Time vs. Money: When to trade DOWN

We’re conditioned to think MORE = BETTER. That’s not always true. When should someone take a pay cut on PURPOSE?

Ramit Sethi

When I graduated from college, I had a job offer from Google. They were great, saying, “You’ve been in school for 5 years…you should take a break!” I was like, “Oh I know, I was already planning it.”

Google: “So how long do you need? 2 weeks?”
Me: “Uh, no. See you in 3 months.”
Google: “That’s not gonna work for us…how about 4 weeks?”
Me: “No, I’ve been in school for 5 years. I love you but I need a break. See you in 3 months.”

During that time, I launched a product called PBwiki with a friend, which ended up taking off. Over the next couple months, I agonized over whether to turn down Google or walk away from this new startup.

I ended up walking away from Google.

One of the things that surprised some of my friends was walking away from that kind of money. It was a lot! Especially for a young kid. But I knew I had more important things than money…and if I made the right decisions and met the right people, I could earn that much in a month…or even a day.

Yet it surprised some people, since in our culture, we’re naturally conditioned to think MORE = BETTER. That’s not always true.

That’s why I love today’s “Ask Ramit” question: Helena wants to know if she should take a lower-paying job if it dramatically cuts her commute.

When would someone take a pay cut on PURPOSE?

Watch to see my thoughts…and as you do, see if there are areas in your life where “trading down” would actually make sense for you.

QUESTION FOR YOU: What’s one area where you could do with LESS? (Don’t just say “eating out” since you know you’re not going to stop eating out. What else?) Leave a comment below.

Update: Make sure to read some of the insightful comments below. People are choosing to “trade down” in order to kill the commute and work from home, to travel the world for cheap, or achieve better work-life balance.

Leave your comment on where you could do with LESS below…

Do you know your actual earning potential?

Get started with the Earning Potential quiz. Get a custom report based on your unique strengths, and discover how to start making extra money — in as little as an hour.

Start The Quiz

Takes 3 min


  1. John Garvens

    Great advice, Ramit! I needed to answer this question for myself last November. I opted for the lower paying job. Now, I commute about two minutes to a job that I love. To Hell with the money. My life is awesome right now!

    Areas I could do with less:
    – Food: For the past month, I’ve been cooking more meals at home. My eating out has stayed about the same. But I’ve been buying in bulk from Costco, cooking in bulk and eating lots and lots of leftovers. The other day, I estimated that my total cost per meal was around $1.50. So, while I still eat out like normal, the reduced spending on groceries is saving me money–and time.

    Other than that, my life is pretty minimal already. My friends make fun of me for it. I really don’t buy much of anything. And I have loads of free time to do all sorts of extra stuff.

  2. Eric


    I appreciate the video and agree with you that Helena essentially has her mind made up, she is just looking for confirmation.

    About a year ago I came across and decided to take it upon myself to pay off my student loans by the time I was 30 (I was 27 at the time). To accomplish this, part of my process was to figure out what I could live without and either sell that item or downsize. Although this didn’t happen overnight, I sold my $30,000 vehicle and purchased a $2,500 truck and decided to live in an apartment with a roomate when relocating for a job. I had equity in both the vehicle and my home that have now been applied to my student loans. Not only that, I now currently have a much higher month-to-month cash flow in which I’m able to apply more to my student loans.

    My lifestyle has changed very little. I do not miss my $30,000 vehicle and I get along great with my roomate. The peace of mind in knowing that I’m making substantial progress to becoming debt free far outweighs any slight downgrade in lifestyle.

    • Eric M

      This is very similar to my story to. Although my issue what a career change, the actions were similar. I took a cut in pay, but negotiate $10k on top of what the offer came in at. I did a lease swap on craigs list for my brand new $30k+ car and bought a $2,500 truck. Lessening my financial burden is allowing me to enjoy this new career and i’m excelling beyond anyones expectations. I am on track to close that pay cut gap in one year, and from there the sky is the limit. My only debt is my mortgage and about $5k left on my student loans. I’m 30 now and nearly done paying them off, and in a few months i’ll only owe on my house. Everything else is liquid. My wife and I are thrifty/frugal and know when and where to spend our cash. Budgeting your expenses makes life easy. Following Ramits plan is a great way to simplify finances and then get more out of life. I ask myself, do I want to sustain a lifestyle or do I want to enjoy life… It helps guide me with the bigger decisions.

  3. Naveen Dittakavi

    I took a major revenue cut this past year (Sep ’11-Sep ’12) in order to shift more of my business from client services (software) to product creation and sales. It took me 6 months of hard work and a lot less money coming in to finally get new products and services to bear fruit. I moved much of my existing business to a utility/usage based model and brought on new software clients under that model. While revenues are still down from last year to this year, my recurring revenue from the newly implemented utility model is way up, allowing me to continue to develop new products and services and take on fewer software clients. It was through Earn1K’s thorough instructions and Ramit’s push that I was able to streamline my client work better and move some of it and new clients to a revenue model that offers me an ability to maintain freedom to work on my own services and not rely on any one client.

  4. MBK

    Thank you for your post today. I’m considering a new opportunity doing the same job I do now, but working from home. I currently spend approx 3hrs commuting each day (ATLANTA) and I am a wife and mother of 2 children. While this new opportunity pays a bit less than I make now (only about $10K), I’m considering the value-add of being able to pick my kids up from school and get things done at home in-between conf calls and projects. I’m hoping to choose TIME over MONEY because it’s more valuable to me in the long run.

    • Laurie

      I did the same thing – took a substantial (10%) cut in pay to work at home in Atlanta. Not only was I able to cut out the 3 hours of commute time, but I found I could do what was taking me 50-60 hours in the office in MUCH MUCH less time at home (less than 40 hours per week almost every week). Added to that – at the time I had 2 young children and my new childcare arrangements were much cheaper (college student in my house). I made up the 15k pay cut I took just in childcare and gas/car expenses. The most valuable perk? I stopped getting sick all the time from not getting enough sleep. I would counsel everyone to live as close to work as possible – I really believe that the stress and time spent commuting is very expensive in terms of health and energy levels.

  5. Patricia

    Hi Ramit,

    For the last few years I’ve excepted very low pay raises in turn for tele-commuting (working from home). I now work from home 5 days a week. This is great on several fronts – as a single mom I love the extra time I have with the kids, and the added flexibility to attend their events. Plus, this has saved me a ton in gas money and time since I no longer have the 40-mile/one-hour drive eachway. And, I can have lunch with girlfriends when I want, too.

    The one thing I can do with less of, is time at the gym. Seriously. I currently go 6 days/week for 1.5 hours. I can easily walk or ride my bike outside (which I do some times already), and I have my own free weights and do yoga at home. I would enjoy that alternative much better anyway, and it would save me some cash every month (which I could use to pay for my sons guitar lessons).

  6. Eleanor

    Love the ‘I dream of Ginie” music. Great question. I’ve got a job where that exact question will come up shortly. So, I’ve decided to save the max possible and w/in 6 months max, shift to something I love and better quality of life.
    Good luck Helena!

  7. Eleanor

    “I Dream of Jeannie”

  8. Joe Cassandra

    Great video again Ramit!

    I think it depends on what position you are in on the career ladder. If you need that experience to be higher up down the line, you may have to suck it up for a couple years.

    E.g. I do finance work, and to break into say the private equity, investment sector, a couple years I will probably have to work my tail off on the bottom of the ladder to succeed in the area farther down the line.

    But if you’re financial stable and moving down the payscale some, I definitely agree with that (and since she had 14+ years experience).

    It may depend on what you what to do down the line.

    Thanks for your videos Ramit!

    • Joe Cassandra

      Forget the question:

      I could definitely do with less TV time and more time building my site. I use the excuse since I work a full-time job that I “deserve a break”, but it’s really just laziness.

  9. Sean

    I recently quit a job at Fidelity Investments which was paying 65,000 a year as a data analyst. I quit and went to work for smaller firm taking. 20% pay cut. But I gained so mu h more…

    My commute was cut in half by 45 min (giving me 90 more minutes of day for time for myself and family) an I actually get along with my boss and co workers an most importantly ENJOY being at work.

  10. annie

    I left my full-time job for several free-lance gigs. It was a slight paycut, but I average much more per hour, and have 10 times more time to focus on projects that matter to me. It also allows me to be a full-time parent, and the freedom to raise my child, travel, etc. is much more important to me than a title or a few extra $$.

  11. Sara

    I made this decision last summer and took a job that paid less, but was 130 miles closer to home. I figured that I would save a ton of money in gas and time spent on the road – not to mention my sanity! I am so much happier now and my quality of life has drastically improved. I have even received a couple of salary increases and promotions in my new job and am getting close to where I was before. TOTALLY WORTH IT!

  12. Julia Villanueva

    About 18 months ago I started my own business. It was a hobby-turned-business type of idea and seemed to turn a profit at a fairly steady rate (slow, but steady)….and then I got a job offer that was hard to pass up and made the choice to refocus my time and energy away from my business. I had three related reasons for this. 1) I have debt that I wanted paid off sooner than later so that I wouldn’t even have to think about it anymore, 2) I knew that my husband would be more comfortable with the ups and downs of my business income if we didn’t have that debt, which makes for a less stressed and much happier relationship and 3) not only was it going to be temporary, but although it wasn’t my own business which I loved, it was a job which I truly did enjoy and felt good about. Ok, and 4) I knew that I would be expanding my network of people, which in the long run would help to grow my own business. I haven’t stopped my business, but it is definitely creeping along instead of sprinting. I have about a year left before I’ll be ready to submit my letter of resignation, but in the meantime I have been able to establish a method to balance my work, home and business time so that I can actually put more energy into re-growing my business, even if it isn’t my full-time job.

    So I could do with less of punching a time card, but for me it’s a means to an end. Now, if I could find a job that wasn’t 40 hrs a week and paid within about 70 percent of what I get paid now, and was still something I enjoyed, I would take it in a heartbeat!

  13. Karla

    Ramit, the timeliness on this is great! I’ve been asking myself this very question for several months and while you’re right that you aren’t the person to give permission, it’s great to hear someone knowledgeable about PF and careers say it’s reasonable to consider. You have to look at the whole package (money, benefits, time) but sometimes it’s hard to place a dollar value on the “soft” stuff like your time.

    So aside from the commute-related costs, an area where I could do with less is groceries. A year ago, I was spending much less than I do now because I cooked a nearly-vegetarian diet at home for one; now, BF and his kids are on the bill and they prefer meaty meals so the costs have gone up accordingly. We’re still reasonable but I’m always looking for ways to include the meat without it being the centerpiece (like putting 1/2lb of ground beef into pasta sauce instead of using 1.5lbs to make burgers).

  14. Michael

    Seeing Helena’s question, I was in the same scenario one year ago, almost to the week. I had even recently been given a raise. But, I was commuting to work early. Traffic. Rain. Carpools. Dread.

    I was able to negotiate a work from home plan with the company, which they had never done in their history. The plan was to show them that with me working from home, they would see no decrease in work quality, in fact they would likely see an increase. I had to take a pay cut as part of the negotiation, but it was a no brainer for me. Not only time saved on the commute, but quality of life. This was one year ago.

    We now live in the Caribbean, still working for them. With the extra time and now being several time zones ahead, I’m awake here working on my own projects when it’s only 5am there and everyone is still sleeping. I have been able to pick up several other contract clients and I sometimes work from the pool and swim in the ocean at night.

    All because I took a pay cut to get away from the office, which then gave me more time to focus on additional projects.

    Thought I’d share that since this post, and Helena asked a question about the last year of my life.

  15. Sue

    I could do with less clothes. Wait, that didn’t sound right 😉 This is a good topic for the change in season. Why buy another variation of the same black pants, black shoes or a shirt that isn’t quite right? I think the 80-20 principle applies here, like you wear 20% of your wardrobe 80% of the time.

    • Allison

      I totally know what you mean! I wear the same old basic items and yet, I buy things that don’t quite mesh with my existing wardrobe persona or things that I don’t need within the next week, so I don’t even take the tags off. Then I feel really guilty…

      I think I just had an epiphany. Thanks, Sue!

    • Sue

      Well, as far as meshing with your exisiting wardrobe, before buying something new, I always ask myself if it will go with at least 3 other things I already have. Like pink sweater goes with 1) tan cords, 2) gray skirt and 3) jeans. So there you go 🙂

  16. Kym

    I love you, Ramit, but I don’t like this new thing of posting videos instead of a written post. I don’t like having to watch a video to get information, I much prefer to read it. What I’m saying is, I want the wall o’text back!

    (Or, you know, a transcript of the video. That would be okay too.)

    • Stephanie

      I second this.

    • Didi

      AGREE. Plus i am currently living in Africa and the bandwidth and latency sucks which means it is slow and annoying and I would rather not even bother. Everything from the US is recently video based and it end up just being deleted after a a few minutes of optimistic loading.

  17. beth

    I took a serious pay cut when I stopped teaching in the classroom to start my own business tutoring. I am now back in the classroom, part time, as a substitute teacher. I could have subbed last year but I actually needed the year off to collect my wits and emotionally recover from a very toxic situation. Subbing works for me in several ways: it fills in the economic gap in that my business is paying its bills but not mine. It works as a marketing ploy because as people get to know me they will be more comfortable referring kids to me for tutoring. And, it gets me in touch with local kids again so I stay tuned with what their needs are which helps me talk to parents.

    One thing that might be a guidance for you is a book called Your Money or Your Life. One of the points that it makes is that working isn’t free and that to calculate the value of your salary you need to deduct all the costs of working that job from your salary. These are monetary, like dry cleaning and wardrobe expenses, commuting expenses, day care if relevant, and any other thing that you spend money on that you wouldn’t spend money on if you didn’t have that job. In addition, you need to calculate in the non monetary costs such as the ones you and Ramit mentioned and weigh those against the non monetary benefits. It may be that the cut you’re taking is less of a cut than you think.

    In the end it comes down to what your priorities are. If family is more important than career status then that has a lot of clout in your decision.

  18. Stephanie

    I had reached the peak of my career as Executive Chef of a large conference center and then I quit after 8 months. My family and friends thought I was crazy to turn away from that amount of money but I could no longer handle the demanding hours and pressure that went along with the job. It was putting a strain on my marriage since I was never home. When I was at home, I was asleep. I missed cookouts with friends, most gatherings with family and forget about ever going on vacation.

    I quit with no other job lined up. My husband’s income is enough to pay our bills and give us a small amount of spending money but it’s not enough to supplement our savings. I’ve been unemployed for about a month and a half now and steadily looking for a career that I would enjoy more, regardless of the salary.

    We certainly don’t have the disposable income we did before but we’re so much happier now. I gladly gave up our expensive nights out or buying a $200 purse so that I can spend quality time at home. It was an easy decision.

  19. Lea

    When I moved back to Los Angeles from NYC two years ago, I made it a priority to work within a 30 minute because I know the grind of driving over 2hrs wears on you mentally and physically. Took some freelance gigs and a part-time job, then finally landed a job right in my city that was 7 mins from my home. Unfortunately that didn’t last as I was laid off 6 months later, but I just landed another gig, 25 minutes away but going against traffic. It has been totally worth it and it allows me to continue pursuing my passing of coaching girls club volleyball.

  20. Lea

    When I moved back to Los Angeles from NYC two years ago, I made it a priority to work within a 30 minute because I know the grind of driving over 2hrs wears on you mentally and physically. Took some freelance gigs and a part-time job, then finally landed a job right in my city that was 7 mins from my home. Unfortunately that didn’t last as I was laid off 6 months later, but I just landed another gig, 25 minutes away but going against traffic. It has been totally worth it and it allows me to continue pursuing my passion of coaching girls club volleyball.

  21. Mad Fientist

    I was working remotely for a high-paying financial company but decided to give up the telecommuting lifestyle so that I could get a job at a local university in order to pursue a free graduate degree.

    It was definitely difficult getting dressed for work again but I’m half-way through getting a free master’s degree from a highly respected Ivy League institution so it was definitely worth the pay cut!

  22. Sue

    My iPhone. Downgrade to simple service

  23. Nate

    I made a similar decision recently when I was forced to quit my job for other reasons. My life revolved around the office and commuting to the office, and it seemed like I had very little free time, so I was paying for things like:

    – Cleaning service. $170/mo
    – Eating out ($10 lunch most days of the week): $150-200/mo
    – Gasoline $100/mo

    Not to mention the time I was spending getting ready for work, driving to work or sitting in an office all day, whether any work was actually getting done (most office jobs involve a significant amount of non-work time).

    I decided I value my time more than I valued my high salary, so I’ve made a conscious decision to look only for part-time, short-term freelancing work that I can do at home or telecommuting, while I work on a startup of my own (for some reason, working on things you create yourself feels completely different from working on tasks your boss assigns to you). I will earn less but I will recapture the time I was losing to things I don’t care about, and have more time for the things I was neglecting, like my social life.

    Life is too short. We need to periodically examine the tradeoffs we are making in time vs. money, and decide if it’s worth it.

  24. Nate

    BTW I would add that having a significant amount of savings makes it easy to walk away from a situation you don’t like.

  25. Steve

    Ramit is turning into Marie Forleo with the Q&As. I like it.

  26. Wilbert Rosario

    Ramit, Excellent post. Now I see things differently. Last May, I was fire from the organization I worked to. Since that time to now, I am working on graphic design, websites and screenprinting from my home place; but last week, the company I used to work to, call me and make me an offer, I told them “I will think about it”. I was getting a weekly paying, that is not the same on being freelance; but with this post I realize that is better to keep going on this road (the freelance one) in order to make my own company on the future. Really appreciate your e-mail. Thanks.

  27. MainlineMom

    Good video, good answer. My answer would’ve been something more like “your husband is a money-obsessed idiot” which wouldn’t be very nice. As a mother of two kids I couldn’t even imagine commuting 3 hrs a day. Unless you’re the sole breadwinner, there’s no reason you can’t deal with moving from six figures to five for the incredible plus of 3 hrs more time and probably less stress. My husband commutes 2 hrs+ a day and *I* hate how it affects him. I took a paycut when I had kids (not a cut in payscale actually, just hours) and my quality of life has been pretty awesome because of it. I work from home, 30 hrs a week and I get to see my kids before and after school and still have a fulfilling engineering career.

    What could I do with less of? Caffeine. Specifically Coke Zero/Diet Coke, but also if I could limit my coffee to one cup a day that’d be good.

  28. Aimee

    income – the company i work for allows at most 5 tutoring hours per night. i trade 1 hour of work to spend dinner with my family.

  29. Anthea

    Strangely enough, with my last job change I cut my commute down to 5-10 minutes, and still wound up making more money (and having more vacation time).

    That said, I could definitely use less time spent at work – there’s so much else I want to do with my time!

  30. Tracey

    I’m already kind of doing this. It’s been an interesting process.

    Almost two years ago I started putting some of your techniques to work in getting myself a different job. The one I had was stressful, had a long commute, a crappy benefit package and was not conducive at all to being a mom.

    The job I landed gave me a small bump in salary, but it’s stayed almost flat since then. I was one of the few people at my company to receive a raise this year, so I count myself lucky for that (btw I also used your advice on putting my accomplishments all on paper to show what I’d done, toward getting that raise). I know that I could probably make more with what I know now by heading back into the city, but these are the reasons I am quite happy with less money:

    1. We have a killer employer contributed pension fund in addition to a 403b;

    2. My compensation also includes tuition reimbursement;

    3. Flex spending accounts for medical and child care, which I make use of;

    4. Employer paid or partially paid health programs like flu shots and weight loss;

    5. A 30 minute commute over nearly empty roads through fields instead of 60 in bumper to bumper traffic – on a road known to explode with beach traffic and push the time to 3 hours. I get some great thinking and music listening in during those times, and it’s nice and peaceful;

    6. An awesome boss and sane coworkers;

    7. Lastly and most importantly, a flexible schedule that allows me the work/life balance I need to be a single mom. This is…priceless. I take cupcakes in for his birthday. I don’t think twice about taking time off for doctor appointments. I can have the life I imagined for the two of us when I was busy struggling through a shitty separation. And the way he looks at me when I pull through for him on something, god, I feel like I have a big S on my shirt.

    The other thing I am doing with less of, and this is kind of unfortunate but necessary, is entertainment and stuff. This is because I was an idiot years ago living way above my means and now have a small mountain of collections that I’m paying off. It’s a lot slower than I would like, and I have a lot of opportunity to explain to my son why we don’t need to live affluently to have fun, but it’s also been a much needed lesson in living responsibly. I can see now that I blew a lot of money and lived more extravagantly than I needed to because I was unhappy and tried to spend myself into feeling good.

    As a side benefit of doing with less, I’ve also lost 20 pounds 🙂 it turns out that cooking within a budget is better for me than takeout and Doritos, go figure.

    In a little more than two years, I hope to be debt free and starting to put some of your saving/investing advice to work. Thanks!

  31. Bill H.

    I traded down my full time job so I could enroll in school full time for my first degree. I picked a program of study that interests me instead of a career path. I’m 40 years old and I’m loving every minute of it.

  32. Cliff Samuels Jr

    I would also suggest that if she wants more money is to use your techniques in achieving a promotion and raise. When your current No-Stress Guide to Salary Negotiation is open again, Helena should apply for the course.

  33. Jurgen

    Just took a pay cut for a new job which provides equity. Will probably not get rich with it but there is always that chance… impact of all this: I work 50% more and have no time anymore to go for drinks so probably I actually am left with more money in the end of the month… alcohol is expensive in cold Moscow:)

  34. Jurgen

    Just took a pay cut for a new job which provides equity. Will probably not get rich with it but there is always that chance… impact of all this: I work 50% more and have no time anymore to go for drinks so probably I actually am left with more money in the end of the month… alcohol is expensive in cold Moscow:)

  35. Gary Schultze

    I would like to cut back on my day job and increase time working for my own company. I started selling my products online and am developing a dealer channel and there just isn’t enough time in the day to grow my company while still maintaining FT work to pay my bills. I can’t afford to hire out and I’m not excited about taking in partners. Any ideas?

  36. Susan

    Your post is so well thought-out. You address values concerns not easily quantified,the intangible not only the material.

    From my perspective (I’m likely one of your oldest readers) a three hour commute would shred any possibility of family life. Don’t know the details of Helena’s family composition or other income sources, but why would anyone choose to reproduce, or perhaps I should say have a family, if one didn’t commit to the responsibility of rearing the children? Ya’ can’t out source parenting.

    I have just taken retirement and yes it will be costly in terms of loss of income – perhaps 45% but it will be worth it in consideration of my health and equanimity. My spending patterns redefine ‘frugal’. The most likely option would be to scale back on gifts to family (aka The Bank of Mom) and to supplement pension with part-time work (I have very low aspirations, looking for flexibility and health care insurance).

    Of course we all have material needs and security needs, some of which are represented in financial terms. But what really matters?

    Agree, seems that Helena has made her choice and is looking for outside opinions to bolster that choice.

  37. Maya

    Yeap, couldn’t agree more. I’m all about lifestyle design. I had a client once that wanted me to do a 3 hour commute after promising that wasn’t part of the deal, I left, quickly. To answer the question, I recently cut my rent by 1/5 and got rid of my over priced car. I’m doing a reboot and it feels great.

  38. Zach

    I could do with less options and quantity of food in my house.

  39. ken

    Hi Ramit — I rarely bother to watch videos as I prefer to read. However, I really like this video. I hope you make more!

  40. Johnny Wu

    Loving the responses to this video.

    It’s really nice to hear from so many people taking control of their lives sacrificing, income, etc to live a simpler or happier lifestyle.

    My suggestion for drastically reducing cost has been to move abroad from the United States to a country where their PPP( purchasing power) per USD is so much more.

    Take your salary from the States and get a value 2-4x as much.

    • phntsticpeg

      Very true but its a BIG step if you’re not well traveled. I’m planning on retiring in Barbados – build a house for 60K and enjoy the weather. Not from there but I have friends from there, they speak English and I love the beach.

      No I won’t have all the fancy amenities but I don’t need them, just internet and phone.

  41. Cathy0

    When I had my children I took a dramatic pay cut and moved to part time. My husband also rearranged his hours to work four days a week. We have never regretted being able to spend more time with our kids while they are little. It also shows you how much unnecessary stuff you buy when you earn more.
    Things I could do with less of – chocolate 🙂

  42. Daien

    I already live very close to the bone, but, deeply inspired by many of the commenters, have decided to give up my daily wine/beer. I’ll save it for a special treat instead, and will use the saved dollars to pay off some debt.

  43. Mayflower

    saw your website for the first time yesterday, and already called my cousin who’s a banker for advice on some safe saving options, which I will put into practice Monday. I live in India, and since I didn’t have/raise children, pretty much donated all I earned (I travelled on work all the time so had few personal expenses) till I was 45. Now I’m 47, and have been saving for the past two years, but am aware that I have less time to get a reasonable sum stashed away for old age/illness. Have been working at it, but your website inspired me to do more.

    I already live pretty simply, and have cut down my crazy worklife to focus on my meditation and health more. What I need less of – grocery shopping that’s wasteful and unnecessary. I’ve recently stopped myself from going overboard with food shopping. I buy very few things, and allow myself to buy more only when I’ve consumed what I have already. I find I’m throwing away much less food. Also, less private transport/minicabs,etc. I’ve also begun using more public transport, and walking to do a lot of errands.

    Thanks also for the Time Toolkit. I’ve just begun using the 28 Days to Make a Habit and the Time Use Diary, and it’s already making me more mindful – see, spiritual benefits to boot!

    Thanks, Ramit.


  44. David Simpson

    One area where I could do less is “thinking” about risk and include more thinking about opportunity.

  45. Jane

    I did this 16+ years ago – halved my income as a hospital based physical therapy manager, went down to 2 days a week garuanteed work in a clinic with no stress, gradually built back up to 4 days a week self-employed in my own clinic at a much higher hourly rate, and no commute at all. Now I can afford to work in the sun in greece for 12 weeks every year [ between swimming, sunbathing and socialising…] instead of staying in the UK for so-called summer. Stress is still present – will I be able to pay the others’ wages in the clinic in the current economy? But if it all goes tits up, I can still take my hands somewhere else and sell the clinic up, work from home again. There are always options, and if you stay positive in your outlook and plan for worst case/best case scenarios, you will always know what comes next… good luck. I could save money on my expensive permanent hair straightening… but I won’t coz I love it too much. I plan it in. I could invite less people to my wedding instead…

  46. Greg Hickman

    I actually used your negotiating to enhanace my quality of life by having my full time employer at the time agree to let me go part time but make the same salary. This was in lieu of a raise. Instead of the raise, I opted to keep my salary which has allowed me to live the way I’d like to grow my own site and create another income stream on the side.

    It’s definitely not about the money and I’m so much happier now that I get to work from wherever half the week while working on some other things that bring me tons of happiness.

  47. Tony

    MJ DeMarco in his book preaches about how you have to get out of the wealth equation in which money = time spent working. I think it’s essentially saying what we all know in the markets – that you have to make your money work for you, not the other way around.

    In business, this generally translates into compounded return because you can hire human resources. In the markets, it generally translates into having more money so you can make more money off the same investment idea.

  48. Jessica@LifeRemotely

    Hey Ramit,
    It’s about time you wrote this post! I recently did a serious time/money trade. I’m a graphic designer, my husband a web developer, our combined business was on target to make $250K a year. We traded down to travel the world. Currently in Bolivia, we’ve driven 19,000 miles from our home in Seattle. Now we work 10-15 hours a week instead of 60, and make 40K a year, which is exactly enough to sustain our travels.

    Here’s what I gave up when I traded down:
    – A second car
    – $2,500 a month rent
    – Expensive vacations
    – A house load of things, tv’s, furniture, clothes, dishes, iDevices, kitchen appliances, souvenir collections…

    This lifestyle isn’t for everyone, after all, I do live in a tent. But the decision to give up a quarter million a year to camp next to scarlet macaws, learn to make tacos al pastor, explore the most spectacular pre-colombian ruins in the world, is one that I’ll never regret.


  49. phntsticpeg

    I did this years ago – I left a corporate job, went back to school and now teach. Yeah I make way less than I did but I’m good. I can live with what I have. And I’m very happy with what I do.

    Which is why when I get the emails about “negotiate more money at work” I roll my eyes. In my case I can’t but also I have proven to myself that I’m more interested in having a job I love and free time than money.

    The next goal is to make sure I’m good for retirement in 20 years.

  50. Matt

    Less projects, less todos. I’ve found for myself that the line between feeling balanced vs screaming at people for not using their blinker is surprisingly small. By quitting just one activity, or cutting back on just one project, I can cut out all stress. It serves as a way to continually cultivate the 80/20, stay focused on what is truly important and prune the rest.

  51. Sally Stretton

    I traded down in the amount of money I made for a shorter commute.It was not intentional, but it was a blessing. I was laid off from a job where I was making over $100K a year, but my commute was about 3 hours roundtrip and I worked long hours to avoid sitting in traffic. That job help to ruin my relationship with my fiance because I spent so much time at work. I now have a job that is about a 15 minute commute and I make a lot less than I use to, but my quality of life and work life balance is in a much better place.

    Sally Stretton

  52. Smik

    I believe I’m currently trading down at the moment (in terms of salary) in exchange for experience. I’m a 2011 graduate who decided to work at a smaller IT consulting company as a web developer over a potentially higher paying job at a bigger firm. However, that was a conscious decision and I’m glad I made it; working for a smaller company has meant added responsibility and being able to be closer to the final product as opposed to working with only bits and pieces of it. It’s also meant quicker exposure to newer technologies as my company realizes the value in turning me into a better developer. Lastly, the good work-life balance at my company (which isn’t necessarily a trait of a smaller company) gives me the option to spend time outside of work training myself in web technologies that I don’t really use at work but that are still up and coming.

    Also, with regards to your question, I truly believe that cutting down on meals is possible – I WAS spending a lot on ‘eating out’ and have recently cut down on. However, aside from that I think I need to cut down on spending money on my friends’ behalves. I often offer to pay for meals or drinks when the weekend comes around without caring about it too much since it’s all budgeted for. However, that money could be easily going elsewhere.

  53. Jay

    Ben Franklin was first quoted as saying “Time is money”, most people simply think of that as an expression, but you can calculate how much your time really costs and what you sell it for. I recently wrote a post detailing the various ways you can optimize the value you get for your time.

  54. Sonia

    I took a job about 5 years ago with a $10,000 a year paycut to get my sanity back and to keep enjoying waking up each and every day to work. Sure, some days, I would enjoy that extra cash, but when I think of all the non-monetary benefits I have access to, including a home office now, it was worth it.

    I can see how someone would “ask for permission”, as Ramit put it. So many put a lot of value on pay, status and so on. So many things in life are so valuable, you cannot put a monetary value on them.

    I may have less pay, but I have more personal time, a better work-personal life balance, I am more joyful, I have amazing coworkers and I love translation more than ever before. It’s all about personal priorities, doing what feels right for you, even if the rest of the world thinks you’re insane. They do not live your life, they do not know what it’s like to be you, so frankly, it is none of their business.

    (getting off my soapbox and going back to work with a smile)

  55. Joshua P

    I feel as if I should cut down on commute as well. After running my company for 2 years and non-stop work I feel as if sometimes working from home would greatly benefit me. I actually plan on working from home at least one day a week from now on. Considering I’m finally comfortable with all my workers doing their job unsupervised. I can’t imagine cutting off the few times I do go out to eat, though I have cut off part of my entertainment budget in order to make sure I had money to save every month.

  56. Meredith


    I am currently in a negotiation with my boss regarding a raise. I was offered a small hourly increase and bonuses if my overtime hours were to be reduced. I would like to have less time at the office and more time for myself.

    This will be a calculated negotiation since both wages and time are being negotiated.