One Really Important Thing Your Household Budget is Missing

published Nov 1, 2017
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(Image credit: Esteban Cortez)

By now, you’ve probably realized how much of a life-saver a budget can be when it comes to effectively allocating (read: stretching) your funds. When you have one, you’re inherently more aware of where your money is going, which helps to curb the number of times per month you have to rely on Top Ramen to meet your caloric needs.

But have you ever pored over your budget with a truly critical eye, asking yourself how much of what you earmark your earnings for is actually necessary? It’s easy to lean into a routine and just learn to deal with a seemingly ever-increasing number of debits each month.

This is precisely why you should consider the really important thing your budget is missing: time.

Why “Time” Should Be a Part of Your Budget

When you’re organizing your household budget — in a spreadsheet, let’s say — you’ll likely build columns to sort out line items, costs, and due dates. What you should also be including, if you really want to put things into perspective and curb unwanted spending, is a column for time.

Let’s start with a small example. Perhaps you have a monthly streaming service being debited from your account. It costs you around $20 per month (binge-watching is life, we get it). Now, say that you make around $20 per hour at your job. In the time column, you would write 60 — representing the 60 minutes of your time you have to swap in order to pay for that monthly streaming subscription.

Moving onto a more substantial example, take a hard look at how much money per month you’ve been, say, funneling into your coffee habit. That fancy $5 a cup coffee adds up when you’re shelling out for it multiple times a week. If you indulge that java craving three times a week, your tally for the month will be somewhere in the neighborhood of $60.

Sticking with your previous fictitious salary, you’d need to pencil 180 into the time column on your budget to represent the minutes you’d need to work to recoup your coffee cash. (And that doesn’t even include the actual time you lose when waiting in the drive through or standing in line.)

You see? Not only does adding a time column to your budget help rein in spending, but it also encourages you to practice mindfulness more often. When you’re acutely aware of how much your little habits and indulgences cost you in terms of time with your family — or with your friends, or for adventures, or what have you — you’re less likely to waste your time or your money.