We Americans take Benjamin Franklin’s saying that time is money pretty literally. My working turns hours into dollars. The hours I spend not working are money that I am missing out on. Stop wasting time!

But I think this workaholic mentality misses the point. What makes money valuable in the first place? It’s not valuable in and of itself. It’s not something worth wasting your life on pursuing it for its own sake. So, why is it something worth concerning myself about? Why should I be a careful steward of my finances?

I think we should think about it in reverse.

Money is time.

Time is the one thing that I don’t have in abundance. I only have so much time to spend with my wife and my kids, and it never feels like enough. I have such a limited amount of time to spend with my friends and extended family. I wonder how my own parents managed to make time for a family of seven!

I am careful with money because I know it is worth so much in time. The less I need money, the more freedom I have at work. The more freedom I have at work, the more time that I can spend at home with those I love. That’s where the value of money comes from.

The point of paying off debt isn’t to raise your credit score, it’s to reduce the amount you have to pay each month, so you have more time. The point of a mortgage isn’t to acquire a bigger house or to hope you get rich quick off of a housing bubble, it’s to eventually have no more housing expense, so you have more time.

The point of a budget isn’t to get rich—it’s to prevent spending from stealing your time!

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