What’s Wrong with “Time is Money”?

I’m sure you’ve heard “time is money” many times before, but what does it really mean?

Your Time is Always Worth Money?

The most common association I’ve heard is quite literal. Your time is always worth money. Typically the person saying that will equate their time to the value associated with their paycheck. Say you make $15 an hour then every hour of your day is worth a theoretical $15.

Time is Money - Simpsons

That is a Huge Problem

The problem with that approach is it ignores the reality that time is finite and money is infinite. In other words, it ignores the fact that we need sleep. No, caffeine is not the answer. I’ve tried and you have to crash at some point. Something else often overlooked or ignored is that our brains need breaks too. Those leisurely activities are good too, well within reason, they’re a good thing.

Time is Finite

There is the 10,000 view if you will, eventually you will die and you’re completely out of time. Now the problem with looking at it from that far out is it can get very abstract. For example, there’s the point that if you’re dead you don’t care about money anymore. There’s also the possibility that looking at it that far out could overwhelm you. On the flip side, it could also reduce the perceived importance as a result of being too broad.

Let’s get back on track, and focus on a daily level view. In one day there are 24 hours, so you have a cap on the hours in a day. If something takes 40 hours (high typical U.S. workweek) then it takes more than one day. It takes two or more days.

So to wrap this up, you get at “most” of 24 hours in one day any more than that, then it takes more than one day. Note the quotes around most, the reality is you can’t work nonstop so you don’t have 24 hours.

Money is Infinite

How? Well, money is an artificial construct, err it’s a man-made concept. Since it’s made up then there isn’t a hard limit. Now we do put an arbitrary limit on money for various reasons so it can feel like money isn’t infinite.

Okay on a less philosophical and more practical level.

Scenario 1: you get paid $15 for an hour of work.
In this scenario, you can say your time is worth $15 an hour.

Scenario 2: you get paid $30 for an hour of work.
In this scenario, you can say your time is worth $30 an hour.

Now in both scenarios, time (one hour) stayed the same. BUT the monetary amount (money) changed. I hope, this helps show you how money can be infinite while time is finite.

I also wanted to point out that if you still valued your time at $15/hr, then getting paid $30/hr would effectively be worth 2 hours of your time. So if you get paid $150/hr then you worked a value of 10 hours in one. That is one of the fundamentals behind concepts such as “4-hour workweek.”

Practical Application

Now let’s make this concept more practical, after all, that’s where it matters.

If you can learn a skill or refine a skill to double or triple your potential money it would be a no-brainer. The best part of this is there are so many options for learning. Often informal learning is enough to get started. This opens up the internet as lots of people have put out information, tutorials, and even classes all for free.

If you read my post The Story Behind “It was love at first include” then you know I initially learned about PHP through PHP.net. Now there are lots of options and they’re usually one search away. If you’re a visual learner YouTube is a great option. If you like to learn in a more class structured setting there’s Coursera, Udemy, and edX to name a few.

We Get This Concept even if We Don’t Realize It

You’ve likely even done this without thinking about it. Have you left a workplace for another to do the same job but at higher pay? If you haven’t, I’m sure you know someone who has done it.

Now if you own a business this is also a factor, employee retention or acquisition are in part driven by how you value your employee’s time.

What other examples can you come up with?

Share your thoughts!

Hi I'm Elizabeth!

My passions are learning and helping others. I combine my passions and expertise in Digital Marketing, Web Development, and Project Management to help people solve problems and create awesome projects. I love to share the knowledge I learn. Learn more about me...

Oh and I love tacos.