When smart people say something profound, it’s worth spending more time to fully understand it

“Time is Money” Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means

And why that’s important in business and in your personal life…

Opher Ganel
Sep 14, 2019 · 6 min read
Photo by Romain Vignes on Unsplash

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” — Mandy Patinkin’s Inigo Montoya in the 1987 romantic comedy The Princess Bride

…Remember that time is money. He that can earn ten shillings a day by his labour, and goes abroad, or sits idle one half of that day, tho’ he spends but sixpence during his diversion or idleness, ought not to reckon that the only expense; he has really spent or rather thrown away five shillings besides…” — Ben Franklin

As most of us understand and use the phrase, it admonishes us to not waste time, since wasted time equals wasted money.

Where “Time Is Money” Breaks Down

If time truly was money, then just like most of us being able to make money doing or selling something, we’d also be able to “make time” in a similar sense (not in the sense of freeing up, rather than truly “making” time to do something).

Unlike money, once spent, time can never be recovered or made up

Implications for Entrepreneurs

This is especially important for entrepreneurs, and most especially ones who still wear all hats in their business. A minute spent doing one thing is a minute that cannot be spent doing anything else. If you think multitasking means you can do more than one thing at a time, see this:

Other Implications — Does Extreme Couponing Make Sense?

Every once in a while, someone is featured on some variety or news show who does “extreme couponing.” On its face, getting hundreds of dollars of groceries for pennies on the dollar sounds impressive, and perhaps arouses a bit of jealousy next time you check out at your grocery store and have to pay $150 for your cart-full of stuff.

Other Implications Part 2 — Does Cooking Meals at Home to Save Money Make Sense?

In a recent piece, Ben Le Fort argues that “no matter what you are cooking it will be significantly less expensive than ordering a meal kit or going to a restaurant.” This is absolutely true, as far as it goes. However, I’d push back and say that comparing the cost of groceries needed to cook a meal at home to the cost of eating out or the cost of buying a prepared meal misses an important aspect — time.

If you consider the value of your time spent driving to the grocery store, looking for the items you need to prepare a meal, standing in the checkout line, driving back home, preparing the meal, and cleaning up afterward, you may be far better off financially if you eat out, or at least order in.

As a caveat to this, home-cooked meals are usually much healthier than restaurant meals which have far more fat, sugar, and salt in them. If you decide to cook your meals for health reasons, I’m all for it. Just don’t think that saving $32 on beef Wellington (per Le Fort) makes financial sense unless your time is worth less than $16/hour (assuming it takes you a couple of hours to shop, prep, and clean up after the meal).

The Bottom Line

“Time is money” doesn’t necessarily mean that you should work as much as possible to avoid leaving money on the table, as Ben Franklin’s essay seems to argue. It also isn’t intended to assert an absolute equivalence between time and money.

When deciding how to spend your time or money, consider both as different sides of the same metaphorical coin. When you think about both aspects at the same time, you will likely make better financial and time-management decisions for your individual circumstances.

Want to Read Another Contrarian Piece?

Here’s data-based proof that buying your next car new could very well save you (a lot of) money (compared to buying used).

Disclaimer

This article is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be considered financial advice. You should consult a financial professional before making any major financial decisions.

About the Author

Opher Ganel has set up several successful small businesses, including a consulting practice supporting NASA and government contractors. His most recent venture is a financial strategy service for independent professionals. You can connect with him there, or by following his Medium publication, Financial Strategy.

Financial Strategy

From financial goals to success — follow us and blaze your individual path

Opher Ganel

Written by

Consultant | physicist | sys eng | writer |financial strategist (opherganel.com) | avid reader | amateur photographer and artist ➜ medium.com/financial-strategy

Financial Strategy

From financial goals to success — follow us and learn how to develop your path

Opher Ganel

Written by

Consultant | physicist | sys eng | writer |financial strategist (opherganel.com) | avid reader | amateur photographer and artist ➜ medium.com/financial-strategy

Financial Strategy

From financial goals to success — follow us and learn how to develop your path

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store