“This broken water heater is going to set us back. If it costs $2,000 to replace, that’s an extra two weeks of payments towards our student loans.” Please, tell me I am not the only one who thinks like this? My monetary mindset currently revolves around our biggest (current) financial goal: Paying off our student loans. I hope that some day I can truly learn that time is money, but money can’t buy time.
It’s a means to an end. It is not the end itself.
This is a common concept that we struggle with in medicine, particularly if you work in private practice or you work in a shift work specialty.
Let’s dig in.
Time is Money
The first person to use the phrase “Time is Money” was Benjamin Franklin in his book “Advice to a Young Tradesman, Written by an Old One”.
The original quote is actually the following:
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.
The point that Benjamin Franklin was trying to make is that for every moment that you do not work, this will cost you money. Of course, this is only true if there is a job that would pay you at that moment.
Shift work and The Problems it Entails
For those of us that do shift work, this idea hits close to home. For example, I know that if I get sick and cannot go to work that is going to cost me what my shift normally pays.
All of a sudden, getting sick just got expensive!
Or what about that week of vacation you want to take to the beach? That week, for me, is five days of missed work. So, that beach trip isn’t just the cost of renting the house, buying the gas to drive the cars, and the cost of food.
It is also missed opportunity cost from not working. That beach trip costs more than twice what we paid for it.
Speaking of vacation, I know that in many private practice groups people will have to pay others to get a day off. It costs money.
Money is a Means to an End
As we contemplate all of our decisions and the opportunity cost involved, I want to encourage you to think differently than Benjamin Franklin wanted you to above.
What’s the purpose of money? Many of us work to use money in order to buy something else. It’s not like we cherish feeling the cotton in our pocket.
We use money on college degrees, weddings, vacations, and essential items (food, water, housing, etc). All of those things have an intrinsic value. Your time has a certain value, too.
The point is that you can work your whole life to make money just to find that you missed all of the life opportunities to spend time with family and friends. Money is not the end all, be all.
Trust me when I say that almost no one on their death bed wishes that they had worked more, made more money, or spent more time away from their family.
How do we decide?
This begs an important question. How do we decide whether to say yes or no to something? Remember, It’s not all about the benajamin’s (I guess Benjamin got it wrong twice).
For me, it always has to do with being valued. In my mind, that means being valued with money (being paid more), time (off), or recognition.
If I am not getting one of those three things, then whatever opportunity I am considering is usually not worth it to me to be away from my family or hobbies. And even if I do get paid more sometimes it is not worth it.
Others have described a system where they will not say yes to something unless it is “too good to say no.” I like this criteria, too!
When you are deciding whether to pick up that extra shift, don’t forget why you are trying to make money in the first place. Or, if you are considering the opportunity cost of missing work for vacation, just remember the point of obtaining money in the first place. It’s just a resource.
Time is money, but money can’t buy time. Time is precious. And you only get so much of it in this life. So, use it wisely and spend it well.
Do you have a shift work mentality? Do you tally up the money lost when you don’t pick up a shift (or miss one)? How do you view time and money? Leave a comment below.