“Like sand through the hour glass, so are the days of our lives”— true words spoken by one of the longest-running soap operas in history. Perhaps the show survived almost five decades because the opening lines to their broadcast speak so much truth.
Time—not money—is our most precious resource.
It may not appear this way to you, simply because it seems that you are money-poor, and time-rich. In this sense, you are more than eager to give up as much time as needed in order to obtain as much money as possible, or even a small sum of money, because time seems endless. If you are young, this seems even moreso to be the case; if you are older, perhaps you feel like you have less time than ever before and are unwilling to give up any of it for the sake of saving money.
Money is dispensable. Everyone needs it to survive; however, there is more than enough to go around. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, as of December 2007 there is currently $829,000,000,000 of US currency in circulation (and now there is even more with the US currently printing new money).
Your life is not dispensable. The average lifespan in the US is just 78 years.
Why am I bringing this up? Because I feel that many people—myself included—often confuse time and money. We feel like there is more time than we possibly know what to do with, or that there will always be a tomorrow, a next year, a new decade. With money, we often feel like there is never enough; it’s a finite resource that we need to constantly compete to pursue more.
So we trade increasing amounts of our time for more money, when perhaps we should be trading our money to free up more of our time.
Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin & Joe Dominguez, explores the concept of trading time for money in great detail. The authors encourage readers to do the following equation (note: this is a rudimentary version; the book goes into much more detail and it turns out that you are trading one hour of life energy for far less than what you think):
Equate your life energy consumption by dividing the amount of time spent earning money by the amount of money earned.
The outcome is the amount of life energy you have consumed for your money-earning activity. For example, if it takes me 40 hours per week to earn $1,000, then my life energy consumption is $1,000/40, or you trade your life energy for $25 per hour.
I have chosen to use this information by computing how much life energy I am consuming each week to obtain deals and save money. Many times it makes sense to use some of your time in order to save money because by saving money now, you will be saving yourself time in the future by having to work less, having to go shopping less, etc. However, it is easy to get caught up in the frugal whirlwind and spend so much of your time chasing after deals, earning a few dollars here or there for “a moment of your time”, that your life is out of balance. You end up selling your time for too little.
So, what is your time worth to you? You know that time is a finite resource, and that your potential to earn money is closer to infinite. As long as you are covering your basic necessities, it truly is up to you how much you want to sell your time for. Jobs easily put a value on our time by giving us a salary or an hourly rate that we can use to compute exactly how much we are selling an hour of our lives for. But what about all of the extra time spent coupon clipping, chasing down deals, comparison shopping, or driving to a different gas station across town to save $0.03 per gallon?
I think I could use a bit more balance in this area. How about you?