The first time I was ever warned that money can’t buy happiness was in the lyrics by The Notorious B.I.G.:
“‘mo money, ‘mo problems.”
This song came out in the 90s when I was a kid. And as a kid, I was hugely skeptical.
“People don’t know how to spend their money!” I told myself.
Even Will Farrell tweeted:
“Money doesn’t buy happiness? Well it buys a jet ski. Have you ever seen a sad person on a jet ski? It’s impossible to be sad on a jet ski.”
But as I get older, I realize not only does more money mean more problems, but also that money doesn’t solve all problems.
The big one that money doesn’t solve is giving you more time.
I made a list of what my ideal life would look like on a random weekday. Here it is in no particular order:
[Drum roll please…]
- Spend time with my kids and watch their day-to-day growth.
- Visit my parents more often.
- Take a public speaking class.
- Take a Zumba class.
- Finish my genealogy project.
- Upload iPhone pics to Chatbooks.
- Surprise husband with visits to his hospital so we can see him more.
- Volunteer at a charity.
- Send greeting cards to friends who are widows.
- Bring meals to my friends who are sick or having babies.
- Read a book (ideally two books per month).
Everything on this list would greatly increase my life’s happiness. And get this: most are FREE or very low cost. I obviously want to be happy and money isn’t an obstacle. So I ask myself this very honest question:
“Why aren’t I doing all of this??”
The answer is so simple: I can’t because there are only 24 hours in a day!
Take one item on my list, for example — Zumba classes. Zumba classes cost money, but money is not the only obstacle. I may be able to afford a gym membership but if I don’t have time to get to the gym, I don’t take my Zumba class.
That leads me to this conclusion:
Everything has a time cost, not just dollar cost. If I want to be happier, I need time to do what is most important to me.
Let’s take the biggest purchase of your life: buying a house.
If you buy a dream house, you will have to keep making payments on it for a longer time than if you had bought less “house.” Is it worth an extra year, 2 years, 5 years until you are financially free? Or should you buy a moderate house (but still nice) so you can buy your freedom instead — and work less?
These are questions you decide. If you could settle for less house, then you can work half-day or take off on some day and do the stuff on your list. That’s to say, when you don’t have looming financial obligations, you have more time.
Remember, everything you buy has a cost you trade your life for. And life is short.
Having a smaller mortgage gives us freedom to have more time to spend on things that are most meaningful to us.
Get on the same page as your DrSpouse. And agree with each other on what is worth trading your life for.