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Money Used to Buy Me Stuff; Now It Buys Time


For me, money once represented the ability to buy things. Now, my money buys something more valuable, time.

You’ve heard it before. “Time is Money.” The phrase appeared a few years back in Benjamin Franklin’s "Advice to a Young Tradesman, Written by an Old One." That’s probably not the first time the phrase was uttered, and it certainly wasn’t the last.

The concept is simple. Wasting time wastes money. If you can accomplish or produce twice as much in the same amount of time, you can double your earnings. If it takes you twice as long as it takes the next guy to accomplish or produce a thing, you’re not going to make as much money.

Iftime = money, it would seem that the reciprocal should also be true, thatmoney = time.

I never looked at it that way until recently, though. For me, the equation was alwaysmoney = stuff. Stuff I could buy! Stuff I needed, stuff I wanted, and stuff that looked cool.

When I finished residency at age 30, I had been more or less living paycheck to paycheck. I had even taken out a loan for a little extra spending money when the moonlighting opportunity I was counting on vanished. Immediately upon graduating, I worked a one-weeklocum tenensjob and was able to pay that loan off with a week’s pay.Hail, locums!I was able to pay for a couple years of extra stuff in just seven days. The equation was upgraded to2.0: work = money = stuff.

In fairness to the younger me, I had a lot of stuff to buy back then. I also spent money on things like experiences, which is generally thought to give us more lasting happiness than stuff.

But back to the stuff. I worked enough to buy a plot of land on the water, then built a 4,000 square foot home to house my family, then proceeded to purchase all the stuff you need to fill all three floors you get when you build a 4,000-square-foot house.

I sometimes miss that view.

Babies came along. More stuff. We bought a boat. Needed boating stuff. Went to an auction and came home with a cabin. The cabin needed cabin stuff.

Throughout most of those years, I was on call every third night with no post-call day off. I worked every third weekend, but picked up extra weekends that nobody else was willing to work. I wanted the work, becausework = money = stuffand I had avoracious appetitefor stuff!

Eventually, we ended up moving all our stuff to another home and then another home. Packing and unpacking is never fun, but it’s even less fun when you have too much stuff.

I could easily take this post in the direction of promoting minimalism, but I’m too much of a maximalist to be taken seriously. I’ll admit to being a bit jealous ofthis radiologist, who unloaded a boatload of belongings in one fell swoop. I don’t know if I could rip off the Band-Aid so quickly, but we do keep a dedicated donation box or two in our bedroom and it fills up quickly.

The direction I am going should be obvious from the title and introductory paragraphs. I have little need for more stuff. Occasionally something needs to be replaced, but I generally have much more stuff than I need, which makes holiday gift requests challenging. The boys sometimes need stuff, and they get more than they need. Enough with the stuff.

What I appreciate now more than stuff is… you guessed it,Time!

  • Time with family
  • Time to exercise
  • Time to travel
  • Time to read
  • Time to brew beer
  • Time to write

How can money buy time? The main mechanism is by accelerating the time to an early retirement, which will free up an incredible amount of time. Once my stated monetary goals have been reached), I can be free of my day/night job if I so choose. I could also lower my sights and retire even sooner, but I’m pretty happy with the five-year plan I’ve got at the moment.

How else can money = time?

  • Hire a babysitter and spend alone time with your loved one.
  • Hire someone to maintain your lawn (I kind of enjoy it, but I’ll hire my boys when they’re old enough).
  • Hire all sorts of tasks, like house painting, cleaning… you name it.
  • Buy healthier food to eat and live a longer, healthier life.
  • Fly rather than drive.
  • Pay for TSA Pre-check to avoid the long security lines.
  • Buy a newer, faster computer and spend less time waiting and rebooting.
  • Take a taxi/Uber instead of public transportation.

Some of these suggestions go against myfrugal nature, but if I truly value time, money can be traded to free up time, as long as good health remains with me.

Once upon a time, additional dollars were earmarked for one particular want or need. That’s no longer the case. I’ve got the things I need, and more than I want. Every dollar that gets thrown into the kittybuys me time.

And time is a wonderful thing.

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