We all know the phrase ‘Time is Money’.
I like to turn that around to ‘Money was Time’ to challenge my thinking about money and spending.
You probably worked to earn that $20 bill in your pocket, which took some time, maybe an hour, maybe more, maybe less.
That $20 was (your) time.
Let’s expand on that and other ways to challenge our views of money and spending.
One way was to add up what a recurring expense would total in a year.
I.e. that latte you buy each day that only costs $5 actually costs $1820 (over a year).
Another way was to calculate how many hours of work you have to do to pay for it.
I love this quote from Henry David Thoreau “The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.”1
You are exchanging an amount of life for an amount of latte.
If you make $20 an hour, then you are working 1.75 hours per week or, 91 hours in a year to pay for that daily caffeine infusion.
If we had that habit for ten years, we’ve exchanged 910 hours of our life for it.
Now maybe you love your lattes so much, and they contribute so much happiness to your life, that it’s absolutely worth it to you.
That’s totally fine, so long as you consciously recognize how much of your life you are exchange for it.
Whether you keeping buying those lattes or not, it’s worth looking at other things you are ‘exchanging more of your life’ for than you may need to.
Consider other ongoing expenses mentioned in that ‘Recurring Expenses’ post.
Those weekly, monthly or annual expenses for things like our cell phone, cable, internet, car & house insurance, gym membership, bank fees, parking, daily/weekly habits (like the latte), credit card/line of credit interest costs, utilities, etc., etc.
Finding ways to eliminate or reduce any of those expenses can literally save you from wasting hundreds or thousands of hours of your life!
I saw this meme the other day:
Like so many things on the internet I couldn’t figure out where it originated, although the image is from TV sitcom ‘Friends’ episode ‘The One with the Dirty Girl’.
How many things do we have in our homes that we don’t need or use?
How much money, time and energy did we expend to acquire all of it?
Walk around your place and do some quick math adding up the cost of things you don’t use.
It doesn’t need to be exact, just poke your head into a closest, garage or other storage area and just assign approximate dollar amounts to things, with a running tally.
I suspect you will quickly identify things that add up to thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars spent, that equate to many wasted hours of your life.
Now I’m not trying to make you regret how you ‘spent’ your life.
The idea is to start looking at the things you have and are about to spend money on a little differently by thinking about them as time you spent.
The idea that ‘Money was Time’ really started to resonate for me a lot more when I left corporate life, and the regular bi-weekly pay cheque that came with it.
When I became self-employed, a lot of my income came from finding clients to work with and billing them hourly.
This led to a significant mind-shift for me.
If I wanted to buy something, it was that much easier to relate it to the amount of time I would have to work (i.e. the amount of life I exchange for it) to pay for it.
A New TV required me to find and do 8 hours of work.
Buying national brand groceries instead of less expensive store brands cost me an extra half hour of work each week.
Seeing the direct correlation of my time spent working to what I spent my money on was so eye- opening, it really changed how I looked at everything relating to the acquisition and spending of money, as well as my interaction with and ownership of ‘things’.
And this was on top of already having had a lifetime of being budget conscious.
Consider what you spend your money on in relation to how much you make an hour, even if you aren’t paid hourly.
If you earn a $50K salary, working 45 hours a week, quick math shows your hourly wage is $21.37.
Your time spent getting to work should probably go into that calculation, so let’s thrown in that 30-minute commute. That brings it to $19.23/hour.
If you take out any costs that you don’t get back, like gas, car, transit, income tax, etc., you’re actually bringing home even less per hour.
Let’s just say for the sake of argument and easier math that in this scenario, that $50K salary comes out to $15 you are taking home per hour of work.
If we are working that long and hard to make that amount of money, why are we so quick to buy that $5 latte every day and not think twice about it?
Why do we see that recurring $100+ cable bill each month, when all we really watch is Netflix, and NOT think about the ~6.5 hours we had to work that month to pay for it?
This line of thought is part of what lead me down the path towards Minimalism.
I talked a bit about my Minimalism journey back in the ‘Retail Therapy’ post.
While not a full-on Minimalist, my purchasing habits are now very much aligned to the Minimalist view.
What is Minimalism?
According to TheMinimilists.com, “Minimalism is a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important—so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom.”2
Now people may hear the term Minimalist and start to assign all sorts of pre-conceived meanings to it.
It’s people that gave away all their possessions, and now carry the few things they own in backpacks while hitch-hiking across the continent.
Maybe in the odd case, but Minimalism is usually different to each person.
For me, it involved getting rid of a significant amount of my ‘stuff’, which was mainly clutter, and things I just wasn’t using.
It was also about being much more conscious of what I spent my money on and also the ‘things’ I would allow into my space.
If you come over for dinner, you don’t need to bring anything.
If you decide it’s absolutely necessary though, please make sure it’s consumable, like a bottle of wine.
Please don’t bring me a little gift.
Now that I’ve rid my space of clutter, the last thing I want to do is bring any back in even if I didn’t pay for it.
When describing Minimalism, TheMinimilists.com goes on to say “That doesn’t mean there’s anything inherently wrong with owning material possessions. Today’s problem seems to be the meaning we assign to our stuff: we tend to give too much meaning to our things, often forsaking our health, our relationships, our passions, our personal growth, and our desire to contribute beyond ourselves. Want to own a car or a house? Great, have at it! Want to raise a family and have a career? If these things are important to you, then that’s wonderful. Minimalism simply allows you to make these decisions more consciously, more deliberately.”2
There are other lifestyles, ideas and movements that touch on Minimalism and challenge our views of money and spending.
Let’s take the Tiny House movement for instance. According to TheTinyLife.com, the tiny house movement is people “choosing to downsize the space they live in, simplify, and live with less.”3
Choosing to live with less stuff and in smaller space also means smaller mortgages, other debt, living expenses, timer spent cleaning, organizing, etc.
Did you watch that Netflix show that was big in 2019 – ‘Tidying up with Marie Kondo’? Kondo goes into people’s houses to help them declutter, only keeping items that ‘spark joy’ to the owner.
The idea is to get rid of things we don’t really need, reducing clutter, and allowing people to better enjoy their living space.
Reduced Clutter = Reduced stress.
Eliminating or at least reducing the purchase of more clutter, reduces our spending, debt and need to work, which further reduces stress and increases our quality of lives.
Sometimes all it takes are changes in perspective like these to really make us think about why we do the things we do and make the decisions we make.
In my last post ‘Thrifty Saving’, I talked about how we may be hesitant to buy used items, even though we often use second-hand items without thinking twice.
Long-time reader Louisa left a great comment on that post saying “I realized now I would never dream to buy a second-hand plate, yet I have no problem eating at restaurants, though those plates are used by thousands while the plate from the second-hand store might’ve served only one family for a decade. Interesting shift of perspective!”
Yes, that’s exactly it, Louisa!
The more we try to look at our money and spending in different ways, the more we can challenge ourselves to change our habits, and hopefully save some money along the way.
What you do with the money you save by changing your spending habits is up to you.
Put it all into savings and retire early.
Donate it to charity.
Save it up to buy something you really want.
Or go to more concerts, dinners and vacations, which is what I do with the money I save by not spending on un-needed items and not spending more than I need to on the things I do need or want.
I’m exchanging hours of my life for new life experiences which is perfect for me.
Or at least I did all of that prior to Covid-19…
To be clear, I’m really not trying to convince you to only buy second-hand items, become a Minimalist, move into a Tiny Home, or get rid of everything that doesn’t ‘Spark Joy’ in your heart.
I am however trying to convince you to challenge your way of thinking about money, and what you spend it on.
Thinking, talking about, and challenging how we view money, and our spending is a great way to make sure we are all Doing More with Our Money.
And always remember – ‘Money was Time’.
Thanks for reading everyone!
1 ‘Walden, or a Life in the Woods’ by Henry David Thoreau published in 1854 Ticknor and Fields: Boston