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  • I used to be so frugal I DIYed everything — and ended up totally burnt out.
  • Now, I spend $725 a month on lawn care, housecleaning, and meal kits, and I wish I'd done it sooner.
  • Money is not our only resource — our time and energy are, too, and I love having more of both.

My parents taught me some basic lessons on personal finance that served me very well in my first years as an independent adult.

They taught me that you don't spend money you don't have, a rule I took so seriously that I never had a single cent of consumer debt to my name (not even student loans).

They helped me understand that I had to live well below my means and prioritize saving above all else, an idea that helped me start investing at 21 and encouraged me to save almost half my income through my early 20s. And they told me that the only way to make it in life was to be independent, get a practical, stable job, and work as hard as I possibly could for as long as I could. 

These ideas did give me a huge leg up on my peers through my early 20s. I worked hard, I saved a lot, and I developed a strong financial foundation that allowed me to build up a lot of assets in a short amount of time.

But by 25, I was also feeling burned out and afraid that no matter how hard I worked, I'd never have enough money to feel truly comfortable and secure. I felt guilty whenever I spent money and developed a warped sense of what was truly valuable in life.

I'd spend ridiculous amounts of time and effort looking for savings hacks and DIYing everything to avoid spending money because I saw my finances as a finite and precious resource. The truth is, time is much more valuable — a lesson I wish I'd learned far sooner.

Money isn't the only precious resource we have

As I moved through my late 20s, I slowly learned that money wasn't an end in itself. Money was more like a tool I could use to build what I wanted.

I stopped seeing it as a scarce resource and started considering things like how to better leverage not just my cash flow but my energy and time as well. I started thinking about my personal finances in a broader context: It wasn't just about dollar amounts on a spreadsheet. Using money well required me to think about my priorities and the value I got from the dollars I had, too.

When I made this mindset shift, I saw that my obsession with spending less often cost me more in terms of time, energy, experiences, and the ability to be present with my family. 

My refusal to spend more money — even when I had the discretionary income to spend without actually jeopardizing my financial future — might have meant a little more cash in the bank, but the tradeoff was far less of what made a bigger impact in my life.

What I wish I'd spent money on sooner

I was further convinced to change my spending habits by actual research that suggests people are happier when they use their money to buy back time or to enjoy experiences. When I looked at my own life, I could easily identify places where I was spending a lot of time.

1. Lawn care service

When it came to purposely increasing our spending — a really weird feeling for someone who'd avoided lifestyle creep like the plague for the last decade! — the first thing my husband and I did was hire a lawn care service to help maintain the land around our house. 

For about $175 a month, a crew cuts our grass and does some weed-whacking around our property. They do this in a fraction of the time it takes us to complete the same work, and what was a big weekend chore suddenly becomes something we don't even have to think about (let alone spend time on).

2. House cleaner

We also hired a house cleaner to help maintain the inside of our home, which runs about $300 a month. Just like the lawn crew, our housecleaner is much more efficient than I am. She takes three hours to do the same work that takes me around seven.

3. Meal kit-service

Finally, we tried out a meal-kit service for about $250 per month. I felt extremely skeptical about this; for one, I enjoy cooking. Not to mention, it still takes time to cook the meal that arrives at your doorstep! But I've been shocked at the difference it makes.

What I didn't think about before trying the service was how much time, mental effort, and energy goes into thinking about, planning, shopping for, and preparing every single breakfast, lunch, and dinner for seven days. Now, three days a week, there's no thinking or prep work at all and we save our delivered meals for our busiest workdays. 

Spending more has made me happier — and even improved my finances

Yes, it is a luxury to be able to hire help or somehow outsource some of our cooking, cleaning, and lawn care. Spending $725 per month on these services that, technically, we could do ourselves is a privilege. 

I recognize that, and for me, it is money well spent in terms of net gain.

Before we got this help and support, I completely underestimated how much time and effort went into each of these areas. Spending money this way has given me back a lot of mental space, energy, and hours in the day. It gives me more choice, too: I can choose to spend my freed-up time enjoying more experiences, being with people I care about — or, sometimes, on work that earns me more money than I spent to hire help.

Stubbornly refusing to let anyone help me clean the house or cook a meal takes hours and energy away from solving a business problem or developing new opportunities that increase revenues.

This is where spending money looks more like an investment than a waste of funds. Leveraging money wisely benefits my finances if it allows me to devote more high-quality effort to my work and the business I help run. 

While I'm still a cautious spender, I don't look at my finances in such black-and-white terms as to think all spending is bad and the only good thing to do with money is save it. Personal finance is much more complex than that — and so is life! 

I've found it's much more productive to remember that money isn't the only resource we have. Your time and energy are highly valuable too (and often more valuable than dollars alone). I've found it's more helpful to think of money as a tool that should be (strategically!) used rather than a scarce commodity that must be hoarded at all costs.

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This article was originally published in September 2021.

Read the original article on Business Insider

2023-07-13T13:37:52Z dg43tfdfdgfd