Is it true what they say? Is time really money?

time for change

My Time Audit week is over, and I have learned a lot of interesting things. I’ll try to share some of my insights with you over the next few days — and I would love to hear from those of you who also did a time audit. What did you learn about your time?

One of the ideas I’ve been particularly ruminating on throughout the week is the old adage, “Time is Money*”.

Because I am an entreprenuer of sorts, and because my income is directly related to my output, I realize that I might be more likely swayed by the “Time is Money” mantra than perhaps someone who is salaried.

I often find myself asking: “Could I earn more during this ____ (hour, morning, day, etc.) than I would have to pay someone to ____ (mow the lawn, babysit the kids, teach them Hebrew instead of me, etc. )?”

Of course, before we can decide if we should outsource our FILL-IN-THE-BLANK (lawn care, house cleaning, car maintenance, child care, etc.) we also need to ask ourselves some questions:

#1. Amidst all of our life’s priorities, how important is this one thing?

#2. Is it something we want to do ourselves? And if so, why? Is it because we enjoy doing it?

#3. How much time does it take? Does it come at the expense of other priorities?

#4. Can we afford to outsource?

Let’s take a very simple example: Mowing the lawn.

Under how important is this one thing, I find myself wondering:

  • How much do I care about a “nice” front and back yard? How much does my husband care? (I’m about a 7/10, he’s probably a 9/10 – reverse those number for having a clean and tidy house, by the way.)
  • How much of this “caring” is internally motivated (meaning: it really matters to ME) vs. externally motivated (meaning: I don’t want people to think badly of me if we have a weed-infested, foot-high yard). Even if something is externally motivated, that doesn’t necessarily mean we have to outsource it, or that its priority is less valid — but it is good to have a handle on where our motivations are coming from.

Under the is this something we want to do ourselves question, my husband really needs to be the one to answer that — since he’s the one who does 90% of the work on this particular task (I might water the garden, weed a flower bed or help spread some mulch, but he does the overwhelming balance of this particular task).

  • He would say yes. He enjoys being outside, he loves working in the yard, and he personally takes pride in how the yard looks when he’s done.

Under how much time does it take, the answer is “it depends”.

  • Mowing the lawn is obviously seasonal in Kansas City.  He doesn’t have to do it at all between November and April. And given our late spring, it looks like even May won’t be too bad. But during the summer months, he mows every week or two, and is out there at least 90 minutes to 2 hours at a time (we have a fairly large yard).
  • Since my husband works full-time, Sundays are really the only day he can take care of the yard. But Sundays are the day that we have designated as my “big work day” (he’s mostly in charge of the kids from 9-5, while I work on writing blog posts for later in the week, taking care of behind-the-scenes admin tasks that have been piling up all week, organizing giveaways, etc.). So two hours in the middle of the day may well come in the “way of” other priorities (my work), unless he can fully and safely involve our kids with him while he takes care of the lawn.

And finally, on the can we afford to have someone else do this question:

  • Since our income is far from unlimited, choosing to spend money on A means not being able to spend money on B. Even if it’s”only” $50, that money would have to come from somewhere.
  • If we can’t earn that $50 in the two hours it would take him to mow (the direct “time is money” solution), then we need to decide if there’s something else in our budget that is less important to us.

Which turns this whole puzzle into a bit of Rubik’s Cube of prioritization.

And which also reinforces for me that while time may not literally be money – it sure is inextricably correlated with money.

We haven’t decided, by the way, about the lawn. There’s not a clear winner based on our answers to the above questions, but I think my husband will more than likely continue to do it – mostly because he really enjoys it. And if we’re going to pay for someone else to do something for us (assuming we can afford it), it really should be something we don’t enjoy — or really aren’t good at doing anyway.

Have you decided to “outsource” certain tasks and responsibilities in your life? Did it come down to “Time is Money”? Or were there other factors at play? Has the decision freed up time for you to do other — more important — things in your day? I’d love to hear from you about how your family handles these questions!

*Money is certainly not the only reason to reevaluate your family’s schedule and priorities, but it is a very compelling one.


  1. I’ve always felt like I’m being pulled in so many directions, by things I need to do, want to do, and have to do. I have important tasks and urgent ones. But I’ve never thought about literally doing a time audit and analyzing where I spend my time and identifying where the conflicts are. Can’t wait to read the rest of your blog posts on this topic!

    • I know that feeling, Adina. Sometimes multi-tasking goes haywire!

      I keep coming back to the parallels to budgeting our money – and how being intentional about our spending was really the key to turning around our finances, getting out of debt and living within our means (while also saving).

      This audit was my opportunity to start being more intentional (and informed) about how we’re spending our time. If you decide to do an audit, I’d love to hear how it works for you.

  2. I definitely feel that time is money and that my time is very valuable. I’m not going to drive a long distance and/or spend a lot of time to save $10 or even $20. We just started getting the house cleaned but are in the same camp regarding mowing the lawn.

  3. Anal, anal, anal. Don’t you see how pathetic all this is? Jesus.

    • Mara Strom says

      Edina – It sounds like what I consider being “intentional” with my most valuable resource (my time), you consider being “anal”. To each their own — maybe this series is one you’ll want to skip from now on. 🙂

      While I welcome everyone to share their experience and perspective, I would ask that in the future you try to make your comments a wee bit more constructive.

    • I second what Mara said in reply Edina. Un-constructive comments are what is pathetic.

      Mara ~ I enjoyed reading this is it’s a topic my hubby and I discuss all the time. Is it more productive to pay someone to mow the lawn, than buy all the equipment? I’d surly rather spend more family time than on a task like that…especially with our severe allergies!

    • Anal? I totally disagree. Prioritizing time vs money helps us realize just how valuable our time is.

    • Edina – if you don’t agree with Mara’s posts, that is one thing. But to be disrespectful and then throw out “Jesus” in your comments “just because” is inappropriate. I think you need to find another blog to express your feelings, because this blog tends to be about helping each other out – not cutting each other down. And you seem to be all about the latter.

    • I agree – there is never a good reason to tear someone down for trying to help others, Edina.

  4. galileegirl says

    There is another solution. A teenager can be hired to watch the kids for two hours while you work and your husband takes care of the lawn. That will cost far less then hiring someone to mow and will enable your husband to continue doing a “chore” that he enjoys.

    One pre-Pesach I hired a teenager to watch my kids in a local playground while we attacked the kitchen. Much cheaper than hiring a cleaning person and the kids had fun without being in the way of their stressed parents.

  5. My time audit was interesting, though not surprising. I spent maaaaaaany hours taking care of the baby, but no shocker there; I spent a fair number of hours cooking, but my excuses are (1) some of it was for work, and (2) I put a whole bunch of things in the freezer over the course of the week, which will save me time over the next two-three weeks; and I spent a decent amount of time working, but wish it could have been more so that I don’t have the perpetual feeling of being behind on a project.

    My problem is that I want to do everything. Isn’t that what we all struggle with? I want to keep the baby at home (ie not at a babysitter) for as long as possible, and at 4.5 months, I don’t feel it’s been long enough yet. As for cooking — that’s my passion. I’d never be happy outsourcing it or scaling down to the same three or four simple dishes served in rotation. It’s just not me.

    When I let things slide, it’s often the laundry and the dishes. Oh, and phone calls! I almost always feel guilty over having not called a friend or family member recently enough.

    Looking forward to seeing more of your reflections, and to hearing about other people’s time audits.

    • Tali: We were struggling with laundry, too – fortunately my husband took it over. I still help the kids put everything away (that seems inordinately challenging for them – grrrr), but it’s definitely a relief to have it off my plate!

      As for your reflections on the time you are spending “mothering”, I sort of think that the first year — especially the first year with a first baby — is a wash. Keep “other-than-baby” expectations low – b/c you are doing the most important job of your life. 🙂

      Nursing, (not) sleeping, loads of holding and snuggling, basic nutrition and hygiene… and you’re good! 😉

  6. Just for this question in particular, where I live, if you don’t keep your grass mowed, the city will fine you! And they really follow up on that, so skipping it would not be an option here. I don’t know if that is the case where you live, but it is something to consider.

  7. Two thoughts:
    1. I haven’t done a time audit but I am well aware that the more stressed about something I am, the more likely I am to spend time on-line “researching” which unfortunately does not usually tend to turn out to be productive time…I’ve definitely go to break that habit.
    2. For anything that one would consider outsourcing, it’s definitely really important to shop around: in the past week, I’ve considered 3 different babysitters at 3 very different price points ($5/hr, $10/hr, & $12-15/hour)! Also, specific to the lawn issue, in our previous house we had 2 different people take care of our lawn one charged $50/time and the other charged $25/time and did just as good a job. At $50 we decided we’d better mow it ourselves. At $25 we thought that was money well spent.

    • Michelle – That “researching” part rang true for me especially when we started homeschooling this year. At a certain point I had to back away from the Pinterest-perfect homeschool blogs and just start doing it!

  8. Judy Fulda says

    One of the things my husband and I found helpful, even though over the years it has cost us quite a bit, was to hire someone to be the “homework helper” for our son. We were getting impatient with him, cajoling, pleading, threatening, being generally unpleasant…it was not good for our relationship. The young man whom we hired was able to provide the right mix of firmness, humor and motivation. He could do in 20 minutes what had been taking us hours! He has been working with my son for years and the relationship they have is very beautiful. So even though we paid for something we could have done ourselves it made sense to outsource and we don’t have a single regret!

  9. I totally get the time is money thing. When we first moved into our house, my husband was spending hours on Sundays keeping up the yard – and this is a tiny NJ property, nothing fancy, really really small. I was stuck in the house with 3 babies, which was where I was the other 5 weekdays, and I hated that he spent so much time out there. Once we discovered that hiring someone is not actually that expensive, we did it. We have never looked back and consider it money well spent, so we can have more family time.

    Once I went back to work almost full time and am out of the house for 10hrs/day, I just could not fit in the grocery shopping. Now I buy 75% of my groceries online and have them delivered. This has been a lifesaver. The trade off is that the prices are slightly higher, and no coupons. But they do have sales and deals. If we did not do this, we would barely eat. I used to be a major couponer, but I had to let some of that go. Also, I love that someone else is shlepping the boxes into my house!

    Time is money and I think we all have to pick and choose what we can spend our time doing. Now if only I could afford a sous chef.

    • Mara Strom says

      A sous chef would be fabulous! And we are moving more and more toward ordering online — altho produce is still a Brick & Mortar purchase for us. We eat so much, I can’t make the boxes deals last.

  10. We have a housekeeper that comes twice a week and does our laundry. It really gives us time to spend with the kids all day Sunday, which used to be the day for laundry and cooking. I now cook Thursday night, which I am usually up late cooking for Shabbat anyway, so taking another hour is giving another hour (actually more) to the kids!

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