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.