The Meaning Of Wealth
Last week I had two separate conversions with different friends about spending money and the concept of wealth. We each came to the same conclusion – wealth meant having enough money so as to never have to worry about it.
Our benchmark for “making it” was never having to look at the prices on a menu, being able to choose whatever we fancied, not defaulting to the £4 cheaper chicken dish.
The interesting (and liberating) thing about this definition is that you don’t have to be very rich to be wealthy. Wealth is a mindset based on achieving the lifestyle you have aspired to create.
It could mean nightly courses at Michelin-starred restaurants, or it could mean eating out once a month with your family at Prezzo in town.
A friend paying £2,000/month in rent to live in Canary Wharf might feel short-changed on London prices while a humble salary goes a lot further (certainly in terms of square-metre) where I live in student-ridden Southampton.
When I think about what I spend my money on, I try to set clear priorities.
In my eyes, you should be making two investments above all others: time and happiness. In doing so, you put a price on the priceless.
Money Can Buy You Time And Happiness
Some of the most successful consumer products of recent decades were created to save the wider population time. The iconic household examples that spring to mind are the vacuum cleaner, microwave and washing machine. Few 21st century, Western families can imagine life without them.
Think too of more recent success stories like Uber and Deliveroo. These are services that monetise time, part of the wider “convenience revolution”.
The other target for spending, arguably more important, should be happiness. After all, what good is more time when it’s poorly spent?
The fact people will often spend far more on presents for others than themselves is a testament to the monetary value of happiness. Buying a gift pays out twice – once to the receiver and once to the giver. It’s a win-win.
A lot of people would suggest spending £70,000 on a sports car is excessive and dumb. But it really depends how much joy that object brings to the individual. Perhaps it was their childhood fantasy to own that very car. That could make its purchase priceless, which is the ultimate aim when spending money.
When judging someone else’s spending habits, we are guilty of applying our own set of values. Sometimes a £70,000 car can be justified, albeit overlooking the cases for altruism and charity.
What I Spend Money On Now – My Health
I should admit at this stage that I can be extremely tight, which is ultimately why I’m writing this post. For someone inclined to count pennies, larger purchases (and not-so-large purchases) necessitate long deliberation. Only an hour ago did I spend far too long researching which pack of socks to buy on Amazon.
The inclination to hunt around for a bargain and save money can be a great freedom-creating habit in the long-run. But in the short term, it can cost you freedom and happiness, creating anxiety and dissatisfaction. As with everything, there is a healthy middle ground to strive for.
About 3 months ago, I finally reached into my wallet and signed up for gym membership which I’d be deliberating for a long time.
At £39/month on a fixed 12-month contract, I remember how daunting this prospect was. A £468 gamble (albeit negotiated down from £75/month). In truth, I didn’t realise it was a 12-month commitment until I had already filled out the form, then too embarrassed to walk away in sports gear ready for my first session…
In hindsight, that £39/month has been the best investment I could have made.
The fear of wasting the money has actually been my source of motivation, propelling me to the gym 3-4 times a week since, often fitting in a weekly swim, sauna and steam. At something like £3 per session, taking anywhere between 45 minutes and 2 hours, I am getting incredible value for money.
When I break it down like this, the investment becomes a no-brainer. It has been nothing short of a £39 lifestyle upgrade. For £468, this is the year I become the fittest, strongest and healthiest I have ever been. Regularly exercising has led me to overhaul my entire diet and I’m feeling a lot better in myself.
When evaluating what I spend my money on in the future, my health will surely take up the third spot, alongside savings of time and the creation of happiness, for myself and others. When reaching into your own pocket for any substantial purchase, you might do well to ask yourself which of these you are buying.