The Thing That Matters More Than Money When It Comes to Doing What You Want

Picture of a sunset during my busy season at work - butch on a budget

I’m coming up to my busiest season at work. During August, I usually work through the weekends, and my workdays lengthen late into the evenings most days of the month.

As busy as it is, I also love my job in August. My day-to-day work during this time is very different than the rest of the year, but it’s filled with excitement and building new relationships. By the end of the month, I’m exhausted but fulfilled, and somehow reenergized for the rest of the year.

But my house is also usually a wreck, my fridge is empty, and my wife misses me.

It usually takes a couple of weeks to resettle into my home life. I’ve learned to have a pretty healthy work/life balance over the years, but that goes out the window in August.

This year, my August will look different because of the pandemic and various safety-related adjustments. I’m still figuring out how exactly this August will look, but it will still certainly be just as busy.

Each year, whenever my wife or I hit a busy period of work, I’m reminded of an important lesson I learned shortly after we started gaining control of our finances. Once you’re making enough money to sufficiently support yourself, your ability to do the things you want to do is more limited by your time and energy than it is by money.

For example, traveling is one of the pricier things I like to do, but the amount I can travel is more limited by my ability to take time off work than it is by my money. Especially because slow travel is usually a lot cheaper than just visiting someplace for a week.

But even more notably (I think) is the fact that there are TONS of things I enjoy and want to do more of that cost close to nothing — but that I can’t do as much as I’d like because I don’t have time or energy.

Things like:

  • Cooking an elaborate meal
  • Having friends over for dinner and drinks
  • Reading
  • Going to the beach
  • Going hiking
  • Learning how to do things around the house
  • Taking my dog to the dog park
  • Taking mid-day naps
  • Visiting my family
  • Talking and playing cards with Cassie
  • Writing
  • Volunteering
  • Catching up with friends over coffee
  • Playing bocce with my dad
  • Painting
  • Baking
  • Strolling around the library
  • Gardening
  • Going for bike rides
  • Working on various creative projects
  • …and about a million other things I can think of.

I’m not stopped from doing these things because I don’t have enough money — most of them cost nothing and most of them I incorporate regularly into my life.

But I’m still not able to do them all as often as I want because between working, cleaning, grocery shopping, trying to stay on a decent sleep schedule, and other basic tasks of living, I only have a limited amount of free time left to do them.

I already have a ton of low-cost things I love to do that could easily fill my days, but I don’t have enough time for them all. The limiting factor here isn’t money; it’s time and energy.

After I started making a steady income and had paid off my debts, this realization led me to the idea of financial independence and to reading Your Money or Your Life. That book does a good job of tying the concept of money to time and your life energy. It helped put into perspective that even if I love what I do, I don’t necessarily want to do it for 40 years, because there’s a lot of other stuff I love to do, too.  

It showed me that instead of buying things with my money, I could also use my money to buy back some of my finite time, the most valuable resource of all.

In the meantime, I’m preparing for the August marathon (and really looking forward to the autumn slow-down).

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