‘DO YOU love life?’ asked Benjamin Franklin many years ago. ‘Then do not squander time; for that’s the stuff life is made of.’
Modern men and women are tempted to reply: “Squander it? I’d just like to find a little of it. I spend all day fighting the clock!” Is that how you feel?
Are you among the hundreds of millions of people who work all day at jobs away from home? This used to be mainly the man’s situation. But now more than half of all mothers of school-age children in the United States hold some kind of job. Since 1950 the number of “economically active” women worldwide has nearly doubled, and these 600 million working women now represent one third of the world’s total work force. When they come home from their job they don’t have the time or energy they used to have for family responsibilities, much less for leisure.
Perhaps you are a housewife. Does that mean you don’t work? Hardly! Your labor as cook, dietician, purchasing agent, decorator, nurse, and housekeeper (and on and on) is said to be worth thousands of dollars each year to your family. But the love and attention you give your husband and children cannot be replaced for any amount of money. Yet, most housewives, like other people, are finding fewer and fewer moments for themselves—for personal reading, or for just some solitude. Why? Where is the time going?
Interestingly, the increased number of material possessions is a big factor. How is that so?
Whether you purchase a new television or a new house, it costs you not only money but also time. For many persons the time required in caring for material possessions is a “hidden cost,” one of which they are not fully aware. But it is a cost that is paid in a variety of ways.
To Get Money Requires Time
When you work for an employer, you usually do it for a certain number of hours a day in exchange for money. You exchange your time for money. Most material possessions are obtained with money, and the more possessions you want the more money you have to earn.
If you are in earnest about wanting more time for other things, you need to take a long, hard look at the number of hours that you devote to earning money. Then ask yourself: ‘Are the possessions that I get in return worth it? Are they all really necessary?’
Some people are making changes, and we will tell you about them later. But first weigh the other hidden costs.
To Spend Money Takes Time
Many housewives spend hours each week in supermarkets comparing a bewildering array of packages of different sizes and shapes all proclaiming themselves to be “the best buy!” To determine which is really the best buy takes time. And when purchases of appliances or home furnishings are made, parts of several days may be spent comparing brands before a selection is made.
What can be done about this hidden cost? Spending money carelessly is a poor solution, but time spent in making necessary purchases can be reduced. How? By making a shopping list. Many wives find that the time spent in planning the family’s meals for the coming week is saved several times over in the grocery store. And, although they are flexible enough to benefit from special sales, they learn to buy what they need instead of spending their time looking at all the things advertisers want to sell.
When shopping for more substantial items, you may benefit from the example of one young housewife who said: “I told my husband that I wanted to buy an electric frying pan, and after two weeks he couldn’t understand why I still had not bought it. I was not spending time looking for it, but I would keep it in mind. Whenever I was in a store on other business, I would always glance at the frying pans. Finally, after a month, I went into a drugstore to buy some items and there was my frying pan! Just what I wanted for half the price in the other stores.” Patience paid off, yet very little extra time was required.
Consider another hidden cost of material possessions:
What You Own Requires Maintenance
Of course, you need a place to live. But what kind of place? If you rent your home, many of the maintenance problems fall to the owner. But if you are the owner, it is your time and your money that are going to be spent.
Nevertheless, in balancing matters out, many families have concluded that, in the long run, it would be more economical to buy a home than to continue to pay rent. But don’t fool yourself into thinking that all you need to do is balance the rent against the purchase price of a house to determine how long it will take for you to get ahead. As owner, the property taxes will be yours to handle, and these don’t end when the mortgage has been paid. Most homes need to be painted every three to five years. A new roof may be needed in 15 years. Furnaces require regular cleaning. Termites must be kept at bay. Sewer problems are not unusual. And this is only a start. Most homeowners will readily acknowledge that there is always something around the house that is clamoring for their time and money.
Yet, with all these considerations, you may conclude that owning a home is best for you. But how big a home? If you really want more time for pursuits that may now frequently be minimized, this is something to think about. If you move into a big home in order to impress other people, you are going to pay a high price—not only for the property but in time that is needed to keep it clean and in good condition. And many parents realize that, once their children have grown up, they no longer need as large a home. They move into more modest quarters so that there will be less housekeeping, less maintenance, and more time for other pursuits.
Another factor, often overlooked, is this:
It Takes Time to Use The Goods You Buy
Suppose you are considering the purchase of a new television. Aside from eating, watching TV is the top leisure-time activity of Americans, occupying up to 45 percent of their free time, and they aren’t the only ones with this problem. You may already feel that you spend too much time watching television, but few people realize how much time they use for TV unless they have personally kept a record. Try it.
If, like most people, you want more free time, perhaps the television is a good place to begin. Simply unplugging your set could give you 20 or more hours of time for other things each week—a bonus equal to half the time you probably spend working!
Now, most people are not willing to live without their TV sets, as illustrated by the fact that more homes in the U.S. (98 percent) have TV than have indoor plumbing. But there are simple ways to control TV and limit its effect on yourself and your family. Many families find it helpful to go over the TV programs for the coming week and decide as a family what will be watched. Sticking to their decision gives all of them more time for other pursuits.
Of course, the same principle applies to other possessions. Using them takes time. So before making any purchase, consider the amount of time you will need to spend on your new possession to make it worth while. Where is the time going to come from? Is that really how you want to use your time?
Don’t forget that, as Ben Franklin said, time is ‘the stuff life is made of.’ If a person exchanges all his time for money by working day and night, the quality of his life will be miserable. If he allows material possessions to take up too much of his time, he will become shallow, his relations with fellow humans will suffer and so will his appreciation for spiritual values. On the other hand, if he insists on setting aside time for truly important things, then his life will take on deeper meaning and he will find greater happiness.