I think I try to choose time over money in my life. In fact, I think the value of time was one of my bigger takeaways when we started getting into minimalism, decluttering and paying off debt with ‘gazelle like intenstiy’ as the great Dave Ramsey would say. Suddenly I could equate stuff – the cost of time to maintain, the money and the hours of work that money represented, what the space to store that stuff cost us in mortgage, utilities, insurance – with time. As someone in mid-life with young kids time, the passing of it so quickly as years, the often dragging of it so slowly as hours, the dearth of it for my singular use, is on my mind often.
This piece in the New York Times attempts to answer the question what is worth more: money or time. It starts with a question for a parent of a new baby. Should the parent take the extra weekend of work, increasing their income, or stay home to have more time with their 12 week old baby. What will make them happier? The extra money in the bank or the extra hours with their new baby.
Of course, for many people there is simply no question to answer. They need the money for basic living costs. But this article examines the question for people that do have a choice. And if you’re a minimalist wannabe like me, the answer will affirm your choice to value time over money.
when it is a choice, the likelihood of choosing more time over more money — despite the widespread tendency to do the opposite — is a good sign you’ll enjoy the happiness you seek.
Reading this article made me think of our current lifestyle and from a few angles it looks and feels like we’re seriously undervaluing time. My husband is away from us 2-3 weeks a month. That’s a lot of time to give up. And although it’s not forever, at most we think it will be ten months, it feels pretty long. Why have we given up so much time so willingly?
We’re hoping to give up this time now to gain more in the future. We’ve always hoped that my husband could take a year, or even – dream scenario – be mostly retired, and while the kids were still in school. This venture my husband is working on now might make that possible down the road. Plainly speaking I make considerably less money than him so for this to happen we would have to hit a financial milepost like have our mortgage paid off to make it work. So we’re hoping that sacrificing time in the short term brings us more time later. Also, we know it’s just ten months and if it becomes truly unbearable we can always just move me and the kids over to where my husband is.
Is it the right choice? I can’t say. I think about if something were to happen, like one of us became critically ill, and would I wish we’d done things differently. Then I remember that I can’t predict the future. So right now, this ultra-long distance commute makes sense for us for a number of reasons (some that I don’t share here because they’re not mine to share).
Funny how my answer to this question has changed over the years. I clearly remember talking to a coworker at one of my first post-university jobs and asking him if the was applying for the new manager position. I assumed he would: he was smart and had been there for a few years. When he said no I was shocked. Why? He didn’t want the extra stress and responsibility and hours. He didn’t want to check email at night or have to stay late for meetings. He had a new baby at home and he said his priority was his family. And, he added, his current salary was enough for him. Totally baffling answer to me, at the time a 22 year old, debt riddled singleton but now? Sounds reasonable.
I find the question of choosing time or money endlessly fascinating. There isn’t a wrong answer here. Sometimes prioritizing income over time is the right answer in the short term for many reasons: early retirement, finite work available, paying for large unexpected expenses, trying to make a big purchase like a house without assuming a lot of debt, etc.
Are you someone that has the luxury of deciding to work more, or less, or make career choices based on giving yourself more time rather than more money? Do you actively choose to spend less on big and small things so that you don’t have to work more? Is money more important to you right now than time?