Money at 30: Valuing Your Time (And How You’re Wasting Yours)
Time is money. It’s cliche, but it’s true. Yet, even when we’re all aware of this relationship, there are assuredly times when we devalue our time by trying to save a few dollars.
While I’m far from the first to bring this up, if you put the time you spend on certain tasks into the terms of an hourly wage, you might be shocked by just how little you’re “paying yourself.” This is particularly ironic when the things we’re doing are meant to help our finances overall. With that in mind, here are three common ways you could be wasting time in the name of trying to save money (inspired by true events):
Admittedly, the story I’m about to tell is what set off this article idea. Recently, someone I know heard a story from a friend about how they’d noticed an extra $50 charge on their credit card. Apparently, they’d eaten out and, when they looked at their transactions, it looked as though $50 had been added to the tab. Luckily, they had the original receipt and had the charge amended. Since hearing this, my friend has taken to saving and comparing all of their various receipts lest a similar discrepancy pop up.
This sounds like a great practice — but here’s the thing: they spent five hours pouring over their receipts for the month! Assuming they did find an errant $50 change, those savings would still amount to just $10 an hour for their time. As you can probably guess, they didn’t find any such charge, so that five hours of labor was all for naught.
While I appreciate the sentiment behind this idea, there are comprises you can make in order for this to be time effective. For example, rather than checking every receipt against every charge, most people can probably just peruse their statement for anything that jumps out or do a spot check. Moreover, if the concern is about charges from restaurants or other places where the total can change after the fact, then maybe just confirm these specific charges rather than going through everything.
Driving out of the way for cheaper gas
It’s common to see headlines about the “pain at the pump” that Americans tend to feel from time to time. Seeing as commuting in gas-powered vehicles is a necessity for many of us, it makes sense that gas prices are often a bellwether for how consumers are fairing and its highly cited as an example of economic strife. In turn, it’s no wonder that drivers would want to do what they can to save money on gas… but can they go too far?
Have you ever driven out of your way to save 10¢ a gallon on gas? If you do, you might want to run the numbers on whether or not that decision really made financial sense. After all, depending on the size of your gas tank, those savings may only total $1 or $2 per trip. So, when you factor in how much time it took you to get to and from the further station, was it really worth it? This isn’t to say it for sure isn’t, but it’s something to consider on your next fill-up.
Complicated DIY projects
With spring’s arrival, now is the time of year when many homeowners are looking to complete some cleaning and construction projects. There’s no doubt that undertaking such projects yourself can not only save you money versus hiring someone but completing them can also give you an enormous sense of accomplishment. That said, when everything is considered, there is always the chance that you would have been better off turning it over to a pro.
Setting aside the fact that, with more complicated home improvement projects, error can result in even more expensive fixes, if you do end up biting off more than you can chew with a task the amount of time you pour into it might not make the juice worth the squeeze (as they say). Even if you don’t value your time as highly as a professional might, you should still be reasonable with yourself. Thus, before tackling a project you might not be exactly proficient in, it may be worth at least considering the time and money trade-offs beforehand.
Saving money is great. But, when it comes at the expense of your time, then the calculations change. While these are just some common examples of how you could be devaluing your time, there are certainly countless others that might require further consideration. Ultimately, although you shouldn’t fret over every minute or hour you spend if you find that your time is being monopolized by “money-saving” tasks perhaps it’s time for a change.