Money as an expression of time

Money can’t buy happiness, but you can use it to pay a woman to clean your house … and that’s close enough for me.

Suzan and I are back on the path as local job creators. A new housekeeper came through the GeekFarm yesterday, duster in hand, cleaning house as I worked from the home office. It goes into the same “money well spent” category as paying someone to handle weeding and edging in the yard.

There is a process of letting go when you pay someone to do chores. It’s like some stage of therapy, admitting you don’t have the time to take care of Task X or Chore Y. Sure, you pay other people all the time to fix your car or cook your food, but that’s not your home. It feels different when it’s home.

Then again, this is why I went to college. Seriously, I have an engineering degree and I use it for engineering things. Admittedly some of those things are PowerPoint, but nobody’s perfect. I make good money, so I should use that to make my life easier. Yes, the Scottish part of my brain inherited from my grandfather emits audible screams when I think of spending money on something I could do myself … but while someone else is cleaning or weeding I can work on something I would rather be doing.

Last week I got into an internet discussion with an old co-worker (who I also consider a friend and interesting person) about money. No, not an argument or flame war … an actual discussion. She proposed making money expire so it had to be used to retain value. This “use it or lose it” concept would prevent the hoarding that many people see as an evil in the “have” part of society.

As someone saving for retirement, I had a bit of a problem with this idea. I’m also a person that recognizes how certain money hoarders have contributed to society. The same grandfather who gave me the “Scottish saver brain” also used that money to help my family with things like college tuition payments and an inheritance that helped set my mom up for retirement. My other grandfather, one of the best examples of a successful businessman who remains as down-to-earth as an Andy Griffith episode, used savings he grew through stock trading to make sure his wife was well cared for in her final years. Also some guy named Bill Gates started a foundation that’s tying to stop malaria and Bernie Marcus wrote a check that paid for most of the world’s largest aquarium … but those are small things.

People work around limitations. any good episode of Doctor Who or Star Trek will remind you of this fact. Changing money to a system of Barnes & Noble gift certificates will just make people trade in other assets (hello BitCoins). When income taxes go up, executives get paid in stock options. When luxury taxes go up, luxury boat builders lay off workers. When gas prices go up, movie stars switch from SUVs to electric cars.

Money is an expression of time … what someone else is willing to trade for work or property. Telling someoen their work has an expiration date is pretty hard sell. Money only exists because things you like to trade are too heavy to carry or too intangible to properly measure. Sheep don’t fold easily to fit in your wallet. You spend time making money to use it as a tool to obtain things you want. Sometimes those things are things, other times they’re money sent to a charity or kid’s college fund.

The point of Super Mario Brothers wasn’t to get coins, it was to save the princess. The coins just helped. Problems arise when you make money for the sake of making money. It’s not the end goal.

So I’ll let go of that feeling that I have to do everything myself and use money when I can’t use time. Hopefully it gets someone else to the point where they can do the same. That doesn’t mean I won’t save for that future time when I can’t work, but I’m working towards something that isn’t a high score.

5 comments

  1. John Tackett says:

    It was Bernie Marcus that gave the money for the Aquarium.. Arthur Blank owns the Falcons. See you at the con Brian..

  2. siliconchef says:

    *doh* Got my rich Home Depot guys confused again. Corrected.

  3. Jaime Graham says:

    We recently came up with the same sanity saving solution of getting someone to clean the house. Thanks for so eloquently explaining the internal struggle. I have Scottish blood as well as an accountant father. 🙂

  4. Mark Gray says:

    We have had this conversation too. On the house cleaning question, for me the amount of money we would pay is not the big issue. If it felt like a simple trade of money for time/chores, I would happily do it. I don’t have a problem with other people deciding it is worthwhile, but I am not to the point of “letting go” enough to feel like having someone come touch all our stuff would be a net positive experience.

  5. Mary Crowell says:

    We have just had our year anniversary of having a cleaning service. My level of happy cannot be adequately quantified at this time but it is way up there.

    We’ve recently added a new service–weeding garden beds to our lawn service. It’s great too!

    I’m playing and writing more music, teaching more students, and reading more books. I don’t feel cranky and tired all the time. Once I yielded these chores over to someone else and could focus on what I wanted to be good at, I stopped feeling like “too little butter on too much bread.”

    –Mary

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