What Makes for a Rich Life?

One theme you’ll see pop up time and time again in personal finance and personal growth writing is the idea of a “rich life.” Usually, if that idea is expanded on at all, the “rich life” idea tends to involve a few ideas of what the writer thinks everyone should have in their life, like time with their family or a full social calendar.

The idea of what makes a “rich life” seems to be more of a reflection of the writer than anything else.

For example, my idea of a rich life would involve a lot of activities with my family. It would involve some volunteer groups. It would involve a big vegetable garden. It would involve reading some books when I’m alone and playing some board games when I’m with friends. It would involve a bit of travel. It would involve going to concerts, speeches, and cultural events.

Some of this will probably sound appealing to you. Other pieces won’t. The pieces that sound interesting and the pieces that do not will differ from person to person.

There’s one important thing that I want to point out, though. Every element of what I consider a rich life has to do with how I spend my time, not with the things I own.

A rich life for me involves kicking back in a comfortable spot reading something enjoyable and thought-provoking, not owning a bunch of books.

A rich life for me involves spending a day at the park with my family, not having a garage full of things that we might play with someday.

A rich life for me involves spending time in the garden, not having a huge assortment of gardening supplies.

A rich life for me is time that I can spend on these activities, not time spent working so that I can have the money for tons of items related to these activities.

It’s about the time, not the stuff.

One of the things i’ve really enjoyed about becoming a more frugal person is that, over time, the focus of my life has moved from the stuff I have to how I spend my time. I don’t care what car I have, just that I get from point A to point B reliably. I don’t care what shoes I have, as long as my feet don’t hurt. I don’t care how many books I own, as long as I have one to read. The experience comes first.

So, to put it simply, I believe a rich life is one that’s filled with experiences that you value. It doesn’t really even matter what those experiences are. Some people may love cooking, while others find it dull. Some people may deeply enjoy reading a book, while others might pass on it. Some may enjoy spending hours in their garage tinkering, while others find it dull.

Whatever it is that makes you happy while you’re doing it, do it.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you should spend money buying stuff for that activity beyond the minimum needed to do it.

In fact, the opposite is true – the richness of experience comes from having as little as possible in your life that keeps you from the experience. Having thirty tools to take on a job that only needs one actually keeps you from enjoying that activity because you’ve got to work to earn money for the items and you’ve got to spend time maintaining and caring for those items.

A rich life is about spending time on whatever is valuable to you. Living frugally, minimizing your clutter, and being mindful of your money only serves to maximize the time you get to spend on whatever it is that excites you. Frugality and personal finance aren’t boring. They’re simply tools to the kind of life rich with experiences that you want to have.