Don’t Assume Your Time is Worth a Monetary Amount

This past Saturday I found out that my local BJs had gas which was about 30 cents cheaper then most local competitors and since The Wife and I both had our gas lights (literally) on I figured I would fill us both up.  The Wife hates getting gas so I figured I would do it for her and since our son was napping I wasn’t missing quality time with him.  After filling two cars up, The Wife asked how much money did I actually save considering I had to drive to BJs (maybe 10 mins away) and wait on line for gas since I am not the only one that wants gas for 30 cents cheaper then every other local competitor?  When I told The Wife that I probably only saved a couple bucks she said it wasn’t “worth” the 45 minutes or so to fill up two cars.

At this point I had to figure out the real number

The Wife’s Car first

• 17 gallons at \$3.79 =  \$64.43
• 17 gallons at \$3.49 = \$59.33

My Car

• 13 Gallons at \$3.79 = \$49.27
• 13 Gallons at \$3.49 = \$45.37

Total amount saved? \$9.00.  Not exactly the stuff that makes millionaires which is why I don’t believe that normal people can’t frugal themselves to wealth.  Can frugal be used as a verb? I am going to run with it.  Even if I saved \$9.00 every week we are only talking about saving \$468 per year.  So why do I do it?

Not All of My Time is Monetarily Valuable

I hate when people just assume every waking hour is equivalent to a dollar amount.  Real life doesn’t work that way.  I can’t say something has to net me \$30, \$40 or \$50 an hour to be “worth it.”  What happens if it is \$10 but I wasn’t doing anything anyway…maybe the number has to be closer to \$50 an hour to get me to miss something important to me.

This particular Saturday morning I woke up with a fantastic headache contributable to scotch, pumpkin beer, Sam Adam’s Octoberfest and old faithful Bud Light.  I wasn’t about to do any work.  Zero. Instead I was probably going to wallow in self pity on the couch until my son woke up from his nap.

This sort of reasoning  makes even less sense if you have a salaried job.  You can figure out your “hourly wage” pretty easily but does it matter? Choosing to do something else doesn’t mean you could have been earning more money.  The only comparison one can make is whether the dollar amount is worth more than the exact activity you would have been doing instead.

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31 Responses to Don’t Assume Your Time is Worth a Monetary Amount

1. Miss T says:

I agree. You can’t equate everything you take time for in a dollar amount. However sometimes it does make more sense to pay for something instead of taking the time to do it. This varies for everyone. For me I try to find balance with this as best as I can.

• YFS says:

I couldn’t agree more! I learned this lesson when trying to strip a paint chipped fence. It took me roughly 25 days and god knows how many hours. Then I realized it would only cost 200 dollars to have a crew come in for 1 day and complete the task. I felt like a freaking idiot.

• Evan says:

@YFS,

oooo \$200 for 25 days worth of pain in the ass work? Yeah bad call lol

• Evan says:

You are 100% correct and I think generally people agree with that sentiment I just wanted to highlight the opposite being true.

2. Sunil says:

in my mind i have a monetary value attached to each hour that i spend “working”. this helps me say yes or no to several opportunities that cross my path. so while having that benchmark is important (gives clarity and allows you to focus), i agree that not every hour of your day has or should have a monetary value attached.

also – totally agree that “normal” folk can’t frugal their way to wealth. chuckled a bit when i read that one.

• Evan says:

How can you have a monetary value attached to each hour that you spend working? Do you consider commenting on my posts (which I LOVE thank you) work or pleasure? Somewhere in the middle…how do you value it?

3. Nick says:

Amen.

It drives me nuts when people forgive an attempt to make some money because it’s not as much as they “feel” they’re worth. I always challenge that by asking “how much money had you planned on earning during that time and by doing what activity exactly.” It always gets either a pause and then rambling or avoiding the answer and referring to what their salary nets them per hour at work.

• Evan says:

Glad I am not the only one that encountered it!

• Evan says:

Thanks for getting my back Amanda

4. Yeap, you can’t work every single waking hour. That’s a ticket to an early grave. \$9 for 45 minutes of listening to the car radio is not a bad deal. 😉

• Evan says:

I had my sirius going and had terrible house music blasting…sometimes I forget I am 30!

5. A lot of times, I do things out of principal. Saving money may not yield enough individually, but overall it can add up.

• Evan says:

What principal though? That you don’t want to leave money on the table?

6. My University Money says:

I think we disagree in some ways. If instead of driving the extra 30 minutes for gas I did some freelance writing and made 20 bucks, doesn’t that make sense. If you look at your Oktoberfest example, that’s different, since you obviously valued the good times you had more than the equivalent dollar amount. Its all about opportunity cost right? I often conclude that the night out with pals is worth way more than the equivalent amount of money I could earn. Not so with driving to get gas. That’s a purely economical decision for me.

• Evan says:

But I knew I wasn’t going to work…your reasoning is the basis of why I work A LOT at night when most other people are watching tv

7. I think you made \$9 more than you would have, had you been doing what most people would have been doing with that time: sitting on the couch eating Cheetos.

Now, had it been during the workday, when you were busy, then it would have been a different story.

So….I think you got paid \$9 for overtime duty. Sweet!

• Evan says:

First off, I only eat the Crunchy Cheetos…they are clearly the superior cheeto

8. IIW says:

I somewhat agree! Its not really about dollar amounts so much as its about psychic profit, which includes money but also includes enjoyment, well being, etc… If you had a better Tamra saving \$9 on gas instead of bumming out then why not

9. IIW says:

Tamra should read time… mobile autocorrect 😉

• Evan says:

You read and comment on posts from your mobile? What kind do you have? I couldn’t imagine trying to type out on my HTC Hero (which is getting replaced in a few weeks)

• IIW says:

Nexus S! Typing out is not the best experience, but sometimes it takes a few mins for the subway to arrive and I do a quick check before we enter the tunnel and I lose the connection. 😉

10. Sometimes you can’t put a value on things. I was reminded of a vacation to Disneyland my family took. We stayed at the Grand Californian and upgraded our room, something we never do. It cost more than I care to share however we still talk about that Vacation and watching the fireworks from out balcony

• Evan says:

That experience will stay with your family for a LONG time…wonderful use of money.

11. Jen says:

I totally agree with you on this, even though I don’t have a job, it makes sense. I know people who do this and it drives me nuts.

• Evan says:

You’ll have a job soon enough when you finish that masters!

12. I totally agree that personal time isn’t equal to monetary amounts. I got so busy these past months that I started utilizing a property management company to get work done around the house just so I could get more time for other tasks, hobbies, . I basically just did not have enough time to do everything that needed to be done and that I wanted to do.

I am not sure if it’s because I am getting older (yes, nearing 40 here) that the value of time increases with the years

• Evan says:

I think the value of time does increase with years for two reasons:
1) You may be more secure in the income that you do have
2) You have LESS OF IT!

13. Andy says:

We have this debate a lot when considering whether to do the weekly grocery shop over the internet or not (therefore paying an extra £5/\$7 delivery charge). My argument is that I would spend this on my petrol and time driving to said supermarket, my wife would rather save the money (or maybe just get out of the house for a couple of hours!)

• Evan says:

hmmmm sounds like she wants to get away for an hour or two LOL! How are the services there in the UK? I know people that swear by it in NYC but out here in suburbia the food didn’t seem all that fresh.