“Time is money”, people say. That’s partly true, you can get money for the time you spend doing a job for someone. But the reverse isn’t true – you can’t use your money to buy time. Sure, you too can spend it to buy work from others. But your own time, the time you spent while earning that money? That’s gone, can’t buy that back.

Years ago I came across the idea that if you really want to know how much something costs you, try measuring it by the time you had to give up to get the money to buy the stuff. (It might have been the book “Your money or your life”, by Vicki Robin that first put me on the track.) Sounds simple, you just need to look at your hourly wager, right? Wrong. If you want to know exactly how much time you spend in order to get your money, you need to think a bit more. Like: do you have costs that you wouldn’t have if you didn’t work? Like commuting. Like lunches (unless you bring a lunchbox from home). Like take out or premade food for dinner because you are to tired to cook when you get home at night. Maybe clothes, if your workplace has a dress code that’s really not your style. If you have children, do you pay for daycare? Do you need to live in a expensive neighborhood, to “give the right impression” to clients, bosses, colleagues? All those extra costs, calculate them per month, and subtract that sum from your salary. Now you’ve found your true earnings.

And now all you need to do is to divide that sum by the hours you work per month… right? No, wait. First let’s add the other time you loose because you work: commuting, again. Unpaid overtime, of course (don’t forget the time you spend at home mentally preparing for or worrying about work). And the time you’re to tired because of work to really live, don’t forget that. You know what I mean – time to rewind, tv-time, or mindless games time, or whatever you do when you’re just to low on energy to do something else. All those hours from your life, sum them up, and calculate your average per month (4.5 weeks). That plus your actual time spent at work is the sum of time you need to divide your true monthly earnings with.

And now you’ve found your true hourly pay. Not as much as you thought, right? So, next time you think about buying something, translate it to hours of your life spent to afford it. That new, fancy coffee maker, was it worth a week of your life? And the money for that new car – how many months? How much time did you need to spend away from your family so that you could go on that holiday far away together (and were you really there with them, heart and soul, or were you working there as well)? If you lived in a less expensive neighborhood, how much more time could you spend with family and friends instead of working to pay the mortgage?

I’ve always valued time over money, I think. Money is necessary in our society, to pay rent and food and clothes, absolutely. But after that? I don’t need that much. My husband is a lot like me in that regard, which is great.

That means that instead of buying new cars, snowmobiles, fancy clothes and buying a new phone every year, we can afford me working just 20 hours a week, and feeling well. (And still be able to save money every month.) Instead of having a big, expensive house in an expensive neighborhood, we have built ourselves a weekend cabin next to a quiet lake without taking out any loans. And at the same time we’ve managed to pay off almost one million SEK in less than 10 years (not a debt from overconsuming, we invested a family member members business that went south).

And when mr L retires in a couple of years, we will be able to afford our way of life with ease on his pension, which will be about half of his income today, together with my part-time income. And we will have even more time to spend together, before we get to old to enjoy it.