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Buying Back Your Time

If you had the choice of saving money or saving time, what would you pick? Many people start their careers by trying to spend as little as possible, but as you progress it may not make sense to continue doing the same. In this talk, we will discuss how and when to balance these priorities so you can have a happier and healthier relationship with spending money.

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Transcript

Hello, everyone, and thanks for tuning into the conference today. I hope you're all enjoying it so far. My name is Akash, and I'm your third speaker for the day, and I wanted to talk to you about a concept called "buying back your time" and how I've used it to prioritise what matters to me and what I've how I've used it to save time.

I'm a cybersecurity analyst at a little bank you might have heard of called Monzo, and apart from basically living off of coffee, I'm super interested in personal finance which started me starting my personal finance newsletter, shown on the slide. It's fascinating for me how much there is to learn about personal finance and how our way of managing and handling money is influenced by what we've seen growing up.

Speaking of growing up, I was auth taught that it was important to save money, and overall, it was a fantastic lesson. It is the one lesson that helped build the foundations of my money habits, and it stuck with me throughout my life. Going back, however, I also wish I was taught the importance of saving time, and more specifically, knowing when to save time over saving money. This is something I have had to figure out myself, and I imagine most people go through a similar process without even realising it, because, when you think about it, we all have a limited amount of time.

Now, in my opinion, I think the most precious resource we have is not our money but rather our time. Because to make money, the majority of us spend about 40 hours a week working. We trade our time for money, but realistically, there is only so much that we can trade for money. It is because of this I realised that I haven't got an infinite amount of time, but, at the same time, I don't have an infinite amount of money, either, which is why I've started now thinking about how I save my time as opposed to how I save money. This is where the idea of buying back your time can help you achieve this.

Now, before we can look into what buying back our time is, we first need to understand why it is important to buy back our time. And we actually need to know what buying back our time is. So, the short and sweet explanation is that buying back your time is the act of trading money to save you time.

But I think it can be better described as the ability to identify when you should trade the money you've earned for time, where the benefits in time saved or gained outweigh the cost of buying back said period of time. I think this explanation makes a lot more sense with an example.

So, let's go through one now. Let's go on holiday. We're going to briefly forget that we are still in the middle of a pandemic and go and enjoy some well-deserved time off. Now, let's say we want to fly from the UK to Japan. So, we're going to search for some flights, and we are going to end up narrowing our choices down to two options: here are those two options. Both are for seven-day trips and both over the same dates.

Now, the first option is cheaper out of the two, but you can see that the total amount of time we spend travelling is a lot higher. We would spend over 24 hours just to get there which means we get less time to actually enjoy our holiday. If we look at the second option, though, it costs a little bit more but the amount of time we spend travelling is significantly lower. I would argue that our time is definitely worth more in the scenario because we've got a limited amount of time to go and enjoy our holiday.

By the way, both of these option also real flights. Here is option A. You can see we would spend almost 60 hours of our time travelling. If we took this option compared to paying a little bit more for option B. The layover for both outbound and inbound flights are 15 hours each. Option B has a more reasonable stopover so overall our time spent travelling is a lot lower.

Also, if you go back and look at option A, there is a charge of £176 for bringing a single piece of checked luggage which would bring the total cost of option A up to around £550 which ends up being the exact same amount of time as option B. So if you did go with option A and you missed the small detail, you would have paid the same amount nay and lost out some time on your holiday as well. S

o here, picking the more expensive option ended up saving us over ten hours of our time. It is situations like this that make me step back and evaluate what is more important to me: saving time or saving money?

Okay. So I think we now understand the concept of buying back our time. Now let's understand why we should buy back our time. Typically, it goes against most advice around personal finance, which is that we should always focus on saving money. We already know how to save money, so instead, let's look at why we should buy back our time instead.

Our time is precious. I think we have a real problem when it comes to how we generally spend our time. Most of us generally already dedicate 40 hours a week to working, and instead of having a life that fits around work, we try and fit the remaining pieces of our lives around the time we spend at work. Does it really matter if we have a lot of money to spend but don't have any time to spend on ourselves? Personally, I find that there is so many things I want to do, but I just don't have enough time to do everything. And that has made me fed up. I want my time back. Scrap that, I want my precious time back.

Okay, so far, we've covered what saving our time is, and why we should do it. Now let's look at how we actually buy back our time. To buy back our time, we are going to need one thing first. We need money. Now, depending on where you are in your life, what stage of your career you're at, you might have some disposable income that you can use to buy back your time, which is great.

If, however, you're in a position where you don't have a lot of disposable income, it might be worth first looking into how you can grow your income first, so you have more disposable income that you can use towards buying back your time. In fact, you might even use some of the income you have now to learn new skills that progress you further in your career that lead to getting a promotion, or even a new job with a higher salary.

Once you're in a position where you have this extra money, you will then be able to start looking into the process of buying back your time. I have had to personally learn this the hard way with little guidance through a series of trial and error, mistakes, a dash of experimenting that I came one a framework of buying back your time which I will share with you all today. I've managed to summarise it down to five steps that make it really easy to follow and apply to your life, so let's start with step one.

Identifying time sinks. Now, what is a time sink? Simply put, a time sink is where we might spend a lot of time on a certain task that can usually be outsourced, automated, or completely cut out by using our money. I think one of the best ways to identify time sinks is by keeping a record of how you spend your time. For myself, I ended up just using Google Calendar and blocking out what I did during the day and ended up with something that looks a bit like this. Now, bear in mind, this is just an example, and it doesn't take into consideration that a lot of people, including myself, are working from home at the moment.

This is a typical overview of what my week would have looked like before the pandemic. I spend two hours a day commuting, and then at 7.00pm, I get home and I either go to the gym or I spend some time cooking dinner, and I haven't got a lot of free time in the evenings. On my weekends, I spend a bit of time doing a weekly food shop, walking my dog, seeing some friends and taking care of some personal admin. In between those, I have a little bit more free time.

Overall, there are clearly some time sinks here that we can see. Now let's look at possible solutions which can help me save some of my time in this example. The first and most obvious thing might be to cut back how much time I spend commuting. I might look into if it is possible for me to work from home first of all. Now, if I do have the option of working from home, I could completely cut out two hours of travelling a day.

If you think about it, that is ten hours a week, or 40 hours a month. That's a full workweek that I spend just travelling to and from work. Being able to work from home also saves me some money. In fact, by working from home, the majority of the time, I now save about £200 a month that I would have spent on train tickets. I could now use in a £200 to buy back even more of my time.

In addition to that, let's look at cooking and meals in general. Now, I personally really enjoy cooking, and I find it really fun. But usually after a day of work, I'm really tired and I find it difficult to cook in the evenings.

So to solve this, I thought I could look into a recipe box subscription service that might make it a bit easier for me to put together a meal. My hope is that by using a service like this I can cut down the amount of time I spend cooking, especially on the weekdays.

Now, with the time I save on cooking, I might also consider doing other things, like going to the gym more often. Now that we have a few possible solutions to help us save time, let's actually save this time now and see how it goes.

Here's my calendar again, and after implementing some of these solutions, you can see that I have a lot more free time. You can see that by working from home, I now have an extra free hour in the morning, and an extra free how were in the evening. I've also managed to cut down the amount of time I spend cooking thanks to the recipe subscription service. It also means I don't need to buy as many things on my weekly food shop, so I save a bit of time there as well. Now we can start to see that I'm having a bit more time, free time, spread out evenly across the week.

Which is a perfect time to look into step 4, which is is to evaluate and adjust what we have so far. So we have already saved some time, and now this is the perfect chance to look back and understand what was effective and if there is anything we could do differently.

So let's look back at the solutions we've already implemented in my example. Let's look at working from home first. Overall, by switching from working from home, I've managed to save roughly ten hours a week, and I'm also saving £200 a month. In my eyes, that's a massive success, so that is a change I'm likely going to stick with.

Now let's also look at the recipe subscription service. I did manage to save some time, but I wasn't happy overall with how it went, because I often found that there was some ingredients missing, or that I just didn't like the recipes that I got.

For the amount of money I was paying for it win didn't feel like it was worth it, so I ended up cancelling my subscription after a few weeks, and I went back to drawing board to think how I could save my time when it came to cooking. I saw I had more time on the weekends so decided to spend time meal-prepping on the weekends, spend time cooking favourite foods and save myself the has he he will of cooking in the evenings after work when I was already tired.

In addition to that, I thought about replacing my weekly food shop with a weekly grocery delivery instead. It will cost me more but save me hassle and get me back a lot more of my time. Now, now that I've implemented this these solutions, let's look at what away week looks like now. Overall, this week here looks a little bit different. You can see that I've added in time to meal prep on my Sundays and replaced my weekly food shop, so I've got a bit more free time on the weekends.

I've also changed my workweek a little bit. My workplace is a bit flexible with my working hours, so I decided to start working from 8 am right after breakfast and cut down my lunch break by 30 minutes. This way, I'm able to finish work at 4.30 pm, and I have a lot more free time in the evenings because I've cut out the need for cooking most evenings as well.

This brings us to our final step which is to simply go back through the process and see if there anywhere else we can save our time now. If we look back at my workweek, I likely wouldn't have been able to start working at 8 am if I also had to take the train to work in the morning. It is only after making that first change of working from home that I was able to see where else I could save my time.

It is through this series of trial and error that I was able to find what works for me. It is, however, important to remember while these solutions work for me, it might not work for everyone. We all have vastly different circumstances and there are a number of other ways that you could save your time. So let's go through some of them.

Now, let's say you are a parent. If you are a parent if you have kids, you might consider hiring a babysitter either to look after your kids while you're working so you can enjoy an evening out. Or, you might be in a situation where you're moving house, again, we could consider hiring movers that help us back up all of our things and help us move to our new place.

It can be really helpful because you probably got 101 other things that you need to do while you're moving house. Another thing might be take an Uber to get somewhere quicker instead of taking public transport. I personally have been in the situation myself where taking public transport might take me an hour to get me to my destination but taking an Uber, which goes directly to where I needed to go would only take me 15 minutes.

Another solution would be buying hardware or software that helps you automate or speed up tasks, something like getting a new laptop that speeds up your development time, or buying a piece of software that automates some task that you need to complete on a weekly or monthly basis. You could also look into hiring a cleaner if you need help around the house.

And finally, you could also cut down the number of hours you work or even retire early. When it comes to retiring early, that's likely not going to be something you'll be able to do in a few weeks, but it could be a nice goal to set for yourself. Cutting down the number of hours you work, however, you could easily say that you are willing to go from a five-day workweek to a four-day workweek which gives you a whole day back of your time.

So now that we have managed to buy back our time, what do we actually do with all this free time? Honestly, that is completely up to you. You now have the freedom to spend your free time doing whatever you want. You could work on side projects you've never had time for, go to the gym more often, explore new hobbies, spend more time with your friends and family, or you could just relax. You don't need to spend every moment of free time trying to be as productive as possible. It's okay to take a break as well. The only thing I would try to say is try not to waste your time.

Now, here's a quote you might have heard some people say recently: we all have the same 24 hours. But really I don't think that's true. Because we don't all have the same 24 hours. We all have different commitments and circumstances in our lives, so this quote doesn't actually reflect that. By being able to buy back your time, you should understand that this is a privilege in my opinion. It is not something that everyone else will be able to do, so just bear that in mind. I think how much time you have is proportionate to how much money you earn and how much of that money you can trade for additional time.

Now, I also wanted to share with you a quick story about how I failed at savings money and how it went wrong. A few years ago, I decided to go on a trip to New York City because I've always wanted to visit and I decided that a seven-day trip would be enough time to go and do everything I wanted to do.

Now, when I went to book my tickets, I started looking into how I could save money and found instead of flying to JFK, the main airport, I could flay to Newark Airport in New Jersey instead and save £100 in the process. I flew out to Newark. I thought I was smart by doing this, and I would need to take the train to Manhattan and be able to get on the Metro and finally reach the Airbnb where I was going to be staying. That's where everything started going wrong.

I ended up having to wait three hours when I got to Newark Airport waiting to get through customs, and not just me, there was a long line of people all waiting. After that, I spent an hour going from Newark Airport to Manhattan which wasn't so bad but I then had to go and find a mobile phone shop so I could get a local SIM card and, once I finally put that into my phone, I was able to contact my Airbnb host to explain situation to them. It turns out my Airbnb host had been trying to contact me for those three hours after I had landed to explain that they wouldn't be in if I arrived too late. And I said that wouldn't be a problem, it's probably going to take me a little bit of time to arrive, so I will just see them when I finally get there.

Now, at this point, if you're carrying a massive piece of luggage around and you're clearly very tired, most people would call a taxi or an Uber to take them to an Airbnb. Me, on the other hand, I took the Metro, which took a lot longer and I ended up damaging my suitcase in the process trying to get it through the barriers. So when I finally did get off at the right Metro station, I had then to talk another 20 minutes to my Airbnb towing - well, more dragging - a broken suitcase. When I finally got there, I was really tired, and I could not do anything. I ended up crashing on the bed, and I slept through the majority of the next day.

So in the process of trying to save money, I made my own holiday a lot more stressful, and I lost an entire day of that holiday. Now, if I ever think about going back to New York, I'm going to fly directly to JFK and likely book a taxi as well even though I know won't be saving me money. When I book holidays, I focus on saving time where I can as opposed to saving money.

Now, before I go, there's just one more thing I want to remind you to take away from this talk: there are no refunds on how you spend your time, so make sure that you're spending it wisely. So, thanks for having me today, folks, and, remember, you've got this!