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Turning Money Into Time

Written by Nickel - 9 Comments

Earlier this week, I ran across an excellent talk on time management by Randy Pausch. If you’re not familiar with Pausch, he’s a former Carnegie Mellon computer science professor who died of pancreatic cancer this past summer at the age of 47, leaving behind a wife and three young children.

Pausch delivered this talk just over three months after being told that he had “three to six months of good health left.” As such, he’s a self-proclaimed authority on talking about “what to do with limited time.” Certain parts of his talk really resonated with me.

The time/money relationship

Pausch’s talk spanned more than an hour, and covered topics including how to set goals, how to avoid wasting time, how to deal with a boss, and how to delegate to people. But a recurring theme was the relationship between time and money.

He argued early on that, while Americans are accustomed to dealing with money as a commodity, we’re not good at dealing with time as a commodity. As such, we do a very poor job of equating time with money, and are far too willing to waste the former while keeping track of the latter.

Turning money into time

Near the end of his talk, Pausch revisited the time/money point when he argued that people should go out of their way to turn money into time. That’s right… Rather than using your time to earn more money, you should use your money to free up your time. He went on to argue that this is especially important for people with children and/or other family commitments.

This really hit home for me, as we’re constantly short on time. Between working a full-time job, managing our business endeavors, and raising four kids, we’re swamped. While we’re now in a position where we can afford to “outsource” some of our less desirable tasks in the name of creating more time for ourselves, it hasn’t always been this way. On top of that, my wife and I are both do-it-yourselfers by nature, which makes it very hard for us to let go.

But guess what? Our kids are getting older every day. I know that this sounds a bit melodramatic, but… Bit by bit, our time with them is slipping away. It’s not really something that we notice on a daily basis, but it only takes a quick glance through a photo album to see how fast they’re growing up.

Putting words into action

If we want more time with them while they’re young, then we need to change our mindset. I’ve argued in the past that it’s okay to spend money — and not just on needs, but on things that you want, as well. That’s the whole point of having your finances in order, isn’t it?

Well, I want a less hectic life. I want more time with my family. I want a better balance. And I’m willing to pay someone to help out with some of the more mundane tasks around here in order to achieve these things.


If you’re curious about Pausch’s talk, you can view it below. Note that you can safely skip to the seven and a half minute mark if you’re not interested in the introductory remarks. Also note that Pausch authored a book called “Time Management” that was published posthumously.

Published on February 19th, 2009
Modified on May 27th, 2009 - 9 Comments
Filed under: Family & Life, Productivity

About the author: is the founder and editor-in-chief of this site. He's a thirty-something family man who has been writing about personal finance since 2005, and guess what? He's on Twitter!

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9 Responses to “Turning Money Into Time”

  1. 1
    DDFD at DivorcedDadFrugalDad Says:

    There were many lessons we can all learn from the Last Lecture . . . the biggest is not to take stuff for granted. He knew how much time he had left . . . many people don’t know.

    My wife read the book and literally cried on every page . . .

  2. 2
    Kim Says:

    I read the library copy of the Last Lecture and then promptly went out to buy a copy. I love the part on how to apologize correctly. Don’t miss this one.

  3. 3
    nickel Says:

    Yes, the last lecture is another topic entirely. This is a separate lecture, so if you like the last lecture, be sure not to check this one out, too.

  4. 4
    JoAnn White Says:

    When our children were born, my husband and I decided that I would cut back my work hours to 16 per week. Even though we cut our income by almost 20%, I knew that I would rather have less money and fewer “things” and more time with our kids. I have never regretted living in a modest home or driving a ten-year old car-those hours with your children are so short, and certainly worth more than money or material things.

  5. 5
    Neal Frankle Says:

    This is really a very helpful reminder. Thanks.

    I have seen this trade off go both ways. A few months ago, I had more money and was willing to trade it for more time. Now, money is short so I give up some of my time.

    I’m sure I’ll go back the other way soon but I think its important to remember that it can be a constant trade off and there is nothing wrong with that.

  6. 6
    Mark H. Says:

    About a year ago I was paying house cleaners, automobile technicians and landscapers – All to free up my time and enjoy life. These days, money is much tighter so I find myself taking time to clean my toilets, change my oil and mulch my flower beds. What I have done is to try and turn it into a more fun event and get my loved ones involved. Even cleaning bathrooms can be a game or a race.

  7. 7
    Craig Says:

    I never saw the video but read his book over the summer and it does have an impact on you. You can’t take things for granted and need to enjoy your life, cause that’s whats important.

  8. 8
    Four Pillars Says:

    I agree – it’s definitely worthwhile to outsource some tasks (ie blog tasks or household tasks) to free yourself up a bit.

    Problem is that it is hard to spend money to get things done that you can easily do yourself just to save the time. It seems like we value our money more than our time.

  9. 9
    DR Says:

    It’s a great speech and worth watching. The biggest problem I’ve always had is with delegating. Particularly with blogging, there’s just some part of my brain that can’t let go.

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