Saturday, January 23

Sleep and personal finance

We all know that sleep is important. We all know sleep should be a priority. And yet few of us make it one.

Sometimes it's an absolutely crammed schedule that is to blame. Other times, it's a night owl trying to deal with the working world's "normal business hours." For some people, it's just plain old insomnia. Whatever the reason, sleep gets put on the back burner.

Here's the problem, though: You can't be all that frugal without a good night's sleep.

First and foremost, if you're tired, you aren't going to feel up to those extra, money-saving steps. Frugality often takes a little extra work, and, when you're worn out, you just won't have the energy for it.

When you're exhausted, are you really going to shop at two or three different grocery stores for the items you need? Or will you just pay a little extra to get it all in one place?

While I know that cooking comes easily for some people, most of us can't face such a task when we're worn out. Instead, we'll probably just end up with takeout, delivery or some other convenience food. And we all know that you pay dearly for convenience in the retail world.

Okay, so maybe that stuff is obvious for you. These are things you already know, and they're just not enough to ensure you get that extra shut-eye.

But there are plenty of other ways that being sleep-deprived is going to affect your finances.


I already touched on this a bit: Tiredness means you're less likely to shop around for the best deals. So you lose a few bucks' savings from time to time. Hardly the death of your frugality.

But wait, there's more: Lack of sleep affects what our food intake. Ever wonder why you can't seem to stop eating when you're tired? It's because your body isn't producing enough leptin.

Leptin is the hormone that tells us when we're full. When levels are low, we're more prone to overeating. And when there are fewer leftovers from any given meal, the food budget suffers.

Maybe not a huge deal, to those who know how to cook frugally. Still, if you're deprived of sleep on a regular basis, less leftovers means more cooking. That's going to require more energy -- something you already don't have enough of.

So one of two things is going to happen: You'll have less energy for other frugal endeavors, or you'll eat more convenience food. Either way, you'll be spending more money. But if it's the latter, you're suffering in two ways. Not only are you paying more for prepared meals at the store (or getting pizza delivered), those meals won't go as far if you're eating more than you need to. In that case, the bang-for-your-buck really goes downhill.

Junk food

Lower leptin levels (try saying that three times fast) also means you'll experience an increase in carb cravings. In other words, you're going to eat more junk food. And that stuff is rarely cheap.

Okay, if you're lucky, you'll be able to stick to something that's on sale and that you have coupons for. But you're already less likely to shop around, so will you really be able to get all the junk food on sale?

It's also going to mean that whatever you have on hand will run out faster. Maybe you bought some ice cream on Tuesday, right before the sale ended. You're less likely to eat a reasonable portion, which means you go through it a lot faster. If you can't find another good ice cream sale, you're either going to have to pay (shudder) retail or you're going to have to do without. Neither is a very appealing option.


We all know that you can do some pretty stupid stuff when you're drunk. That's all thanks to lowered inhibitions. This also happens when you're deprived of sleep. (Probably the reason that the urban dictionary now has the phrase "sleep drunk.")

You probably won't go around flashing people or other social taboos. But it does mean you're going to be more impulsive. That can doom a budget.

Normally, you can talk yourself out of unnecessary purchases. When you're tired, though, your reasoning skills are impaired. So you're impulsive and you have a lower reasoning capacity. In other words, folks, get that card out; you'll be using it shortly.

You might buy that cool gadget you've had your eye on. Or perhaps it will be an apparel purchase. Maybe you'll end up at Gameworks or a bar or a full-priced movie. Whatever form it takes, you're far more likely to spend when you don't sleep.


You're also more forgetful when you're tired. You might get to the grocery store only to discover you forgot a couple of key coupons. You can either drive all the way back home, wasting gas, or spend a couple of extra bucks to get what you need.

A bad memory can also lead to you buying things you already have. Or you forget that an item is on sale elsewhere, so you pay full price.

Forgetfulness is pretty bad for your overall organization. And just about everyone agrees that you have to be organized to be frugal.

Memory is often a key component of a career. The more forgetful you are, the more likely you are to make mistakes at work. (You're also likely to be crabby or even overtly hostile.) That's going to affect future raises -- or even endanger your employment.


When you're tired, you do less.

Okay, that sounds obvious. But have you really considered the implications of that fact? We already discussed how you're less likely to cook or shop around. But there are a lot of extra, frugal steps that you won't be up to taking when you're exhausted.

  • That great sale on running shoes ends before you can get around to it. Normally, you'd find a style you like and get five pairs, so you're set for a couple of years.
  • You don't think about your growing kid's clothes until suddenly his sleeves no longer reach his wrists. Then you have to look around and hope for a vaguely decent price.
  • You never get around to sending off for that rebate because you're out of stamps. And somehow you just never have the wherewithal to get to the post office. (At the grocery store, you always forget to ask for some.)
  • You keep putting off going to the store for that great sale. Whether it's a grocery store deal on toilet paper or an office supply store on ink, you never get around to stocking up. So when you run out, you're forced to go pay retail.
  • You keep meaning to try out one of those coupon-clipping websites, but you never get around to it. So you pay $1 per box rather than getting it free.
  • You keep meaning to switch over a cash system, so you don't have to worry about overdraft fees. But ever since you got direct deposit, you never end up in the bank.
  • Since you keep using debit instead of cash, you can never quite seem to keep up with your account balance. You think you have more money than you do, and so you overdraft.
  • You don't have the energy to look for freebies. So you miss out on that free movie preview and end up paying to see it. You don't hear that PetSmart's animal hospital is offering a free vet visit, so you take your animal to another vet and pay the $60 fee.


We've all heard from, well, everywhere just how devastating medical bills can be. So it's only fitting that I mention this biggie.

Most PF bloggers have, at some point, covered just how much you can save if you are physically fit. Sleep plays a big role in that. It's linked to metabolism, which is a key component in burning enough calories to not gain weight. There is also some evidence that lack of sleep increases the likelihood of obesity.

Your immune system is much weaker if you don't get enough sleep. So you're more likely to get everything that comes down the pike. That means either missed days from work or, when more serious, doctor visits and prescription co-pays.

Some cancer researchers have speculated that sleep deprivation increases the likelihood of breast cancer. There have been proven links between women who work night shifts and the incidence in breast cancer. There are theories that it has to do with late night light, which can disrupt the melatonin production. Melatonin is secreted mainly at night, and it tells the body when to reduce estrogen. Too much estrogen can promote the growth of breast cancer.

More concretely, a lack of sleep is a stressor on the body. This can increase your cortisol levels. That hormone can create muscle loss, high blood pressure, an increase in fat storage, loss of bone mass and a resistance in your cells to insulin. It can also create a hardening of the arteries, which can be a precursor to a heart attack.

So sleep already!

So much of frugality is about thinking ahead. And you just can't do that if you're perpetually exhausted. It boils down to a very basic fact: If you're sleep deprived, you're losing money. It may be in dribs and drabs; but, just like most things in personal finance, little amounts add up quickly.

I hope that this post gets you into your PJs! (Out of self-interest rather than boredom, of course.) There are just too many financial benefits to a good night's sleep. A little extra shut-eye can do wonders for your financial efficiency.

Have you noticed a difference in your frugality when you're well rested? How do you ensure a good night's sleep?



Blogger Monroe on a budget said...

I love this post!

Now for the record: I am an early bird. I can be wonderfully frugal in the morning or during my lunch hour.

By 10 p.m. I am often barely awake - do not expect me to be thinking clearly enough at that hour to be frugal.

January 23, 2010 at 6:22 PM


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