Nick Ang profile picture

Nick Ang

You are not buying that with money

Most of us trade time for money. Do you deny it?

In modern life we purchase things all the time. There is an ongoing pandemic trapping us at home, yet we continue to buy stuff from Amazon. Our lives are structured around stuff, there is no escaping it. Unless, well, you literally escape and build a log cabin in the wilderness with your bare hands (I saw a Youtube video of a guy doing that recently that had 18 million views.) The rhythm of life is tied extricably with the rhythm of our purchases.

Now, you might wonder why I’m making a deal out of this. It is, after all, not a crime to shop or even like to shop. We buy things to satisfy a need or desire. We buy services and experiences to make life a little sweeter. We deserve at least that much after a long month’s work, right?

Actually, no. I really don’t think you deserve to be treated this way. You deserve better than to unquestioningly spend your money like that. Like you said so yourself, you’ve worked hard the whole month.

Assuming you’re like most people, you probably really own two of seven days in a week. That adds up to only eight to ten days a month that you actually have for yourself. My life is definitely structured this way at the moment. That’s why I’ve learned to be prudent with the way I spend money.

Why is that exactly, you ask?

Because I know that I buy things with time, not money. Remember that saying, time is money? It comes from the simple notion that most of us trade time for money. The only way we are getting that paycheck in the first place is that we have spent time at a job. Time for money. Expertise merely augments that basic variable in our earning potential: time.

What could be more cruel than to trick a time-impoverished person into giving up more of his time by enticing him to buy stuff?

Let’s turn this scenario on its head so that we can see more clearly the point I’m trying to make.

Imagine that instead of thinking that he deserved a nice dinner at an expensive sushi restaurant this weekend after a week of dealing with passive aggressive coworkers, Jonny decided to have a normal homemade meal. The net effect here is that Jonny becomes doubly well off: he saved money (time) by cooking at home and the grip that his employer has on him (and really, his time) loosens ever so slightly because he has more money left in the bank.

As you can imagine, cutting away lavish meals and frivolous purchases can strengthen this cycle enough to eventually free Jonny from his employment in its current form. Sure, he still has to work and trade time for money. But because he needs less money to live just as well, he could technically snatch more of his time back from the grips of his employer (by negotiating shorter working hours or finding a new job with those terms) to do more of what he actually wants to do in life. For Jonny, that’s to spend time with his family watching his kid grow up.

Don’t be mistaken, my point here is not that we should learn to be contented with what we have. That is like telling a person who loves chocolate that he can never have it so he might as well forget about chocolate altogether. (Besides, I happen to believe that we should buy that thing that puts a silly grin on our face. And also when something feels like a need after due consideration.)

No. What I am trying to say is, we should be clear about what we are buying stuff with because from what I can tell, the biggest problem most of us have is not that we don’t have enough money, but that we don’t have enough time to enjoy things in life. If I asked anyone on the street how they’d prefer to spend their days if they didn’t have to worry about making money, I’m sure I will hear many responses to the tune of “I’d stay at home and be with my kids” or “I’d go to the park to read books” or “I’d go visit my friends for a barbeque and have long chats about life.” All of those things take time, so it’d be wise for us to stop wasting our limited time buying yet more useless stuff.

Remember, money is time.

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Nick Ang profile picture
Husband, dad, and software engineer that writes. Big on learning something everyday and trying to have fun before the lights go out.
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