Published by 11 Comments

Don’t Buy Things. Buy Time

August 19, 2015

The saddest truth in our lives is that we can never buy more time on Earth. Once our final day comes, we’re done, and no amount of money in the world can change that. Bummer, right? Even worse, what we often don’t consider is that our time is an ever-dwindling resource that we’re typically wasting on things such as crummy jobs or toxic relationships.

Now that I’ve sufficiently bummed you out, it’s time for some good news. By taking actions such as building a healthy emergency fund, creating an effective budget, and investing, you’re giving yourself the means to essentially buy more time. No, I don’t mean the ability to buy more years in your life. What this means is that by saving more money and being financially independent, you’re able to be in control of how your time is spent rather than being forced to trade your time for money.

Trade Money for Time

What we often fail to understand is that our truest comfort comes from a feeling of freedom and autonomy, whereas our primary source of displeasure comes as the result of pursuing material possessions or intangible goals (“success”, “fame”, “fortune”). We commonly spend our hard-earned money on things — cars, houses, phones, clothes — and expect it to make us happy. The reality is that it never will. 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 for you and your family thanks to a healthy nest egg you’ve built up for yourself. You have the ability to give your time and your 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 chained to a desk. Your time belongs to you, and you get to choose how you spend it without the burden of financial obligation.

This may seem unreal to you, and that you’re destined to wake up and realize that it was all a dream meant to ruin your day. However, 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 money on the temporary pleasures of material possessions, their money could be used to give themselves the time to pursue what’s important to them — travel, their families, and enjoyable personal projects.

Saving money means no longer trading your time for money — it gives you the ability to trade your money for time.

Buy a Month

Let’s look at this on a practical level. How much money do you need every month to cover your expenses? For us, we 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 continues to drive us to save money is that $2,000 is almost a full month of expenses. Every month, we are, in a sense, giving ourselves the ability to live financially independent for an additional month.

By continuing to save, we’ll eventually have “bought” ourselves an entire year’s worth of expenses. Over time, our investments could see substantial gains, leading to the marvel of compounding interest. By continuing to pump money into these investments, we may even find that we’ve “bought” 5, 10, 20 years of financially independent time.

How long would it take for you to buy a month? In other words, how long would it take for you to save enough money to cover one month’s expenses? 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.


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  • Our Next Life

    Love this. We are big fans of Your Money Or Your Life, and their principle of thinking about how much time it takes to earn a set amount of money makes total sense — *until* your income gets to such a level that you earn money quickly and that way of thinking ceases to be motivating. That’s when we switched from thinking about how long it would take to earn X dollars, and instead thinking about how much freedom we’d be trading away in exchange for those same dollars. We’ve calculated, similar to you, that we’ll spend about $100 a day in early retirement, all in, which helps us keep things in perspective. “Is this widget worth a full day of freedom? Is this gizmo worth a week of freedom?” Thinking this way has helped us immeasurablly!

    • Save Money, Dammit!

      Great points! We recently listened to the YMoYL audiobook on a long car ride, and it really opened our eyes to that correlation between money and time. Spending money becomes pretty painful when you relate it to the freedom you’re giving up. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  • Bryan

    Great post and I too am a Your Money or Your Life fan. You are talking about reaching that wonderful “cross-over
    point” where the passive income is enough to pay for our living expenses.

    We think our normal living expenses with some fun and travel thrown in will be around $3,000 per month. I know that YMYL suggested buying 30-year treasuries to predictably fund your early retirement with virtually no risk. We actually bought some bonds years ago at what seemed like a paltry 4.5% interest rate. Wished I had bought more!

    • Save Money, Dammit!

      YMYL is great. It definitely had a big influence on us and how we relate our money to our time. We’ve been putting money mostly into stocks these days (like the Vanguard Total Stock Market Fund). The recent market downturn has taken a chunk out of our stock value, and that’s where bonds seem to really shine – lower risk with reliable performance through the market fluctuations. Keep up the investing! Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  • Elle E

    What a great way to think about time. It’s true – time is more valuable than anything money can buy.

    • Save Money, Dammit!

      That’s right 🙂 great point. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  • Beatrice Gatta

    That’s an interesting way to put it – but don’t obsess too much about saving time:

    • Save Money, Dammit!

      Everything in moderation, Beatrice! It’s all about finding the perfect balance. Loved your movie clip to emphasize your point, too!

  • PFUtopia

    What a wonderful feeling it must be to “own” your own time. Ultimately, it comes down to being in control. I think that’s when we are at our happiest and feel the most secure – when we are in true control of our life. When you are free to use your time as you see fit, then you are in control.

    • Save Money, Dammit!

      Sure, if you’re in control of your finances and have money saven, then you certainly own and control your time, schedule, job opportunities, etc because you’re never dictated (or controlled) by the money you need to get by. You don’t HAVE to take a job you don’t love/want, you don’t HAVE to work extra long hours, you don’t HAVE to sell your soul to repay debts.

      Great point. Thanks for stopping by, reading, and taking the time to comment, PFUtopia!

  • abdul

    great points written here 🙂 but just to add I personally think its pointless when people are so engrossed in the “latest” material items. if someone gets the new iphone 7 (not out I know) the iphone 8 will come out before you know it and then people proceed in the rush to get the newest phone (or car,house etc). The sooner we break free from this never ending rat race, the more money we have and the more amount of time we could save on relationships, hobbies etc.