Ever lose a lot of money on a stock?

If you've been investing for any time at all -- and if you had money in the market in, oh, mid-2008 -- you've surely had the experience of watching an investment collapse. AIG (NYSE:AIG), General Electric (NYSE:GE), and Citigroup (NYSE:C) all looked like fine long-term investments a few years back, but they all hit the skids in a big way during the financial crisis -- along with many others.

Of course, you could have done worse than to hold onto beaten-down stocks like GE. Just look at how much ground many of the big-name stocks that were in priced-for-failure territory in early March have recovered:


Share Price on March 9

Return Since March 9

General Electric



Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC)



American Express (NYSE:AXP)



Ford Motor (NYSE:F)



Sirius XM Radio (NASDAQ:SIRI)



Source: Yahoo! Finance.

Those are some impressive results, especially considering that less-fortunate investors in stocks like General Motors or Circuit City never got the benefit of any bounce at all.

But even for those folks, having a stock blow up doesn't have to be the end of the world. As long as you're diversified, as long as you haven't bet your entire future on your employer's stock, you can recover, given time. It's part of the experience of investing.

Some financial mistakes, though, are harder to recover from.

The two-pronged mistake of doom
Think about this: The amount of money you have isn't a fixed thing; most of us can do things to get more. Money's always out there. You'll earn more at your job, you'll get another payment, you can start a business, you can improve your investing skills. Even if you're feeling pretty broke and frustrated right now, there are probably actions you can take to generate some money, now and in the future.

What you can't make more of is time. Specifically, your time.

I don't know how long I'm going to live, but I know that the answer isn't "forever." Meanwhile, you and I and everyone else who works trades time for money.

Are you getting your time's worth? Put another way, is the stuff you're buying really worth that much of your life?

The "two-pronged mistake of doom" is working harder (spending more time) to generate more money to buy stuff that isn't worth it. It costs you money and it costs you time.

Time that you can't get back.

Think about what you spend money on. Can you cut some of that out without changing your quality of life? Can you buy yourself some time?

Not your father's budgeting advice
In the new issue of the Fool's Rule Your Retirement newsletter, available online at 4 p.m. Eastern today, advisor Robert Brokamp looks at this question. As he puts it: "Are you spending your time and your life to acquire things that are equally important?"

I'll be the first to admit that trimming spending out of some Puritanical ideal sounds like a dreadful activity. I hate writing those kinds of budgeting articles almost as much as you and my other readers hate seeing them. But as Robert points out, sometimes you can cut spending and improve the quality of your life in several different ways. He cites the experience of a blogger -- a friend of mine, as it happens -- who moved with her family from a big rambly house in the suburbs to a much smaller place near the city.

Sure, they gave up the big house in the nice suburb. But they also downsized their mortgage payment, turned her husband's long commute into a pleasant walk, moved closer to many of their friends, and ended up saving so much money that she could comfortably quit her job to spend more time with their children -- a huge win all around, in her eyes.

Of course, you may not have to (or want to) sell your house to give yourself more time. But, as Robert notes, there are plenty of ways to cut your spending without making yourself feel broke. In fact, Rule Your Retirement just issued a special report called "How to Rule Your Expenses" that has dozens of good ideas, including great ways to get serious discounts on travel expenses.

Doesn't that seem like a great way to reduce spending?

Want to take a look? Rule Your Retirement is a paid service, but you can get complete access to everything -- including that special report -- for 30 days, completely free of charge. Just click here to get started now.

Fool contributor John Rosevear owns shares of Ford. American Express is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. You can try any of our Foolish newsletters free for 30 days. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.