Planning Ahead The Advantages of Life Planning - picture of back of family looking out from front of yacht

Planning Ahead: The Advantages of Life Planning

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I have a confession to make. We are planners. We love to plan out our life. We need to know what is coming around the corner. It makes us feel safe. It makes us feel secure. It makes us less stressed. That is why it drives us nuts when things we want to schedule aren’t available yet. I mean, why can’t we book a cruise for 3 years from now? How come I can’t book a room in Vegas for my 40th birthday – which is still several years away? And it is driving us nuts not knowing when the next book in the “A Song of Ice and Fire” series is going to be released! (Did you hear that GRRM? You’re killing us, Smalls!)

OK, so maybe we take planning ahead a bit too seriously sometimes. However, planning ahead can greatly benefit your life. Planning ahead for your retirement is key if you hope not to be eating dog food when you retire. Failing to make it to your sister’s wedding because of your failure to ask off of work is probably going to be a big downer.  Dying without leaving your spouse with the appropriate amount of income insurance would also be an epic planning fail.So, while we may take life planning to a whole new level of craziness, here are a few ways that you “normals” can use planning ahead to your advantage.

1) Save Money on Flights and Hotels

If you use an online travel service, there is a period of time where you can save a lot of money on your vacation packages. Usually, these online travel agencies allow you to book between 12 and 18 months prior. Doing this at least 9 months in advance can save a buttload of money. (That is a technical banking term, BTW.) For instance, we saved about $1,000 by booking our vacation to the Dominican Republic about 10 months out. Keep in mind that you can still save money between 6-9 months, but at about the 6-month mark you will pay full price until a week or so out. If the trip hasn’t filled up before then, you may be able to get a nice last-minute deal. Of course, you can always get pretty good last-minute deals if you don’t care where you end up. If you are like us, though, you will want to know where you are going. Planning ahead makes it easy, and it will save you some sweet dough!

2) Makes Scheduling Easy

Planning ahead makes scheduling our events for the rest of the year a piece of cake. We already know when we are going to be on vacation for the rest of 2013. Therefore, we can schedule all other activities around it. Do you want us to come to your pork roast on May 10th? Sorry. We’ll be in Florida. Having a bat mitzvah on the 8th of July? Great, we’ll be there!

3) Gives Us Something to Look Forward To

Once we have finished planning a vacation, we almost always start planning for the next one. Now, you may think that this is pure lunacy. Why start planning ahead for the next vacation when you haven’t even had time to enjoy the one you are about to go on? The simple answer is that it gives us something to be excited about. It gives us something to talk about – ad nauseam – for months on end. It reminds us of why we work so hard in the first place.

4) Work it Into Your Budget

Planning ahead for events that will cost money gives you plenty of time to work it into your budget. Usually, when you find yourself in a financial hole, it is because something unexpected comes up. Schedule what you can early, so that you know how much money you’ll need later on.

Sooooo….maybe we aren’t so crazy after all, eh? Planning ahead helps us to simplify our life. It helps us to save money, and it helps us to stay sane. So, if you feel like you never have any money to go on vacation, you never have anything to look forward to, or are just a giant frazzled mess, try a little bit of life planning. You may find that planning ahead is just the tool you need to help you relax and save money!

Are you a planner? Do you know of any other advantages that planning ahead provides? Let us know about your life planning skills in the comments below!

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54 Comments

  1. I’m a big planner, but I think my wife does it even more than me. I often joke with her that she will need to plan some time in her schedule to be spontaneous…

    Seriously though, I think it helps to be well prepared and planning is a big part of that.

    1. My wife got me on the planning kick as well. She still pushes it more than I do, but I have grown to love it!

  2. Laurel Dewire says:

    Hey, at last I’ve found someone that is similar to me in terms of life/time planning 🙂

    1. You’ve made it to the right place! Welcome life planning soul mate 😀

  3. I’m a hardcore planner, though recently I have started to accept the fact that there are many things for life that you can’t plan for. I actually told a friend at work that a 5-year career plan is pretty much BS since you can’t predict what opportunities (or lost opportunities) you will experience in the next year…let alone five years. I do try to plan out the next few months, though, and always have multiple to-do lists.

    1. I’m a big planner, and totally hear you on long term plans. But we still have a 5 year “plan”. If everything goes according to “plan” x will happen in 5 years. But we have no control over the market. Or a disaster that might hit and wipe out emergency funds, etc. So I focus on the parts of the plan that we do have (more) control over – like income, savings, and spending. Even if the rest of the plan goes to hell, we’ll still be better off having focused on those three things. But it’s more fun to focus on them when you have yourself convinced that doing so will reach some huge goal.

    2. That is a good point Mrs. PoP. You have to leave room to make adjustments. Plans will not always work out the way that you want them too, so you have to be able to change on the fly. And, like you said, there is only so much you can control.

      DC – I’m a huge list maker myself. Even after I’ve done something, I add it to my list just so I can cross it off😀 I love that feeling!

  4. I`m a big planner. I love making plans about everything that can be planned. I always buy airline tickets about 6-7 months before I go on a trip. Like this summer, I´m going to Spain, and we bought the tickets in January, so the trip will only cost me $300 since I bought the tickets so early, but if I had waited until now it`d probably cost me about $600-700, at least! So by planning ahead, this relatively poor student can actually have a decent 10 days vacation this summer:D

    1. You can save huge amounts of money by planning your travels ahead of time. That is one of the main reasons we love planning ahead so much.

  5. I am the same exact way, in fact Mrs. Frugal Rules would say I have a sickness. 😉 I know there are some things you may not be able to plan for, but things like vacations we’re always busy planning. It gives us something to look forward to and like you said, you can generally save a good chunk of dough. My problem though is that once you have it planned and booked that time just drags until the vacation actually comes.

    1. It can drag. That is why we do two things: 1) Start planning the next one. 2) Research what we can do during the trip we just planned. We are constantly looking at photos, reading reviews, and trying to find tips about what to do while we are there. Of course, we usually just sit on the beach, but it is still fun to have other options if we feel like it. Trip Advisor is great for this.

  6. I try to plan ahead for all the races I sign up for each season. I try to make sure only one half marathon hits my budget per month. My friends don’t understand this but it really smooths out the budget. Now that im an adult, I’ve been trying to get better at planning ahead in general like you guys.

  7. I would say we are planners but not quite as much as you guys are. Unfortunately some events have made it so we can’t plan much this year due yo some uncertainty. Makes me nervous!

  8. I like to plan as well, probably sometimes a little too much as I think it takes some of the spontaneity out of the fun things that can come up, but at the same time I like knowing what’s coming up next and being able to work towards it.

  9. My wife is an event planner for her day job and it translates into your at home life. She likes to plan trips for the next couple of years.

    I tend to look even more into the future and as a result I am the over saver of the two of us and invest heavily. I think that comes from my parents being older than hers and already retired and getting to see them literally leave the country 3 – 4 times a year and travel out of the state about every month.

    1. I do some event planning at my job, so maybe that is why I’m the way I am!

  10. I am a planner for fun things like vacations. Trips to see the inlaws never seem to get planned until the last minute. Planning is extremely helpful, but I try not to get too upset if the plan has to change at the last minute.

    1. I love planning for vacations! =) We do vacation at our in-laws a few times a year and it’s important to plan those ahead too since there are so many different people’s schedules to take into account.

      And same with work, we have people with a lot of vacation days. I like to plan out my vacations waaaaaayyyyyyyyy ahead of time so that I get the days and weeks I want.

  11. This is a good one. Planning saves us tons of money. Grocery planning saves us unnecessary trips to the grocery store, allows us to plan for leftovers and waste less food. Shopping planning keeps us from impulse purchases and saves us unnecessary trips, wasting time and gas. Vacation planning convinces us to avoid costly tourist traps, pack our own food and drinks, and think carefully about what makes us happy. I could go on and on… Enjoyed this post!

    1. Grocery planning is an area where I could use some improvement!

  12. I’m a planner by nature. I research and plan just about everything I possibly can. It definitely saves a boat load of money for us.

    Good article Greg!

  13. I am a massive planner and my wife doesn’t like it sometimes. She would rather me go with the flow, but that is not my style. I am with you on this on Greg. Planning rocks, but it can make you crazy.

    1. I think I overplan a little for Greg’s tastes sometimes but we are both planners so it works out well.

  14. I’m kind of middle of the road. There are certain things like retirement that I do plan long term, but other than that, stuff is just a vague idea, mainly because I’ve lived long enough to know that life changes quickly. Here is the middle of the road scenario: I know that next year I want to take a vacation overseas…not sure where, but I have a couple ideas in mind. But…I am saving NOW for whatever I decide to to.

    1. That sounds like a good plan. We are in the same boat!

  15. I am a planner too! I feel as though I just admitted an addiction at one of those meetings. I am far less specific when it goes past a year. For example I know I want to go overseas next year, but have not decided where. I have enough miles to fly business or first class and I even have some hotel nights covered. Since it is 15-16 months away, I am ready but need to figure out where by September/October.

    1. I love planning vacations! We are still trying to decide where we want to go next year too. We were thinking Europe in the spring but this is my last chance to take my daughter on a spring vacay next year before she starts kindergarden so now I’m unsure.

  16. People criticize me for planning too much but I have to say that planning makes my life less stressful. There are many things I prefer to be spontaneous with but my vacations, my retirement, my future, and emergencies, I like to plan for. I know things can change and if plans change then plans change. Not only do I save money but I live a pretty worry free life because of my planning. I mean who likes to go to the grocery store and come home with a bunch of random food that you can’t actually make a meal with??

    1. Oh, me too. I can totally relate. I am a high stress person, and planning ahead keeps me sane!

  17. Like Lance, my wife and I are “moderate planners.” We’ve had too many good things happen which turned out to be unplanned, so we’ve learned to live our lives with thoughts, goals and ideals, but always with some intentional flexibility. In general, I’d say we’re more into preparation than planning. It may be semantics, but I think of preparation as things like an emergency fund, investments for retirement and so forth.

  18. I’m definitely the “event planner” with family and friends so get-togethers are frequent so that we don’t lose touch, and almost always the vacay planner with my significant other. It took me awhile to get on the financial planning wagon, but now I’m on board and doing everything in my power to get on track. Great post!

  19. I’m a planner mainly because I like having something to look forward to and researching and planning is fun for me. Saving money is a plus, but we won’t be able to travel any where this year other than a short weekend trip to Texas for my cousin’s wedding in a couple of weeks.

  20. It really depends on where I fly and whether it’s in the middle of the week or over the weekend. Bing.com has a pretty handy tool that sorta predicts whether the price you’re looking at is likely to go up or down… the last flight I took, it told me to wait until there were less than two weeks, which was a big surprise. But sure enough, the price went down 🙂

  21. I’m a big planner, and there is nothing more fun than planning vacations! We partly plan in advance to lock in our busy schedules, but being able to build excitement is also important. We’re going on a Disney cruise this summer and the buildup to the big event is reaching a fever pitch. Plus, it gives me a great out when the girls ask me to buy them something. I remind them what we’re saving for and they almost immediately back down and start talking about how fun they are going to have. 🙂

    1. Let us know how the Disney cruise is. It is something we’ve thought about doing in the future.

  22. I always say having a good plan allows you to have more fun and be more spontaneous. I mean really, spontaneity is all well and good, but if you have a plan that allows for it, you’ll enjoy it much more, with little or no consequence to come back to.

  23. I so agree with you. As an events planner/organizer, I came to realize that planning helps our lives easier, not only with travel and vacation but also with our financial stability. Travel plans are booked within the year but plans related to finances have five-year to ten-year terms.

  24. I am definitely more of a planner; I need to know what it is going on! My husband is a more “fly by the seat of your pants” kind of person, so I think we balance each other out 🙂

    1. That is kind of how we used to be, but I’ve grown into a planner myself. Holly does the hardcore planning, but I really like it!

  25. I’m a big planner – especially with travel plans, which I pretty much know for the next ten years! Of course things can change, but I function much better when I have a plan in place…for just about everything 🙂

    1. It is really important for us to plan ahead with travel plans. If we don’t we may not be able to get off of work due to our small office.

  26. I haven’t always been a planner. But since starting The Frugal Path, I’ve discovered the benefits of it. I’m still a noob, but hoping to work on my planning skills.

  27. I’m almost neurotic about planning. I plan everything. If I can’t plan something it makes me uneasy. I wish I could be a little more laid back, but it is what it is.

  28. Financial Black Sheep says:

    I like to plan, but my plans never work out, so instead I make a general plan with a time frame, and then let life happen. I find traveling more interesting if I know nothing of the area. As for finances, I have to plan and plan and well, plan. If I don’t see where all my money is going and what it is going for, it drives me nuts.

  29. We’re definitely planners. Even before my husband and I were married, we sketched out 5 and 10 year plans for ourselves. Like yu’ve said, having a plan also makes it easier to absorb emergencies (ie, I needed to fly 3000 miles for a family emergency at one point. But since I’d been pitting money in savings, the $1500 last minute plane ticket didn’t eat up all my cash, thankfully)

    In another few years, it will be interesting to compare our progress to our plan 🙂

  30. H Greg. We also plan a lot just like you. We know how important planning is to families. Aside from saving on travel, it makes life less never-racking for us. As you have said, planning will enable us to put everything into our respective budgets. Thus, we get an idea of the money we will be spending for a particular activity.

  31. As what I’ve always said. If you plan early and manage your resources well, you will be greatly rewarded.

  32. Thank you so much for this article, now I have this Idea in my mind what to do next year.

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