Investments That Have Nothing to Do With Savings

The word “investing” typically conjures up images of stocks and bonds, Wall Street, or a brokerage account. But did you know that you can invest in something that isn’t a financial product?

Instead of a product, you can invest in yourself, and use your everyday spending to purchase things that will yield long-term returns for your body, mind, and environment.

If you look at your purchases holistically, as investments in yourself, you will find yourself making conscious choices when you are spending money that align your finances with your ideal lifestyle.

There are a lot of intangibles that improve your financial life indirectly. While we might not initially associate these areas as investment opportunities, they really are — and actually, more so than any financial product.

Here are five ways to start mindfully factoring yourself into your investment strategy and focus on how you are spending versus saving.

1. Emergency Planning
Investing in an emergency plan ensures that you’ll be able to stand back up if you get knocked off your feet. An emergency can be losing your job, or facing a natural disaster or a health crisis. Sometimes things go unpleasantly wrong, but proactively positioning yourself to combat the threat of bad times can make the difference between a major setback and a minor inconvenience.

Most emergency planning does involve financial products such as funding your emergency savings account and insuring your health and home. However, there are also physical products to invest in. Next time you get an itch for some retail therapy, try stocking up on bottled water, canned goods, flashlights, and medical supplies.

2. Your Health
A healthy body and mind is your moneymaker. If you’re putting off going to the doctor for something that’s ailing you, do it now before it snowballs into something worse. Stress takes a toll on health as well. It’s OK to spend on ways to remove that stress, like having your groceries delivered or hiring a housecleaner.

You don’t necessarily need a gym membership, expensive organic groceries, or a weekly massage, but it’s OK to make those investments if that is important to you. There are a lot of ways that you can take care of your health at no cost, like finding a jogging buddy or unwinding with a good book. Remember: Time is an investment, too!

3. Relationships
Investing in people that invest in you doesn’t mean you have to go out and buy your friends and family gifts. Make room in your budget for activities with the people close to you. You can be frugal about this as well, for example, with a potluck, movie night, or an exercise partner.

If you ever need to call on someone for help, a quality social network will keep you sheltered if you lost your home or needed an introduction for a new job opportunity. Having a strong and sustainable financial foundation will mean you can return the favor one day.

4. Your Skills
Industries are constantly evolving and technologies that were once innovative can easily become obsolete. If you’re going to stay at the top of your game, you have to keep evolving. If you’re cruising, you’re actually just falling behind. Improving your skills doesn’t necessarily mean investing in formal higher education. You can expand your knowledge by reading a book or taking an online course.

Don’t forget to explore your creative side. Investing in your hobbies may seem frivolous but it’s a way to diversify your skill set. A hobby is something to fall back on if your career became obsolete.

Don’t have any hobbies yet? Take a candle-making class with a friend and get bonus points for emergency planning (non-electrical lighting), your health (unwinding), and your relationships (socializing).

5. Your Community and Environment
You don’t need to trade your car for a hybrid, but get a little eco-conscious with your spending. Buy local when you can and reduce the toll shipping takes on the environment. A thriving local economy trickles down to your personal economy.

Investing in your environment involves a lot of non-spending as well. Walk or ride a bike when you can. Cutting back on all the stuff we buy not only saves us money, but also reduces energy and space usage. Recycling or repurposing your stuff opens up more room in your budget to spend on your other holistic investments.

We might not be able to afford everything we want, but we can afford anything. If you start rethinking simple spending as investing in yourself, you’ll find that you prioritize affording the things that appreciate the value of you. The next time you go shopping, start thinking about how it benefits your future self, your future family, or your future community. You’ll find you feel less buyer’s remorse and more fulfillment in your purchases.

Michelle Bobrow is a member of the DailyWorth Connect program. Read more about the program here.