Dissatisfied by my own time-poverty, I decided to choose a time-rich, money-poor lifestyle instead. This is how I did it.
At the end of the 20th century there was a British expression, money-rich, time-poor which described people who had a lot of money but little leisure time. The noun form of this expression came to be time poverty. Not restricted to highly-paid, salaried employees, time poverty is also felt by low-wage earners who have to work long hours to make ends meet.
Realisation of Time-Poor
When I was in my early 40s, I looked back on my life and realised that for the majority of it I had been suffering from time poverty. I had been money-rich, but time-poor, and I had not been happy with my life. I had bought into the system of consumerism, having unquestioningly swallowed the myth that more possessions and more wealth make you happier. My attitude to life during my first 40 years was: “What can the world give me?”
Change to Time-Rich
In 2006, I decided to change things in my life. The impetus for this began some three years earlier when I left a deeply unhappy and unsatisfying marriage and began the process of giving away everything I owned. I had come to see that possessions themselves had not brought me any happiness, and wanted to see what effect getting rid of my possessions would have.
The effect on my life was dramatic. As I divested myself of each possession that I had acquired for possession’s sake, I felt that a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. As each key disappeared from my keyring, I became lighter of spirit. When I left for Spain in 2003, my only possessions were a rucksack containing my clothes, an old laptop computer, and a burning need to answer the question: “What can I give the world?”
A New Time-Rich Lifestyle
I had concluded that the fewer things I needed, the less money I needed to earn. These days, on the very rare occasions I find myself in a shop, I think to myself, “Look at all these things that I don’t need!” Normally, I only spend my money on food, and on the tools I need to do my job.
My job is online English teacher. My tools are my computer and the software I need to produce my English learning material. I don’t see anything I own as possession, merely something necessary for doing my work.
I rarely buy clothes, and when I do I will only buy those that are necessary. I have one pair of shoes for summer and one pair of shoes for winter. When they wear out, I buy a new pair.
If I came home one day to discover that everything I “owned” had gone, I would not be dismayed. I would not be dismayed because I’ve been in this position before and it was in no way unpleasant, rather it was liberating.
The one thing I do have now that I didn’t have in the past is time. You can always make money to pay for the things you need to live, but that most precious of commodities, time, we can never get more of.
There is a condition called deferred happiness which is when a person will do a job they hate, while putting aside their own and often their family’s happiness till a future date, which is often retirement. They sell that most valuable part of their lives, time, to employers who exploit them to make a profit, in order to earn money to buy things they don’t need in order to impress people they don’t like.
I don’t subscribe to this paradigm any more, though I did in the past. These days I have all the time I need to do as much as I can to give to the world rather than take from it, and I can honestly say I’ve never been happier.
I don’t have the luxury of car, and I don’t have the necessity to pay for one. My monthly expenses are very low, and I have more than enough money to live on. For these reasons, I would not consider myself money-poor, though many would. Regardless, I have the time to be creative and the willingness to give away most of what I create for free. The satisfaction I get from helping others goes far beyond anything I ever got from helping myself.
Money and its acquisition is not the be all and end all of my life. Having the time to do the things I love to do is much more important, and time is not something you can buy. We all have an allotted amount of time, though we cannot know how much, and it is up to us to make the most of it and to enjoy it. Of all the people in the world, those who are time-rich are the wealthiest of all.