A Stitch In (Free) Time Saves Nine

What if it were possible for anyone to save $1,000,000?  Would you want to know how?  Maybe that sounds a little far fetched.  How about the notion that anybody can save $100,000?  Are you interested now?  Perhaps, perhaps not.  What if I said that it’s possible for both you and I to save $10,000?  Now I bet your ears perked up.  And finally, let’s both agree that it’s possible for almost anyone to save a cool $1k?  Uh-huh.  You’re totally on board with it?  Cool.  Because what most people don’t realize is that the process for saving either $1k or $1M is essentially identical.

It’s just a matter of the degree to which we’re saving money that determines how much we’re able to bank.  Let’s look at it another way:  Imagine that suddenly it were possible for human beings to forgo the need to sleep ever again.  Drink a magic elixir, and you’re devoid of needing any resting period longer than one hour per day.  That means the extra eight hours of daytime (or night-time rather)  could be put to use towards more productive means.  You might work an extra six hours each day, and put the other two hours towards practicing an instrument, for example.

In no time at all, you’d quickly be making an extra $500 – $1k a week (for argument’s sake) without sacrificing any of the cherished activities that you’re currently accustomed to doing.  That works out to be $26k – $52k per year in earned income, which has no use but to be saved towards the future.  As you can see in this “thought experiment,” the time it would take to save $1M (pending the impossible obliteration of the need to sleep) is only a little over 19 years; not including the accumulation of interest.

Since there will never be a magic potion of that kind, the best (and perhaps only) way to mimic these effects is to leverage what little spare time we have.  And by creating more time for ourselves, we’ll logically have a greater advantage of increasing our income ability; provided that we don’t spend our free time frivolously, or otherwise waste it.

Building Wealth-Creation Habits

Anything performed repetitively, whether it’s a routine or skill, becomes ingrained in our repertoire of behaviors.  Let’s focus on our routine activities, to see whether there’s potential to either a.) eliminate unnecessary or bad habits and 2.) build upon effective or good habits.


Remember the old adage, “a stitch in time saves nine?”  Well simply put, this expression refers to doing things the right way the first time.  To avoid having to come back and redo them again in the future.  For example, the mundane chore of separating out recycling from the trash.  This task requires a few moments of putting the soon-to-be discarded object in the right bin versus garbage receptacle (e.g., glass bottles, plastic, cardboard, etc.).  Typically, when I go to recycle there’s a bin for each type of material; and it’s simply a matter of matching object to material-type.  That’s the stitch in time.

Otherwise, when recycling day comes around I’m spending a half-hour sorting plastic bags, cardboard boxes, bottles, trash, etc.; all in a sweaty mess while huffing the bins to the curb, hoping to snag the waste management truck in time.

How can we apply this principal to our finances?

Referring back to my thought experiment, if we could wave a magic wand and add eight hours to the working day, how would it be spent?  I, for one, wouldn’t want to be sifting through half-assed tasks trying to “get things right.”  No, we logically want to make progress on our work in some way (or put effort towards developing a skill).  Again, since we only have limited daylight, our focus should be applying efficiency towards task-completion.

Similarly, the habit of doing things that shave off a few minutes here and there can become ingrained into our routines.  And this extra free time will add up across the weeks.  An hour spent on a Saturday applying to side-hustles.  Fifteen minutes on a Thursday evening talking to your spouse about the budget.  Surely these little actions won’t make you a millionaire overnight; however, I guarantee that you’ll be just that much more satisfied and/or appreciative of what you do have.

Doing Things the ‘Write’ Way

The magic of jotting down notes is often an overlooked method for keeping focused, and organized.  Typically my day starts with trying to tackle 1,000 menial tasks at once; however, this isn’t the most effective approach.  Instead, I’ll look at what’s been jotted down on Sticky-notes and go from there.  After knocking out a few small tasks, which may take a varying length of time to complete, I’ll begin to have a sense of accomplishment.  This feeling helps to build momentum that is necessary for tackling the bigger things on my To-Do list.


Finally, the whole concept behind freeing up extra time and space throughout the work-week can be applied towards a varying amount of tasks.  For example, putting in overtime hours, investing in ourselves through education, improving a skill, etc.

Because we often get bogged down in e-mail, social media, and work itself, there’s not much time to ourselves anymore.  And although any spare minutes are probably poured back into developing our careers, they may be better spent reflecting and/or appreciating what’s already ours.  We live in a culture of consumerism, making it difficult to unplug from the “rat race” completely; however, it’s possible to achieve self-improvement in our finances, for example, without all the noise.

Similarly, it may not be feasible to hit $1M in savings for everybody.  As we each have different income levels, and there’s just not enough life-time for the amounts we save to appreciate to that level.  We still need to sleep at the end of every day.  And even with the best of intentions, it’s just not in the cards for most of us; however, by manipulating what we can control, our present lifestyle might be just a bit more enjoyable (e.g., without any lingering consumer debt, or having some money saved up).

So do what you can, and be at peace with the rest!

Featured image courtesy of stefdesign from Collector’s Weekly