Time and money. The phrases ‘I don’t have time for that’ or ‘I don’t have the money for that’ are probably two of the most common phrases in your vocabulary. Unless of course, you’re a retired billionaire. But most of us aren’t, and we often struggle to find a balance between the two. If you want to make more money you will almost always have to sacrifice some time, and if you feel you need more time, you’ll almost always have to sacrifice some money.
The question is, which is more important? Is money more valuable than time simply because it helps us make our lives easier? Or is time more important than money because we can’t measure the amount of time we have? It would be easy to give a definite answer to this question, but there simply isn’t one. Despite the sentimental articles out there insisting that time is always more important than money, the reality is much more complex. Let’s explore some components of this universal problem.
Money Can Buy Time, But Time Can’t Buy Money
The idiom ‘money can’t buy happiness’ may be true to some extent, but that doesn’t mean money doesn’t have its uses. While that money sitting there in your piggy bank may not do anything to boost your mood, I dare say spending it on a nice trip away would in fact do a great deal to contribute to your overall happiness.
But let’s return to our core idea of money versus time. Money can buy time, but time can’t buy money. What does this mean? Well, if you find yourself incredibly busy and you make good money, you can use this money to save yourself time in order to ensure you can focus on your most enjoyable pursuits. For example, if you work a forty hour week and make a good salary, you can use some of it to hire help for errands and housework. If not enough time is a problem for you but money isn’t, it’s easy to hire a cleaner or someone to help you with your admin.
If you’re someone who has more time on their hands than the average forty hour working person, but you have no money, your situation is arguably more dire than the one above. Your additional hours of free time don’t make you richer, and sitting around musing about your financial problems will make those hours stretch far into the horizon.
Thus, in these two instances, it is a much better thing to have money but not enough time than the other way around. This is by no means the final thought on the matter, though.
However, Money Can’t Buy Precious Times
One of the most pronounced advantages of time in the time vs money dilemma is the fact that it allows us to build memories. Sure, you can hire a cleaner to save you some time doing housework, but there are many times that money simply can’t replace the experience you miss. Got a son or daughter graduating but don’t have enough time to attend? Addressing a check to them or buying them a car is certainly not going to replace the pride you experience watching them walk up to the podium. Moreover, in their minds this memory will always sting of a parent who prioritizes your work, career or income over their achievements.
Thus, it’s clear that in times of great importance, money is no substitute. If there are any milestones coming up in the life of someone you care about, make sure you let them know how much you care by being present at the event. Calling to apologize because you can’t make it shows them that on your priority ladder, they must exist on a very low rung.
So, the issue becomes more complicated. Yes, money can essentially buy time in intricate ways. No, time can’t buy money. However, throwing money at a situation in order to replace your involvement or presence does little but alienate your loved ones. So be careful how you use your money when attempting to use it as a band aid for being a no show.
The Time, Money and Stress Equation
The time, money and stress equation doesn’t require you to be a mathematical genius. If you have lots of time but no money you are going to be stressed. If you have lots of money but simply don’t have enough time in the day, you are going to be stressed. In fact, if you have your hand in a lot of investments and shares and are retired, managing your assets will still provide some unwanted stress. Stress is a fact of life, no matter how much or how little time or money you have. Your best option is to try to find some balance between the two. If you can afford it and your heart is pounding from all the stress of the daily toll, it’s time to reduce your working hours. If you can’t, it’s time to look for a job that pays more. There are always solutions to explore with regards to the time versus money conundrum.
The Non-Correlation of the Time Vs. Money Dilemma
Having little time does not automatically equate to having lots of money, any more than having lots of time automatically means you’re short of cash. It is a fact of life that some people work long hours and make hardly any money, while others work very little yet make hundreds of thousands a year. These realities have always existed, and they always will.
The best thing you can do in life is to manage your own time versus money reality as strategically as you can. Save when you can, take time off when you can, and make an effort to focus on the positive aspects of both. You might be broke, but you get to hang out with your kids a lot, or you might be rich with a nice yacht. Everyone is unique. Our overall contentment does not depend on our handling of time vs money, anyway; it depends on our outlook on the world. So do what you can to improve how you perceive your circumstances, and the other two will inevitably fall into place.
Cambridge graduate. Writer and thinker. Life enthusiast.