People search for ways to “save money” on Google more than three times as much as they search for ways to “save time.” There’s evidence that applying time-saving strategies to financial management can actually help achieve both goals.
At the core of effective time and money management is an understanding of the relative value of each. In day-to-day life, the constant trade-off between spending time and spending money forces us, consciously or unconsciously, to put a monetary value on the hours in a day. Discrepancies in how we value them are frequently at the root of wastefulness.
Spencer Greenberg, founder of ClearerThinking.org, created a time-and-money calculator to elucidate the inconsistencies. Measuring income and benefits, the calculator boils down one’s total annual compensation to an hourly rate, and uses a set of questions as a proxy to determine what premium you place on your own free time.
In a study of more than 8,000 responses, Mr. Greenberg found that some 80% of people placed a higher value on their free time than their adjusted hourly wage did. And while factoring in the sentimental value of certain time expenditures can be difficult, the broader overvaluation of the time spent on mundane tasks—waiting in lines, doing chores that could be outsourced—can be the difference between wastefulness and frugality.
That return-on-investment calculation for time can be applied more widely to managing your money. Similar to the overvaluation of free time, research suggests that overconfidence can be a source of financial waste. A past New Year’s resolution may have you paying for a yearly gym membership, but the realities of life could mean your only workout is a brisk walk from your desk to the elevator.
Especially as more services move to subscription models, identifying and considering your recurring payments is a good way to begin determining the real cost of your expenses, based on the extent to which you use them.
By applying that same valuation logic from the time-and-money calculator to your spending plan, you can find the actual value you’re placing on the purchases you make. With the advent of several finance apps and new technologies, that exercise is becoming less labor and time-intensive. There are even apps that help organize the often-fragmented organizational efforts of other apps.
Still, once you have confidence in how much your time is worth personally, outside factors in your career can muddle the calculation, making the equation more complex. You may find that your boss wastes your time by rapidly and frequently changing directives even after the behind-the-scenes work has already begun. Or maybe your time is spent trying to drill down nebulous ideas from an executive who didn’t put an action plan in place.