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Friday, 20 June 2014

Deceptions of "Time-Saving" and "Money-Saving"

   To promote their product, advertisers know they have the trump card when they can honestly say that a given item will save time, save money, or both.  I wonder about that.  Is time-saving an absolute good?  Is money-saving always desirable?   I'm inclined to say that it all depends what is going to be done with the time saved or the money saved.

How is "Time Saved" Used?

   I recall hearing a survey about ten years ago that shared what women have done with all the time they have saved in their homes through appliances and labour-saving devices.  I listened with bated breath as the announcer gave a preamble describing the survey.  It turns out that this time has been used for two particular categories in women's lives--personal grooming and watching television.  Now, I am not opposed to caring for one's appearance or relaxing through a bit of entertainment via a screen.  However, pampering can be taken to extremes.  Television watching among adults in Canada has remained steady at about four hours per day for the past eight years [1]; I find this to be incredibly high.  When you add all the time adults spend checking their Smart phones, playing individual games on their devices and other screen time, the total is even higher.
   When we save time by using a dishwasher instead of doing dishes by hand, for example, we are inclined to use this time for selfish ends.  Isn't advertising that promotes saving time really promoting selfishness?  But it does not have to be that way.  When we have priorities in our lives that are not selfish, such as spending time with our children, caring for neighbours or members of our communities, volunteerism, we can use the gift of time in a more balanced and godly way.

24 Hours per Day

   With the quantification of time through the invention of clocks, we have lost some of the sense of living in the present moment.  Minutes, seconds, even milliseconds are measured with precision so that we feel we have a level of power and ownership over the segments of our day.  In The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Leswis, ironic advice given to a junior devil relates to this:
You must therefore zealously guard in his mind the curious assumption 'My time is my own'. Let him have the feeling that he starts each day as the lawful possessor of twenty-four hours. Let him feel as a grievous tax that portion of this property which he has to make over to him employers, and as a generous donation that further portion which he allows to religious duties. But what he must never be permitted to doubt is that the total from which these deductions have been made was, in some mysterious sense, his own personal birthright.”  (page 121)

How is "Money Saved" Used?

   I do not have any statistics about how people use money they have supposedly saved, but I have some theories.  There is definitely a segment of the population for whom saving a few dollars here and there keeps them in the black and enables them to simply pay their bills or satisfy their creditors with minimum payments. However, for those who live comfortably, saving money here and there often justifies more spending:  "I saved $3 on that jumbo pack of toilet paper, so now I can splurge on a specialty coffee."  I suspect that the bigger the savings, the bigger the splurge.  It is important to check our motives whenever we get excited about saving money.

Reality Check

   In our drive to save time, it is possible to lose sight of the value of doing a particular task. When a person has "nothing to do" through unemployment or the unavailability of education, it is easy for them to get into trouble.  Having something to "do," besides pushing buttons on a machine humanizes us.  We embrace our capacities beyond our fingers and thumbs.  And when we put love into a menial or tedious task, it can become an offering to the Lord.  For example, helping one of my children deliver flyers on a day when the other two cannot gives me an opportunity to see people's front gardens up close, to greet people and to connect with my child.  It all depends on my attitude.
   In our drive to save money, it is possible to lose sight of making sure a person is justly rewarded for labour or goods he has had a hand in producing.  When we save dollars here and there, are we actually robbing some people of their due?  Paying a fair trade price for imported goods needs to become a matter of conscience.

[1]http://www.tvb.ca/page_files/pdf/InfoCentre/TVBasics.pdf, according to the graph on page 13. 

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