Personal Finance 

What Valuing Your Time Is and Isn’t

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Time!I saw a post on Lifehacker today that I had to share – stop trying to monetize your time. The Lifehacker store points to a paper in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology that says you have trouble relaxing when you consider your time off as money lost.

Personal finance bloggers often write about how you should value your time. If you make $15 an hour, then it makes sense to pay up to $30 more to save two hours. If a gallon of gasoline is five cents cheaper across town and you have a twelve gallon gas tank, you only save 60 cents in gasoline while spending an extra 15 minutes getting to and from the gas station. By having a good concept of the value of your time, you can make better decisions.

The risk in doing this is that if you start comparing your time off with your time working and seeing your time off as lost money, you will probably get anxious. The study showed that this was the case for participants in that study. Specifically, leisure activities were not as leisurely in part because people were impatient when money was involved.

This reminded me of a conversation I had with my lovely wife the other day about leisure time and time value of money. Her phone’s microphone recently died and she had the option of driving thirty minutes to a repair shop or spending $4-5 mailing it to a repair shop. She was trying to decide whether or not to do it, thinking about how much she valued her time (certainly more than $5 an hour), when I said that work time and leisure time are different.

How much would someone have to pay me to sit in an office instead of spending it with my family? $30 an hour? $300? It’s much higher than my typical hourly wage in part because this is on top of a 40-hour work week. It’s going to be a lot. And that’s where the valuing of time is important and why having a value for your time can help you make decisions.

So while the lesson of the paper is that you should avoid the thinking that all your time is monetizable, I want to add that valuing your time is important for making decisions down the line.


(Photo: fdecomite)

{ 12 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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12 Responses to “What Valuing Your Time Is and Isn’t”

  1. MJB says:

    Love this post!

    I have several jobs and if I don’t work, I don’t get paid. It can be a little hard for me to take time off but I’m getting better at noticing my rising stress levels and my sheer joy and energy when I do take time off.

    Many years ago, I changed grocery stores because I shopped at a cheaper but poorly managed store that always had long lines. I stopped after I realized that I’d spent 45 minutes simply waiting to check out.

    As for cheap gas, in the last year, my husband and I stopped using our grocery store’s “reduced price” gas. The store with gas pumps is a special trip for us and the small amount of money saved probably equals the cost of driving to that station. Not to mention that you probably spend up more than you save in gas to get the gas savings.

    • Scott says:

      We’ve stopped shopping at the “big box” grocery store too (you know who) because we found we were way too stressed from shopping there when we couldn’t find any specialty items we needed and then spent longer waiting in line to check out than we did actually picking up our items. Now that we have a child and our time is more precious, the money saved is not worth the time lost or the frustration made. And as they say, you can’t put a price on your sanity!

  2. eric says:

    Nice insight, Jim. So did your wife end up mailing it in? 🙂

  3. If you work an 8 hour/day job, and you have to stay an extra 2 hours aren’t those last 2 hours a lot more painful than the first 2 or even the first 8 for that matter? I would much rather go home and do some plumbing or something after a long day of work than sit at my desk for another 2 hours. The change of scenery alone makes it seem like it isn’t work, no??

  4. Jeff Crews says:

    When I first started at my job, I went in with the mindset that “Time is Money”. It turned into me always looking at free time as a way that I could make more money or get something done to eventually make more money.

    I had to sit back and realize that “Enjoying Life is More than Money”. I started making sure I was set up during work hours to produce the most money possible and then stopped worrying about it during free time. I was young, so I didn’t know any better. Now I can say that it was the best decision for my career.

  5. Echo says:

    Couldn’t agree more. It bugs me when people value their leisure time at the same rate as their work time. Paying someone $20/week to cut your grass because you value your time at more than $20/hour isn’t being smart, it’s being lazy.

    • Patty McD says:

      I used to think that yes, it was lazy but almost anyone can cut a lawn. And if they cut the lawn all the time they will do a better job, possibly faster. This is the same argument I actually won with my husband -its rare-over oil changes. Sure he can change the oil in our cars but it takes him 3x as long because he doesn’t do it all the time his time could be spent doing something to save the amount of money it cost to pay someone to do it. If he ‘liked’ doing it that would be different. I value my time, only “I” can organize my families files, bills, calendar, photos, work on business ideas, etc. So my time might be better spent only doing something only I can do. [On a philosophical note maybe, Lawn Mowing Person needs that $50 ($20? have you seen the price of gas?) toward his/her rent while I might use it to provide just ‘more’ in my life-.]

      • Jim says:

        I change the oil in our cars because I like doing it, plus it’s faster to do it yourself than take it to a place and wait.

      • Steve says:

        The “lazy” comment illustrates another aspect of this: sometimes you feel like you “should” do X or Y. It just seems wrong to you to hire out that work. What’s amusing is that different people have different tasks you “should” do yourself – for some it’s yard work, others oil changing, cleaning your house, doing your taxes. Many people think that of child care of course.

        And the other consideration is that sometimes, hiring it out takes almost as much time as doing it yourself. Sure, a mechanic can change your oil in a third of the time, but if it takes as many minutes to drive there, then you don’t gain any time by doing so.

  6. Patty McD says:

    Nice article. It used to drive my father crazy that my aunt would drive 15 miles to save 20 cents on a can of tuna.

  7. Bryan says:

    They hit the nail on the head with that study. I’m saving up money for some needed home repairs, so I’ve been soaking up as much overtime as possible to get it done in a timely fashion. About 2hrs a day plus 10hrs/day on weekends. While I am getting to my goal much faster, I can feel myself being burnt out and not having as much energy on my time off due to the length of time its been since I had a day off. Yet at the same time, I can’t help but feel guilty about the money “lost” if I leave early(well on time, just early compared to the recent trend) or don’t work a weekend.

  8. Shirley says:

    One of the greatest things about being retired and no longer in the workforce is that our time is no longer monetized in any way. We do only what we want (and are physically able) to do. I do have to admit that there are a lot more things that we ‘want’ to do now that we are no longer pinched for time and we do find those things enjoyable. Of course, we still use common sense about money spending and frugality because that has been a lifetime style and habit.

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