Budgeting tends to be top of mind in the early new gear as many re-evaluate financial goals and reflect on a season of spending. Budgeting money, while important relates to budgeting a resource of which more can be acquired. In 2023, we are giving a bit more consideration to how we budget our time; something no amount of financial security can buy back.
For us, it starts with the question of energy deficits, and how we can better budget the resource of time to create more equitable and enjoyable lives. Perhaps it is not the case for everyone, but this is something we can see as inextricably linked to our present-day economic system and cultural values. To avoid financial deficits, and everything that comes along with this, the deficit becomes one of time and energy. This balance (or unbalance) as many have rightfully asserted, creates a sense of resentment toward some of the obligations of “work” — not just in the career sense, but more broadly. The problem for many is not distaste or reluctance to work, but rather the resentment towards a lack of balance when managing all of the tasks and obligations we have. The question of how much time we must spend working can challenge our ability to honour ourselves, our ethics, and our passions, fearing the ramifications which may come as a result of opting out for any amount of time, the “work” to which we feel beholden.
There are a great many ways to “make it” in life. Making money, having children, making investments, making advancements; all of which are culturally accepted as the barometer for how much value one has acquired in their lifetime. Some might say, it is no coincidence these things are easily quantified. Could we consider for just the duration of this piece, the liberation we might find in truly making space for things of intangible or finite value? What is gained by making peace, making time, making art, or making rest?
None of the above is original or groundbreaking. However, the ways which accelerated consumerism, inflationary factors, stagnant wages, and all-around “tough times” is impacting more people than ever before, even those formerly insulated from scarcity. The difference now is in a North American context, with a disappearing middle class, so many folks simply can no longer afford to buy their time back. The concept referred to as “discretionary time poverty”; is indeed overwhelming. Of course, for marginalized people and families experiencing intergenerational poverty, this concept is not really new.
Can we attribute, in part, the rising collective unease and discontentment to the conditions of relentless productivity, of which our society is built? The way we see it, it can be distressing to experience the daily threat of scarcity; not enough money, not enough food, not enough energy, and not enough time. This is exacerbated if the commodity is required for survival. It is increasingly considered a luxury to buy back time, or consciously shift time and energy to better honour wellness and/or rest.
People with the means to “buy” their lost time back through paid services (things like ordering take-out, hiring a nanny or a cleaner, paying for laundry services or yard maintenance, and taking regular rest and holidays) have been doing so for decades. Trading time for money, and then, money for time. Everything it seems is transactional; even if not everything can be bought. We’re not advocating for the abandonment of financial literacy and security, but rather positing how or if we can continue to spend the finite resource that is time, so recklessly.