The Problem with Your Budget That's Costing You Hapiness

Dan Kresh |
Photo by Ashraf Ali on Unsplash

You’re doing yourself a disservice if you’re only tracking how you spend your money and ignoring how you spend your time.

They say that “time is money” for a reason. Money is a tool that allows you to do many things, including taking more control over your time. Defining your financial goals can be intimidating and deeply personal but most people want to gain agency over how they spend their time.

No matter how high your income is, there are only 24 hours in a day. Knowing whether your budget is balanced, running at a deficit, or a surplus can be useful, but it’s incomplete. Money can be earned, borrowed, saved, spent, or invested but time can only be saved, spent, or invested.

Are you saving money or wasting time? This simple question is too often overlooked.

Many of the services we spend money on are things that we could theoretically do for ourselves with unlimited time, but we don’t have unlimited time. Instead, we work, we develop specialized skills that allow us to trade some of our time in exchange for money. If we do this right, we can get well compensated for our time which gives us the freedom to use money to delegate the things we don’t have the skills, time, or patience for.

“Controlling your time is the highest dividend money pays.[i]” Morgan Housel

There are tons of things you could do to save money, but have you ever looked at how much time it would cost and how much money it would save and asked yourself if you’re getting good value for the time you spend?

I’ll use a personal example, mowing the lawn.

When my wife and I moved into our house our twins were just a few months old, that first summer there were a lot of adjustments and sleepless nights, and it made perfect sense to pay for our lawn to be mowed. The second summer I bought a mower and did it myself, which worked out fine for a few years. I felt some satisfaction in the work, it was some extra exercise and time outside and I certainly spent less on the mower etc. over those seasons than it would have cost to pay someone else to do it.

However, as my kids got a little older, I realized that the time I spent mowing could be spent with them, and with a swing set etc. to mow around, it was taking more time than it had. So now I’m back to delegating this chore, and the time I don’t have to spend mowing the lawn is worth way more to me than the cost of delegating it. Perhaps when my sons are a little older it will become something we do together and then something I delegate to them, maybe even something I pay them for to teach them about work, time and money. For now, though I am confident that it’s a great use of my money to save time by paying someone else to mow my lawn.

How much is your time worth to you? Do you get joy or satisfaction for doing things yourself, or for saving money? How much would it cost to delegate the things you don’t like? Are there “chores” you really enjoy that some people hate? Could you start a side hustle doing those “chores” for other people?

If you’re willing to be more flexible there are options when it comes to how you spend and optimize your time and how you can earn side income that just did not exist until recently.

It’s true that money can’t buy happiness, but that’s because things aren’t where you find happiness. Happiness comes from gratitude and time spent doing what you want.

I’ll conclude with another quote from Morgan Housel’s book.

“Using your money to buy time and options has a lifestyle benefit few luxury goods can compete with.”


[i] The Psychology of Money: Timeless Lessons on Wealth, Greed, and Happiness by Morgan Housel