Is Your Family Choosing Money Over Time?

traffic morguefileFollowing up on the last post suggesting we “underachieve” so that we have time to achieve with our family, you might ask whether not putting most of your energies into career and financial achievement might end up reducing your happiness in the long run. In other words, won’t you be less happy with less money and/or career advancement?

It seems justifiable that we need to work enough to provide a comfortable home and to care for our family. However, many of us become competitive and want to be “the best” and to earn as much as our talent and opportunities will allow. We also decide as a family that we “need” more and more, requiring more money to satisfy these demands. Spending more time working usually means less time for your marriage and family. And if those bonds are strained, the stress will certainly mean less happiness for you.

A new study reported in CNN called “Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending” by Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton finds that we often get so much in the habit of working and earning that we don’t stop to enjoy the fruits of our labor. Even wealthy people spend too much time overworking and doing things they don’t enjoy, such as driving long commutes to work. Researchers say we should use some of that money to “buy happier time.”

While we’re at it, we should ask ourselves before spending money how the purchase will affect our time. For example, buying a nicer car may seem like a great reward, but not if you have to work more hours to pay for it. Drivers get no more pleasure from commuting in an expensive car than in a cheap one. And the average American spends two hours a day just working to afford his car.

Another bad investment is an improved home entertainment system, according to researchers, who say watching TV is a clear happiness drain. On the other hand, they say investing in a dog pays off in happiness dividends, encouraging you to take daily walks and socialize with other dog owners.

I can relate to the research. Before starting my own business in 1998, I put in long hours at work, only to feel I could never get ahead of the work load. I think many Americans feel they don’t have a choice but to participate in this rat race, particularly with the weak economy.

So a focus on smarter spending of time and money on things that will improve your happiness and your family’s happiness is key. Our family enjoys time in nature, trips to the library and cooking at home. My husband has always been one to make time to enjoy life and encourages as much time together as a family as possible. If you think about your happiest memories, they probably weren’t the most expensive days of your life.

Think about ways you can spend enjoyable time with your spouse, friends, and family without spending a lot of money. Brainstorm things you’d like to do together this summer and keep the list handy. You might also want to keep a list of books or movies you’d like to enjoy together.

Do you feel like this is a difficult tradeoff for your family? Do you and your spouse agree on how to spend time and money? Feel free to share any tips you have.

For newer readers here, I’ve written lots of research articles on happiness. If you’re interested in learning more about creating a happier life and happier marriage, search the archives.

I hope you have an enjoyable Memorial Day weekend. Take time with friends and family to enjoy life and give thanks to the service men and women who helped to make our freedoms possible.

Lori Lowe is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available at and in various e-book formats here.

7 responses to “Is Your Family Choosing Money Over Time?

  1. I work about 45 minutes away from home. 2 hours away if I work a 9-5 day. So I changed my schedule to leave home at 5 and come home at 2. I still work the same hours, but no traffic. This saves me at least 2 hours a day, and I get to see my family for a few hours before the kids go to bed.

    • Thanks for the comment, Jay. Commuting time is a huge time consumer so I’m glad you were able to make this change and save so much valuable family time. I’m fortunate that I work at home, so what used to be a stressful time especially at the end of the work day, can now be used to get dinner started or connect with the family. Cheers to you.

  2. This was very insightful, thanks! We’ve been a homeschooling family since the beginning of our marriage/family, so we’ve had to develop the mindset of being a single income family in a dual income world.

    I don’t have any “tips” perse, but we’ve found that staying on top of the lust to want what others have is a battle we’ve accepted. And honestly, I do get a bit sulky sometimes:

    -the bigger house with 2 bathrooms and the landscaping every spring of lovely flowers and plants
    -the two “new” smelling cars
    -new clothes shopping on a regular basis
    -extravagant gifts at Christmas
    -meals out on a whim
    -the most up-to-date techno gadget
    -Starbucks coffees everyday

    But because we are on the same page for the final outcome for our family, we are able to lean on each other at points of weakness. We’ve found after 26 years of marriage — it’s getting easier.

    Lori, again, thanks, this was a timely encouragement!! God bless.

    • Hi Robyn. I’m glad this post connected with you. You’re so right that there are areas that are hard to be frugal about. Kudos to you for making sacrifices to homeschool your children and to be committed to a budget you can both agree with. I’m also glad to hear that after 26 years it’s getting easier! Peace to you,

  3. I think up to a certain point money is more important than time. No family is happy if they are worried about paying essential bills, having a roof over their head, feeding the kids. But once the essentials are taken care of, time becomes much more important. Like Robyn, I like the luxuries of life, but after I left work and we became essentially a one income family I found the luxury of not being in a constant rush, commuting only up to the office above my kitchen and having the time to exercise and cook a meal the best thing in the world.

  4. Great thoughts. Thanks for sharing. In addition to the trap of money as a way to bring happiness, it’s also common for fear/poverty mentality to keep us trapped into circumstances. As a pastor, I just had a conversation with a couple who are living together, who want to get married but won’t right now because of financial considerations. She may lose benefits, insurance is an issue, child support could stop, etc.. Whether it’s marriage or the mission field, kids or cats, a career or a car, we must quit making decisions based on fear and make them based on our principles. Money should not cause us to compromise our belief system.

    • Thank you, Dwayne, what an insightful comment. It’s too true that today many people make excuses for their choices instead of because it’s the right thing to do. It’s an excellent point we should keep at the forefront when making decisions. All the best,

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