Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Change can be good

I changed jobs a few months ago, and a somewhat-unexpected cost of that change is that my hours have been turned completely around. I used to have a fairly conventional 9-to-5 (ish) gig, but I now find myself not going into the office until the early afternoon and subsequently not getting home until 9 or sometime 10 o'clock.

On the surface, it doesn't really bother me. I sort of take the position that one day I'll have to grow up and get a "normal" job that forces me to deal with gridlock traffic or crowded subways and a blaring alarm at 7 a.m. -- why not enjoy my ability to sleep in until 10 and stay out as late as I want for as long as I can? But it's safe to say this sort of arrangement poses a problem when dealing with family members who have a more conventional schedule. In my case, "family" consists of my girlfriend (whom I've lived with for a few years) who has a regular 9-to-5 gig.

My getting home near 10 o'clock is particularly troublesome, however, with regards to planning and having meals. She gets home at 6, and quite logically, starts to think about dinner after a long day. But she's a peach, so she generally gets cracking on the cooking in the interim, while I hurry home as soon as I can. Best case scenario? We're sitting down together for 9.

How do abnormal meal hours relate to personal finance? I'm glad you asked. Before this recent change of ours, one thing we used to do quite a bit was go out for dinner. Not out or laziness or inability to cook for ourselves (we're actually quite good in the kitchen, if I do say so myself) but because we enjoyed the experience of dining out.

I'd say we averaged one dinner costing about $100 (for both of us, wine included) every few weeks. I can already hear the latte factor diaspora throwing up a little in their mouths, furiously calculating what that money would have done after 20 years in a no-load index fund, but what can I say -- it was an extravagance I was willing to allow myself because we both enjoyed it and I managed to save my couple of hundred a month into a rainy day fund anyway.

But now? We haven't been out for dinner once since my new job started. It hasn't really been a conscious effort, but when you're getting home from work at like, 9:30, and one of you has to be up at 7, it's not really an option. We eat dinner at home out of necessity, and that tends to be a lot cheaper.

My free time, ergo, tends to be before work in the mornings and early afternoon -- not exactly prime socializing time. So it's not even just my food budget that's been slashed -- it's entertainment too. Going out to have a few beers after work, watch the hockey game, eat chicken wings and convince oneself that the waitress thinks you're hilarious used to be a major outlet of my disposal income. But I don't really do that anymore either, since I don't seem to be living on the same schedule as anybody else I know.

It all adds up, is what I'm trying to say, so I find myself with a lot more cash around than I used to. Finding ways to spend it during the hours of 9 a.m. and noon proves difficult. I also get a modest shift differential stipend for working during evening hours. My new job pays less, on paper, than my old one did. But for the reasons outlined above, I actually find myself with more cash in my pocket at the end of the month than I used to.

Just one more way money issues can often work themselves out in ways you didn't imagine.


four.pillars said...

Another strategy to save money on dining out is to have a kid. We have saved big bucks since our son was born.


nancy (aka money coach) said...

What a wonderful post! I also had an unexpected money-saving twist, when I moved into my loft in gastown ... until recently, there just weren't any shops around that tempted me (Army & Navy - great deals, but not a place I have to resist temptation).
Now, 7 yrs later, there are absolutely glorious shops popping up everywhere but they are so outrageously high-priced that I wouldn't dream of actually pulling out my debit card in most of them.
Thank goodness for life saving us from ourselves, from time to time, eh?