Why wouldn’t you want to earn more money? You can always earn more; it’s cutting back that you can only do so much of. Most people could find a job that pays twenty, thirty, or even forty thousand dollars a year online in a matter of days.
These sentiments that get bantered about online—coupled with the amount of time that most of us waste, either knowingly or unknowingly, on fool’s errands like social media—often make me wonder why more of us don’t just get second jobs. Or third or fourth or fifth jobs. It’s so easy. It’s so simple. So why isn’t another job always the answer?
For most people, earning money is the reward for trading our time. That isn’t to say that jobs don’t also reward insight, innovation, and hard work. They do. But even if you aren’t paid by the hour, you are still giving up your time to earn a learning. Therein lies the problem with suggesting that people acquire more by doing more. It is one thing to negotiate your salary or make the case for a raise; it is something entirely different to trade more of your time on the quest to have more money.
There is a finite amount of time in each day. More importantly, there is a finite amount of time in each life. While I might personally be guilty of trading a little too much of my free time for money, I certainly can’t fault someone for drawing a line in the sand and actually allowing that line to mean something. In fact, I could probably stand to take a lesson or two about line drawing myself. As much as I’m hungry to save more, invest more, and destroy more debt, it’s possible that I’m becoming too focused on what I earn and too committed to other jobs.
If another job isn’t the answer, what is? For a long time, frugality served us well. Frugality doesn’t paint the whole picture, but it certainly helped. Now, though, we have trimmed our budget in such a way that there isn’t much else that we could trim and still maintain the handful of comforts and conveniences we value. Of course, we still practice frugality. That is what allows us to keep our expenses low and continue to save over half of our income.
For those of you keeping score, this is a pickle of an intersection to reach. I realized that I am not willing to trade much more time for money, nor am I willing to trim our spending to the point of discomfort. After that realization, I felt stuck until it occured to me I have had the answer all along. When I started this blog, I didn’t peg myself as a personal finance writer. I wasn’t on a quest to earn six figures. I wasn’t clamoring for financial independence or early retirement. I wasn’t determined to the be the queen of frugality. These are things that I fell into, things that I learned to embrace wholeheartedly. It was not long until I became a personal finance zealot, constantly chasing extra income and headline-worthy savings. Somewhere along the way, I lost sight of why I set up my blog, the one thing I actually pledged to do.
Hundreds of posts, thousands of hours, I still haven’t done it. I wasn’t going to earn more. I wasn’t going to spend less. I was going to live purposefully and to appreciate what I had. The first social media header—the only social media header—I designed in Canva pledged to do exactly that: live a more purposeful life one cent at a time. In my quest for cents, I’ve grown increasingly light on purpose. Every time I try to make strides towards shrugging off the things that don’t add value to my life, I retreat behind dollar signs. It is infinitely easier to focus on the selling side of Poshmark and to tally up the totals that I’ve earned each year from decluttering my closet than it is to come to terms with why I was so determined to fill it up to begin with. Never mind the fact that I am also struggling to come to terms with why it is so difficult to leave all of this mindlessness behind.
To borrow a line from Oscar Wilde, I know the price of everything and the value of very few things. Now that I’m in the process of mastering my money, I don’t need to earn more or spend less. I need time to let my money work for me. While I wait, I’m ready to do something else. I’m ready to finally do the thing I set out to do in the first place. I’m ready to focus on purposeful living. I’m ready to figure out the value of everything I already have.
Britt @ Tiny Ambitions
Yes! I’ve often contemplated the same intersection that you are at right now. This post kind of sounds like the beginning of something new for you and I am 100% here for it!
Thanks, Britt! I suppose it’s where I’ve been intending to head all along. I just…didn’t know how to get here.
I also don’t really know what I’ll do now. But slowing down and taking inventory of everything I have seems like a good place to start.
Wow Penny, this is good stuff. I especially resonate with, “It was not long until I became a personal finance zealot, constantly chasing extra income and headline-worthy savings. Somewhere along the way, I lost sight of why I set up my blog.” I’ve always loved blogging because of the writing, and having an audience, to be honest. Not for its money-making potential. But you’re right; it’s easy to get caught up in the “should-dos” when you’re blogging. “I should be spending more time at this.” Nope, I shouldn’t, not if it takes more time away from my family. It’s hard to remember that we have enough. Enough is a hard place to be, because we’re almost hard-wired (especially as Americans) to chase more. I love to add one more thing on, because, yeah, extra money. Get to our goals faster, etc. Looking forward to seeing what your purposeful living looks like! I’m sure I’ll be able to take a lot of lessons from it. 🙂
You made my morning, Laurie. I’m so glad this didn’t come off the wrong way (at least I hope it didn’t!). Money is so important. And I’ll always be interested in it and passionate about it. But I keep losing sight of the fact that it’s a tool to use along the journey, not the destination itself.
Little Miss Fire
I think I have fallen foul to wanting to boost my income opposed to actually putting the work into cutting my expenses. I guess we all get there eventually – it just takes some of us (mainly me!) a bit longer
Oh, it has been and will continue to be a such a process for me as well. Jennifer at Simply + Fiercely said something to me on Twitter the other day about raising her baby to realize what enough is and how to be happy with less…and it totally struck a chord.
When I mentor people I always have to hedge against the metrics that are easy to measure. We focus on them because it’s clear: income grown, debt paid down, passive income, net worth. But they have so little correlation to our happiness and success. So for the first year I say the first two metrics we will measure are personal/ professional growth and relationships. If those are growing fast and strong, the other stuff works it’s self out.
Focusing on money can be so isolating for so many reasons. Obviously, the PF community is amazing. But I have definitely allowed this focus to give me a reason to neglect some relationships that I truly value.
Oof. I needed to read this today!! And I really need my parent to read it. We have been focused a lot, in the last year, about making money from all of the stuff that we are shedding after my other parent’s death. However, it takes a lot of time and energy to make money from STUFF, and those assets are much more limited. On the flip side, it’s sometimes easy to focus on these very tangible things, as opposed to working through grief and emotions after the loss of a loved one. It’s definitely a balance – get stuff done, but don’t forget the importance of enjoying time with one another.
Totally. There are some really messy truths tangled up in all the stuff (the unused tissues my nana left perfectly folded in her sweater pocket before she died) I insist on keeping. And I know if I’m being honest, it’s because confronting that is the harder work. It seems ludicrous to suggest that there are things to tackle that are harder than money, but for me, there certainly are.
Angela @ Tread Lightly Retire Early
The tough part is when you’re salaried and trading more time doesn’t even equate to more money 😉 But these reasons are exactly why I cut back to 80% time and quit my side hustle. We make *enough* so at this point, time is well more important to me than money.
OMG yessssss. This. I spend 5-10 hours on a slow weekend working on my work. My contract is for 185 days a year. LOLZ. No way could I only work that amount and function.
Thought provoking post! I have obsessed over my frugal plan and my “why” is clearly at the forefront but yeah, laser focus has made me obsess a little too much and enjoy a lot less. The journey I’m on is about securing a college education debt free for my kid and a secure future for my family, but frankly, if I am too obsessed over every frugal move I miss out on the now. As my dear mother would say when I would rush through a diaper change or a nursing, session, wait, just take a minute and look at her, don’t just rush through it for efficiency’s sake, enjoy the interaction. Enjoy the now. Loved the post.
There is a “happiness quotient” for each of us. The place on the graph where you have enough (time, money, stuff) to achieve maximum happiness. It is different for everyone and impossible to define for another person. You can calculate your own, but never someone else’s. It sounds to me like that is what you are seeking. That answer is buried inside you. Time and thoughtful contemplation will tease it out.
Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life
Learning this is such a journey, and I think it’s one where I go around the loop several times before it takes, but it’s a lesson worth keeping close by.
I started messing around with freelance earning again recently and IMMEDIATELY lost sight of whether it was worth the time I was putting into it. Some of it isn’t, but at least the money losing part of it is for idealogical reasons I can stand behind so that’s ok as long as I don’t entirely lose my perspective again 🙂
I’m remembering to ask: is this truly worth my time, or am I chasing dead end pennies?
Mike @ Ninja Budgeter
Great post – made me think. As I get older, I think more and more about ways that I can free up time rather than earn more money. At the moment, I’m working on my boss to move to a 4-day work week.
That would be amazing, Mike! I do think age has something to do with this (at least for me personally).
This is timely! I started a bit of freelancing on parental leave about a week ago and I’ve already spent about 8 hours working on it. Then I got stressed because I was giving myself a deadline and didn’t find time to work on it during the day. It’s easy to lose sight of the end goal (which is more time with our kiddos) when we are working to hard towards FIRE.
I agree, we all need to find our own meaning in life – but we can only get there once all our basic needs are met ala Maslow.
And it sounds like you work too much Penny – are you willing to cut back?
Sean @ Frugal Money Man
Very insightful stuff here!
I have to stop myself at times because I am in the accumulation phase, and constantly focus on ways to increase my income. It has definitely caused some fights with the fiancée at times, but I believe we are beginning to realize what is most important to us – our TIME.
We have found a happy medium between money/happiness, and we definitely prioritize our time together over money now. That isn’t to say we still don’t focus a lot of energy on our money, but we definitely value the time we spend together now more than ever!
I’m so glad that you’ve found your happy medium! I am still a work in progress 🙂
Amy @ LifeZemplified
Excellent! Going back to why. Something we all need to do more. Thanks for the reminder.
Last night my husband requested 3 weeks off from work because he’s going through burnout. My first selfish thought was “oh geez how much is he going to distract me from my work while he’s home..lol.” I didn’t say anything like that though, because that makes me a pretty terrible person. Of course the next morning (now) I feel like a jackass because I DO really want him home. I texted him he should request a break soon. I shouldn’t be working if it means losing time with him.
I’m so proud of you, friend! It is hard to examine yourself and face some truths, but I think the courage ends up being rewarded. Life is for living and it is a helluva journey.
We all can get caught up on whatever we’re doing and think it’s the right thing to do. But every once in a while you have to stop, think, and reflect if it really is. Once you do all that reflecting, you may find out some truths about yourself that we may not like.
As an example, I would stay up until midnight or even 1-2 in the morning just watching mindless YouTube videos without considering the lack of sleep I will have. I just like the entertainment of watching them. After doing that for a while I thought to myself that this habit of staying up is not great progress for me. And so this past week, I stopped staying up and either go straight to sleep either or read a chapter from a book for a few minutes before hitting the sack.
Love this post. I’ve struggled with the same issues. At one point, I worked nonstop at two careers. I was so burned out and so out of touch with the people and things that mattered. I wasn’t happy and it wasn’t sustainable. I finally stopped and reworked my work-life balance, but it would take a couple more rounds of burning the candle at both ends before I learned my lesson. I’m rooting for you to allow yourself some time to focus on things that bring you joy.