I’ve always tried to look at money as a tool, not an end. Since late 2021, I’ve probably spent more on travel than in the 5 years before 2020.
Part of it is because I didn’t travel due to covid. But I also was not traveling much before that anyway. I’ve been really focused on writing and creating courses since 2016.
So I traveled just once a year for a vacation. But in the past 18 months, I’ve probably spent six months abroad.
The other day I was calculating how much money I spent and thought, “Wow, I could’ve invested all that money and have more wealth later.”
This is the mind of an analytic person. Because I have that awareness, I stopped myself and remembered that accumulating money for the sake of having more is not my goal.
I consider myself a financially responsible person. I think 5 times before I spend. I don’t live an extravagant lifestyle. I enjoy small things. And I think it’s a virtue to spend wisely.
But sometimes I take it too far. So I always remind myself: Money is a tool, not an end.
How are you using money?
Using money to maximize happiness & fulfillment
I need to preface this by saying my definition of happiness is inner tranquility, something I’ve adopted from the Stoics.
Happiness is not the same as pleasure. I feel happy when my mind is calm and I’m comfortable with being myself.
So how can I maximize that feeling and also feel fulfilled?
The magic word is tradeoffs.
- Because I prioritize inner tranquility over everything, I need as little liabilities as possible. No debt. I need multiple streams of income. I need to keep improving myself so I can be valuable in society. The goal is to be independent.
- That means I always need to save as much as I can. My cost of living needs to be low. I need to save the majority of my income. If I spend more for a while I need to take a step back and save more.
- But at the same time, I also want to be comfortable. I don’t need to live in expensive cities or beautiful places. I don’t want to pay that premium. But I do prefer to have a nice house in a cheaper place.
My goal is to spend on the things that directly impact my happiness and sense of fulfillment. The latter is important because I think we all have this urge to do something meaningful in our lives.
That’s where fulfillment comes from. I don’t think we can be truly happy if we simply work to earn and then save all the money and stay at home all day.
We’re meant to make a contribution. And sometimes that means we need to spend our time and money to make that happen.
We need to educate ourselves, travel, learn languages, soak up new experiences, and so forth. All that requires money.
Optimize for having a good Wednesday in February
What does your life look like on an average Wednesday in February?
You probably don’t have much going on other than the regular things. But the regular days basically add up to the majority of your time on this planet.
If you can ensure those average days are good, you are good.
How can you use your money to make that happen? That answer is different for every person.
For me, it means I enjoy my house, workspace, and place I exercise, and have my family close. Those are the things I value the most. That’s where most of my money goes, and I’m perfectly fine with that.
If I need to save money, I can save on other things like travel, gadgets, cars, restaurants, clothes, you name it.
The reason you still want to save is that you never know what might happen. It’s foolish to expect you will always stay healthy and able to work.
But at the same time, you also don’t want to save so much that you deprive yourself of variety, fun, learning, and exploration. As the great Stoic philosopher Seneca once said:
“For a life spent viewing all the variety, the majesty, the sublimity in things around us can never succumb to ennui: the feeling that one is tired of being, of existing, is usually the result of an idle and inactive leisure. Truth will never pall on someone who explores the world of nature, wearied as a person will be by the spurious things.”
Exploration makes life interesting. When we sit still too long, life becomes static, and we become restless.
Don’t be afraid to spend money to change your lifestyle. Just don’t fall for the trap of buying new things or experiences that give you a brief high.
Invest the money in things that really change the way you live. When you do that you will feel much happier.