It’s a universal truth that no amount of money can buy you more time, the ever-dwindling resource that we’re typically wasting on things such as soul-crushing jobs or toxic relationships.
But let’s consider 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. And I don’t mean the ability to buy more years in your life—by saving more money, you’ll give yourself more control of how your time is spent rather than being forced to trade your precious time for more money.
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 such as 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 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 spent 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, 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 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.
How to buy time
Let’s look at this on a practical level. How much money do you need every month to cover your expenses? For my wife and I, 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 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 have eventually have “bought” yourself an entire year’s worth of expenses. And by investing over the long term, those investments 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.
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.