February 03, 2005

Time is money?

How often have you heard that? A lot, if you live in NY, I bet. But is it really true? I was kicking the thought around this morning and decided I'd write about it to see if I couldn't come up with a more disciplined result. As one old professor of mine once said, you don't know anything until you write it down.

First, you can save money but you can't save time. Saving money makes sense. Spend less, put more money in the bank or the market, and watch it, hopefully, grow and maybe even compound. Time, on the other hand, you can't save. You can rush around all you want, get stressed about making a deadline or catching an earlier train, all with the over riding goal of being more efficient and saving time. Well, what do you do with the time you save? You can't put it in a bottle (thank you, Mr. Croce), you can't store it up until a more convenient moment. It won't grow like money does in the bank. No, you can't really save time. Consequently, I suppose, you need to live more in the moment. You need to live fully and thoughtfully so that you can extract the maximum amount of value from the time you do have. It is a finite amount, after all, you just don't know how finite.

Second, if time were money, or at least a commodity, you'd have to be able to value it. How much money, I was wondering, would it be worth to me to buy time? Let's say I had a million dollars. How much of that million would I spend to buy an extra hour of life? An extra hour to say goodbye or visit with my loved ones. What is that worth? A lot? A little? Let's complicate things. What if, in making this calculation, you know that your heirs apparent need this money that you will be leaving behind. Does that factor into your calculations about how much your hour is worth to you? Is this too hard? What about buying an extra five minutes? Is that worth less? How do you assign a value to time?

Let's try something easier, something market driven. Travel costs. Travel costs are often a matter of assigning a monetary value to time. Flights at undesirable times often cost less, right? The reason seems clear, to entice you to fly when no one wants to. But what is it worth to you to fly at an inconvenient time? How much are you willing to spend in order to have more time at the office to prepare for a meeting, or to arrive at a more convenient time at your destination so that you are rested for the upcoming event? Hundreds? Maybe. A thousand? Who knows, right? Depends on the circumstances. But what if the timing of the flight may mean the difference between spending time with an aging relative who you may not get to see again. How much is that worth to you when you run your little balance sheet calculations? Can you put a value on the time? Sure. Its the difference in cost between the convenient ticket and the inconvenient ticket. The market set that price difference, but what is it worth to you to pay it?

Beats me. I don't have any answers. Well, maybe I have one answer. Time is precious, even if I can't set a price for it. And good health is beyond price. So, spend some time, time you can't save anyway, tending to your health. Go to the gym, get a physical (you know, the one you've been putting off), and eat smarter. This may turn out to be a big dividend paying investment as the years roll on.

Did this post make any sense to anyone?

Posted by Random Penseur at February 3, 2005 09:54 AM

YES! It makes sense to me. Perhaps mostly because I've been involved with a man for almost 12 years (not living together) who has said for almost this entire time that we would be together "as soon as" he finishes another task involving his business, his personal life, or his home renovations amoung other things. Sadly, I've finally given up trying to show him or explain to him that time is running out (we are both in our 50s). I'm so tempted to send him your blog url, however I think its better to let him figure it out for himself as with a lot of men he doesn't hear it if I say it.

At any rate thank you for a wonderful experience reading your blog!

Posted by: dee at February 3, 2005 11:24 AM

You are so right!! I was having that exact same discussion with my sister a while back. We are both efficiency-freaks, always looking to save those 5 seconds. I was saying the same thing as you, that it's not like you can add up all your five seconds and boom, you have an hour. Is efficiency a virtue?
Very thoughtful, as usual RP.

Posted by: GrammarQueen at February 3, 2005 12:48 PM

You could also look at time according to traffic.
If you rush, and drive fast, you MAY luck out and get through traffic and get to your destination earlier. On the other hand in your rushing you may make a bad or slow decision and end up causing yourself to lose 10x more time cleaning up the mess you've caused plus it costs you money. Gambling with time, life and money.. I guess that's what speeding is.

Anyways, I don't know if that comment actually applied to your post, but. Thanks for the great post RP.

Posted by: Oorgo at February 3, 2005 01:00 PM

Sounds to ME like someone was finshing up his time sheets for January billing. (Heh.)

Remember, no one EVER said on their deathbed "I wish I'd spent more time at the office."

My kids made me mortal when I thought I was not.

Posted by: Margi at February 3, 2005 01:24 PM

A number of years ago I saw a short sci-fi show (I believe it was on PBS) about a post-apocalyptic world in which time literally had become money. Each person started out with a thousand years (or something like that) and "spent" increments of their alloted life-span on things - say 1 hour for a bag of groceries, or something like that. People could also "earn" time. In one subplot, a kid was buying antiques from old folks desparate for a little more time out in the boondocks and then selling them for much larger blocks of time in the Big City. In another one, a woman addicted to the slots literaly gambled her life away. The story had all sorts of problems, but I recall that the premise was quite interesting.

Posted by: Robert the Llama Butcher at February 3, 2005 01:41 PM

One way time is money:
I spend precious hours of my life earning the money to take care of my family. Time I can never have back.
And so when the government takes their cut of the money I earn in its taxation of me, I feel it is the government taking away time I would rather have spent with my family...

Posted by: Nathan at February 3, 2005 05:19 PM

My time is worth $50 a half hour, double that for back door action.

(Yes, I do know that I'm going to hell.)

Posted by: Jim at February 3, 2005 06:04 PM

the very reason i changed my life in the first place.
i was wasting it...and taking it away from myself, and those who love me.
good health can make time worth having.
i won't ever go back.
because as you said...time is precious.

you cherish those little things
the ones that make time worth having
the way the rain looks on the window
the way a child smiles with its whole self

i have had a lot of money...i have had nothing.
i think - i would spend every last dime to have more time with nb (my baby)...
the money never made me happy - but i know the people and memories i have from when i had nothing...

are priceless.

Posted by: standing naked at February 3, 2005 06:37 PM

I hate mowing the lawn. So i pay a guy $30.00/month to come out twice a month and do it. Can I afford to hire others to do my household work for me? Not really. But I just found a guy who will do all of our win dows for $200.00. Weighing what I bill out at, vs. how long it would take me to do this job, I can't beat $200.00. Time is most definitely money, and money most definitely buys time.

Posted by: Mark at February 4, 2005 08:49 AM

Had to break up the word "win dows" as it was deemed questionable content...Hmmm...

Posted by: Mark at February 4, 2005 08:50 AM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?