Buying time

When I started my first blog, Bargaineering, I never thought it would become a business. I knew I could make a little money but I famously told my wife that it'd be nice if the site could pay for a nice vacation each year. It was a hobby and anytime you can make money on a hobby, rather than spend money, you're winning. The amount is almost immaterial.

Eventually, the site did earn money. As it grew, it earned more and more until it was a multiple of my full-time job's income. It was literally unbelievable.

When I quit my well paying, fulfilling job writing software in the defense industry – I had to convince myself I was making the right choice. I enjoyed the work, I enjoyed the people I worked with, and I felt well compensated. I was leaving a good stable situation for a great unpredictable situation and it was not an easy decision.

In my head, I had this concept of “buying time.” The money the site earned “bought” me more time to pursue a risky side businesses.

Today, I no longer run Bargaineering, but I run Wallet Hacks and $5 Meal Plan – two projects I very much enjoy. They're two projects that give me control of my time, time I can spend on work or time I can spend with our kids or with my lovely wife. The income they generate gives me the freedom to continue pursuing them.

I see a lot of similarities with my path and the financial independence movement. If you've never heard of it, the basic premise is that you achieve financial independence when your financial assets, invested wisely, are able to pay for your expenses. You accumulate financial assets through aggressive saving and smart investing. Eventually you reach a point when you can decouple your expenses from your income and tie it to your financial assets; that's financial independence.

FI, as it's often called, is a powerful framework because it puts healthier rules on the broader game of life and money. I firmly believe that human beings need to be working on something long term. If you aren't working on something productive (advancing in your career, raising kids, tinkering in your “garage”), you may be tempted to work on something unproductive (beating the Joneses). FI gives you something productive to work towards.

These two ideas are different sides of the same coin – freedom of time.

FI gives you the flexibility to leave your 9-to-5, if you want to, because your savings can fund your expenses. You drag your retirement date closer to you because your savings can fund a longer period of “retirement.”

MyFI views the income from my side businesses as a proxy for a full time job, thus freeing up my time now so I can pursue anything I want. In both cases, smart financial management means freedom. Money is freedom.

Whether you get extra income through saving or earning, that income represents more than dollars and cents. For me, the business bought years I didn't need to work for another company. With FI, your savings or side income buys years you don't need to work. If you have debt, it can get you closer to being debt free which then lets you flip the script and buy your future rather than pay it back.

You turn your time into money. Don't let “excess” money turn into things without careful deliberation. Turn it into your time, your only non-renewable resource.

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About Jim Wang

Jim Wang is a thirty-something father of three who is a frequent contributor to Forbes and Vanguard's Blog. He has also been fortunate to have appeared in the New York Times, Baltimore Sun, Entrepreneur, and Marketplace Money.

Jim has a B.S. in Computer Science and Economics from Carnegie Mellon University, an M.S. in Information Technology - Software Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University, as well as a Masters in Business Administration from Johns Hopkins University. His approach to personal finance is that of an engineer, breaking down complex subjects into bite-sized easily understood concepts that you can use in your daily life.

One of his favorite tools (here's my treasure chest of tools,, everything I use) is Personal Capital, which enables him to manage his finances in just 15-minutes each month. They also offer financial planning, such as a Retirement Planning Tool that can tell you if you're on track to retire when you want. It's free.

He is also diversifying his investment portfolio by adding a little bit of real estate. But not rental homes, because he doesn't want a second job, it's diversified small investments in a few commercial properties and a farm in Illinois via AcreTrader.

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  1. Syed says

    Great post Jim. The key to having as much time as you need is to have a reliable stream (or streams) of income. That can come in many forms, be it rents from real estate, drawing from a large investment portfolio, selling a business, side income etc. Building that constant revenue stream without having to physically be there and work with your hands and head seems to be the ticket to financial freedom.

    • Jim Wang says

      Yes, that income can come from anywhere and it often takes quite a bit of time to grow. Frugality is great in the short term but it has limits, to really “buy time” in bigger strides will come in building or acquiring something of value.

  2. Fred says

    The older I get, the more I realize how valuable time is. FI has other advantages than just freeing up time, such as stress reduction. Anyone who has ever worked for a bad boss or a bad organization, or worked around bad co-workers know what I’m talking about.

    • Jim Wang says

      Age definitely plays a huge role, I just turned 36 so I’m still relatively young… but I never thought about my time when I was 25 or 15.

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