How do we use our time and money?

by Chad Prososki | Catholic Charities ND

Chad Prososki

The common good of all, especially families, is at the heart of our mission at Catholic Charities North Dakota. It is part of our heritage and embodied in our former name as “Catholic Family Service.” So what can we do to promote healthy families?

Last year I wrote about our use of time, and it is worth reflecting on again. We have 24 hours in a day but still just 168 hours a week. What do we do with these hours? If we spend 70 on sleep and personal care, work at least 40, and eat, cook, and clean roughly 20 hours, this leaves us about 40 hours a week for everything else. For those who work longer or drive farther, this easily drops to 35 or fewer. Whatever our personal amount of discretionary time is—albeit, not necessarily “free” time—what do we do with it? If we have so little of our precious time available, then isn’t it even more important to prioritize faith, family, friends, and helping others?

Do we wisely invest the remaining hours? Are they spent with the people and things that give us joy and make the lives of others better? Do we make time for our children or our parents? As Matthew Kelly says, do we allow for “carefree timelessness” with enough free time to make real memories and share our love for each other? Do we volunteer in our churches, charities, and communities, or do we spend too much time on distractions like TV and the internet? Americans spend hours and hours on average every day on electronics. If you wonder about yourself, chart out or download one of the new apps that monitors how much time we use different apps on our smartphones. Tools like these can quickly help us to see where all our time goes.

While some online activities are clearly harmful and should be avoided at all costs, what about apps and games that are fun, entertaining, and exciting? What about tools that help us connect to others and learn or overcome challenges and disabilities? These can be good or at least harmless in moderation. A tougher question to ask ourselves is this: are these activities the best use of our time? If not, is this hurting someone—ourselves, our spouses, or our children? Instead, could we be making the world a better place for the ones we love and for the neighbors we’re too busy to meet? In our Catholic Charities adoption, counseling, and guardianship programs, we are blessed to see what an impact the generous gifts of time and love can make in the lives of others!

Another question is this: where does all our money go? According to Consumer Expenditure Surveys from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics at www.bls.gov, Americans spend about 1/3 of their income on housing. Transportation and food are at about 1/6 each. Healthcare costs, insurance, and pension costs follow. Other categories included clothing, charitable spending, education, and entertainment. Notably housing, food, and transportation all rose, but interestingly the greatest increases in spending were for education and entertainment—both with double-digit changes!

Does this information match our own spending? Are we spending our money where our hearts are? What are our needs versus luxuries? Do we really need everything we might think we need? Also, what can this tell us about protecting families and the poor? For instance, the relative share of housing costs can be much higher for those with lower incomes. By examining our personal finances, we can help ensure that we are using the money and time we are blessed with wisely as good stewards to provide for and protect our families and our neighbors in need.

Chad Prososki is the Director of Development and Community Relations for Catholic Charities North Dakota. For more than 90 years, Catholic Charities North Dakota and its supporters have been putting their faith in action helping people, changing lives. You can reach Chad at info@catholiccharitiesnd.org or (701) 235-4457.