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Time is not money: money is time, stored.

Time is not money: money is time, stored.

With so many people falling into the groupthink mentality that the economy is bad, I thought it would be wise to try to reset that mindset by refusing to accept that any large values calculated from millions of people are relevant at all to the individual.

Is Time Money?

The old adage is that “time is money” — this is incorrect thinking, and part of the problem when you look closer at the economics that matter to you alone. Time is, more than anything else, the most precious resource we have available to us. It’s also very similar to other natural resources like gold or oil or foodstuffs: we have the option to acquire them, use them, or store them for later use. Time can also be stored and used at a later date, but it’s a little more complicated than socking it away in the freezer or putting it in a vault.

What is Money?

Why do we use money, try to earn more of it, and spend it? At its most basic definition, money is a store of time. Our bosses or customers hire us to save them time; we hire others to save us time. Could I go and raise a cow, feed it a healthy all-grass diet, slaughter it, butcher it and store it for future consumption? Absolutely, but it would take me a lot of time to do it myself. Instead, I save time by paying someone else who does cattle husbandry more efficiently than I can: they do it in less time.

How do I pay for someone to save me time? Usually by using money I have saved. How do I earn that money? By saving someone else time over doing something I am more efficient at doing. Your boss (or preferably, customer) pays you money because you can do something faster or better or more efficiently than they can. Maybe you work for a company that sells baseball bats, and your job is to put them in a box on a factory chain. Your boss could likely do that himself, but he’s better at doing what he does best, so he takes his own saved time (money) and gives it to you. His stored value of time is then used in redemption, it’s an act of him saving time.

Everything we redeem money for is, in essence, us taking that stored time from the past and redeeming it to save time today.

Because most people don’t look at money from this perspective, they come to misunderstand why it is that they’re so busy today but don’t have a lot of money to show for it. The reality is, they’re being inefficient in saving time (money) to redeem it for a better day. When they spend $10 at the bar, they’re taking time they’ve saved (as money), and giving it to a bartender or bar owner to save them time immediately. Instead of going to the store (say, 30 minutes), and buying a beer (say, $3 a bottle), they’re paying an extra $7 in exchange for saving them 30 minutes of time.

Money and Your Personal Economy

How does this relate to the overall economy, as well as the individual’s economy? Too often, we focus on “how much money can we save?” Coupons, groupons, sales, close-outs: these are the most basic ways the average person considers in how they can save money. But what about changing the entire idea of money to a store of time we saved the person paying us? Once you flip the definition upside down, you discover that saving money is merely about keeping more of our stored time to redeem in the future.

Once we look at money as stored time, we can then move forward with a better solution for how to cure any ills within our own individual economy. Instead of trying to find ways to keep more of our stored time in our bank accounts, we can now work at how we can save other people more of their own time, so that they pay us in more stored time for us to redeem in the future. It’s not about how much stored time we spend, necessarily — it’s about how we can increase that stored time (money) each and every day.

What are you doing when you redeem your time (money) for a good or service? How much actual time does it take to redeem that time for that good or service? If you’re going to a store to purchase a pair of jeans, be they on sale or at full price, thrift store or new, how much time are you losing in that purchase? Could you be using that time of yours, instead, to save someone else time, in exchange for money?

The Best use of your Time/Money

When you browse the circulars looking for coupons to save money (time stored), would that time be better used in working for someone else? In everything we do, every day, we’re giving up the time we have right now for whatever action we chose to do. We can work for someone else (taking our time and performing an action, gaining another person’s stored time in compensation), we can entertain ourselves, or we can hire someone else to perform an action and redeem our own stored time from past work. If you find yourself “broke”, can it be because you’re actually not utilizing that free time in the most efficient means possible?

8 hours at a bar on Friday night is 8 hours of valuable time you’re using up. Would you prefer to sleep? Would it make more sense to provide a good or service to someone else for more money? Maybe it would make more sense to work in that bar, versus throwing that time again in exchange for “entertainment.” Putting a value on any action is what’s most important: if you’re not getting enough sleep, your answer to “should I go out and party?” might be no. It might make more sense to get settled on good sleep habits, which is a better way for you to spend your current time. If you feel you’re impoverished, how about spending a night or two a week as a barback or bouncer or waitress, thereby using your time wisely to store more time for when you can actually redeem it for something you want or need but can’t do efficiently.

It’s not that complicated

It sounds more complicated than it is — most people ignore that money is just stored time to be redeemed later. The wealthiest in the world already know this, either inherently or through learning and experiences. They happily redeem some of their stored time so others to do things more efficiently than they can. They don’t waste time doing things that aren’t the top priority for their valuable time’s efficiency. They understand what services they can provide to others that allow them to gain more stored time from others.

Spend a month and look at how you utilize your time. Do you sleep enough? If you’re not getting 7-8 hours of sleep every night, that should be a priority. Bad sleep habits make you less efficient when you’re awake. Are you redeeming your previously stored time for things that you can do more efficiently than the person you’re paying? Mowing the lawn, buying a beer or a burger, getting your clothes washed: these are all areas where you may very well be spending money (stored time) on a service that you can actually do better and more efficiently yourself.

Maximize your effiency

By maximizing your spending on only things that others do much better than you, you can actually watch your own personal economy switch from poverty to wealth in a matter for days or weeks. When you monitor how you spend your own time, look at everything: does watching TV for 4 hours a night constitute an efficient use of those 4 hours? Does drinking at a bar for 16 hours a week maximize the use of your valuable time? Does going shopping for jeans, even if they are on sale, save you more time than the coupon or sale offers you?

Get a grasp on how you spend your time, and how you earn your stored time, and how you redeem that stored time, and you can quickly discover the areas in your life where you’re the least efficient, and how you can increase that efficiency to change your own economy.

Related posts to peruse:

  1. The U.S. Misery Index: Ignorant Data
  2. Giving up on instant delayed messaging
About A.B. Dada

A.B. Dada resides in Chicago, Illinois and manages a multitude of businesses involved across a wide range of industries.


  1. MK says:

    I agree with your perspective on this except one thing. Your example about giving money at a bar is usually more about the experience provided vs. the time savings (30 min of time). Going out vs. drinking alone has a much different experience associated with it. So your really trading it for the experience vs. time savings of drinking at home.

  2. thesecond says:

    A facebook posting I saw comes to mind. The son posts about the economic advantages of buying his own beer. Something like, 10 dollars for a night at the bar, or 10 dollars for a week of drinking alone. His mom then posted “Drinking in our basement won’t get me grandchildren.” People go to the bar to spend their time getting sexual favours.

    • A.B. Dada says:

      Absolutely — you pay extra for the beer for the ability to congregate with others. I don’t disparage that. But how often is it necessary to keep doing that? To each their own, but I think some people overdo it and then the built-in sense of entitlement makes them refuse to accept the blame for what happens in their lives when they can’t break free from the party mentality.

  3. Jason says:

    Economists would condense your entire essay into one term: “opportunity costs”.


  1. [...] And then there’s the old saying: Time is money. In fact, it can be debated that we really do trade with time in this day and age, but let’s not get into philosophy for now. When we mention losing or gaining time, we speak [...]

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