Break the cycle and win time freedom

As I look around my office, I see things that I spent good money on that simply do not bring joy to my life. A quick trip to the storage area in my basement will unearth even more of these items. They are things I had to have, for one reason or another.

I’ve had some time to think about my materialistic possessions since I left my corporate job last November. Over the previous five months, I’ve purged a number of these items, but I have way too much stuff like so many others.

I’ve lived an anti-budget lifestyle for much of the last decade or so. I was very fortunate to have a well-paying job, and while I prioritized saving, I spent freely with what was left. I felt like I was doing the right things financially and “treating” myself as a reward for my hard work.

In hindsight, I spent a lot of money on crap that meant nothing to me, which resulted in more time spent working than was necessary.

Less spending on joyless things can bring more freedom with your time.

Joyless Spending is a Bad Habit

It’s so easy to fall into the habit of buying joyless things. In fact, we feel like these things bring joy into our lives at the time of purchase. When we find the unopened item in a closet six months later, we wonder why the heck we bought the thing in the first place.

Buying things is easy, and you can be fooled to believe that the item(s) you purchased brings you joy. Marketers are very good at portraying an image of the joy you will have when you buy the item.

Unfortunately, in many cases, you will ultimately regret the purchase. If you are financially sound, the immediate pain may not be that great. However, when you struggle with your finances, paying for that item and 24.99% interest for the next “forever” can be downright depressing.

These purchases help you dig an increasingly harder hole to get out of. And since you feel awful, you are motivated to treat yourself with something to make you feel better. The cycle is brutal and endless.

Soon, you have a home full of crap that brings you no joy and potentially a mountain of debt as a result.

Even things you like may not bring joy

I once purchased an expensive watch. I’ve always been fascinated with watches, and I always wanted a nice mechanical watch. After a particularly rough year of work, I decided to treat myself. I specifically chose a watch that wasn’t an obvious eye-catching piece because I wanted this piece for me, not to show off.

I really did like the watch quite a bit. And just like I wanted, no one noticed my watch. My son always tried to point it out to others because he knew how much ridiculous money went into the purchase. Even though I liked the piece, it didn’t bring me joy. The fact that I was walking around with several months’ worth of living expenses on my wrist bothered me.

Now I walk around with a watch that costs as much as a trip to the coffee shop with my wife. I sold that ridiculously expensive watch and replaced it with a cheap watch I already had and loved equally. It’s the calculator watch from Back to the Future. Yes, I’m a nerd.

Identify what brings you true joy

As I look back on the things I’ve bought with hard-earned dollars, I realize that most have been a waste of money. The things that really matter to me have been memorable experiences rather than material possessions. In some cases, I spent hard-earned dollars on the experiences, and in others, they haven’t cost a cent.

Here are a few of the things that have meant the most to me recently:

  • Seven days in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area with my wife to celebrate our 20th Anniversary
  • Boondocking with my son during spring break in Moab, UT
  • Getting coffee and chatting with my mom
  • Spending time with my sister and her family
  • Taking a long walk

Sure, some of these things cost money. The money spent brought joy into my life and memories I will hold forever.

A budget can help identify bad spending

I started a zero-based budget after I left my job. This action helped me focus on where my money was going. I realize that to many, budgets are dead, but this activity helped me identify the no-joy dollars leaving my pocket. I found many wasted dollars. Before starting my budget, I thought I was pretty good with money. There’s always room for improvement.

I haven’t become a minimalist through this exercise, although I see value in simple living. The freedom I currently have with my time is a great feeling. I get tremendous joy from this time and feel motivated to maintain the freedom I’ve been fortunate enough to taste.

Now when I spend money, I scrutinize the spend and attempt to validate the level of joy my purchase will provide. As a result, my spending at Amazon has dropped significantly in the last five months. In fact, I’m currently debating if Amazon Prime is even necessary for me. I spent a crap ton of money at Amazon over the years.

If you look at your spending, you will likely find that you send dollars out the door that brings no joy. These dollars take work and time from you to create. The more time you spend grinding away to make money, the more likely you will fall into the trap of spending on crap to try to manufacture joy.

Break the cycle to set yourself free

The cycle of work and spending to compensate for dissatisfaction is brutal. When you are able to stop spending on things that bring no joy, you gain freedom. Eventually, we all realize that freedom with time is the most valuable asset available. You can buy many things, but even the richest man in the world cannot buy back time.

This article is for informational purposes only. It should not be considered Financial or Legal Advice. Not all information will be accurate. Consult a financial professional before making any major financial decisions.