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8 Tips for Spending Time Wisely

The idea behind the expression "Time is money."

Free for commercial use No attribution required
Source: Free for commercial use No attribution required

Time and money are arguably life’s most valuable resources. One of the great laws of economics is that time equals money. What really matters is to spend it wisely. In fact, you can spend no money but your time as a gift, such as time spent with family.

The phrase "time is money" is usually credited to Benjamin Franklin, who used it in an essay (Advice to a Young Tradesman, 1748). It means time is a valuable resource. He encouraged people to treat time like money. However, most people think about time and money in vastly different ways.

1. Time is our most scarce resource. Time is the ultimate scarce resource, yet we act as if we have unlimited time. Poor or rich, we all have 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Thus, each of us faces the choice of how to spend our time. In a world of scarcity, choosing one thing means not being able to do something else.

2. The price of convenience. In economics, price is a much broader concept. Price includes not only the monetary cost of purchasing a product but also the time associated with buying that product. For example, overnight delivery, and convenience stores all charge premiums because of the inherent value we place on our time.

3. The value of time varies from person to person. Time is relatively scarce for people with higher incomes, partly because their time is more valuable. So, to have lots of time, rich people hire other people to do their, say, household chores. On the other hand, a nonworking person may spend more time on household chores.

4. The value of time in good economic times. The value of time is higher during good economic times. Evidence shows that people tend not to take care of themselves in boom times (Ruhm, 2007). For example, a 1 percent decrease in the unemployment rate corresponds to an additional 3,900 deaths in the United States in a given year. People tend to drink too much, eat out often, exercise less, and skip medical check-ups because of work-related time commitments. So people work more and do less of the things that are good for them. On the other hand, in bad economic times health-enhancing activities such as exercise and social interactions increase.

5. Price of delay. People are not equally patient. Some like the present, others like the future. A myopic person ranks immediate pleasure much higher than valuable delayed rewards. For example, social media is immediately available, and it is the cheapest way of avoiding boredom. In contrast, reading and conversation are demanding in terms of effort and motivation.

6. Cultural attitude toward time. Attitudes toward time and its value differ across cultures (Levine, 1997). For example, being late for an appointment, or taking a long time to get down to business, is the accepted norm in most Middle Eastern and some Asian counties. People in bigger cities walk faster than their counterparts in smaller cities. And while in a grocery store, they spent less time chatting with clerks and other shoppers.

7. Time cannot be stored. One of the reasons we give little thought about how we use our limited resources is that we cannot save time. Time moves on whether we choose to spend it or not. You can’t bottle time and exchange it for an object or event. However, when people are made aware of their mortality they wonder if they did make the most of their lives.

8. Buying time to promote happiness. What you do with your time also matters for your day-to-day moods. You can improve your happiness by putting your money where you spend most of your time (Whillans et al., 2017). For example, buying a new pillow or a nice bed could help you to get a good night’s rest. You can also outsource “disliked” tasks. This can allow you to maximize the time you get to do the things you love (e.g., cooking) and minimize the time you have to spend doing what you hate (e.g., gift-wrapping, housecleaning).

In sum, time is anything but free. As a nonrenewable resource, time is quite expensive. Some people fail to realize that time is scarce, hence oblivious about its opportunity cost. They do their best to think of their time as unlimited, and unlimited goods have little value. Knowing that time is finite encourages us to ask how we are using our time. Do we want to spend these precious moments on social media or spend that time learning something new? Skills and knowledge take time so the more time you spend on them, the more you improve.


Levine, R. V. (2020). Time and culture. In R. Biswas-Diener & E. Diener (Eds), Noba textbook series: Psychology. Champaign, IL: DEF publishers.

Ruhm CJ. (2007) A healthy economy can break your heart. Demography. Nov;44(4):829-48.

Whillans, A. V., Weidman, A. C., & Dunn, E. W. (2016). Valuing time over money is associated with greater happiness. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 7(3), 213-222.