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Money Used to Buy Me Stuff. Now It Buys Time.

You’ve heard it before. “Time is Money.” The phrase appeared a few years back in Benjamin Franklin’s Advice to a Young Tradesman, Written by on Old One. That’s probably not the first time the phrase was uttered, and it certainly wasn’t the last.

The concept is simple. Wasting time wastes money. If you can accomplish or produce twice as much in the same amount of time, you can double your earnings. If it takes you twice as long as it takes the next guy to accomplish or produce a thing, you’re not going to make as much money.


Reworking the Equation


If time = money, it would seem that the reciprocal should also be true, that money = time.

I never looked at it that way until recently, though. For me, the equation was always money = stuff. Stuff I could buy! Stuff I needed, stuff I wanted, and stuff that looked cool.

When I finished residency at age 30, I had been more or less living paycheck to paycheck. I had even taken out a loan for a little extra spending money when the moonlighting opportunity I was counting on vanished. Immediately upon graduating, I worked a one-week locum tenens job and was able to pay that loan off with a week’s pay.

Hail, locums! I was able to pay for a couple years of extra stuff in just 7 days. The equation was upgraded to 2.0work = money = stuff.

In fairness to the younger me, I had a lot of stuff to buy back then. I also spent money on things like experiences, which is generally thought to give us more lasting happiness than stuff.

But back to the stuff. I worked enough to buy a plot of land on the water, then built a 4,000 square foot home to house my family and all the stuff you need to fill all three floors you get when you build a 4,000 square foot house.


I sometimes miss that view.


Babies came along. More stuff. We bought a boat. Needed boating stuff. Went to an auction and came home with a cabin. The cabin needed cabin stuff.

Throughout most of those years, I was on call every third night with no post-call day off. I worked every third weekend, but picked up extra weekends that nobody else was willing to work. I wanted the work, because work = money = stuff and I had a voracious appetite for stuff!

Eventually, we ended up moving all our stuff to another home and then another home. Packing and unpacking is never fun, but it’s even less fun when you have too much stuff.


Enough with the Stuff!


I could easily take this post in the direction of promoting minimalism, but I’m too much of a maximalist to be taken seriously. I’ll admit to being a bit jealous of this guy, who unloaded a boatload of belongings in one fell swoop. I don’t know if I could rip off the Band-Aid so quickly, but we do keep a dedicated donation box or two in our bedroom and it fills up quickly. #taxdeduction

The direction I am going should be obvious from the title and introductory paragraphs. I have little need for more stuff. Occasionally something needs to be replaced, but I generally have much more stuff than I need, which makes holiday gift requests challenging. The boys sometimes need stuff, and they get more than they need. Enough with the stuff.

What I appreciate now more than stuff is… you guessed it, Time!

  • Time with family
  • Time to exercise
  • Time to travel
  • Time to read
  • Time to brew beer
  • Time to keep up with my website
  • Time to switch the laundry, be right back*

How can money buy time? The main mechanism is by accelerating the time to an early retirement, which will free up an incredible amount of time. Once my stated monetary goals have been reached, I can be free of my day / night job if I so choose.


Money Can Buy Time


How else can money = time?

  • Hire a babysitter and spend alone time with your loved one.
  • Hire someone to maintain your lawn (I kind of enjoy it, but I’ll hire my boys when they’re old enough).
  • Hire all sorts of tasks, like house painting, cleaning… you name it.
  • Buy healthier food to eat and live a longer, healthier life.
  • Fly rather than drive.
  • Pay for TSA Pre-check to avoid the long security lines.
  • Buy a newer, faster computer and spend less time waiting and rebooting.
  • Take a taxi / Uber instead of public transportation.


Some of these suggestions go against my frugal nature, but if I truly value time, money can be traded to free up time, as long as good health remains with me.

Once upon a time, additional dollars were earmarked for one particular want or need. That’s no longer the case.  I’ve got the things I need, and more than I want. Every dollar that gets thrown into the kitty buys me time.

And time is a wonderful thing.


*a test to see if my wife actually reads my posts. When she looks up from her laptop and says “Yeah, like you actually do laundry!” then I’ll know. [Update: She did. And laughed. Mission accomplished.]



What do you value more, money or time? Do you have enough of both? Or neither? Please share your thoughts below.

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19 thoughts on “Money Used to Buy Me Stuff. Now It Buys Time.”

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  11. I think this has truly been the biggest realization for me in my FIRE journey. I’m not saving/investing/reducing because I like white space (I do, but that’s not my motivation). I am on this journey because I want my time back. I don’t mind having a professional career, but I think it would be a much more enjoyable career if I were doing it only because I wanted to and not because I had to.

    Time is the most indulgent expense in our overpacked lives. I crave it more and more.

  12. Definitely time. I love learning new things and being outside, so I’d rather have time to garden and take care of our yard than pay someone to do it. I also like finding solutions on Google or YouTube when something around the house breaks. With free time, there’s no mad rush to get it fixed before another massive string of shifts.

  13. time is indeed much more valuable than money. even though i still have 7 years before FIRE at age 38, I value my time WAYYYY More than stuff 🙂 i hope we all realize what you are saying today & cherish our time with our loved ones rather than working like a dog for stuff.

    • You’re on track to hit FI a year before we did. My guess is it will happen even sooner. Once you have your eyes on the prize, you start to make a lot of really good decisions.

      I’m still in the accumulation phase in terms of wealth, but in a decumulation (not a word) phase in terms of the stuff we have. The Salvation Army and Habitat Restore have been on the receiving end of a lot of it lately.

  14. Comments like these make me eager to write more. I do this to enlighten, entertain, educate, and perhaps inspire. It’s good to know that someone who loves their work finds value in these posts. I do wonder if putting the idea of early retirement at the forefront might turn off others like you who have no interest in the notion. Financial Independence is a great goal, regardless of your career intentions. Best of luck on your goal of FI @ 45!


    • Thanks for reply POF… I don’t know if it turns people off… I think putting the idea of retirement front and center is intriguing enough that people like me (who don’t want to retire but want to be FI and be able to practice the way we want) would still “visit” and gain value from what you write… In fact I loved the idea of relative frugality and not swearing the small stuff… Have a McMansion but will be putting it up on the market this spring and renting for a while till we can figure out a more reasonable housing option. This alone will help us get to FI by 45 almost certainly! Thanks for the inspiration and the effort to write some great articles… I am always excited to read new one that you post!

  15. I have read everyone of your blog articles and must say that I truly enjoy doing so… Am a physician myself and have a new goal! FI by 45… Love my work and will never “retire” but the sooner I get to be FI the sooner I am unburdened by these awful administrators and 3rd party payers that are ruining the spirit of medicine! Keep up the good work and the great blog!

  16. Haha! I like the donation box idea. I keep a perpetual box in the closet so I can just toss clothes in there that no longer bring joy.

    A curious thing is the time/money/stuff equation gets weird at higher rates of income like physician, etc. It is a trap in a way:

    “hey this only costs me 4 minutes of work…how could I NOT purchase it?”

    Still trying to figure out a good way to deal with this. Bottom line though, any way we can increase our awareness usually leads to better decisions!

    • Good to hear from the guy who was able to unload those boatloads of stuff!

      I’m pretty sure I rationalized many purchases with that line of thinking, particularly when I was literally paid by the minute (in 15 minute intervals) as a locum doc. These days, I get a bigger rise out of seeing my portfolio inch closer to my chosen goals than I would from buying some stuff.


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