Monday, June 15, 2015

Being frugal with your time

I was discussing some stuff with the finance gang, and we came up with the idea of being frugal. You know the usual stuff about being frugal with money, but there's also another less discussed but related topic - that of being frugal with one's time.

First of all, my definition of being frugal is to be efficient and not be wasteful. The action you do must be aligned with your values. So the distinction between stingy and frugal is that - whether what you do are aligned with you values. If you like being sociable, and like hosting parties and cook outs with people, then spending money along that direction is not wasteful. It's aligned with what you want to do. But if you can't tell sage from rosemary, and don't care less about food, spending money on such things will be a waste of resources. That's not being frugal. 

Knowing that, we can equally apply this to the concept of being frugal with one's time. Do you waste time on things that don't matter to you? Do you spend a lot of time on unproductive things while doing your work? Could you have reduced or eliminate time that is wasted, and channel it to something that you truly value? That's being frugal with time. 

Time is perhaps even a more limited and more valuable resource than money. You can use time to exchange for money, but it can seldom be done the other way. It's also possible to be frugal with money but not being frugal with time. For instance, you could be travelling a long distance to get something that is sold at net 50% discount to where you usually shop (even after accounting for travelling cost). But because the journey took 2 hours to and fro, you wasted 2 hours of your life travelling to save the money. For me, my per hourly rate is pretty easy to calculate. It might or might be be worthwhile to do it, depending on your per hourly rate.

That's why when I'm younger, I would go travel to far places to shop, just to save maybe $50 dollars or something on a pair of shoes. But when I'm getting older and my time is more precious, I no longer do that. I'm not saying paying the most expensive things will result in time savings. But usually good brands have a certain quality to it that a sub $10 item will not be able to match, especially if it's something that you value.

With that insight, I realised I'm not necessary frugal with money but I'm definitely frugal with my time. I don't like to waste a drop of time doing nonsense, and I don't like to waste other people's time too. That is probably the best reason to be financially free. You stop wasting your time doing non-productive work, earning money just to spend it on things that are not aligned with your values.

Ah, that's more holistic than looking at just money, isn't it?


Singapore Man of Leisure said...


That's the essence!

Those who are good at time management are frequently also good at whichever fields they are interested in.

It encapsulates:

1) Discipline

2) Ability to say no

3) Know what to prioritise

4) Sense of urgeny

5) And so on...

It's a good leading indicator of "success" ;)

Createwealth8888 said...

Young ones should make good use of their time and seniors should know how to pass time.

Rolf Suey said...

Hi LP,

Pretty much alike, I sometimes use some cheaper money to buy expensive time of mine!

Actually I am a frugal person since young, but often being mistaken by acquaintance. They always think otherwise upon seeing the things I buy and have. Frankly, it does not really bother too much to me what others think, more importantly, I know how much I earn or spend and have my own financial planning.

My close friends and wife know better that I have big respect for value of money! End of the day, it is all about being productive and optimal allocation of time and money.

"I don't like to waste a drop of time doing nonsense, and I don't like to waste other people's time too." - SUPER LIKE IT!

la papillion said...


Agree! Though I still have a problem saying 'no'. It's always a thin line between pushing yourself to the next level or driving yourself to work to death!

la papillion said...

Hi bro8888,

Words of wisdom! Just one sentence and hit the point :)

la papillion said...

Hi Rolf,

Shallow people look at what you have, deeper people will look at why you have what you have. Let the shallow ones look at the images and symbols you carry, while the deeper people wonder and reflect on the whys and the hows! I agree - end of the day it's about optimization of time/money or efficiency.

I love it when Gandalf in the Lord of the rings said, "A wizard is never late, nor is he early, he arrives precisely when he means to". If I am to be so bold as to change this classic line, it'll be this:

"A frugal person never spends less, nor spends more but he spends his resources precisely as he means to".

Anonymous said...


Great article. Every second counts. Money is just a tool to lead a meaningful life. Frugality is just about to stretch our resources, be it money, time or other resources.

I hate travelling long hours too just to save few buck but I do plan activities unique to that areas if I really can save big buck. If I live in my comfort zone, I may forever visit that few places in my life for convenience and I don't know what I have missed in life. This is why some people choose to cycle around the world than taking plane. It is a waste of time if your objective is to touch every country, but you got the whole new experience that the plane mode can't give you.

la papillion said...

Hi Frugal daddy,

You're right - that's why I loved taking buses if I have the time to do so. It's a much more enjoyable ride, than the more efficient and less comfortable mrt rides. It's all about striking the right balance so that we don't fall into extremes :)

Sillyinvestor said...

Hi LP,

As the saying goes:浮生难得偷得半日闲。

I waste a lot of time this past 7 days,
Doing all the things I cannot do if I am

Bringing kid out for the whole day, a massage, take parents out, do online reading of AR, do blood test, meet up with friends.

Every second "waste" in monetarily eyes and productivity lens are really cherishable moments.

la papillion said...

Hi SI,

Haha, but those are not really wasted, isn't it? Imagine u wanted to spend time with ur family, but you are pulled to attend endless useless meeting, which means u can just there without doing your work and doing what u intended. How would u feel?

I'll feel that I've wasted my life. And I hate it.

Not all work are productive and not all non-work unproductive ;)