The Misconception – Saying ‘Yes’ means spending money

The other day I came across this brilliant quote for the very first time. I read it over a few times and thought about how I could use it in my everyday life.

Always say ‘yes’ to the present moment. What could be more futile, more insane, than to create inner resistance to what already is? What could be more insane than to oppose life itself, which is now and always now? Surrender to what is. Say ‘yes’ to life — and see how life suddenly starts working for you rather than against you.

–Eckhart Tolle

As a personal finance blogger and a financial independence retire early (FIRE) seeker, delayed gratification is a common everyday practice, meaning I have a tendency to focus on saving money now so we can enjoy life later. Or as I call it, the save, save, save, and save some more mentality. I’m sure readers who are saving and investing for their future can totally relate.

However, over the years, the save, save, save more mentality had created some tensions between Mrs. T and me and resulted in numerous arguments over small expenses. After looking at the big picture, like our growing net worth and that we could technically be financially independent if we really wanted to, I realized that it was important to find the balance between spending money now to enjoy the present moment and saving money for the future.

Unfortunately, finding this balance is not something everyone in the FIRE community does.

Within the FIRE community, there’s a common misconception that spending money is bad. One should avoid spend money as much as possible and save as much as one can.

The thing is, spending money does not always mean bad. Spending money is a natural process in life. And it is totally OK to spend money.

When you take a deeper examination, it’s really not about spending money, it’s about what you prioritize in life. Spend money on what’s important to you.

Once you realize this important concept, things begin to shift.

If you prioritize travel in life, spend money on travel and get that incredible experience. If you prioritize outdoor adventure in life, spend money on outdoor gear and outdoor trips. If you prioritize good food in life, spend money on quality ingredients and cookware so you can prepare your own meals. If you prioritize experience in life, spend money on experience instead of things. And so on and so on.

Prioritization is merely the first step.

The second step is a complete shift in mentality.

Rather than always say ‘no” to the present moment and justify this action by telling yourself that can’t afford it, start looking from a different angle. Start saying yes and ask yourself, how can I afford this?

When you are open to opportunities, opportunities come up to you.

Now I am not suggesting go to the extreme by start living the YOLO (you only live once) lifestyle and spend all your money on good times, experiences, and things.

I am simply suggesting you take the time to analyze the situation and try to say yes, instead of immediately shoot down every opportunity or experience.

For example, imagine that one of your favourite musicians is coming to town and you have always wanted to see this musician live. You prioritize experience in life, so this would be an amazing experience. Rather than saying no and telling yourself that you can’t afford the concert ticket, approach it differently. Say yes and look at ways to afford the concert ticket. Maybe don’t eat out as much for this month, maybe sell some things that are sitting idle at home on Craiglist, maybe try to earn extra income, maybe cut down on other entertainment expenses, etc. The possibilities are endless, it comes down to you seeing these possibilities and take actions.

Be open.

It’s easy to think that saying yes to the present moment means spending money.

This is a misconception.

Saying yes doesn’t always mean spending money.

It is more than that.

It has to do with enjoying the moment. There are many things in life that do not require spending a dime.

Enjoy moments that might not be around forever. Enjoy moments that you will always remember and cherish for the rest of your life.

At 4.5 years old and 2.5 years old, Baby T1.0 and Baby T2.0 are still quite young. They often would come into our room in the middle of the night and want to sleep with us in the same bed. As parents, Mrs. T and I would feel annoyed that they were disturbing us and we wouldn’t get a good night of sleep. So we would say no, push them away, and tell them to go back to their room and sleep in their own beds.

But Baby T1.0 and Baby T2.0 aren’t going to stay young forever. They aren’t going to want to sleep and cuddle with us when they are teenagers. Often when the kids were laying in bed sleeping with us, I would look at their content and innocent faces, and I couldn’t help but smile. These moments were magical. They made sacrifices that we make as parents all worth it.

Mrs. T and I are learning to say yes more to the kids so we can look back and not regret we missed opportunities to create everlasting memories with them.

The other day, Baby T1.0 and Baby T2.0 wanted to play soccer outside. Mrs. T was preparing dinner and I was in the middle of paying credit card bills. Rather than saying no to the present moment, we decided to say yes to the kids and played soccer with them for 15 minutes or so. We kicked the ball around and chased after each other. All of us had a great time and the loving bonds between us grew stronger. We could have easily said no to the kids and went on with our tasks and not had this magical bonding moment together.

During the FIRE journey, it’s easy to look ahead and completely forget about the present moment. We all need to step back and realize that without the present moment, there is no tomorrow.

So say ‘yes’ to life and see how life suddenly starts working for you rather than against you.

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24 thoughts on “The Misconception – Saying ‘Yes’ means spending money”

  1. You are gravely misinterpreting Eckhart Tolle. Eckhart Tolle does say that people need to be more present, but he certainly does NOT say that being more present means spending more money. Quite the opposite. People who think that FIRE is delaying gratification have no concept of FIRE. A successful path to FIRE really requires one to realize that happiness is here and now and really, requires no spending. Eckhart talks about this too. To want “things” to make you happy is externalizing your happiness. So, long as your base needs are taken care of, you can find happiness within yourself at any moment. Once you realize this, you are not saving money to be rich in the future. You are saving money because you are rich (i.e. fulfilled) right now. People fail at FIRE (or dieting for that matter) because they are miserable while they are doing it. You need to adapt emotionally. Once you do, you can see no other way to life.

  2. Ever see the Jim Carrey comedy, ‘Yes Man’?

    Ok, that’s the other extreme but as you say, balance is key. I spend money one things that make me happy and which I enjoy, just cut back on the other stuff.

  3. I feel the same. Although us DGI people have a solid focus on the future, we sure as hell must not forget to live now. Because if you don’t whats the point? Being miserable for ten or twenty years and when you’re FIRE you’re suddenly happy? It doesn’t work that way, you will have lost so much on the way that you can never get back.

    • Exactly, live miserable for ten or twenty years just so you can smell the roses later is not worth it for me. Finding the right balance for you is important.

  4. I’ve definitely improved that balance over the years, as I have been more the save, save, save mentality while my wife was more balanced in enjoying the here and now. Those moments with the kids are priceless, and as mine are now 19 and 16, I’ve seen that the moments have morphed over the years but they are still there if you’re paying attention.

    • That’s great that you’ve improved the balance over the years, that’s very important. Good points for me, given that your kids are older than mine. 🙂

  5. I’m starting to relax more about spending too. Previously, I never spend on ice creams, smoothies, or any overpriced concession stand type stuff. It’s way cheaper at home. Now, I don’t mind spending occasionally to enjoy the moment more. It’s a delicate balance. Life is a long journey and you need to enjoy it now and later.
    We went to play soccer in the park last week too. It was a fun practice for RB40Jr’s first game of the year.

    • Same here. I’ve becoming to loosen up a bit more when it comes to spending money. As indicated in the post, it’s not just about spending money, saying yes more to things that’d create good memories is always important.

  6. Nice post Bob! Another way to think about it (and this is what I often do) is to think about my expenses as investments. Some things are obviously going to be for keeping me alive, and I’ll definitely “invest” in them, but other expenses are purely for comfort. What you said about priorities definitely comes into play here, as I “invest” in the things I prioritize most.

    This way there’s no difference in the dollars I save and the dollars I spend. They’re all investments.

  7. I find it is sometimes easy to get caught up in the idea that we need to be saving all the time, but the reality is that if we keep making the right choices on the really big expenses (housing, cars, day care), all the other stuff really doesn’t matter too much.

    • It is super easy to get caught up in the idea that we need to save more and save more. But if you step back a bit, it’s about finding a balance and determine what makes sense to spend on.

  8. Yeah, I absolutely love this! Spending money is not evil… many of us a creating unnecessary friction in our lives. Say yes to what is important without even thinking twice about it.

    In my opinion, this is why we pursue FIRE so that we can say yes to our deepest desires or those of our loved ones. Cheers!

  9. Great post Bob, like anything it’s a balance in life. Spend money on what matters to you and brings value, and forget the rest. The problem is the grey area in between, which is easy to fall into.


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