How To Make Time Equal Money 24 Hours A Day

I never understood how the phrase “Time is money” could ever apply to my life. After all, no one was paying me 24 hours a day so how could my free time possibly translate to money?

How could wasting time watching television or playing video games cost me anything when no one was paying me anything anyways?

It took me quite a while to comprehend the true meaning behind this statement. And after 10+ years of frittering away countless hours and taking my free time for granted, my business and my child finally made me realize how badly I was selling myself short.


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For example, I used to always try to save money whenever I could by doing things myself. I would try and save a couple of bucks by changing my own oil even if it took me twice as long as going to Jiffy Lube.

One time my car needed new brake pads so I spent a full weekend learning how to replace them myself. Sure, I ended up saving a couple of bucks but at what expense? Could I have used this time more wisely by doing some other activity?

The other day one of my friends finally bought a house after over 2 years of house hunting. Turns out that he tried to save money by going with a discount real estate agent.

Basically this agent was willing to refund him .75% of the sales commission as long he did all of the leg work. As a result, he wasted tons of time looking at houses that he was not interested in and had to arrange his time around open house schedules.

In the end, he probably saved around 7000 dollars but at what cost?

He probably could’ve saved a ton of gas and time by having a real estate agent preview homes for him. That way he would only have had to look at houses that he realistically had an interest in buying.

Time Is Only Money When You Are Making Good Use Of It

The reality of it all is that time is not valuable until you do something valuable with it. Most people neglect to factor in the time component when it comes to making or saving money.

And as a result, most people drastically undervalue their time because they aren’t making productive use of it. When my wife and I didn’t have our business and I didn’t have this blog, we didn’t have any concept of using our time wisely.

So we squandered it away watching television and lounging around with very little to show for it.

As a result, I never used to place much value on my time at all. While I enjoyed relaxing, I always felt empty at the end of the day. Since time was not a scarce commodity for me, I was willing to do some stupid things to save money at the expense of my time.

Perhaps one of the most egregious examples of my poor use of time was when I decided to move out of my apartment without the help of a moving company.

I figured I could grab a few friends and save a good deal of cash by moving out myself. In the end, it took my friends and I an entire weekend to complete the task.

Meanwhile, a moving company could’ve completed the same task for a few hundred dollars and saved me over a day. Given that my 3 friends and

I probably spent over 12 hours doing the move, we were paying ourselves roughly 9 dollars an hour per person. Definitely not worth it.

How Do I Make My Time More Valuable?

So how can you avoid the same trap that I fell into? Do you find yourself selling yourself short? Do you spend time on projects that simply aren’t worth your time?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you need to sit down and reevaluate how you budget your time. The key to making time equal money is to immerse yourself in projects that have long term value and to avoid projects with one off gains.

Instead of thinking about how you can save or make money on a singular project or activity at the expense of your time, think about how you can develop systems that can save or make money for you on a consistent basis in the long run.

In other words, instead of focusing of saving a few bucks here or a few bucks there, try and think of ways that you can provide value for a broader audience.

For example, I maintain this blog in order to motivate others and help them start their own businesses. I know that every article I write that provides value will pay me back a hundred fold in the long run.

The same is true with my online business. I know that every hour that I spend working on the website or adding new content or products to the store will eventually net me gains that far outweigh my time investments.

Meanwhile, if I use my time saving a few bucks here and there changing my own oil or doing other things that I’m simply not efficient at doing, I might save some money once but the time investment would offer no long term value.

How Do I Distinguish Between Good And Bad Time Investments?

These days, whenever I see an opportunity to save or make money, I ask myself the following questions before proceeding.

  • How long will it take me to complete the project?
  • How much money will I make or save?
  • Is the hourly savings or cost worth my time? What other projects require my attention?
  • If the hourly cost is not worth the money, is this activity something that can provide me with a useful skill? Will I enjoy doing this activity?

While I can not quantify the exact value of an hour of my time, I do know that my schedule everyday is completely packed. I have to constantly juggle spending time with my daughter, working on our online business or writing articles for this blog.

These days, an activity has to really be worthwhile in order displace some of my other activities that are already providing long term value.

As a result, I rarely try to do anything beyond my core competency by myself unless I’m really interested in learning a particular skill. Time is far too valuable to waste on petty projects. The key is prioritizing your time for activities with the most potential.

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About Steve Chou

Steve Chou is a highly recognized influencer in the ecommerce space and has taught thousands of students how to effectively sell physical products online over at

His blog,, has been featured in Forbes, Inc, The New York Times,  Entrepreneur and MSNBC.  

He's also a contributing author for BigCommerce, Klaviyo, ManyChat, Printful, Privy, CXL, Ecommerce Fuel, GlockApps, Privy, Social Media Examiner, Web Designer Depot, Sumo and other leading business publications.

In addition, he runs a popular ecommerce podcast, My Wife Quit Her Job, which is a top 25 marketing show on all of Apple Podcasts

To stay up to date with all of the latest ecommerce trends, Steve runs a 7 figure ecommerce store,, with his wife and puts on an annual ecommerce conference called The Sellers Summit.  

Steve carries both a bachelors and a masters degree in electrical engineering from Stanford University. Despite majoring in electrical engineering, he spent a good portion of his graduate education studying entrepreneurship and the mechanics of running small businesses. 

30 thoughts on “How To Make Time Equal Money 24 Hours A Day”

  1. Herbert says:

    Agreed, I figure that time is often overlooked as an investment and I really like your use of the term.

    1. Steve says:

      Thanks. It was really hard for me to fully comprehend the time value of money.

      So very true. It sounds as though you have built a valuable money making affiliate machine:) And now you can sit back and reap the rewards! I may have to get some pointers from you in the future

  2. Anthony says:

    As I was updating one of my affiliate websites last night, it struck me that one of the most exciting things about having an online business is (literally) making money while you sleep. For years now, one of the first things that I do is get up and login to my various accounts to see how much money has been made while I slept. As you have pointed out in your series on building an online business, it isn’t hard if you take action, stay focused, and don’t give up. Oh, and learning from those who have gone before you will reduce the learning curve and save lots of money, which is why articles such as your “how to” series are so effective.

  3. Andrea Hess|Empowered Soul says:

    I love this article! As my income has grown, I find myself valuing my time differently. I outsource what I previously would have done myself, and find my income growing even more as a result.

    It’s so important to spend our time doing what we want to do, expressing our true gifts, rather than doing what we “have to” or “should” do! This is amazingly true for investing time in our business, as well.


    1. Steve says:

      So very true. I think that it’s a sign that the value of your time has gone way up during the course of your business. And by comcentrating your time on your core competencies, your income has increased as a result. That’s awesome!

      Good luck with your online endeavors. May I ask what your business does?

  4. Lana says:

    I just started looking into outsourcing and your article was very valuable, thanks for sharing!
    I was trying to do everything myself in my online business in the beginning, but noticed that it was not growing as quickly as it should. I definitely need to prioritize better and invest my time wiser.

  5. Seamus Anthony says:

    Awesome post. But wouldn’t it be easier to do this by putting a dollar amount on an hour of your time? That’s what I do, and then when my (wonderful) DIY obsessed wife has me jumping through too many hoops I bring it back to that and draw the line. Although, on the other hand, there is a certain pleasure in doing a job together like paving the garden or whatever. I guess it comes down to the quality of the time and the ability you either do or do not have to do a job competently.

    As an aside, and as a sellr of online info products and affiliate products, I find it funny when people talk about making money while you sleep.

    That’s not really what is happening, what is happening is that (if you sell a product while you are asleep or otherwise engaged) you are getting paid for the work you did earlier. Splitting semantic hairs, perhaps … (No offense intended Anthony)

    1. Steve says:

      I think placing a dollar amount on your time is much easier if you are a consultant or a service based business. Since our business fluctuates so much from month to month and it’s difficult to correlate exactly how much my efforts have contributed, I can only create a mental approximation of how I value my time. I can tell you though that my bar is set pretty high these days.

  6. Monevator says:

    You can find yourself taking this a stage further if you’re a freelancer or consultant or other self employed person.

    Once you get really used to thinking of time as hourly blocks as money, I’ve found you start to think of time as purchases. So that new big TV isn’t $1,000 — it’s 20 hours, or whatever your rate is.

    Coming at it from the other end of the spectrum, but still relevant I think.

    1. Steve says:

      I guess I don’t like to think this way because it inherently implies that you are trading time for money one for one. I like to think of my time as a resource that I can use to exponentially increase my wealth and to grow a living entity. Time is something that I use to help accelerate growth rather than to complete a specific task. Then again, I’m not a freelancer or a consultant. I would imagine the mindset of a freelancer would be as how you’ve described it.

  7. Stephen - Rat Race Trap says:

    I absolutely agree with this. If you like doing all that stuff then by all means do it. I personally suffer more than the loss of my time and money when I do it. I take years off my life because I hate doing it. My time is my life and I am committed to not waste any more of it! Thanks!

    1. Steve says:

      I agree. I always start out interested in doing one off projects. But what usually ends up happening is that I screw up somewhere and dig myself into a big hole:)

  8. Penny says:

    Great article, though I do have to sort of disagree with the comment about learning to replace your break pads. In my opinion this was valuable. It may have been more work, taken more time, but it was worth it to me for the knowledge gained.

    Learning to do something myself is very rewarding for me. Even if it may have been easier to let somebody else do it for me. I do understand your concept of time, and money – and how it could be better spent elsewhere for you though.

    1. Steve says:

      I would agree with you if I actually had any interest in learning about brakes and brake pads. I actually learned how to do it myself because I thought it was ridiculous that the mechanic wanted 350 dollars to fix my brakes. After finishing the job however, I realized that it was well worth the money. Bottom line is that you have to do what floats your boat. I could have spent that time learning something else.

  9. Scott Clark says:

    Well, this is idealized in some ways. The changing your oil example is pretty obvious. But outsourcing other business functions is not so clear. The reason? Incompetence. .

    The vast majority of my outsourcing experiences have had worse than mediocre outcomes. My standards in business are possibly unrealistically high, but if I were to, for example, outsource my WordPress updates to someone, I expect them to at least remember to backup the database and take normal precautions. Ditto with accounting/bookkeeping or even computer repair.

    I pay top dollar, and go with referrals and references, but still end up spending far more on the damage they do than I would have to do the work myself.

    I am hopeful this trend changes b/c I do so much more than I should right now.

    1. Steve says:

      Outsourcing is always a bit tricky. I’ve found that my most successful outsourcing endeavors have been when I’ve created a very tight specification of work for the contractor to complete. If you are somewhat vague or wishwashy about what you want done, then things usually end up not meeting your expectations. The main problem with creating a detailed specification is that you usually have to have some amount of knowledge of the subject matter. It’s a very delicate balancing act to find the sweet spot

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  12. David Koh says:

    Hi Steve,

    That is a great article certainly.Many people waste and spend long hours on non-productive tasks.They are clueless about time management.The fact is it is impossible to claim back time when it is gone.A great way to make good use of time is to prioritise and keep time stealers away.Concentrate on what is important and delegate the rest.Put certain tasks on automation whenever possible.

    Thanks for the good advice.

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  14. feng shui singapore says:

    Well I was a victim of my own mistakes too. I used to save money and do all the manual work one by one instead of outsourcing. It took me a long while to understand what is the true meaning of leveraging your time and money.

    This is really a great educational post t all.

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  15. Cynthia says:

    Kind of off-topic, but I figured you’d be the best source to ask.

    I know that you and your wife didn’t take out a loan when you started, but I’m looking at taking out a business loan or getting business credit cards to help me out. This know would’ve been near impossible with how traditional banks operate, however, I’ve been seeing A LOT of websites coming out of the blue offering to loan online businesses $$$. What’s your take on these? I know even Richard Branson has a site now specifically to lend money (Virgin Money).

    Do you think they’re just a money pit (scam), just as much trouble as a regular bank, or worth considering?


    1. Steve says:

      Hi Cynthia,

      Unfortunately, I don’t know a whole lot about this topic so I can’t help you out here.

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  18. Jeff says:

    I agree with the concept, but have not done enough to implement the outsourcing of tasks as much as I should…..thanks.

  19. Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life says:

    I’ve been trying to make my time more valuable. Part of that is making sure I get paid based on results rather than hours. If you’re constantly tied to an hourly, you’re always going to be restricted in your earning.

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  21. Dina Eisenberg says:

    Steve, you made my week with this article! Spot-on. I’m a big fan of outsourcing. It frees up your time, energy and creativity to focus on the work you’re meant to be doing instead of doing low value, sometimes ego-stroking work that can be so satisfying.

    There’s a ‘fear and loathing’ thing I see in entrepreneurs. Fear someone will figure out what we do and duplicate it (or fear someone will figure out we don’t know what we’re doing). And, loathing to give up control over ‘our baby’, because no one can ‘do it right’. People get stuck or sick, then go out of business with their best stuff not shared. Sad.

    This article outlined how to avoid that fate, if someone is willing to put in a small bit of effort up front. Nobody is great at anything the first few times, but you learn how to clearly communicate so you get what you want; how to interact with being bossy or feeling guilty and how to give feedback when you don’t like the results. Learning to delegate is excellent business training, no matter what you do. (Most issues are ‘user error’ in my experience)

    Don’t get me started on the upside-delegating one 20 minute task a week can add a extra month to your year. Hello?! Thanks, Steve, for being a great role model around this and sharing your journey. Can’t wait to share this article.

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