How You Spend Your Time, How You Spend Your Money

Try this experiment.

For the next month, keep a time diary for yourself. Keep a pocket notebook and, throughout the day, take notes on how you’ve been spending your time. Don’t try to be “perfect” about how you spend your time – just be normal about it. You’re recording this information for your own purposes.

Once you have a month or so worth of data, come up with some sensible groups for how you spend your time. Hygiene might be one. Cooking might be another. You might have a handful of categories for your hobbies and interests, like watching television. Spending time with friends or family might be another such category, as might surfing the web.

Once you have these groups, add up all of the time you spent during that month doing something within that group. For example, during the month I did this, I found that I spent forty seven hours reading for personal pleasure and enrichment.

Once you have that, compare it to your actual spending throughout a given month. Are there any areas where you’re spending a lot of money but not spending much time?

Quite often, those areas where you’re spending a lot of money but not spending much time are the very areas that most need trimming.

For me, those areas have included technology items and sports equipment. I don’t play enough golf to really warrant the purchase of more golf clubs, and I often don’t use the gadgets I’ve bought nearly enough to warrant the purchase price.

The flip side of that coin is also interesting – the areas where you spend a lot of time without spending a lot of money.

In my own life, reading and cooking are two areas where I invest a lot of time but typically don’t spend significant money. I don’t spend a lot of money on reading materials, nor do I invest significant money into cooking supplies, either (aside from perhaps being a bit picky about ingredients for some meals) – in fact, I often cook things that wind up costing less than a prepackaged option.

Here’s the kicker, though. Quite often, areas of your life where you spend a lot of time without spending a lot of money are the areas that truly bring you the most enjoyment because you don’t require a constant influx of new things to be able to enjoy yourself.

I argue that those are the areas of your life that you should accentuate, while learning to let go of the areas that offer much less bang for the buck.

What does that mean for me? Instead of lusting for gadgets, I should instead focus on cooking great meals for my family. Instead of looking at golf clubs, I should devote more time to reading.

This carries through to the other expenses and choices in my life. When I look at the websites I read regularly, it doesn’t take much to de-subscribe from Gizmodo and subscribe to 101 Cookbooks. When I go shopping, I can skip by the Apple store and visit the local organic greengrocer. Instead of spending the weekend dropping a C-note at the golf course, I can just join a book club instead (and get my outdoors fix by going on a hike).

The end result? I slowly start focusing more on and spending more time on the things that are truly important to me that also happen to not cost all that much. Meanwhile, the costly things that I don’t really care about that much begin to slowly fade away.

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