There was a difficult period back in 2003 when I first started selling life insurance. I had some prospective customers I needed to meet in Sungai Petani, my hometown. But I was staying in Penang at that time.

For insurance agents, you know that they are not paid by the hours, but earn from the commissions for successful policies in force. So I was not guaranteed an income for the trip from Penang to Sungai Petani. As a poor musician at that time, every cent counts. 

My mother suggested that I shouldn’t drive as it would cost a lot more. Instead, she asked me to take public transport. 

So I did exactly that. I took a public bus from Bayan Baru to the ferry terminal, took the ferry to Butterworth, and rode another bus to Sungai Petani. When I got there, my father lent me his car to travel around Sungai Petani to meet my prospective clients. 

You must be wondering how much money could I possibly save like that? I figured it would be around RM40. 

However, I sacrificed time and convenience. It would take at least two hours to travel through this route, one hour longer for one way. That means I would have to go out one hour earlier and only get home one hour later compared to if I had chosen to drive.

Those were the old days when I was not earning much, didn’t have much money but could afford to waste some time commuting, just to save what? — RM40.

Over the years, a lot has changed. As we progress in our careers, our priorities change too. 

And now I am residing in Taipei.

It is the most convenient place I have stayed so far. Everything is within reach and walking distance.

At the time of publishing this, we still couldn’t dine in at the restaurants here. I would ?? (order take-out meals) if we go out. If we have no plan to go out, we just order Uber Eats or FoodPanda. We use these food delivery services almost every single day – most of the time for breakfast and dinners. 

And here is a little secret –  I haven’t cooked a single meal for more than two months ever since I moved here.

Although it is not hard to just walk out there and grab something to eat, we still use food delivery services daily and pay a little higher price, just to save the time and hassle.

These are the changes I noticed that happened to me. And here are three key lessons:

Key Lessons:

#1. When we are not earning much, savings are crucial, especially when your hourly rate is low. When I got to save that RM40 with a bit of extra effort, I pretty much guaranteed to have earned those little savings.

#2. But don’t be penny-wise, pound-foolish. As time goes by, when you earn more and more, get older and more experienced, time becomes much more expensive. Then it becomes wise to pay extra just to get back some time savings. I now prefer to pay to reserve the time as much as I can.

#3. Time management is crucial. Although back in the days when I sacrificed the commuting time, I didn’t waste it. Since I didn’t drive, I could read, think, and practise the sales script on the bus. There are many ways to be productive during the commute.

Let me ask you this crucial question:

How do you decide when to save money?

And when to save time?

The answer is to know your “time worth”, or hourly rate.

In other words, how much can you earn with the time traded?

Here is a super easy way to estimate your “time worth”.

  • Think of your annual pay, let’s say it is $100,000
  • Delete the 3 zeros at the back. It is $100.
  • Half the figure. And you get the hourly earnings of $50/hour.

By knowing your “time worth”, the next time you consider whether to save time or save money, compare the cost with your “time worth”. Although it is not the only factor that affects your decision, it does serve as a starting point.

How about you? 

Is there anything you did to save that extra dollar? In contrast, is there any occasion that you preferred to pay more just to keep that spare time?

Tell me in the comment.

Be smarter with money.


Personal finance author and trainer

    1 Response to "From Riding the Penang Ferry to Ordering Uber Eats: 3 Key Money Lessons"

    • Lee kim huat

      Sound logical KC, actually fact it does work out that way to save money, if following this method paying for grab foods & e services during emco you will cost more unnecessary for essential. Example pay cuts, loss income due to no business and unemployment. I suggest situation is king do the most cost effective & time saving is the key to survival not drop die.

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