7 ways to buy back your time (Hint: Spend Money)

Sometimes it’s worth it to spend money. For example, what if you could buy time? Think about it. If you had an extra hour in your day, what would you do with it?

Pick up a new hobby?

Learn a new language?

Find new ways to make money?

What if you had two extra hours, or even three? What would you do then?

To most, even an extra half hour in the day can seem like a gift. While some might think it’s impossible to even find enough time to eat, let alone do things they enjoy (I’m looking at you entrepreneurs), there are actually a LOT of ways you can carve out more hours in the day.

How? Simple: Spend Money to buy back your time.

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Why spending money on convenience makes you happier

When we talk about buying back your time, what we’re really talking about is convenience. These are purchases that make your day-to-day more convenient — thereby saving money.

Some examples:

  • Travel apps
  • Uber / Lyft
  • Pre-cooked meals
  • Grocery delivery
  • Personal trainers
  • Housekeepers

By spending money on convenience and buying back your time, you’re able to get back hours in your day you’d normally spend on things that: 1. don’t make you happy and 2. you can hire someone else to do.

Science also shows that it can actually make you happier too.

According to a study published by the National Academy of Sciences, “spending money on time-saving services is linked to greater life satisfaction.”

To conduct the study, they recruited 60 people and gave them cash on two consecutive weekends and asked them to spend it two different ways.

“On one weekend we gave them $40 and asked them to spend it in any way that would give them more free time,” Elizabeth Dunn, co-author of the study, told NPR.

Subjects chose different services that helped their lives be more convenient, ranging from cleaning services to meal deliveries.

The next weekend, they gave the subjects another $40 but told them to spend it on “material purchases.”

“One person bought polo shirts,” Dunn said. “Another participant bought wine that she described as fancy.”

After these weekends, the subjects were asked how much “positive emotion” they experienced — and they wound up reporting better experiences when they bought back their time!

That’s because when you get your time back, you can spend it on things that actually matter to you. You no longer have to worry about the little things that add up in the day.

Plus you can use that time to invest in another income stream like a freelance side hustle or your own business and make even MORE money.

And yet … so few of us actually do it. Instead, we run around like chickens with their heads cut off and complain about being so busy — even though there are ways we can buy back our time easily.

This happens for a few reasons:

  • We LOVE being busy. People relish being busy even if the time spent isn’t worthwhile. It makes us feel like we’re getting a lot of work done when, in reality, we’re getting WAY less done than we could.
  • We feel guilty when we spend on convenience. A lot of people look at things like ride-sharing apps and house cleaners like unnecessary luxuries despite how helpful they can actually be. This is shaped by culture, society, and our upbringing.
  • We don’t realize how much time it can save us. We just don’t know what we don’t know. As such, people don’t realize how many untold hours they could be saving by delegating some of their routine tasks.

That’s why I want to show exactly how you can start buying back your time today by leaning into convenience.

How to buy back your time

Buying back time is going to look different for different people. After all, your life and interests are going to be much different than everyone else’s.

However, you can find out what you should be delegating to others by asking yourself two questions: Where do I add the most value — and where do I add the least?

I Will Teach You to Be Rich’s CEO Ramit Sethi wrote about this once for our sister site, GrowthLab. In that article, he outlines a good system for recognizing the areas you can spend money to buy back your time:

  1. Double down on where you add the most value. Recognize your talents and passions and lean into the areas you really care about (e.g., working on your business, writing, learning languages).
  2. Delegate the areas where you’re value neutral. These are the things you’re ambivalent about doing in your day-to-day life and could live without performing (e.g., cooking, driving, making appointments).
  3. Delegate the areas where you’re value negative. These are the areas of your life you dislike doing and you view more as a chore than anything else (e.g., laundry, cleaning, taxes).

Here’s how the system above might look for someone who is a parent and wants to spend more time with their kids:

  • Double down on where you add the most value. Maybe you’re a fantastic parent and really know how to take care of your kids. That might be something you want to spend more time doing. Awesome! You should lean into this.
  • Delegate the areas where you’re value neutral. As a parent, you often find yourself cooking for your kids — but you’re pretty ambivalent about it. You can buy back hours out of your week by purchasing pre-cooked meals from a private chef.
  • Delegate the areas where you’re value negative. You HATE doing housekeeping work like laundry, scrubbing, and polishing — which is totally fine. Luckily, you can outsource all of that work by getting a housekeeper. Boom. Instant hours back on your schedule.

When you take a look at your value add, you can lean into the areas where you’re more valuable while delegating the rest.

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7 areas to buy back your time

Now let’s take a look at seven areas in our lives where we can buy back our time. I’ve included a price range for how much you’ll be spending for each service — as well as how much time you can buy back.

1. Laundry

What you’re currently doing: Taking load after load of laundry to the dingy laundry room in your apartment basement you share with a dozen other families.

How you can buy back your time: Pick up and drop off laundry services like Rinse.com.

Cost: $1.75 / lb or $59 / month

Time saved: 1 – 2 hours per week

2. Housecleaning

What you’re currently doing: Scrubbing, cleaning, and vacuuming every inch of your house and still somehow not getting it clean enough.

How you can buy back your time: Hiring a housekeeper.

Cost: $50 – $100 / hour

Time saved: 5 – 20 hours / week

3. Transportation

What you’re currently doing: Using public transportation, walking, or biking to save money.

How you can buy back your time: Using a ride-sharing app like Uber or Lyft.

Cost: $5 – $15 / ride

Time saved: Variable, depending on commute.

4. Home improvement

What you’re currently doing: Watching YouTube videos while risking life and limb to repair issues around your house.

How you can buy back your time: Hiring a repairman.

Cost: Variable. This depends on the work that needs to be done and the extent of damages. However, some appliance servicers charge anywhere between $100 – $200 / hour

Time saved: 3 – 6 hours / week

5. Cooking

What you’re currently doing: Cooking every one of your meals and trying to figure out why your food doesn’t look like it does in the pictures online EVEN THOUGH YOU FOLLOWED THE DIRECTIONS.

How you can buy back your time: Order food to be delivered via apps like GrubHub or Postmates.

Cost: $10 – $20 / meal

Time saved: 6 hours / week

6. Groceries

What you’re currently doing: Going to the grocery store each week, forgetting to bring your reusable grocery bags, and hating yourself for it.

How you can buy back your time: Grocery delivery sites like freshdirect.com.

Cost: Price of groceries, plus shipping is $5.99 / order

Time saved: 1 – 2 hours / week

7. Dog walking

What you’re currently doing: Taking Fido out three times a day including the occasional 3 a.m. bathroom break because he accidentally drank too much water in the evening.

How you can buy back your time: Dog walking services like Wag and DogWalker.com.

Cost: $10 – $20 / hour

Time saved: 5 – 7 hours per week

How are you going to buy back your time?

All told, if you outsourced each of the seven areas above, you could potentially save 46 hours each week! That’s more than SIX hours per day.

Now here’s something I want to hear from you: What would you do if you had six extra hours a day? Leave a comment below. I’d love to hear what you would do if you bought back your time.

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Written by

Host of Netflix's "How to Get Rich", NYT Bestselling Author & host of the hit I Will Teach You To Be Rich Podcast. For over 20 years, Ramit has been sharing proven strategies to help people like you take control of their money and live a Rich Life.