Guiding Principles: Time is More Valuable Than Money


In the last blog, I introduced the concept of Guiding Principles – a collection of personal beliefs and values you design to guide your money decisions.  Having written and visible Guiding Principles apprises everyone of the rules of engagement when money decisions become hard, or it’s unclear what to do.

Click here for the Guiding Principles our family lives by.

As you put your list together, target anywhere from 6 to 12 principles.  If you have too many, it’ll be a jumbled mess, and they will no longer be “Principles.” Too few and you’ll face too many situations outside the scope of your principles, thereby minimizing their effectiveness.

The key is to know what your personal beliefs and values are and create Guiding Principles in alignment with them.  This is no time for “follow the herd” thinking. You must craft them with your specific values in mind.

Why Time is More Valuable Than Money

Today we’re focused on one of the keystone guiding principles – time is more valuable than money.

Time is more valuable than money for a simple reason:  you can get more money, but you can’t get more time.

Time is fleeting.

You can’t slow it down.  You can’t make more of it.  You can’t borrow it.  You can’t store it or harness its power later.  You can’t go back in time, and there are no do-overs. It’s the epitome of “use it or lose it.”

Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.

The same can’t be said about money.

You can work harder, longer, smarter.  You can get lucky, marry right, innovate.  You can store money, even harness its power for greater output later.  There are tons of ways to get more money.

But, no matter what you do, you can’t get more time.

On the surface, this may not seem like a significant idea, but when I see so many people spending their money on less important things, it’s an idea worth exploring further.



I’m Sooo Busy, All of the Time

Stop me if you’ve been here before:  you ask someone “how’s it goin’,” and they immediately rant about “how they’re soooo busy” or “how they don’t have enough time to get it all done much less do anything for themself.”  

Ever run into this?  Um, yeah, like all the time!  Heck, you’ve probably caught yourself doing the same thing a time or two.

This isn’t to judge those people (or ourselves).  The reality is we live in a hyperfast, time-strapped world, particularly so if you’re raising a family.  There never seems to be enough time to get everything done.  Some of this is on us and our inability to say no, delegate, or prioritize.  But, it’s also due to people not using their money in the best way.  And using money to buy more time is one of the best ways you can spend your money.

Change How You Think

So, how can we use money to give us more time, and when is it appropriate to do so?

The first step is to change how you evaluate purchases.  Before you buy something, you assess the value of the purchase; you weigh the cost against the benefit. You should also ask yourself if you can “afford” it.

This is how most people evaluate their purchases.  But, for those purchases that save us time, it’s inadequate.  You must also factor in the benefits you get from the “extra” time your money buys you.

An example best explains the concept.

Say you go to the grocery store and buy a “Meal To Go kit.”

If you’re unfamiliar with a “Meal To Go kit,” it’s exactly as it sounds.  The grocery store has prepackaged everything you need to cook a meal all in one convenient place. It’s, literally, grab and go.

Here’s an example of a “Meal To Go kit” from Giant Eagle:




By their description, “our meal kits make cooking deliciously simple, providing handpicked, market-fresh meats and produce with step-by-step instructions.”

Sounds lovely, doesn’t it?

You come across this Meal To Go kit and (unconsciously) go through your cost/benefit analysis:

    • You scan for quality – What are the ingredients?  Is it healthy?  Will it be delish?
    • You scan for price – Is this a good deal?  Is it too expensive?
    • You look for additional benefits such as convenience – It’s a lot less work, you don’t have to think, you can blame Giant Eagle if it sucks

This is the typical pattern we follow.  Scan for quality, scan for price, scan for convenience.  Buy or don’t buy.

But, to truly appreciate the value of time-saving purchases, you need to take it a step further.

You need to ask yourself, “How much time will this save me?” Followed by, “What will I do with this time?” 

You see, you’re not just buying a meal and convenience, you’re also buying time.  If you’re not consciously deciding how you’re going to spend this additional time, there’s a good chance you’ll squander it.

It’s easy to dismiss this as much ado about nothing, but because time is so precious, shouldn’t we be more protective of how we’re spending it?

For example, I often hear people lament about “how much yard work needs to be done this weekend.” What they’re really lamenting is having to spend all weekend doing backbreaking work they don’t enjoy instead of having fun or spending time with the people they love.

When I ask, “why don’t you hire someone to do the work for you,” it’s usually met with a litany of “I ca n’ts” or “it’s not worth it.” Sometimes, it’s met with guilt; they feel they’re being lazy or stupid if they hire someone to do work they could do for themself.  Noble, but misguided.

This “I can’t, it’s not worth it, I can do it myself” way of thinking all have the same fatal flaw – they don’t take into account what they get to do with the extra time.

They think hiring a landscaper is about avoiding backbreaking work and having a pretty yard.  And at $35 an hour, “it’s not worth it.” But, it’s not just about those things. It’s also about giving you more time for the important things in your life. It’s about getting to see two more of your girls’ soccer games.  About going on four more hikes.  About going on two more dates with your spouse or significant other.

How about doing absolutely nothing for a weekend? What’s that worth to you?

It’s okay to let go of the guilt that often comes with making these types of decisions. It’s okay to buy yourself more time so you can spend it with the people you love or on taking care of yourself.

You’re buying you so much more than a pretty yard.

The good news is these time-saving purchases are all around us if we look for them.  We usually dismiss or don’t even notice them, but they’re out there.  You just have to pay attention.

Time is more important than money is a guiding principle, but there are a couple of ground rules to follow.

First, you need to be honest with yourself about how “time poor” you are and not farm out every job just because you don’t like the work, it’s hard, or you’re just being lazy.  If you have more time than money, the impact of this principle is diminished (which is perfectly okay).

Second, you must be able to afford it.  For example, if you’re knee-deep in credit card debt, but have someone cleaning your house, doing your laundry, cooking your meals, and delivering your groceries, you need to re-evaluate your priorities.

You need to find the right balance.

Every purchase – even time – must be measured against the reality of your financial situation.

Bigger Bang for Your Buck

How much bang for your buck you get is directly tied to what you do with the “extra” time.

A good exercise is to ask yourself, “If I had three extra hours per week, what would I do with them?” Don’t get hung up on the details like “weekdays or weekends” or “is that one hour 3x” or “one three hour block.”

Keep it simple.  Think about what you’re missing out in life and how you’d address them if you had more time.

Once you know this, think through which “purchases” offer you the biggest bang for your buck.

To do this, go through the typical cost/benefit analysis but add the components of:

    1. Calculate how much time you’re saving (per week or per month) with the purchase
    2. Determine what you will do with the extra time



Here are some examples of where money can buy you more time. 


      • Automate every bill you have
      • Use bill pay
      • Automate all savings and investments
        • Retirement
        • College
        • Emergency Fund


      • Housekeeping
      • Landscaping
      • Dog walking
      • Laundry
      • Household repairs

Make use of your drive time

      • Audiobooks
      • Podcasts
      • YouTube – listen, don’t watch!

In business

      • Virtual assistant
      • Hire specialists
        • Payroll, bookkeeping
        • Taxes
        • Insurance
        • Investing
      • Marketing, social media

Online shopping for staples, recurring purchases

      • Subscription services for:
      • Coffee, tea
      • Paper towels, napkins, dish soap, dishwasher detergent
      • Laundry detergent, dryer sheets
      • Shampoo, conditioner, hair gel, toilet paper, razors
      • Kleenex, toothpaste

Meals to go

      • Delivered to your door
      • Precooked at the grocery store (heat and serve)
      • Prepped at the grocery store to cook at home
      • Grocery delivery service

As you can see, there are a lot of ways your money can buy you more time if you look for them.  And they stack.  If you incorporate several of these strategies, you can easily find a few hours per week of additional time to be used on the important things in your life.

If you find yourself constantly pressed for time, take a moment to reflect on where it’s going.  Then, determine if you could use your money differently and, without guilt, find more time to spend on the things you love with the people you love.  You may find out it’s the best money you ever spent.