why I spend

Trolley

I forget, from time to time, why I care so much about money. I know that the easy answers are “I do it for my children” or “I do it for financial freedom” or even – if we’re honest with ourselves – “I do it for stuff.”  In the western world, in America in particular, it’s hard to forget money for a minute.

But money can’t be the reason for life. Money’s just a symbol for other things.  It’s the placeholder for a vacation, or a college education, or payments on a medical bill.  Trying to pretend it represents status or security or happiness is a false choice.  It means nothing other than a temporary victory against time.

If you had all the time in the world to work, you’d have all the time in the world to earn what you needed to get what you want. You use money to bridge the gap between your lack of time and your desires. I’d like to have enough time to earn enough money to obtain everything I want in terms of material goods – without working too hard in the meantime to acquire it.

Every iPod, every plasma TV, every air conditioned car and every creature comfort represents a few seconds or minutes or hours (or more) of your life that you traded for things. Some things are necessary – I like having a refrigerator, for example.  But I regret my mortar and pestle.  A few minutes of my life were spent earning the money I exchanged for something useless.

I‘m sure you’ve read plenty of screeds against materialism on the web. Books like Your Money or Your Life hammer this point home.  But why do we do it?  We do it because, no matter what anyone says, spending our measure of days on Earth is not as pleasurable without things or experiences.  Without that dinner on the bay in Barcelona, or the air conditioned car, or the gleaming black tux at New Year’s life would be a little less.  We can do without a lot, but not without everything.

Nobody needs an Xbox, or jewelry, or new books… but these things make the days a little better and a little brighter.  We can all determine what price these things are worth, but I’m tired of the idea that any glimmer of consumption in the pursuit of happiness is a flaw in one’s character. All of us can look around and see someone who lived a shorter life than they hoped for, and wonder why they saved or delayed living a little fuller life.  Nobody should be wasteful or spendthrift, but trade your time for money wisely.  Financial freedom is a worthy goal, but a life fully lived – which may mean some money spent – is also an end to be admired.

photo credit: macieklew

22 comments

  • yay! Money is a placeholder for time right-o?
    I spend b/c I can't grow and kill mmy own food…

    It's just spend your time wisely towards pursuit of something. I guess if certain things make you happy then yay =)

  • “We can do without a lot, but not without everything.”

    I'm glad you said that, because some people take frugal to the extreme

  • Agree completely. Saving is great and necessary, but you have to enjoy your life as well and have experiences. In a lot of cases having those experiences requires spending money. Now doesn't mean you have to always spend a ton and have every material item, but there are some things that for individuals are very worth it. I paid a lot for my big screen tv, but I enjoy watching TV, watching games, playing video games, so for me all those experiences are worth it.

  • It means nothing other than a temporary victory against time.

    Dude, powerful phrase!

    With my first child on the way, I am questioning these things more and more often. Time is the scarcest commodity.

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  • i completely agree, great post

  • Well said! As usual, the media and marketers have commercialized the meaning of Earth Day, but the original sentiment behind it can't be forgotten or given up on.

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  • I think for some, the spending is a way to avoid acknowledging the misery of selling your soul….in order to buy. It's a weird circle of inappropriate logic. Not all spending, mind you, but some. To vilify all purchases and splurges is ridiculous. The amount of money I've spent on dinners on the water is ridiculous, but it's also one of my favorite things to do–and so i continue to do it.

  • Money clearly has one and only one purpose: to be spent.

    Whether you horde it now to spend later, or spend now and risk your 'later' is a matter that is overly analyzed, particularly on the web.

    Instead, simply:

    1. Embrace the Life that you want to live – focusing on what is / will be vitally important to you;
    2. Calculate how much money you will need (usually a necessary evil for most, but not all, Life plans);
    3. Put in place strategies and tactics to ensure that you have at least that much money available when you need it;
    4. Happily spend the rest (or horde it, or give it away, or … whatever turns you on).

  • agree AJC

    well said, I have to blog about your comment, it really makes sense

  • The dichotomoy comes when the marginal utility of the 3rd bathroom in a two person household clashes with the marginal cost of last tree that is cut down or the 95th hour of work in a week.

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  • You are right. I think money does need to be spent on things that make our lives a little brighter. I do not feel guilt in buying a good book to read or having a latte.

    And I would not mind spending it on having dinner in Barcelona. My only problem… like many, many Americans (or people in general), I did not trade my time for money wisely. And now owe $80K in debt.

    You are right… when you have the money… save and watch it grow, but also spend it wisely on brightening your life, too.

  • You are right. I think money does need to be spent on things that make our lives a little brighter. I do not feel guilt in buying a good book to read or having a latte.

    And I would not mind spending it on having dinner in Barcelona. My only problem… like many, many Americans (or people in general), I did not trade my time for money wisely. And now owe $80K in debt.

    You are right… when you have the money… save and watch it grow, but also spend it wisely on brightening your life, too.