It’s a universal truth that no amount of money can buy you more time, the dwindling resource we’re often wasting on soul-crushing jobs or toxic relationships.
But let’s consider some good news: by taking actions like building a healthy emergency fund, creating an effective budget, and investing, you’re giving yourself the means to essentially buy more time. And I don’t mean the ability to buy more years in your life; by saving more money, you’ll give yourself more control over how your time is spent rather than being forced to trade your precious time for more money.
Often, our greatest comfort comes from a feeling of freedom and autonomy, whereas our main source of unhappiness comes from pursuing material possessions or intangible goals like success, fame, or fortune. We’ll spend our hard-earned money on things—cars, houses, phones, clothes—and expect them to make us happy. But by buying more things, we directly rob ourselves of the ability to enjoy more of our time. We’re forced to work more in order to fund these empty expenses.
Take a moment to consider the feeling of waking up on Monday morning without an alarm clock. As you wake, you realize that you have everything you need in the financial sense—your house is paid off, you don’t have any outstanding debts, and your expenses are covered thanks to a healthy nest egg you’ve built up for yourself. You have the ability to give your time and money to whatever and whomever you see fit, whether that be your church, your family, or even a job you enjoy. Because of your financial situation, your time is not spent chained to a desk. You get to choose how you spend your time without the burden of financial obligation.
This may seem unreal to you, but it’s a reality that’s currently being lived out by early retirees such as Mr. Money Mustache or the folks at Go Curry Cracker. They realized early on that by avoiding spending on temporary pleasures of material possessions, their money could be used to pursue what’s important to them—travel, their families, and enjoyable personal projects.
Let’s look at this on a practical level. How much money do you need every month to cover your expenses? My wife and I typically spend around $2,500–$3,000 each month. On top of that, we also save around $2,000 cash which we place into investments. The key idea that drives us to save is that $2,000 can almost cover one month of expenses. Every couple of months, we’re giving ourselves the ability to live financially independent for an additional month.
By following this pattern of saving, you’ll eventually “buy” yourself an entire year’s worth of expenses. And by investing wisely over the long term, your money could see substantial gains, leading to the marvel of compounding interest. By continuing to pump money into these investments, you may even find that you’ve “bought” 5, 10, 20 years of financially independent time.
The more you save, the more your time becomes available to you. While you can’t buy more time, you can buy the ability to enjoy more of it.