The Problem With the Phrase “It’s Just Money”



Growing up, my family and I would take a two week vacation each summer. During our trips, there was a phrase my dad was fond of using whenever my mom lamented that we were spending too much money on visiting water parks, buying silly souvenirs, or eating at some expensive restaurant:

“It’s just money.”

I’ve heard this phrase tossed around by more people than just my dad. Last summer a close friend of mine got married and was telling me his concerns with how much he spent on the wedding. He discussed with his wife how they could lower the budget on the wedding, but in the end they decided the price tag was worth it. Their reasoning?

“It’s just money.”

The most recent time I heard this pithy phrase was at work. A 25 year old coworker of mine had been complaining about how he couldn’t afford a dream home he had found. He explained that between his car payment and student loan debt, his monthly debt to income ratio was too high to get the loan he wanted.

I half jokingly suggested that he sell the brand new jeep he had just dropped an obscene amount of money on.

He looked at me like I was out of my mind.

What’s funny is I still remember the phrase he used when he decided to purchase the jeep, despite the hefty price tag:

“It’s just money.”

It’s Actually Not “Just Money”

In the book Your Money or Your Life, the authors aptly refer to money as “life energy”. I like this metaphor. The only way money can be earned is through time and energy. Whether you go sit in a cubicle 9 hours a day, do manual labor, provide a service, or sell products, you are spending both time and energy in exchange for cash. The cash simply represents how much time you spent working and how the market valued your time. 

Whenever we spend money on a product, we’re telling the market how much life energy we consider that product to be worth. If you earn $20 per hour after tax and buy a TV for $500, you’re claiming the TV is worth 25 working hours. 

So when we say the phrase:

“It’s just money.”

It’s actually more accurate to say:

“It’s just time and energy.” 

Value Your Time and Energy

Our society is so enamored with the phrase “money can’t buy happiness” it’s as if there’s a competition to see who can prove they care the least about money. 

No dude, I don’t care about money. There’s more important stuff in life. Jessica and I just spent $10,000 on a trip to the Bahamas ’cause it’s just money, ya know?

Oh same here, Michelle and I just bought a new jeep ’cause it’s just money. We’re all about living life while we’re here. 

But money is not just some random object that appears out of thin air! It must be worked for and earned. We all know this intuitively. Yet, each time we use the phrase “It’s just money”, we’re breaking the connection between the money itself and how we got the money

We need to constantly remind ourselves that money is a representation for time and energy. The more we frivolously spend our money on stuff we don’t actually need that brings us short-term, fleeting happiness we’re making a public declaration that we don’t value our time and energy like we should.

Each time we spend money on crap we don’t need, we’re tightening the chains around our wrists that lock us to our cubicle. Less savings means more necessary working hours.

Let’s stop using the phrase “It’s just money.” Because it’s not just money. It’s literally our life. Let’s value our time and energy by using our money to maximize our freedom. Work hard. Save. Invest. Live simply. Repeat until you’re no longer forced to exchange your life energy for money.

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6 Replies to “The Problem With the Phrase “It’s Just Money””

  1. Oooh, good point. I’ve never heard this adage from people about spending money, though. I’ve always heard it in the context of not sacrificing health in lieu of money. But I agree! Money is the result of your time, and we can never get our time back.

    1. Maybe it’s just something people say in Ohio haha, but either way it gets the point across: time is nonrenewable and each time we say “It’s just money” we actually couldn’t be further from the truth.

  2. Thanks for the reminder – it is always helpful to someone who validates your belief of money savings is not just for fattening up the bank account but to bring about a sense of mental freedom that “ifs” happen and then “I can do” this or that. I have to admit, I am one of those people will throw the same phrase around when it comes to small indulgence, and often time, these small and short “comfort-me” events add up then I will come to the anxious platform of asking myself, “why the hell did I let this happen?”
    This is a good morning read for my day as I will train my brain and will to equate my next spending for x amount of hours I need to slave away in the office.

    1. I think it depends if it’s small or large indulgences. I hear the phrase “It’s just money” often when people are making big purchases, which is concerning. People seem to be using it as a way to excuse their spending habits. And I agree, we should all remind ourselves that spending a certain amount inevitably leads to more necessary working hours to make up for our spending.

      Thanks for reading 🙂

  3. Do you think there’s a good “it’s just money” and a bad “it’s just money”? I 100% agree about your thought process that money is really life energy (my favorite personal finance book hands down!). But then, sometimes, when I have a problem that can legitimately be solved with money, I enjoy being able to say, “well, it’s just money”. The worst problems are generally those that money can’t solve.

    1. When I have a problem that actually can be solved with money, I never hesitate to spend the money. But even then I don’t think I’d say the phrase “It’s just money”, I think I would just be grateful that I had the money to make the problem go away. No matter what the situation is, money always represents life energy and if we spend too much of it we’re forced to spend more life energy recouping it.

      Thanks for the comment 🙂

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