When we think of wasted time, we don’t often think about its cost — financial or emotional. However, wasted time does come with a cost. It can be a monetary cost, or an emotional cost. Either way, wasted time can be costlier than you think.

Financial Cost of Wasted Time

I’m not just talking about the productivity costs of wasted time during March Madness or some other event. The financial cost of wasted time to you, specifically, might be more than you think. Consider how much time you spend watching TV, playing Farmville or aimlessly surfing the Web. While it can be fun to do these things, what are you giving up?

What if, instead of spending three hours a day playing video games, you only spent one hour a day playing video games and used the other two to begin building a side business or working toward monetizing a web site. That wasted time could be turned into cold, hard cash. If you are seeking financial freedom, or trying to develop passive income streams, your wasted time could literally be costing your thousands of dollars — even tens of thousands of dollars.

Opportunity Cost of Wasted Time

Of course, not everything in life has to have a dollar value attached to it. In some cases, you might be missing out on something more important than money when you waste your time. I enjoy reading. My favorite reading, though, is fiction — especially fantasy and science fiction. However, I am starting to realize that, while I derive pleasure from this type of reading, it doesn’t always benefit me. What if I spent half of my reading time perusing books about investing, finances and business? That could provide me with valuable knowledge that I could apply to my own situation.

Other things you might be sacrificing through wasted time could include:

  • Quality experiences with your children and/or life partner.
  • Time to learn a new instrument or language.
  • Opportunity to learn a new skill, or enjoy a hobby.
  • Exercise or time to cook healthier meals.
  • Other self-improvement opportunities.

While these items may not mean that you have more money, the emotional cost can be great. When you are working toward self-improvement, engaging you mind in a new pursuit, or spending time with those you love, you might find your life is richer (in a non-monetary sense). Watching TV, or surfing the Internet, is no substitute for a nice, long bike ride with my son. The advantages I receive from getting out in the fresh air to enjoy some exercise while building a better relationship with my son far outweigh the fleeting stimulation I might get from watching a cleverly written TV show, or enjoying the latest viral video on YouTube.

This doesn’t mean that you cut activities like video games, Facebook and other time suckers from your life completely. What it does mean, though, is that you take a look at your priorities. Decide what you want to accomplish, and honestly evaluate what is keeping you from it. Cut back on the time you spend doing things that aren’t as important to you, and focus more on what you find invaluable. You will likely find your time used more productively — emotionally and financially.



Miranda is freelance journalist. She specializes in topics related to money, especially personal finance, small business, and investing. You can read more of my writing at Planting Money Seeds.