"Say what you have to say, and not what you ought."
~ Henry David Thoreau

Monday, March 31, 2014

Time or Money?

 Today I read this post on a financial blog I follow called Get Rich Slowly. It talks about work/life balance and the trade-offs of working long hours to make a larger salary. I've spent an awful lot of time thinking about this lately wondering how much money I really need to be content with my life and what I have. Which do I value more - time or money?

That's an easy one for me to answer. I'll take time over money. Of course we all need a certain amount of money to live, and not having enough definitely sucks! But I refuse to be a slave to making money. My mantra has always been "You have to work, to eat, to live." But I definitely don't live to work. My work is a means to an end, which is living my life. I agree with the author that money is just a tool to get us the things we want in life. The trick, or really the challenge, because I think it is a challenge for most people, is learning how to effectively use the tool. 

I've always been pretty good at managing my money and spending conservatively, but last year I was starting to feel pretty stressed about money. I make a decent income, but I will definitely never get rich working where I am and I've always had to carefully budget my money. I'm pretty proud of the fact that I've been able to support myself and my daughter for the last 11 years, including buying a house, with just my salary. We've even been able to go on vacations and enjoy plenty of other fun, frivolous things. But somehow over the last several years I had started to be less vigilant about making and sticking to a budget. Sure, I had one. Sort of. In my head. 

I knew what I had to do and knew how to do it. I needed to put a budget on paper and I needed to follow it. Easy, right? I'm embarrassed to admit how many years it had been since I had an actual, real, tangible written budget. I work at a credit union! We preach budgets. I oversee finding staff to provide or assist with financial literacy training related activities in schools. I have pages about budgeting and debt reduction bookmarked on my computer at work! I know exactly how it's done. And yet, I wasn't doing it, at least not 100%.

I spent most of 2013 half-heartedly creating and tracking my spending on budgets I made in Excel. It never lasted more than a month at a time. I knew I needed a different system. According to my spreadsheets everything should be fine, but I was still feeling pretty stretched most months. So I looked around for a system that would work. After hours of looking at different methods and systems I decided to commit to Dave Ramsey's money management techniques. What he teaches makes so much sense to me. He's all about being debt free. His plan is simple, but that doesn't mean it's easy. 

I created a new budget, and I also created a spending plan so I know exactly what I'm paying out of each paycheck. The thing that helps me the most is using cash with specific amounts for different spending categories in designated envelopes. When it's gone, it's gone. No cheating allowed. If I spend all my grocery cash from one paycheck and need more groceries I can't take cash out of another budget envelope to pay for groceries. Being aware, and knowing I have to pay with the cash I have in my envelope vs. paying with a debit card has made me a committed menu planner and frugal grocery shopper. Spending with cold, hard cash instead of using a card makes a huge psychological difference. It's much harder to spend real money!

The plan is working so far. I've paid off some debts much sooner than I ever thought I would by being very disciplined and focused about my spending. Sometimes it's tedious keeping track of everything in such a detailed way. Occasionally I'm really tempted to take money out of my grocery envelope to pay for a latte when my latte allowance envelope is empty. So far I've only fallen off the wagon once, taking liquor store envelope cash and using it for a chai latte. Liquor. Coffee. Same difference.They're both unnecessary vices, right? At least that's how I justified it to myself. 

I keep reminding myself my short-term sacrifices will be worth it in the long term. Money isn't what I live for. I want my money to work for me so I can enjoy life doing what I want, like traveling more and spending leisure time with the people I love.

What's more important to you? Time or money? Why?


  1. I have a lot of time. I could use some more money. ;)

    Proud of you. Very proud of you. Keep at it.

  2. Time, of course, Keicha. You can't use money if you don't have time to spend it. I use my debit card all the time, and it's a really useful tool to be able to go into my bank records and see where my money goes. I also get a certain amount of cash out every week and use it for my latte and movie excursions. My needs are few, so there's enough to go around, but I'm getting ready to go on a trip and I'll be using my credit card. It will take me six months to get it paid off, but I will. I like not having a balance! :-)

  3. I'm comfortable. Enough to share, too. Right now, I'm sort of fine with both -- retirement gave me the gift of time; good saving gave me the gift of financial security. But if I could add time to the end of my life -- more days to enjoy it, well that would be divine!


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