Do you ever feel like you don’t have a good handle on how much money is worth? I mean really worth, in terms of sweat and blood, rather than how much stuff it can buy? With credit cards and electronic bank statements, the true cost of money is often difficult to truly comprehend because there are so many abstractions. Money is an abstraction of labor and effort.
You earn money through labor. Some labor is hard, like in a factory or a mine, while others are easier, shuffling papers in an air conditioned office; but both types require time and energy and both result in money. The point is, spending money, rather than bartering labor for goods and services, abstracts away the value of that money and it sometimes helps to put things back into focus.
So, why don’t we?
Let’s put things back into perspective by listing popular and common products in terms of minimum wage labor hours. Using the federal minimum wage in the United States, at $6.55, we calculated how much stuff cost in minimum wage hours.
Some of the more surprising figures? That $443k party AIG threw for their salespersons  cost 67,634 minimum wage hours. Lehman CEO Fuld’s cash compensation from 2000 to 2008 was $500 million  – or 76,335,878 minimum wage hours (26,142 minimum wage years, if 8 hours are in a day). Finally, that $700 billion bailout package will cost 36,599,394 minimum wage years. Yikes.
|Private 4-Year College Tuition ||$94,848||14,480.61||1,810.08|
|Public 4-Year College Tuition ||$24,740||3,777.1||472.14|
|Public 2-Year College Tuition ||$9,444||1,441.83||180.23|
|2008 Toyota Prius||$21,500||3,282.44||410.3|
|2009 Lamborghini Gallardo||$198,000||30,229.01||3,778.63|
|An Ounce of Gold||~$900||137.4||17.2|
|6.2 carat Diamond (G, VS2) ||$384,500||58,702.29||7,337.79|
|Xbox 360 Console ||$259.99||39.7||4.96|
|Garmin nüvi 670 GPS ||$327||49.92||6.24|
|Gallon of Gas ||$3.15||0.48||-.–|
|Gallon of Heating Oil ||$3.38||0.52||-.–|
|One Million Dollars||$1,000,000||152,671.76||19,083.97|
|Two Movie Tickets||$20||3.05||-.–|
We made some assumptions in compiling this list. One is that a day consists of eight hours. Another is that while the cost is in post-tax dollars, minimum wage is in pre-tax dollars (i.e. the employee still has to pay tax on the $6.55/hr wage), so things really cost more in terms of hours than what is listed.