth (student debt) equal to a year's worth of starting salary, to owning a home and having a positive net worth equal to a year's current salary.

We still have what feels like tons of debt and our house has depreciated significantly rather than the reverse, but I'm pretty proud of that record. Much of our increase has been in our 401(k) where we can't touch it, and we still have no equity in our home, so the worth is largely on paper; add in the generous benefits from S.'s firm, and we certainly can't take all the credit for frugal living. Nonetheless, as a comparison, his coworker has told him over the years that she lives paycheck to paycheck and contributes nothing to a retirement account, despite the fact that she has no children and quite a bit of seniority (i.e., salary) over him.

If you can quantify flourishing in terms of time and money management, this isn't a bad slice. We definitely have a reputation for being frugal, skimpy, and/or stingy, for spending way too much time doing things the hard way; but I think we also have some good street cred for being pretty happy, healthy, and self-reliant. I can go into the hows and wherefores in another post, but this one has taken up enough time for now. And as you can see from the data, I'm not one to spend hours in front of the computer...

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