Weighing the Value of Money & Time

One summer, a friend of mine planned a river trip.

The closest public airport was a day and a half’s drive from the river.

So my friend decided to hire a private plane to get his group to the destination in a few hours.

I know this choice sounds extravagant, but it represents a choice we’ve probably all experienced at some point.

My friend had the money, but he didn’t have the time. time clock money

For him, time had become a super valuable commodity, and saving a day and half was worth the price of the private plane.

We make a similar decision, for example, when we spend more to book a faster direct flight or pay for overnight delivery.

At these moments, we’ve made the decision that our time is worth more than our money.

In other situations, money will matter more.

Maybe we’re saving to buy a home or pay down our college debt.

So we take the cheaper flight that takes twice as long or wait two weeks for our package to arrive.

At these moments, we’ve made the decision that our money is worth more than our time.

Every day, we make exchanges between money and time

We exchange time for money in the form of work. We then exchange our money for things that represent time, like bread.

We want toast and sandwiches, but we value our time more than the time needed to bake a loaf.

So we hand over the money and go back to work to exchange our time for more money.

Throughout our lives, the pendulum will swing back and forth.

For instance, I have a friend who stays at the same hotel every time she’s in town.

It’s more expensive than other options, but the location is so convenient that she saves time going back and forth to meetings.

On the flip side, she drives 45 minutes to shop at a cheaper grocery store.

She’s done the math, and even when gas is included, she’s still saving money.

For her, that 45 minutes in the car is worth less than the money she saves on food.

This exchange tends to happen more frequently as we get older.

We still need money, but we often start to value time more.

We care about time spent with family. We care about time spent with friends.

We care about time spent doing the things we love.

So we hand over the money and count ourselves lucky.

We have the money that gives us the time with the people we care about, doing the things we love.

When and how we exchange time for money, or money for time, is incredibly personal

The decision doesn’t fit neatly into some formula.

Instead of assuming there’s a right or a wrong answer, we need to put the exchange in the context of what’s right for us right now.

Some days, money will matter more.

But other days, we’ll consider the money well spent for the time it buys us.

That’s the way it should be.

This column originally appeared at the New York Times.  Carl Richards blogs are also published weekly in Property Update – Subscribe to my daily updates by clicking here to receive them. 


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Carl Richards


Carl Richards is a Certified Financial Planner and a columnist for the New York Times, Morningstar magazine and Yahoo Finance. He is author of 2 books, The Behavior Gap & The One-Page Financial Plan. Carl lives with his family in Park City, Utah. You can find his work and sign up for his newsletter (which has an international audience) at www.behaviorgap.com/

'Weighing the Value of Money & Time' have 1 comment

  1. June 7, 2016 @ 9:40 am Christopher Howes

    To sum it up: “Time waits for no Man…” Remember the “Glory Days” when Time was on your Side….


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