The time vs money debate is a hot one, mostly because many people are money-poor and time rich. But let me show you why your time is actually more precious than money.
“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!
You might feel like money runs through your fingers, like sand through the hour glass…but you can get more money.
What can you not get more of?
The truth is: you have more money than you will ever have time. Even if you feel poor at the moment (or most moments).
Let’s talk about why, and how you can re-prioritize using this information so that you can maximize the time you have left in your own hour glass.
Which is More Important Money or Time?
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.
If that describes you, then you might be more 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 you’ve got an immediate need to feed the family and pay for dance lessons.
If you’re young, this seems even more so to be the case, because time seems endless.
But as you age, you’ll start to feel like you have less time than ever before, and you’ll be less willing to give up any of it for the sake of saving money.
Why is Time More Valuable than 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 78.7 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.
Time Vs Money Calculator
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):
Here’s their time vs money calculator: equate your life energy consumption by dividing the amount of time spent earning money by the amount of money earned.
Amount of Time Spent Earning Money/Amount of Money Earned = Life Energy Consumption
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’s 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.
Let me give you an actual example in my own life.
I Will No Longer Sell My Time for $4.86/Hour
Imagine walking into an interview for that next big position you are hoping for. You are dressed for the occasion—some dockers, a nice blouse, perhaps a business suit that you spent a few dollars on at the dry cleaners after lugging it out from the recesses of your closet—and your resume is simply radiant from the hours of work you have put into it over the last few weeks.
So far everything is going well; the interviewer has asked you an assortment of slightly uncomfortable, but appropriate, questions, and you feel satisfied with the answers you have given. Now comes the part that matters the most, and quite frankly makes your palms a little sweaty. The company is prepared to offer you a job. As you sit there in anticipation, figures are jumping through your head, and you wonder whether or not you will finally be able to afford that new car, that sneaker purchase you have been putting off until you found employment, paying back your student loans, buying a house, etc. The offer comes in: $4.86 per hour. Hold the phone.
I would never accept a job that offered me such a low-ball figure, even if it was to flip burgers (which I am not above doing, but as of July 24, 2009 even people working in McDonald’s now earn a minimum wage of $7.25 per hour). I assume that many of you would not either.
But what about if you were working for this kind of pay without knowing it? Case in point: my one year spent on SendEarnings.com. This is a website where you earn money for reading emails. You sign up for an account that is automatically credited with $5 to begin with. Once you reach the point of $30.00, you can fill out a little online form to claim your check. Sounds good, right? I all ready read many worthless emails everyday by accident, so why not get paid for it?
Well, it turns out that you only make $0.02 per email. This means you would have to read 1500 emails before getting your paycheck. It took me from around August 2008 through July 2009 to reach this point. True, I could have quit halfway through the year when I realized what a waste of time this was, but by then I was up to $17 or so, and was so close to that $30 nugget that I couldn’t quit and lose all of the time I had already invested into this.
Here’s how it worked out for me (notice that I only had to read 1000 emails; this is because during my membership I received an email for a product that I had wanted to buy already, regardless of the advertisement, so I earned $10 through SendEarnings by doing this):
1,000: Number of emails I had to read
20,000: Number of seconds spent reading emails
333.3333: Number of minutes spent reading emails
5.5555: Number of hours spent reading emails
$4.860049: Pay per hour
Not only did it take almost an entire year, and 5 hours of my life to do this, but the check will not be issued until September 1, 2009, and if my account goes dormant between now and then (which is to say, I stop reading future emails over the next month and a half), then they will not issue the check at all. I feel like I am being held ransom…
My point in writing this is that sometimes something looks like a good deal (who wouldn’t want a free $30.00?), but if you do the calculations and figure out the time investment you will be putting into it, it really is not. The older I get, the more I value my time, and I am quite sure that I am worth more than $4.86 per hour.
How to Get More Bang for Your Buck
When I was 17, I turned a plastic pretzel container into a change jar.
Every week I would empty my pockets of the pennies, nickels, and occasional quarters that passed through my hands (and the ones I found on the ground, inside sofas, and while doing laundry). Even at that young age I knew I needed a purpose for this change to keep myself motivated, and so I designated the lump sum to go towards my prom gown.
Come May of that year, I emptied my change jar into one of the new Coinstar machines at the local grocery store; lo and behold, I had $75.40 to show for my eight months of patience!
I bought a beautiful magenta-colored, sateen gown, and had enough money left over to buy a set of elegant, elbow-length gloves. I remember getting such a kick out of the fact that I had the gown that I wanted, and I didn’t have to figure out where I was going to get the money from.
My patience, self-martyr, or whatever you would like to call it, has continued through to this day. By saving micro amounts of money, like 50¢ on movie tickets, $5.00 at the grocery store, and $10.00 off of oil changes, I have filled my savings account with enough quarters to make a small hill. Success has been slow, but satisfying.
Then the other day something happened to make me rethink my tortoise-like strategy, and instead focus my attention more on how people should get the most bang for your buck.
My boyfriend and I were looking to purchase our first matching set of sofas for our living room; up until now, we have been using leftovers from someone else’s bachelor pad.
While the hunter-green love seat and stained-brown Laz-Y-Boy have certainly served their purpose, we were quite happy at the idea of stepping up to more adult-like furniture (and furniture that did not cause back and knee pain). Besides, we could not have any guests over because we would have to sit on the floor, or sit with them at a too-close-for-comfort distance on the love seat.
We did our research and heard this horrible rumor that people pay upwards of $1,000 for living room sets (yikes!). Determined to not fall into this same trap (or because of lack of money), we asked around and found that a friend of our friend was selling their set of furniture. The sale was an easy one; after only $400 passing hands, we brought home a beautiful, very adult-like, set of matching sofas less than a year old. Total savings? $1,000.
I have definitely saved thousands of dollars with my methods over the years. Last year from shopping at CVS and Walgreens alone I easily saved $1,000.
But that easy savings entailed weekly trips over the course of a year and hours of pouring over coupons and sales flyers.
Compared to the $1,000 I saved in one transaction, it now seems like a lot of hard work and forfeited time.
Granted, I don’t make big purchases often. But what if every time I do make a big purchase (like that new car I will need in the next year or so), I make sure to save a few thousand dollars? Saving the few thousand dollars that way could easily offset the few thousand dollars I save on groceries and personal necessities, but with a lot less effort. Or maybe it will take a lot of effort, but only for a short amount of time.
Both approaches will get me my mountain of savings, and I suppose using a strategy of a combination of these methods could yield an even greater lump of cash. But looking at these scenarios again, it appears that the bottom line may be this: do I value my time, or my money, more?
Money Vs Time with Family – More Money or More Time with Family
I’m a firm believer in Brian Moran’s philosophy on what true work-life balance means.
Not familiar with Brian Moran’s work?
He wrote the amazing book, 12 Week Year, which has changed the way I (and thousands of others) work on our goals + live our lives.
His concept is called Intentional Imbalance, and it’s basically this:
“Balance isn't equal time spent in all of the areas of your life. There isn't an absolute scale of balance that exists. The reality is that life is imbalanced. The key is to create intentional imbalance. There are seasons when you may spend much of your time with your family; there are other times when most of your time is dedicated to work. The key is intention.”
Sometimes in our lives, we need to spend more time in one area than another. This can include work so that you can eventually make more money in the form of a new position, raise, merit bonus, or some passive income.
During these times, you need to be intentional – you are sacrificing hours with your family for a short period of time, and the reason is that there will be greater gain for everyone.
Not only that, but you should set a deadline to it so that it doesn’t become a way of life.
Then, when that goal or period of time is met, you can rebalance with intentionality, to the important areas of your life – such as spending more engaged time with your family.
So, how much is your time worth?
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?