The typical measure of success is how much money a person has or how much stuff they own. Buying things has become an act of proving success and worth. We’ve got it wrong. Buying stuff can actually delay your dreams and bring you further away from the life you want. Here’s how.

Most of us have useless material things just taking up space in our homes because we thought we needed it. A cluttered home is proven to drain mental energy and cause stress. It’s so easy to wind up on the hamster wheel of consumerism that causes this. The more we buy, the faster the wheel spins. Our efforts and resources are diverted from discovering what we’re actually looking for and into this hollowing of the soul.

Whenever I’m tempted to purchase something, I try to decide whether or not the money is better spent in more important areas of my life like saving for house, investing for my planned early retirement (I can’t wait to delve into that topic!), funding upgrades for my side businesses, or some other thing in the same line of thinking.

I go to the store with the intent to purchase some useless thing after convincing myself that I deserve it. I work hard, and I want to keep up with the material success of those I know on social media. But I want to reach my goals more than I want that bigger T.V, better headphones, or bottle of Jack.

Buy with purpose. Control your spending instead of being controlled by it. Sometimes I give in, especially when I’m stressed or hungry and my willpower is low. Strategic weakness can be useful, though. Remembering that I gave in before strengthens my resolve for the next time those urges rear their ugly head.

The value of our life comes from what we do and who we are, not from the stuff we own. Money can buy relative happiness up to $75,000, as that’s the generally accepted number where we can live a really comfortable life, but beyond that, happiness levels typically remain the same. Hedonic adaptation is a real thing. You get something new and exciting but we are biologically inclined to adapt. The joy we get from things subsides back to pre-purchase levels over time. Aside from supporting ourselves and our families, money is better spent on experiences and not just things.

I try to look at money more like a question or a challenge: “Alright, what can you make happen that matters? Let’s see what you’ve got. Stretch me. Make me grow.”

Money is either a tool or a master. The choice is ours. It’s easier than ever to waste our life by focusing on the wrong things, like material wealth. The only currency that truly matters is time. We never stop spending it, and we can never get more. It’s what we do with each purchase that will make the difference.