I’m not rich with money, just rich with time.

My Dad used to tell me that money can’t buy happiness. I thought he was a fool, a poor fool at that. We didn’t have a lot of money growing up and my parents often fought when the fortnightly or monthly accounts were being balanced. It was a cause of tension in the house hold and as a child my solution was, simply, to get more money. The only problem was that I didn’t know how.

Both of my parents were in and out of jobs, sometimes they had more than one on the go at once. But they were still struggling, with three children to look after. The situation began to change them on a fundamental level. They truly believed that money would solve their problems, but because they never had enough, they were never able to learn what the real reasons behind their unhappiness was. When I left home I was still in school, I had a weekend casual job and was trying to break into a career in hospitality. There was promise at school for me, I could have gone to uni. But there was a foreboding grey cloud that hung over me. It carried with it a perpetual downpour of the ideals and cultural norms that my family had instilled in me.

It told me I needed money above all else. So I left school with only my common sense and wits. This was likely the first major life decision I made. For the first time, the decision was mine and mine alone. The consequences would follow me all the way into adulthood but for now they were unseen. So I worked, I worked hard and I worked everywhere I could. From hospitality to IT, I flitted between career paths searching for that golden pay cheque. But all I found was misery and burn out. I spent my money on luxuries that I thought were important, luxuries I didn’t have when I was a child, ultimately neglecting my future.

When I finally managed a stable job, I worked out that it wasn’t money that got me out of bed every day. The paycheque was just a part of the great equation of life. I enjoyed working in the fields I was in. I enjoyed the experience and the people, but most of all, I enjoyed the challenge of self development. Growing myself, learning new skills and maturing as a person gave me self worth. Something money could never give me and self worth has given me more opportunity and happiness than any paycheque could have.

After learning this, money became a second factor to any life decision. The question that came first was always, will this give me experience. I applied for new roles in my organisation and although often unsuccessful, there was always something constructive to take from it. These failures were additional experience and in the term of one of my passions, I kept levelling up. The amazing thing about making the quest to gain experience the number one goal in my life is that it’s never ending. It has defined chapters, often found after the fact and it helps validate self worth and worth of others.

The desire to grow my life experience has led to an unbelievable amount of self growth. I’m now well travelled, something I must credit to my fiancé, and I have a wealth of knowledge in often random and useless categories. But the fact remains that this experience and happiness wasn’t driven by money. Money was simply a tag along requirement. It doesn’t even break into the top three things that make up my happiness and rarely do I sit and ponder what life would be like with more money.

I know that sounds pretentious, especially to those that may not have the same luxury as myself. But truly, once you put money behind experience, you can find happiness for free all around you. And if you need money to gain that experience, then don’t let anything stop you from saving for it.

Recently, I have done the ‘save 50% of your pay’ thing. It was one of the most challenging things I’ve done. The key word there is ‘was’. You see humans are creature of habit and routine. It doesn’t matter if you say you aren’t, because you are. You catch the same train, sit in the same seat, eat the same thing for breakfast or go for a run after work every day. There would be at least 1 thing you do every week that is a habit or routine. We like structure, even if it feels like we don’t. I found that the part of structure I hated the most was setting it up. It feels like an impossible task starting a routine. Getting into the habit. Especially if it’s something that doesn’t provide instant gratification.

Saving money does not provide gratification in the short term. That is hard to swallow. Money is often given only to be spent immediately. Letting it sit there in your digital bank account, a bunch of 1s and 0s floating around the internet is difficult to watch. Research shows that if you can continue a new routine for more than 4 weeks you have a higher chance of success than if you take a break in the early stages. Persistence is key. Some things are harder to set a routine for. I find exercise hard to stick with on a routine basis. Saving money was also a challenge, but I stuck it out. I persisted to a point where I was fed up with myself, but after that moment I broke and I made the conscious decision to just deal with it and keep going. I reminded myself of the goals I had set, some quite long term and hard to visualise or be excited about, and I kept going. While this was all happening, I continued to live. It was a defining moment for me. Effectively cutting my disposable income by two thirds changed my outlook on life. My decision making became more defined and I ultimately enjoyed the time I was spending because it was made up of quality, not afforded quantity. Once you work out the difference, everything changes colour. ‘Needs’ reveal themselves to be ‘Wants’ and ‘nice to haves’ turn out to be ‘Needs’.

I suppose a post like this requires some sort of systemic to do list to help reach the outcome I have. I’ve put one together, but none of it is in order. This might seem confusing, but there’s no perfect way to approach this.

Happiness without copious amounts of money – a list of things to do and questions to ask:

– Set yourself short term and long term life goals.

– Are any of these achievable without money?

– Set unrealistic and ridiculous financial goals, then scale those back to what can realistically be achieved. (Don’t guess on this, use a calculator and really nut out your weekly/fortnightly/monthly costs. This will open your eyes to a lot of things both financially and behaviourally.)

– Look back on those goals you set, do any of them ‘Level you up’? Prioritise those unless they require you to meet your financial goals.

– Start thinking of money as a tool to reach your goals, not a requirement. Time is the real must have!

– Ask yourself what makes you truly happy. What really motivates you to do the things you do? How can you incorporate this motivation into your daily tasks or even your job? How can you build on your passion?

– Do your goals align with your passion? If not, then why are they goals?

I have a friend who is very goal oriented and he writes his goal on an A4 piece of paper and sticks it to the back or front of his doors. Whenever he opens or closes them he’s reminded of the goals he’s set and why he’s doing the things he’s doing. I tried it, wasn’t for me. But maybe it might work for you!

Thanks for reading! If you missed part 1 it’s located here – Happiness is helping