If you want to make or save more money, you’re going to need to spend your time.
Side hustles and in-depth investment strategies take time. Cutting coupons and comparison shopping take time.
Most methods for making more money or for saving more money cost you time.
When is that exchange worth it?
There are a lot of books, articles, and blogs out there digging deep into investment strategies to eek out a higher return. There is currently a huge audience for side hustle writing. Listicles promising the best ways to save on your groceries are always popular.
But is it worth it?
I don’t think there is one answer that fits everyone. Instead, I think you need to figure that out for yourself and your situation.
To help out, I’ve come up with a few questions that you should ask yourself before sinking time into making or saving more money.
Do you enjoy it?
The first question is, to me, the most important question: Do you enjoy it?
The initial goal for money is security. Once your family has food, shelter, safety, and clothing, you move onto improving happiness.
If you can make money while also making yourself happy, then that is a win/win.
Maybe you love woodworking or photography or painting.
If you can spend your free time doing what you love and selling your goods or services, then why not? Even if you are not making much money, you are funding a hobby that brings you joy.
You want to earn money to buy happiness, so if you can get the happiness and the money side by side, go for it.
Are there multiple benefits?
Is there a benefit that you receive beyond the money?
This is a similar idea, although secondary, to the question of whether you enjoy how you’re spending your time.
Are you building useful skills? Learning useful information? Building relationships?
This blog is not a side hustle in that I don’t actually make any money from it. However, if I were considering blogging through the prism of this question, I would note that it pushes me to learn how to be happier and more productive in my own life. It also forces me to write and continue to work on becoming a better writer.
It short, it has multiple benefits.
Consider whether your money earning/saving time has other benefits to your life.
What are you cutting out?
Time is the ultimate limited resource. There simply is not enough of it to do everything that we want to do. Everything that we choose to spend time doing takes time away from something else.
So what is getting cut to make time for your money saving/earning activity?
Are you cutting out time watching television or reading Reddit? Are you losing time with your family and friends? Are you sleeping or exercising less?
Any extra money is probably not worth trading health or happiness for. If there is some “wasted” time that you can reclaim and make a little extra money, then great. If you have to lose sleep, exercise, or time with your family, then it may not be worth it.
If you’re somewhere in the middle – cutting out a useful, but not important use of time – compare the new use to the old use to decide which has more value to you.
How much are you making?
Others may have started here, but asking how much you’re making is the last question that I go to.
That said, it is still important to consider.
Are you spending 20 hours on a freelance gig that pays $50? Are your woodworking projects only earning you $10 after accounting for materials, shipping, and advertising? How much are you really making driving for a ride sharing platform after paying for gas and accounting for the extra wear and tear on your car?
Similarly, how much are you actually saving from clipping coupons? And how much time did you spend finding them? How much did you really save from comparison shopping? How does that compare to the extra time required?
Sometimes the answer will be obvious. If you can save a few thousand dollars going to a couple different dealers before buying a car, then great. If you’re spending an hour a day clipping coupons to save $5 per day, maybe find a better use of that time.
The majority of situations may not be all that clear.
Maybe some questions weigh in favor and others don’t. Maybe only one weighs in favor, but it weighs heavily. Maybe the answer to each question is somewhere in the middle.
This is a starting point, though. Find what works for you.
Don’t go chasing every opportunity to earn or save money. It’s not worth your time.
Be thoughtful in your approach. Earn more money. Save more money. Be judicious with your time.