Time is Money – The Truth Behind The Saying and How To Embrace The True Value of Time

Time is money. At least that’s what your dad said when he refused to throw the ball around with you and what your boss said when you showed up a few seconds late to your shift.

The colloquialism time is money gets thrown around a lot. It’s pervasive in language, with people using it as an excuse or platitude but rarely diving deep into what it means and how to use it to your advantage.

Where Did the Saying “Time is Money” Come from?

Like many American Colloquiums, Time is Money originates with one of our country’s favorite founders, Benjamin Franklin.

The saying comes from Franklin’s Advice To a Young Tradesman, Written by An Old One, dating to 1748, and persevered online by Founders Online National Archives.

Franklin wrote:

Remember that Time is Money. He that can earn Ten Shillings a Day by his Labour, and goes abroad, or sits idle one half of that Day, tho’ he spends but Sixpence during his Diversion or Idleness, ought not to reckon That the only Expence; he has really spent or rather thrown away Five Shillings besides.

Time is Money – Meaning

We must extrapolate Franklin’s words into modern English to understand the true meaning behind the phrase.

Time is money, meaning there’s an opportunity cost to sitting around doing nothing, which adds up to real dollars.

When we say time is money, we mean people have a choice. They can work, exchange their labor for money, or laze about. The time they spend doing nothing costs them money because that’s time they could have spent working or earning money.

But it’s not just about money earned. It’s also about money spent.

When you’re working, you don’t have the opportunity to spend money. However, when you’re not working, you have tons of free time, which we often fill with needless spending. So that time spent not working limits your income but generally increases your spending, costing you even more.

Hustle Culture Promotes Surface Idea of Time as Money

Our modern hustle culture embraces the historical definition that time is money, so you must spend all your free time working to succeed.

Adherents of this idea dedicate every free minute to earning extra cash, using websites like Fiver and Upwork to freelance in their spare time, driving for Lyft and Uber to earn a few extra bucks, and even taking surveys on their phone in their precious free time to make spare change.

Although side hustles are fantastic opportunities for earning extra income, do not take the idea of time as money so seriously. These folks get a lot of things wrong about the saying.

A Modern Twist on Time is Money

Today’s world differs significantly from Franklin’s time, but Time is Money still rings true.

Most modern workers don’t have access to paid time off, so they won’t get paid if they choose to skip work for a day. Many people take this to mean that Franklin’s idea of working over leisure holds – that time is money because wasted time means you won’t make money.

However, the truth of the saying isn’t about work; it’s about opportunity cost. Time is our most valuable resource. Time is money only in the way that time is a currency, and the reality is it’s more valuable than all the riches in the world.

You may not make any money if you call off work today to see your daughter’s high school play. But you can always earn more money later. You can’t go back in time to see your daughter’s play later – once it’s over, it’s over, and nothing can replace that lost time.

Time is money because of its immense value, not because you trade your time for dollars.

Using the Idea of Time as Money To Your Advantage

Understanding the true meaning that time is money because time is the most valuable currency allows us to examine our lives and make adjustments to focus on the things that matter.

Despite what Franklin says, that means maximizing our free time and enjoying ourselves while limiting our time spent toiling in labor.

Here are the best ways to do that.

Define Your Priorities

Understanding what you want from life is a crucial first step to spending your time wisely. Take a moment to consider your ultimate life goals, discover your passions, and identify the things that matter most to you.

When you dig deep, you’ll realize that money isn’t everything. Unfortunately, money provides us the financial security to pursue our passions and support everything else in our lives, so striking a balance between working and spending time on what’s important is vital.

Improve Efficiency

The best way to balance your time spent earning money and your time spent in pursuit of life goals is to maximize your efficiencies.

Put your work on autopilot. Use technology to make things easier. Find ways to maximize your outputs while minimizing your inputs.

The more efficient you become, the more free time you’ll have in pursuit of your goals.

Embrace Time Management

Sometimes, we get so wrapped up in work that we lose track of time. This hyperfocus on making money prevents us from doing what we want.

Develop time management techniques that help you let go. Set timers, block out time for yourself, and embrace work-life balance.

Avoid Needless Spending

Franklin’s main point in his writing about time and money remains true today. When we aren’t working, we often look to other ways to fill our time. We go shopping and spend our hard-earned dollars on things we don’t need or go to bars with friends.

The best way to use the time is money quote to your advantage is to recognize when you’re spending money simply to fill time. Limit your spending to necessities and things that bring you joy.

Find ways to spend time on your priorities that don’t cost money. 

For example, nurturing our friendships is extremely valuable, but do you need to spend $200 at the bar? Could you go out and enjoy the company while opting for water instead of an expensive drink? Perhaps you could invite the gang to your place for a cheaper potluck or movie night.

Examine your spending to determine if it aligns with your goals and if it doesn’t stop the spending.

Use Available Resources

Time is money works for financial systems and your personal life. Your most valuable tool for increasing wealth isn’t labor; it’s time.

The earlier you start investing, the more your money can work for you—the secret lies in compound interest, which is the interest you earn on your interest.

Imagine you invest $100 at a rate of 2% compounded annually. After the first year, you’ll have $102. But after the second year, you won’t have $104; you’ll have $104.02 due to compounding interest. 

You’re not just earning interest off your initial investment; you’re also making interest off the accumulated interest.

 If you leave that money in the bank for ten years, you’ll make an extra $22.12, but if you leave the money for 50 years, you’ll earn $171.60 – for doing nothing.

Of course, these examples are extremely low – most people invest far more than $100 bucks, and some banks offer interest rates as high as 4%. Historically, stock market returns average around 7%, though past performance never guarantees future results.

You’re likely investing far more than $100 bucks at far greater interest rates. The difference between 10 and 50 years with higher numbers can be massive.

$1000 at 7% can earn over $1000 extra dollars over ten years and $31,000 over 50 years, highlighting time’s immense value when investing. Use this to your advantage – invest early, invest often, and make time work for you.

Embrace Passive Income

We need money to survive, but that doesn’t mean we must spend our lives laboring for it. Instead, find ways to generate passive income to make money without working.

Although investing is the easiest way to earn passive income, other options are also available. If you write a book or create an online course, you can receive royalties for years, which seems passive after all the work is done.

Other options include selling designs, photographs, or templates. Once these items are generated, you can set it and forget, making money whenever someone buys.

Passion Fire

Passion fire is about making money doing what you love. It combines the best of both worlds because work doesn’t feel like wasted time if it’s in pursuit of your passions.

Try monetizing your favorite hobbies. Create a YouTube channel showcasing your favorite things. Start a blog or write eBooks to turn your love of writing into a money-making machine.

There are lots of ways to make money doing what you love.  

Time is Money – Use it Wisely

Time really is money, but not in the way we typically think. Stop trading your most valuable resource for money, and start spending your time on the things that matter.