A lesson in buying: Shop for items you know you'll make time for

The solution to not having enough time for the things you want to do is not found through buying products and hoping you'll have the time to use them.

Gus Ruelas/Reuters
A man tries out a boxing game on the new PlayStation Move controller during the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, California on June 15. Video game aficionados might have the urge to buy every game that interests them, but it's important to consider how much time you'll spend with a produce before you buy it.

Not too long ago, I traded in my Nintendo DS and the games I had accumulated for it for a Playstation 3 and a handful of used games. I did this for two reasons, mostly. One, I don’t play the DS much at all since I’m not traveling (when I am out and about, I usually use my iPod Touch). Two, I have several friends to play against in various online games.

When I picked out the titles I wanted to trade for, I mostly thought about my friends and the games that we could play together (or at least discuss and compare achievements on). I selected a handful of titles that I thought I could play in the evenings after the kids are in bed some nights (they’re mostly parents, too, and would also play in the late hours).

Of course, after making the trade and contacting my friends, they were ecstatic. But after a few days, we all started comparing games and they also sent me to some Playstation 3 review sites.

What I ended up finding was a long list of titles that intrigued me. Some of my friends already owned some of them and others just seemed like fun. I wound up making a long list of potentially compelling titles.

It was at that point that I had a realization. At most, I’ll be playing this four or six hours a week, late in the evening with some pals. I’ll likely never have enough time to fully play through the titles I already have, let alone the titles on that list.

I might wish that I have more time to play because, quite frankly, it’s fun to play such games with old friends that are spread all over the country. It’s entertaining, interactive, and a great way to maintain a connection with people that I might otherwise lose.

But the truth is that six hours a week is probably going to be the absolute maximum cap on the time I would be able to play – the equivalent of a “poker night” with those guys when we happen to be spread out across the country.

I would simply be spending a lot of money on things that I wish I had time to play – not on things that I actually have time for.

To put it simply, that’s an incredibly poor way to spend your money. Never, ever spend your money on things that you wish you had time for.

If you wish you had time to exercise, don’t buy exercise shoes. Instead, find the time to exercise and start walking and jogging in the shoes you already have, then think about buying shoes if you need them.

If you wish you had time to cook at home, don’t blow $500 on kitchen implements. Instead, start making meals at home on whatever cheap pans you can get at the Goodwill Store. If you find yourself getting used to it and cooking at home a lot, then upgrade.

If you wish you had time to travel, don’t buy tons of travel guides. Instead, focus on getting your life under enough control so that you have the time and resources to travel.

The solution to not having enough time for the things you want to do in life is not found through buying stuff just in case you have time to do it. In fact, the solution is the opposite: invest your money and your time into building the kind of life where you have the freedom to do the things you want. Live way below your means. Knock your job out of the park. Do what you’re passionate about.

Then, when you do find yourself in a secure place with more free time, you’ll have the time to do the things you want to do – and the financial resources to actually do it.

Until then, don’t delude yourself with the power to buy. Buying stuff is not a substitute for having the time to enjoy it.

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