Everyone is looking for ways to save money these days, and tips for doing so have proliferated all over the Internet, in magazines and newspapers, in email newsletters, and so on. The most obvious reason for this is, of course, the Great Recession and our slowly recovering economy.
For many people, though, one purpose (or a welcome effect) of saving money is to refocus on how we spend our time. Even the converse is true—the more we focus on the quality of how we spend our time, the more likely we are to save money.
For example, with gift giving, more and more families are creating gifts for each other (e.g., photo collages) instead of going on impersonal shopping sprees, and these gifts are invariably more meaningful—to give, to receive, to keep. Others are giving experiences—such as taking a friend or family member to a play or a concert. This is not only a gift based on the person’s interest, it is a gift to both of spending more time with loved ones, with the people who inspire us, make us laugh, keep us young. More and more companies (like Groupon and Living Social) are recognizing and supporting this trend with deep discounts on shared experiences.
This extends beyond the experience as a gift and into our everyday experiences, as more people discover the free and low-cost entertainment options out there. In an era when people risk isolation by spending all their time behind a computer screen, the economy has kind of jump-started a trend of inexpensive entertainment being more and more social—festivals and art shows; free or low-cost outdoor plays, movies, concerts; free or discount days at museums; more and more community-run (instead of corporate-run) conferences on various interests, from gardening to science fiction. Many of these kinds of events have always been around, but in the last five years or so, they have multiplied exponentially.
Even in travel, focusing on spending quality time often leads automatically to saving money. This might mean less travel abroad and more travel in the States to see family and friends all over. It can also mean that when you do travel to other countries, you eschew the expensive tourist traps and end up enjoying more of the real flavor of the country and its people.
In a way, opportunities for more quality time are one of the unexpected gifts of the Great Recession, and one I hope we hold on to long after the economy recovers. I urge all of us to make quality experiences an integral part of the new world we are building so that they last beyond the immediate need to save money.
Start new traditions with family and friends based on the inexpensive experience. Set up new gift-giving traditions with family and friends. Change the workplace culture to provide time, flexibility, and opportunities for quality experiences—both within and outside the company.
The possibilities are endless once we start thinking creatively about how we spend our days and our money. Because in the end, economic recovery, individual happiness, health, and even achieving our most deeply held visions—it’s all about time.
How are you saving money and focusing more on quality time in your life?
image credit: flickr.com, photograph by emdot