Why is it so easy to procrastinate, and why do we continue doing it even though we've experienced the downsides of putting things off? I am a serious procrastinator, and it directly conflicts with my desire to be frugal. Sure, there are rare occasions when I find a deal by waiting until the last minute. Those situations are pretty rare. Usually, being a slacker is expensive.
Be Aware Of Your CalendarOne reason that many people procrastinate is that they just don't fully comprehend how soon something is happening. It is important to phrase things in a way that is very specific to help your brain understand it clearly. Which idea gives you more urgency: "we're going on a trip over spring break?" or "we're going on a trip in 7 weeks?" Most people respond to a specific number more than a more general time frame.
Another way to prevent procrastination is to look further than the next big thing in your world. With jam-packed schedules and multiple competing priorities, this can be hard to do. However, if you've got a wedding gift that needs to arrive on the other side of the country by the 15th of the month, and a big proposal due on the 14th, you will not be successful if you tackle them in chronological order.
Use an actual calendar to plan for all sorts of non-regular purchases, whether it be Easter dresses for your kids, ink for your printer, or train tickets for your vacation. Keeping a running shopping list can help prevent must-buy-these-totally-overpriced-tights-for-a-ballet-recital-because-I've-failed-to-purchase-them-at-a-reasonable-price emergencies.
Understand The Potential CostsLet's say you need to buy your mother a birthday present, and then get it to her, and you're pretty sure you'll be in trouble if it is late. You can absolutely calculate that a book that you order from Amazon is going to cost you $19.98 in shipping if you wait until the day before, $12.98 in shipping if you order it two days in advance, and $3.99 in shipping if you order it with plenty of time to share. You can save even more if you combine it with other things that you need to order, send it to your address, wrap it yourself and send it to her Media Mail, but that would require planning way ahead. What will motivate you more: knowing that it will be more expensive, or knowing that it will cost you an extra $16 JUST IN SHIPPING? Again, people respond to specific details much more than generalizations.
Sometimes, it is difficult to estimate how much the costs will increase or decrease as time progresses. I find this to be true with airline tickets and other travel reservations - so frustrating. In general, however, these type of costs will increase more often than they will decrease. Since we can't predict or control these types of costs, the best we can do is create a strategy that will result in saving more than often than costing. Buying early accomplishes this.
Think About Other ConsiderationsSometimes, the costs of procrastination aren't monetary. Procrastination can cause stress, hurt feelings, and increased inconvenience. Next time you plan to "do it tomorrow," think about how this could impact you and the people in your life.
It is inconvenient to take your car in for repairs. It is more inconvenient to take your car in for urgent repairs when something else important is going on in your life, like the week your son is in a huge baseball tournament.
It is stressful to have your roof repaired or your house resided. It is super-stressful to have a leak in your roof during the biggest storm of the year, and to potentially have your home or possessions damaged.
People will be disappointed if your procrastination interferes with plans. Your sister will probably be pretty unhappy if you miss her wedding because you didn't buy plane tickets. (Yes, I know that is extreme. But I bet it has happened to someone.) Our family used to attend the Nutcracker ballet every December. We've moved several times, and I've procrastinated in finding a performance. I've let a lovely family tradition disintegrate due to my inability to get things done.
Procrastination is a common thing, but overcoming it will result in a smoother life, happier families, and saved money. Consider how you can apply each of these thoughts to help yourself tackle your to-dos and get things done.