Don't buy things. Buy time
While it’s a universal truth that no amount of money can buy us more time, let’s consider some good news: by taking actions like building a healthy emergency fund, using a (good) budget, and investing, you’re giving yourself the means to buy more time.
Freedom and autonomy feel good, while most of our unhappiness comes from buying junk or endless seeking intangibles like fame and success. We’ll spend our hard-earned money on things—cars, houses, phones, clothes—and expect them to make us happy. But by buying more stuff, we rob ourselves of the ability to enjoy more of our time. We’re forced to work more to fund things we often don’t want or need.
Take a moment to consider the feeling of waking up on Monday morning without an alarm clock. Now imagine waking up realizing you have everything you need financially—you’ve paid off your mortgage, you’re debt-free, and your expenses are covered thanks to a healthy nest egg. You can 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 isn’t spent chained to a desk. You get to choose how you spend your time without the burden of financial obligation.
This dream may seem unreal, 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 they could use their money to pursue what’s important to them—travel, family, and personal projects.
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Let’s look at this on a practical level. How much money do you need every month to cover your expenses? Early in our marriage, my wife and I typically spent around $2,500–$3,000 each month. We also saved $2,000 cash, which we invested in index funds. This $2,000 could almost cover one month of expenses. So, every couple of months, we gave ourselves the ability to live financially independent for an additional month.
By following this saving pattern, you can eventually “buy” yourself an entire year’s worth of expenses. And by investing wisely over many years, 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.