Investing vs. Spending

The problem of increasing margin in our health and energy, relationships, and resources can be conquered in a few ways.

One way is to have a mindset shift. Are you investing or spending your energy, time, and resources?*

Why the Investing vs. Spending affects margin…

Investing vs. spending affects margin simply because one produces while the other depletes or wastes. This principal is easy to think about financially, but it applies across the the other areas of our lives.

If you invest or save money, you begin to build financial margin. If you spend everything you have, then you quickly deplete your resources and have little to no margin should a major financial event befall you.

More subtly, when we purchase products and services, we could be investing or spending the money. I could buy a book that sits on my shelf unread. That’s spending. Or I could buy the book – let’s say a book on Christian living, read it, apply the truths, and become better for it. That’s investing.

The same thing happens in our health and relationships.

We can spend a relationship – using the folks around us for whatever it is we think we need from them: strokes, their financial resources, etc. Or we can invest in relationships, creating connection and growing the value of those relationships to both parties and nearly always others in the process.

Also, we can spend our energy and health through poor eating, bad sleep habits, and lack of exercise. Or we can invest it by better choices in these areas. When we need to have energy and focus and attention, if we invest, we’ll have these things at the ready.

A quick note before it seems like I’m being a Dudley Downer. We’re all allowed to spend. But we need to keep our ratio of investing to spending in proper proportion in order to build the margin we need.

A case study in investing vs. spending time…

Yesterday, I used my time in a few different ways.

First, I did research on YouTube about erosion control and dug a trench in my yard to move forward a drainage system project.

Second, I went to my parents’ house with my wife and daughter in order to drill holes in commercial toilet paper rolls that had no middle holes so we could dispense said toilet paper more easily in our house. The COVID pandemic encouraged us to panic buy industrial sized toilet paper rolls from Office Depot.

Third, after helping prepare dinner, I watched TV for about 4-5 hours with my wife and daughter (The Office) and then one of my sons (Agents of SHIELD).

This morning, not to be overly navel-gaze-ish, I’m asking myself:

Did I spend my time or did I invest my time?

The short answer is that I did a little of both.

How do you know if you’re investing or spending?

It’s not always about the activity

The activity itself doesn’t always determine whether time is spent or invested. Watching TV with one of my boys might be well-invested time together enjoying a show we both appreciate and can discuss.

Conversely, if I’m mindlessly wandering around my yard digging trenches without a plan, then that very well could be wasted spent time that does little besides getting me some fresh air.

It’s more about purpose

Did I use the time to serve a purpose? That’s the question to ask.

Watching TV with my family could very well serve the purpose of creating more shared moments. My daughter, wife, and I sitting on the couch laughing and goofing off together isn’t a bad way to invest an hour or so.

I could have wasted the whole time thumbing through social media. Time spent. Not invested.

If I had watched the shows while zoning out on my phone, I would have depleted my relationship accounts, reducing margin in my relationship with my daughter and wife.

As the old idea goes – you don’t eat a bacon double cheeseburger and immediately die of a heart attack, but a steady diet of those will get you there soon enough.

I can check my phone here and there, but if I spend every TV session scrolling around my phone, then how do you think, over time, my relationships will look?

Ultimately, its about intentional decision…

Let me reiterate. I’m not advocating for a paranoid approach of making every choice an investments vs. a spend. You must rest and recover and enjoy a wasted afternoon every once in a while. I mean, you invest for a reason – so that you can actually enjoy some things.

Rather, I’m asking that we all build more margin by learning to make decisions that skew toward investment vs. spending.

Grow your margin. Realize that your decisions do, generally, head one way or another. At the very least, choose that when you do set time, money, or energy for something, that you think through how that thing can be an investment vs. a spend.

Make sense? Or did I just spend 30 minutes writing vs. investing 30 minutes in producing something that helps myself and hopefully a few others?

Definitely an investment – even if only I benefit.

How can you invest your time, energy, and resources today?

Better yet, how can you flip a ‘spend’ and make it an investment by simply changing your attitude and approach?

Current Reading Time, Invested in….. The Vision Driven Leader by Michael Hyatt. So far, a great book on identifying the beacon out in front to keep you on track toward your objectives and help filter decisions….

*Investing vs. Spending is hardly an original concept to anybody, but one fellow who beats the drum a lot is a email marketing expert Ben Settle. Just thought I should give credit.

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