“Time is money,” the saying goes. You’re paid for your time with money, and you pay for the time of others with the money you’ve earned. Projects that don’t earn money aren’t worth your time, and projects that take too much time must make extra money.
While money can be replaced, time cannot. However money can be just as valuable as time, assuming it takes time to earn money. The alternate view is that money should not be earned proportional to time, but rather to value, such as through royalties, salaries rather than hourly pay, or fixed-input services like entertainment or computer software, where the initial cost is high but reproducing the item is cheap. This way, you continue earning money without further input of time. The ads on this site are an example of this: while I blogged nothing last month, I made $155 from advertising and affiliate commissions.
Most people spend too much time earning money or earn too little money for their time. The world is divided between work-o-holics, philanthropists, and lazies: capitalists and socialists. When I volunteered at the local public library, I learned that volunteering does not present a good money to time ratio. In fact, it’s a net loss, considering the costs of gas, food, and clothes.
While the IRS taxes “income,” there is really no profit to be had in income. While you may earn money at your job, there are countless expenses: your housing, your food, your car, your insurance, your gas, your clothes, your water, your electricity. It could be said that you have no income, because you’re losing as much as you’re gaining: you trade $50 worth of time and effort for $50 in cash. A large quantity of energy can be converted to a small quantity of matter, just as a large quantity of time can be converted to a small quantity of money. The conversion yields no surplus in and of itself. Most people, in fact, have very low net worth, despite $50,000-a-year salaries. Most of America’s cars and houses are heavily mortgaged, and much of that income is merely wasted on interest.
Ruthless pursuit of money will make your life miserable, but ruthless conservation of time will send you to the poor house. Being an extreme spendthrift will cost you time, potential, and efficiency, but lavish spending squanders your money and thus your time.
• Skip bottled water, $1.49 Cokes, candy bars, paper napkins, and other luxuries. Drink tap water. You’ll save and help the environment anyway.
• Don’t buy health insurance, car insurance (the cheapest if it’s required), home insurance. It’s usually cheaper to skip insurance, even if you have a few occasional emergencies.
• Buy discount postage stamps on eBay; I bought 1000 42-cent stamps for $345 recently, or 18% off face value.
• Reuse envelopes and boxes for shipping; you’d probably have a lot of them if you’d save them.
• Instead of renting or leasing a car, save up money and buy a used car, then keep it for ten or fifteen years.
• Don’t do “cash advances” or loans—have money ready in advance for emergencies. Interest rates on small loans can be as high as 20%.
• Shop at the supermarket, not the gas station.
• Don’t heat or cool your house. Wear big winter coats in the winter and go naked in the summer.
• Take advantage of coupons, sales, and mail-in rebates instead of paying full price for everything.
• Don’t buy books or movies. Borrow them from the library or pirate them instead.
• If you have a job contracting, save money by not reporting your income to the government. My Dad’s been “unemployed” for twenty years.
• Learn how to do basic pluming, electrical wiring, and home repairs so you don’t have to call someone out.
• Skip cable TV, satellite radio, and high-speed broadband Internet. Be bored if you have to. We have 768 Kbps down / 128 Kbps up DSL for $20 a month, and it’s tolerable.
• Buy a $10 Tracfone every two months for a cell phone. You’ll only get two months of service and twenty minutes with each one, and you’ll constantly lose your phone number, but it’s the cheapest way to have a cell phone for emergencies. Throw out the old cell phone or save it to resell.
• Buy good supplies, like pens, pencils, staplers, letter openers, and paper. They’ll work better and save you time in the long run.
• Learn to type faster.
• Set your computer to hibernate when you push the power button. It’s much faster than a full shut-down, and it saves your windows. I only do a traditional shut-down once or twice a month.
• Use a dual-head video card, so you can have two monitors and keep windows open on both. I have three monitors.
• Batch process email once or twice a day. It’ll save you a lot of time over checking email constantly.
• Buy a laser printer with duplexing. It’s much faster than an inkjet and you can print on both sides of the page quickly.
• Sleep polyphasically, taking small naps around the clock, to save six hours a day in sleep time.
• Throw out receipts and packaging immediately. Most are unnecessary, anyway. Even if you have to send an expensive electronic item back to the manufacturer for repair, they usually don’t want the packaging anyway.
• Get a filing system for your papers, and only file what you can’t throw out.
• Have a place for everything. Use the drawers in your kitchen. You’ll spend less time hunting for stuff.
• Disconnect your phone. Make yourself less available.
• If you’re not doing heavy work, take a shower every two days instead of daily. It’ll save water and time, and it’s better for your skin.
• Brush your teeth after eating breakfast, so they’ll be white past your first meal.
• Get a folder for coupons, forms, and papers. It’ll keep you organized and you can take it into stores without being suspected of shoplifting, unlike with zipped pouches. It’s the man’s version of a purse.
• Have an area in your house for your keys, wallet, belt, cell phone, pen, flash drive, shoes, and folder, so you can get ready to leave the house quickly.
• Avoid distractions by listening to music while working.
• Cook a week’s worth of meals at once, then refrigerate them.
• Buy a new, faster computer if yours is more than a few years old. Especially if you do photo or video processing, it will save you lots of time.
• Buy good batteries, so you don’t have to replace batteries so often.
• Stay accountable by keeping a journal of where your time goes.
• Instead of taking a lunch break, work through lunch at your desk, taking bites to eat between reading, typing, and mouse gestures.
Many people suggest hiring a $9-an-hour secretary to do mundane tasks such as paper shuffling and email. This may look good on paper, but it’s less effective than you think because you have to train someone new, and no one can do your job as well as you. Even if you make $20 an hour, that doesn’t mean you should out-source everything you can for less than that. You could be better off just doing the work yourself.
Got some other advice to save time and money? Post it in the comments.