I was doing my tax last week, and i mentioned daily budgets. My tax preparer said that when she looks at what she's spent on a given day, she can recall exactly what she did that day. I offhandedly remarked that our lives are punctuated by transactions. She laughed and said "that's really sad, isn't it?".
I didn't go into any further detail because 1) i was shocked at how much tax i had to pay, and 2) neither of us had alcoholic beverages in our hands. However, i don't think it's just buying things that punctuates our lives, it's everything. That may seem like an obvious statement, but let me explain...
A while ago, i had a class on a Russian film maker by the name of Tarkovsky. We were talking about the way he uses motion in his shots to give them a rhythm of their own. This led to discussion about what guides our perception of time. I think there are so many ways in which this can influence us, that it's hard to talk in absolutes. For example, if we have a day at work where different tasks are constantly being thrown at us, it can seem to fly by - both at the time, and in hindsight. On the other hand, if we have a day off work and sit around all day, that time can also seem to fly past. However, if we're anticipating an event, that is when time can seem to drag on forever.
So basically, our perception of time is punctuated by things happening. Anything at all. This seems to apply over the long term as well. Many people say that, as you get older, the years go by faster. I think this is because you stop doing new things. When i was 22, i worked at a supermarket and drank a lot. A couple of years went by just like that. I spent another couple of years after that doing a Masters degree. This also involved a lot of drinking but, because i was learning new things, those 2 years seem so long in my memory.
The conclusion i get from this is that we need to keep doing new things if we want to feel like we've had long lives. The day in/day out stuff doesn't count is hard to avoid, but it's important to mix things up whenever you can.
And if it's the spending of money that helps you measure your time, it's better than nothing.