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    Not worth your time? Are you sure?

    Friday, July 15th, 2011 at 4:11 PM | Frugal Living, Housing, Productivity, Saving, Simplification

    As an aspiring do it yourself-er I tend to hear a few common responses when sharing new projects or ideas with friends and family. One such phrase comes in many forms but usually sounds like:

    • That’s not worth my time
    • You are losing money if you factor in your time
    • Time is money

    So let’s explore this notion of your time and its value. Think of time in two categories, working and non-working time.

    Working – At work
    Well this is easy. If you are at work or doing work-related duties simply add up your hours and divide by your corresponding compensation. Bingo, the value of your “working time”.

    Non-working – Not at work
    This is where the debate comes. If you are able and willing to work 24 hours a day then this is easy also. It’s the same equation as above. But for the rest of us that sleep, eat and relax the question is how much is your “non-working” time worth?

    For simplicity lets define “your time” as time that you won’t work or can’t work (at your profession).

    I would argue that “your time” as defined above should be valued at zero. That’s right your time isn’t even worth a penny. Here is why.

    You aren’t “working” so your opportunity cost is nothing. No matter what you do you won’t make any money. If you managed to somehow make money you are either working…or have a lucrative hobby. And if that’s the case, you are in fact “working” per our definition. So if you can’t make any money, how can your non-working time be worth money?

    Now we all know our time is valuable…but the clarification here is that time as we defined it isn’t worth money. You can’t transfer it, use it or lose it.

    We must all know this on some level right? Is watching TV not worth your time?

    If your every moment was worth dollars and cents you’d really think twice about sleeping in, reality tv and shopping. In fact add in the cost of the activity and I’d bet your “hourly wage” would far surpass your positive work related income. For example one hour of shopping could mean 10 hours of work (opportunity cost, travel expense, cost of items purchased, your time finding places, maintaining the items in the future etc etc).

    So it’s not really plausible to try and claim that your “time” is money when you are not working.

    But what about working more to spend more?
    Another common argument involves working more to spend more. It looks like this:

    “I’d rather work an extra hour than have to mow my lawn.” The idea is that your hourly wage is higher than the type of person that can do the task in question and you don’t want to do it. Well this holds true in a few cases assuming you are able to work more, and are willing to do so, to an extent.

    But is that what you want? You can’t work all 24 hours of each day…and would you even want to? One extra hour at the office means you have even less free time (about 1 hour less). At some point you will have to do a few things…you can’t pay for sleep or for time with the family.

    You become more stuck. The more you pay for services the less you do and the less time you have away from work.

    And do you like your job that much? Your are essentially becoming specialized in your career. The less you do outside work, the less you learn, and the more dependent you are on work.

    Using your time
    How many people pay for a gym membership? Nothing is wrong with that. But look at the other less considered options. Maybe instead of paying for treadmill time, you can take an hour off and go for a jog? You may net the same amount.

    Or stop your lawn service and get your exercise behind a lawn mower. Sure beats watching TV.

    So next time you hear those few words remind yourself about the type of time in question. Is your non-working time far too valuable to make a loaf of bread, mow your lawn, cook dinner or work on your car? Give it a try, fire up youtube watch a few do-it-yourself videos and get ready to learn. Afterall, where else can you find “free” labor?

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    One response to “Not worth your time? Are you sure?”

    1. Stephen says:

      All very good points. Most of the time however “not worth my time” can be directly translated into “that does not fall within my interests”. I would guess that’s the root of most diy dismissals. Maybe the person has put their value somewhere else. Family, or another type of hobbie.
      However, diy is not always the best option. Spend some good time researching for a good product at the right price, or an alternate product that can be easily modified to suit. Just because it’s a diy project does not mean you have to start from scratch.
      On the other hand, the experience gained from a diy project is invaluable. Not to mention the ability to make the item custom for your situation.

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