Is it time or money that matters more?

Written by Lisa Pallavi Barbora

Lisa Pallavi Barbora is a Senior Consultant for Content at WFAN. Lisa is also a founder of In her earlier avatar, she was a National Writer and Consultant for HT Mint - a premier business journal in India.

May 10, 2021

The eternal dilemma when it comes to life and money is the importance of saving today for a better tomorrow versus spending today to enjoy life. This time versus money question that comes to each of our minds at some stage in our lives, begs resolution, but more often than not gets swept under the carpet.

The current phase in our lives is heavily overshadowed by a chaotic pandemic that we are living through. However, the existential question of time or money remains just as important to answer, if not more. No one could have estimated the fatalities, but they do throw up the importance of how we spend our time today rather than focusing too much on what the future holds. On the other hand, it is also important that one is monetarily prepared to endure the financial stress that came about as a result of the pandemic, job losses, medical expenses and business impact.

The dilemma thus, remains – with the resources you have today, are you better off focusing on spending in a way that makes your life more comfortable and enjoyable today, the future is too uncertain or should you focus on using the resources to be better prepared for the uncertain future?

It’s not a simple answer. A survey published on shows that in general people around the globe prefer time over money.  Interestingly, citizens from two neighbouring countries in Asia, China and Japan, had diametrically opposite answers. Moreover, while intuitively you may think that the older you get the more you value time over money, the survey mentioned above showed this to be incorrect too. Around 21% of the respondents above the age of 60 years preferred time over money, whereas, 38% of respondents both from the 20-29 years age group and 30-39 years age group preferred time over money.

In reality, what matters is not just time or money, but experiences.

You have to live today but you must manage money in a way that you assume you will live many tomorrows as well. It’s almost a brain twister. How can I live my fullest today, if I don’t plan for tomorrow? What if I plan only for tomorrow and forget to live today?

As we all operate from our homes during this pandemic, time is sometimes too hard to kill and at times seems too precious with the virus ravaging human life. Money too seems inconsequential at times with nowhere to spend it and when dire need of hospitalisation or the uncertainty of job loss strikes, money becomes precious. There is no one way to tackle this dilemma. Each individual has to build their own balance.

It is important to live in the moment, it’s only our life experiences that can enrich us and our conversations. However, these experiences need not always seek the luxury offered by money. Understanding that quality of life today is not only about having control over your time rather what you do with your time also matters. Think about experiences that are important to you and spend on those. Spending too much on fleeting pleasures and consumption may not bring you the satisfaction or the fulfilment that comes with following a carpe diem life philosophy. Building your experiences today can also be about time spent with the people around you, time to indulge in your hobbies and time to reflect on your life’s motivations.

Living for today is not about spending only today without saving for tomorrow, rather it is about knowing what makes you happy so that you can focus on that today and also save for that tomorrow.

If on the other hand, you associate living in the moment as being about spending and showing those around you all your possessions that money can buy, it’s unlikely that you will have enough today or tomorrow.

As time and money continue their tug of war, you have to leave the rope, step aside and decide what’s truly important in your life. It’s highly unlikely that your answer will be, spending more money today. Start planning your savings for the future in such a way that you are able to continue enjoying what you do today, and in the future as well, without worrying about the absence of regular income post-retirement.

It is dangerous to completely abandon tomorrow and not prepare for what it has in store for you. You may very well live to be older than you think and lifestyle costs don’t disappear with age, neither does your desire to indulge in what makes you happy.

For both, you need to have saved up enough so that it lasts you as long as your life. You don’t want to spend the twilight years of your life worrying about whether you have enough or you need to depend on someone else for your basic and medical care. If the joy of controlling your time is to be cherished now, then it being able to spend your old age with complete control on how and where you want to live is worth preparing for too.

Create your own balance of time and money, don’t follow what the money rich or the time rich do shape your unique path; only you know what’s most important to you. Before setting out on this path, keep in mind, what is important to you will not become more satisfying by showing it off to others. Spend less time and money on appearances and on decorating the cover, give more time and money to what is valuable in essence, you will automatically find the balance you seek between time and money.

This current phase in our lives where we are all living through the extraordinary outcomes and uncertainties of the pandemic is perhaps the best time to start building this balance if you haven’t already.

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