“Time is money.”

I’m sure you’ve heard this expression. I’ve usually heard it in reference to the fact that when we go to work, we are exchanging our time for money. But recently, I’ve been thinking about it in a different way.

My husband and I recently read the book You Need A Budget by Jesse Mecham. The driving principle of this personal finance book is that you should ask what you want your money to do for you, and then you should give every dollar a job. This has been helpful for my husband and I as we have been striving to be better stewards of our money. However, it has caused me to think about another unit in life that I really need a budget for: my time.

Time and money have many similarities, but there are two primary differences between them. Unlike money, we all have the same amount of time in the bank account of our days: 1,440 minutes. And although we can save the money we acquire today to use in the future, we cannot save up our minutes. We have to use all 1,440 of them each day. However, my thoughts have been focused on the similarities between time and money.

Like in You Need A Budget, rather than asking what you want your money to do for you, ask yourself what you want your time to do for you. I can’t tell you what the answer to this question will be for yourself, but for me, I want my time to give me a closer relationship to God. I want it to help me be a good wife and a good mother. I want it to help me become a better storyteller to give glory to God. If you think about what your true priorities are, these are the things you probably want your time to help you accomplish.

Once you’ve determined what your priorities are, think of the things you could spend your time on that would most help you to reach your goals. If I want to have a closer relationship with God, I should devote time to studying His Word and talking to Him through prayer. If I want to be a better wife, I should plan to devote time to getting to know my husband better through conversation and hobbies we enjoy together. If I want to be a better mother, I should be intentional about spending time with my daughter. If I want to be a better storyteller, I should make time to read books that will expand my mind and create the right mindset for storytelling, and I should make time to write.

Of course, there are things in life that will take your time that may not seem to exactly line up with your main priorities. Eating, sleeping, personal hygiene, and some form of exercise are all things that take up time and are basic, necessary parts of life. Buying groceries and paying your electric bill may not seem to contribute directly to your goals of saving for retirement or having money to travel, but they’re essential to survival. Don’t neglect basic healthy habits in favor of meeting a goal you feel is “more spiritual.” Don’t forget that the Holy Spirit lives in you; spend the necessary minutes to take care of His temple. (1 Corinthians 6:19)

Not neglecting the essentials of life, it’s time to make our time budget. Rather than giving every dollar a job, I would challenge you to give every minute a job. You could do this in two different ways. You could make a general schedule for your day, including the activities that match your priorities. Or, you could determine to spend a certain amount of time on your imperative actives daily or weekly. A planner can be a useful tool for this, and has proven to be very helpful as I have worked towards my own goals in the last few years.

Although a planner can be a helpful tool, don’t be too rigid in your planning. As with a money budget, the unexpected is bound to happen as you attempt to budget your time. Just like unexpected car repairs that seem to take money from your “more important” priorities, unexpected delays will happen. This is especially true in my life of being a stay-at-home mom of a seven-month-old. In fact, I actually sat down to write this blog post yesterday while my daughter took her nap. However, the nap only lasted twenty minutes, and I had to adjust. I opted to delay my writing until today, Saturday, when my husband would be home to take care of the baby while I focused on writing. Don’t feel like you’ve failed when unexpected delays happen; learn to adjust and keep moving forward. Besides, by stopping my writing to care for my daughter, I was actually giving my minutes to the priority of being a good mother.

Another problem you face may be over planning. Remember, you only have 1,440 minutes a day. You can’t do everything. If you find that you’re never quite reaching your goals, you may need to give something up. Just like when looking at your financial budget, if you’re never able to reach your goal for saving, you may need to adjust your lifestyle a bit. Maybe you need to cut your eating out in half or get rid of it altogether. If you’re not reaching your goals for what you want to accomplish with your time, think through what you’re doing in a given week, and get rid of something.

Look for pitfalls in your goals for your time that may be taking away minutes that you don’t even realize you’re losing. Smartphone usage is a big one. Most phones have a usage tracker, but if yours doesn’t you can download an app that will track your daily usage. I would challenge you to look at how much time you’re spending on your phone; it may surprise you. Just like it may surprise you how much you’re spending on lattes or clothes.

Although it’s important to be a good steward of your time, don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s okay to plan some time for recreation, just like it’s okay to plan some “fun money” into your budget. If you feel like you can never spend money on lattes or clothes (or whatever recreational item you enjoy), your budget probably won’t be sustainable. If you feel like you can never spend time doing something “frivolous” it’s likely you’ll burn out. For fifteen minutes every day, I plan to go to my bedroom, close the door, light a candle, and drink a cup of tea while reading a book just for fun. This may not seem like an “important” use of fifteen minutes, but I would argue it’s one of the most important fifteen minutes of my day. It relaxes me and refreshes my mind so that I have the energy to reach my “more important” goals. Give yourself some minutes for something that relaxes you. Maybe that is social media; I know that for me, social media usually just adds more stress to my life. Maybe it’s watching movies or playing games. Maybe it’s running (although I really don’t understand this one). Make time for those things so that you’ll have the energy to reach your goals.

If you do slip up and spend multiple mind-numbing hours on social media in a day (or whatever it is for you), don’t beat yourself up over it. Don’t call it quits. If you bought a latte every day for a week (when you know it doesn’t fit your budget), you wouldn’t just say, “Well, I’ve messed up now. I may as well buy a latte every day for the rest of my life.” When you realize you’re slipping into your old habits, take a step back and readjust. Remember, you get 1,440 new minutes every day. You can start fresh tomorrow.

Another thing the finance book I read challenged its readers to do was “question everything.” Question everything you’re spending your time on. Before you do anything, consider if it’s bringing you closer to your goals or farther away from them. Are you just throwing your minutes away? If you’re not happy that you’re using your minutes on any given activity, you can stop.

Please don’t misunderstand me; I don’t want anyone to take this and create a rigid schedule with no room for error or margin. My goal is to make my readers think for themselves. Be intentional. You can intentionally spend minutes in prayer, and just as intentionally spend minutes watching a movie. But before you do anything, be sure that’s what you really want to spend your minutes on. Because your minutes are far more precious than your dollars.

The Bible says in Ephesians 5:16, “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” The Greek word for “redeeming” here means “to rescue from loss.” Don’t let your time be lost; use it for the things that are most important to you. But more importantly, make sure the things that are important to you are the things that are important to God.