How Time vs. Money Impacts the “Should I Buy it?” Question

How asking 4 simple questions can eliminate the guilt of spending money.

Author: Kari Lorz, Certified Financial Education Instructor

Author: Kari Lorz – Certified Financial Education Instructor

There are some things that I spend my money on that you may think frivolous, unnecessary, or just plain wasteful. That’s fine, and I mean it. We are each individuals, with unique families and lives. Things will naturally be different.

I know that I am conscientious with 70% of my spending, while 25% is saved for splurges like vacations. The other 5% (totally an approximation), is for items that fall into my own “it’s worth it!” category. These are usually things that I have weighed out in my head, and in my crazy hectic life, it’s a time vs. money argument. So lets play IS IT WORTH IT?

should I buy it? The time vs money question

This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I may make a commission at no cost to you. Please read my full disclosure for more info

Being a money savvy Mama, you may think that I hate spending money on things. I’m here to tell you that’s far from the truth, I love spending money! I love going on vacation, going out for tasty dinners (be it BBQ or a fancy cheese plate). I happily spend money on these splurges! Because honestly, that’s one of the main reasons that I save money, so I can splurge on something later on that I really want that brings me lasting happiness! Or sometimes I know that spending money will really help me and my family, these are usually items that win the money vs. time throw down!

You may want to spend money on something, but you’re not quite sure about it. You’re thinking…

  • Is it selfish if I buy this for myself?
  • Can we afford this?
  • Do I really need this?

First of all, great job! You are actively thinking about a spending decision vs. just blindly buying it! This is a fundamental key difference, as so many people don’t do this! I will freely admit, that this was me 15 years ago. Whatever I wanted, I just bought it! I wasn’t making mindful money decisions, and it got me into financial troubles.

Time vs. Money – is that a thing?

Sometimes you know that buying something would be great as to the value it would add to you and your family. Yet, you’re not sure if it’s worth the cost. Weighing the pro’s & con’s is a great way to help analyze a purchase. But you have to make sure you are asking the right questions !

My husband and I are lucky to be in a position where we have some flexibility in our monthly budget (all due to careful planning). Yet, we/I are time poor! Yup, strapped down, bare to the bone. So giving up some money to save time appeals to us.

I was curious to know if I was as “busy” as I thought I was, so I plotted out my workday. I hoped this would help decide if the time saving things I was spending money on was actually worth it. In a nutshell, yes. I need all the help I can get! Whew, I’m tired just looking at this schedule!

working mom schedule

So how do you spend money without having the guilt? You go through the process of making mindful decisions by asking yourself 4 key questions.

Opportunity Cost

According to the Balance , “When you hear the term “opportunity cost,” you are hearing a fancy word for “trade-off.” Every time you make a choice, there is a trade-off to consider. You must analyze what you are gaining as well as what you may be giving up.”

It’s important to note that all you may be giving up isn’t immediate, the ripple effect of spending money now means that you give up the gains of that money later.

Spending money on buying a new car now (when you would have otherwise invested it is much more than the straightforward $544 monthly payment. It’s the monthly payment x length of loan x interest rate compounded.

CreditKarma cites “The average monthly car payment was $554 for a new vehicle.” So take $544 x 30-month loan = $16,320.

If you invested it over the same time (compounded annually) you’d had $14,135. So only a $535 loss. Not too bad. But if you held that amount (and contributed nothing more to it) then in 20 additional years you’d have $54,697. That’s a big difference!

So the opportunity cost of a new car now is much more than the price of the car at $16,320, it’s really $54.697! YIKES!

1. Do you know how much your real hourly wage is?

Do you know how much money you make? Be it per hour, or salary? If you get paid a salary it’s worth it to figure out how much you make an hour as it will help you in the decision making process. Now you may just think “I get paid $17 an hour”. That’s fine and dandy, but how much of that is actually profit to you? Take out taxes, lunch costs, transportation costs, etc. and that’s your net. Go here to get the full picture of your real hourly wage.

Okay, so you make $17 an hour, you figure out that you only bring home $11 of your hourly wage. And the shirt that you want is $57. So you’d have to work 5.18 hours to earn that shirt. Now ask yourself (and be honest) Is it worth it? From a time vs. money standpoint, is that shirt worth 5.18 hours of your workday? Think about it and decide. You may need to think about it for a while, which is even better! Take your time, and let it process in the back of your thoughts.

Some people even decide that instead of working an extra hour here and there, on repeat, to afford what they want, they go the opposite route. They decide to want/buy less so they can work fewer hours and spend that time enjoying their life. They get greater happiness of being free from their job than they do from buying the latest and greatest gadgets. Many consider this a favorable shift in attitude & perspective that once you experience, you can’t go back to doing a regular 9-5 job.

This attitude does have some stigma in our society. Are they lazy? Are they stupid? No! They have just decided that this is what they need for optimal work life balance, and maybe they’re an entrepreneur without a typical 9-5 job. Or maybe they are a financial genius and live off their investment portfolio? Who knows what their income is. But if they are living a better life, then more power to them!

I have gone this route to a certain extent, as I used to spend quite a bit of money on clothes. Lately, I looked over my stuffed closet and realized it was a huge waste! I didn’t wear most of it, and it was just making me feel bad, taking up time & space in my life. So I went the opposite direction and got rid of about 85% of what was in my closet and built a capsule wardrobe! I honestly love it, and I can say that with my whole heart!

Easy Savings & Free Money

  • Sign up with ibotta and get $10 sign up cash as a new customer!
  • Earn points on ANY receipt from ANY store and redeem for gift cards with the fetch rewards app.
  • Sign up with Inbox Dollars and get paid to read emails, watch videos, and take surveys. Easy peasy!
  • Get free gift cards & cash for the everyday things you do online at Swagbucks. Use the link and get a $5 bonus
  • Save money on gas by signing up with Upside; it gives you up to $.25 cents cash back per gallon! Use the code AFF25 when you sign up; you’ll get a $.25 cents per gallon bonus!
  • Sign up with Cash App and get a $5 bonus when you use code “NRTZMHV.” You have to complete the sign up requirements to get the bonus! Read how to do this here with point #1.

2. What is your zone of genius?

Is there something that you just kick ass at? Remember that what comes easily to you may not come easily to others! Whether it’s natural talent or a cultivated skill, take pride in what you do well! If you can whip out a perfectly created personalized cat toy in no time flat. Or a delicious souffle without blinking an eye then honey, you better RECOGNIZE!

On the flip side, if you are horrible at designing a landing page, or it takes you forever to clean out your closet. Then knowing and embracing this truth is just as powerful. Your time is worth more!

So if you take home $11 per hour, is it worth it to you to spend $14 on a customized cat toy? Even though you saw it on a DIY blogger’s page (who got the idea from an Etsy item she saw). You could learn how to do it and make it for $4 from the DIY blogger, or you could buy it in a snap for $14? Are you crafty? Do you always finish the “fun” projects that you start? I guess the tagline could be “know thyself”! Again, time vs. money.

Jim Rohn quote on time vs money

3. What do you hate doing and what do you love to do?

Now if you are great at making a green salad yet you HATE it (true story, I hate making salads, no idea why but there it is) then why are you torturing yourself with this? Doing what you dread is not living your best life! And really, isn’t that what our #1 goal should be!?! We SHOULD be doing everything possible to living our best life. Now, I’m not talking about doing only what you enjoy, this isn’t some hedonist free for all, but your daily actions should be moving you forward with your goals.

Yes, the laundry needs to get done but does that mean that YOU are the best one to do it? If you have the means to outsource this task that you dread then do it! Does your 7 yr old daughter need a weekly chore to earn $4 a per laundry load? hint hint. ? Again, time vs. money, and I think that “time” wins on this one.

To highlight a point, even if you’re good at something, it doesn’t mean that you automatically love it ! I’m good at making salads, but I don’t like doing it. And if you love to do something, it doesn’t mean that you should be the one to do it. I know that sounds odd; let me give an example.

Let’s say you’re a super busy mom (aren’t we all?), and you are great at cleaning your home, and you like doing it. Your neighbor’s daughter does an excellent job at cleaning, and she really wants to do it for $10 an hour. Let’s say you have a ton of stuff to do in a short time frame, and the house NEEDS to be cleaned stat! Hire her! Help her and yourself out!

Or let’s say you work from home, and you’ve figured out that you make $23 an hour. You know it takes you about three hours to clean your home. Should you earn $69 in those three hours, and pay your neighbor’s daughter $30 to do it? You still net $39, and you’re not exhausted from cleaning shower grout! Double win!

Best selling author Vicki Robin goes into many time vs. money scenarios in the New York Times Bestseller Your Money or Your Life. This book goes deeply into how you are trading hours of your life for money and then if how you are spending that money is really worth it?

If you want to dig deep into your spending subconscious and focus on long term change I highly recommend this book. It has been around for at least 25 years but recently updated due to its timeless advice and cult following.

4. Can I make it fit in the budget?

Here’s the practical me, I’m a personal finance blogger, so I ALWAYS think of the practical questions. Because let’s face it, math is MATH. You can’t tweak math to equal a different ending bank account balance just because you really want it. Or because you’re terrible at doing something. Your cash flow should be the final decision maker.

If it’s a one-time purchase

If your want/need is a one-off purchase, then use your personal savings account. With every paycheck that my husband and I get, we automatically set aside 5% of it to go into our personal savings accounts to be used for things just like this!

Is this an item for your household? Then maybe it fits into your home sinking fund? What’s a sinking fund you say ? It’s a method of setting aside money regularly for specific purchases. We transfer $100 per month from our paychecks into our household budget for large purchases that we want for the house. You can read about how I’ve set up our family finances with sinking funds to be able to afford large purchases.

We have about $826 in the fund right now and haven’t touched it in a while. Now, of course, we have three things we want to spend the money on. We want the carpeting in our house steam cleaned – $250. We want to get a ceiling fan light fixture for our bedroom $400 approx. And we’d like a new dining room table & chairs (we may need to save a few more months to do this one).

If it’s an ongoing purchase

If this is an ongoing purchase then look at your monthly expenses, is there anything you can cut out of it? Maybe you’ve had Netflix of Hulu forever, but you don’t really use it that much anymore? Get rid of it! If you miss it then you can cut something else out and sign up again for it.

If you just can’t make the math work then you shouldn’t do it. Going into debt is so not worth it. Remember debt is a slippery slope, once you start you may find yourself $4K in the hole. So in the battle of money vs. time, I think money wins.

saving money free templates

How to deal with buyer’s remorse

Even with the best of intentions, we sometimes come home with something we didn’t need. Buyer’s remorse sets in; the guilt and the frustration! Here’s what you can do….

  • Return it! Always keep your receipts!
  • If there’s a no return policy, call and talk to the manager, sometimes they’ll let you return it for a gift card (if you can’t get the original form of payment back). You can then use the gift card as a present for someone else (ask to round it up to a gift denomination like $25.00 or $50.00).

    Or, you can sell the gift card (or exchange it) for a gift card that you can use, you can do this on
  • Learn from this! Ask yourself, “Why did I buy this even when I knew that I shouldn’t?”
  • Donate it! Do something good by giving it away to someone that can use it or will love it!

What I choose to spend money on without the guilt

Time vs. Money: meal kits

For myself, I hate trying to decide what to make for dinner. I dread it , literally. So I put it off and then postpone it and before you know it it’s pizza for dinner, again. Not a good decision financially, and not so healthy either. So I started signing up for meal kits, there are a ton of meal kit providers. Seriously, lots of choices (and they all usually run a great discount on your first few boxes)!

So I did what any money minded Mama would do. I signed up for a new box to get their promo rate for however many boxes it covered, and then I’d move on to the next meal kit company. This was great as I was paying about $30-$40 per box (regularly $55 – $70). Yet, it was time consuming and a bit confusing keeping it all straight.

I love meal kits, they save me so much angst (if you can have angst about deciding what to make for dinner). Plus, it saved me grocery shopping time and some prep time. BUT they were expensive! So I found the least expensive option I could; Everyplate at $4.99 per meal, about 1/2 the price of the others (but you pay shipping).

A half-price meal kit is great, yet I do find that there aren’t as many meal options to choose from. Or the dishes may just be an entree (more expensive kits almost always have sides). Yet I find if I have a few ready to go side dishes in the cupboard, I can supplement easily enough. For example, I got pork egg rolls as a meal, so I had white rice in the cupboard and bought a single broccoli crown and a carrot for $1.79. I doubled the food for minimal cost & effort.

Or I have chimichangas coming up in a few weeks (I choose my meals once a month so that I can plan all needed side items then). I have a bag of black beans & rice in the cupboard to round it out. For the month, figuring out these sides adds maybe 7 minutes onto the whole planning process. If the sides are dry goods I buy them all on my next trip, or for fresh items, I add them to that week’s list.

If I didn’t have the meal kits figuring out three meals a week to make would have taken so much longer (like eons longer) and the task filled with prolific growling on my part. Seriously, if the high cost of meal kits is holding you back definitely give Everyplate a try! The recipes are super easy, and my husband also likes to make them as the instructions are straightforward and go step by step. This counts as a double win !

I also try and balance meal kits out with meal planning freezer meals , it’s a great way to have a meal at the ready in case you need to skip a week, or if you just feel like doing an easy crock pit meal!

Time vs. Money: monthly house cleaning

I’ll admit it; I don’t deep clean my own house. There’s a tad bit of societal stigma, I feel, for women who hire this out. But I am here to tell you, loud & proud that this service is fantastic! It would take me all day to deep clean the house, as I tend to get stuck in small projects (aka cleaning the grout in the bathroom). So by the end of the day I would be exhausted, but have a clean house. I felt accomplished but my body paid for it, and I got nothing else done that day.

My mom has been amazing in that she knows I get behind on this, and how tiring it is. So for both my birthday and Christmas, she gets me this service as a present. Now it doesn’t cover all of it, but it certainly helps. So I do need to find about 35% of the funds to cover this once a month cleaning. I cut down our house sinking fund some to help cover this (as it’s kind of house related – wink wink). Time vs. money verdict… a win!

Time versus Money: twice a month massages

Now I know this one doesn’t fit within the questions above. Yet it’s one that I’ve struggled with feeling selfish about. Just maybe, some of you may relate to it, so I wanted to mention it. This one is a HUGE self-care item for me, as these aren’t really relaxation massages as much as they are pain management type of massages. If you didn’t know, I have a five-year-old daughter with Cerebral Palsy. She cannot stand up or walk at all on her own, so I carry her around most of the time. She’s a little under 39 lbs, so it does a number on my back and shoulders from the repeated strain.

I cut out getting pedicures and facials, I took down my general weekly spending money so I could afford the regular expense of this, which is about $165 per month for two sessions.

Time vs. money verdict? For the amount of time I’d be in pain, and the level of pain, spending money on this is totally worth it!

At the end of the day

You are the only one to decide if something is worth it or not from a time versus money standpoint. But you need to go through the mindful decision-making process, to make sure you’re not just spending money and busting your budget on something frivolous. Even though you’re on a budget (which is, in essence, is just a plan) that doesn’t mean you can’t spend money on non-necessities, especially when they are time savers. You need to ask a few key questions and make sure that the math works.

saving money free templates

What is more important to you? Time or Money?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. These are great tips! We recently got out of debt and definitely applied some of these practices to get there!

  2. Wow. This is a really detailed and informative post. What a gem! Definitely worth saving and coming back to because the information is so valuable! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Opportunity cost is something that I think gets lost on a lot of people. I recently realized that curbside pickup saves me so much hassle and money because I have to be deliberate about my purchases. Plus, it only takes a few minutes to pick up versus the hour I would have spent shopping. I’m still playing around with the possibility of having meals or groceries delivered to save even more of my valuable time.

    1. You’re so right about opportunity cost being overlooked! I absolutely suggest trying meal kits, so much time & effort saved! Time is money!

  4. I love the house sinking fund! I need to set that up. And setting aside 5% of my paycheck. I always love your tips!

  5. You are so right – there are definitely things that I’d rather spend a little bit extra on than the time. One of those is usually the pre cut salad mixes ?

  6. I have gone back and forth for years over hiring someone to clean! You’re tempting me for sure! Great advice for thinking about which purchases really are “worth it.”

  7. This section “What I choose to spend money on without the guilt” really resonated with me because you took it to a “mom level!” We moms are super busy, especially us who work (part time or full time), go to school, have part time businesses, are extra involved in church or school activities, or whatever it may be. Sometimes we do need to LET THE GUILT GO and realize that some purchases do help as moms and as a family! I loved that you were insightful enough to see this.

  8. I love this! I hate the idea of spending too impulsively, but I also hate the idea of spending time doing things that are easier to outsource.

  9. Really great information, thanks for the share and insights! I will recommend this to my friends for sure.

  10. Helpful article. I’m calculating my hourly time this week including commuting hours between jobs and also listing a few jobs that I could outsource like pulling weeds. It is great to weight up incoming versus time and outsourcing.

    1. So glad you found it helpful! Figuring your real hourly wage can be a bit shocking for some. YET, it can totally help you with purchase decisions and outsourcing!

  11. Great article Kari! I’m all about productivity and I forget that sometimes outsourcing some activities (such cleaning and meal preps) can be worth my money. It’s change in mind set and remembering to be open to try new ideas.

    1. The meal kits are amazing! In the beginning, I felt like it was “cheating” a bit, no idea why 🙂 Now they are a total staple in my house!

  12. I totally agree about spending on things that you hate! I do most of my own cleaning, but I HATE cleaning the oven, so I pay someone to do it. It’s not cheap, but it makes me happy to have a sparkly clean oven without having to get down and scrub it!

    1. I can so relate, cleaning the appliances is sooooo boring and it takes forever! Not to mention, wearing out my arm scrubbing for days!