What is your time worth?

Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day.
Fritter and waste the hours in an off hand way.

Lyrics to Pink Floyd‘s classic tune, Time. We probably all fritter away too many hours with something unproductive. Watching Survivor, playing Farmville on Facebook, things that take up our time and help our brains relax. Time well spent. We all need downtime, but have you ever thought how much your time is actually worth?

You pull into town, your car’s fuel light is flashing out Morse code and you see two gas stations, opposite each other. One is displaying a price of $1.20 but there is a large line up of cars waiting to fill up. The other, displaying $1.25 and there isn’t a car to be seen. Our brains would point us in the direction of the cheaper gas station but should we go?

Imagine your life, every hour of it, as a job. Yes, we do real jobs and get paid real money but does this mean that when you are not at your real job, your time is worthless? Of course it isn’t. Let’s pretend that your life job pays the minimum wage in Ontario, $10.25 an hour.

Now if the line up for the cheaper gas is only a few minutes long, it is a no brainer but what if the line up is longer? Let’s say that your gas tank is completely empty (you are running on fumes) and is 60 liters in size. To fill up with the cheaper gas will cost you $72 whereas the more expensive fuel will be 3 dollars more expensive at $75.

A quick calculation (minutes in an hour divided by the minimum wage then multiplied by three dollars) (60/10.25*3) gives you 17.5 minutes. If you value your time at minimum wage, that is how much long you would need to wait in line before you are spending more ‘money‘ than if you had gone with the more expensive fuel. Now, I like to think that most of us believe our time is worth more than minimum wage. Let’s say we double it to $20.50 an hour. Your time is important after all. Now if we run the same calculation we get just under 9 minutes. A believable wait for fuel in a busy gas station.

I once had a teacher point out to me that if you are waiting for a bus that passes you one way, goes a few more stops and then comes back to pick you up, and it begins to rain before the bus has actually passed you going the other way, for a little extra, you can spend the same amount of time traveling to your destination without getting wet. Surely that is worth a little extra?

Another one of those time/worth moments. Laundry, the eater of socks, the ripper of shirts, call it what you will, unless you are a nudist who doesn’t venture outside your front door, we all have to do it at some point or other. Let’s imagine you are a family of four, with two little devils who like mud, dirty, paint and anything else that can get on their clothes.

You carefully look for a washing machine, economical while still powerful enough to do the job. Cheap to run but still almost as sexy as the LG machines you can’t quite afford. You go for the matching black washer and dryer. Both electric. Both shiny with beeps and chrome and options you have never seen before. Even better, you discover those three in one detergent sheets.

Just as you are arriving in laundry nirvana those evil electricity people decide to bring in off peak, mid peak and ‘too expensive to watch tv’ peak. This is not a comment on any particular company. They are all doing it. Anyway, according to the hard to read pamphlet crumbled in your mail box. Off peak hours are between 11:pm and 1:am each morning (yes I am exaggerating), with mid peak being normal office hours and everything in between being called peak hours. You turn over the pamphlet to realise that the difference between peak and off peak is 5 cents for cheap, and 10 cents for peak peak. Is it worth you staying up til midnight to wash your concert T-shirts, your Victoria’s Secret underwear and three black socks?

Ok, your family generates 10 loads of laundry a week. At 5 cents per hour and taking into account the cost of the water and detergent, you would be paying 37 cents per load for washing and 17 cents per load for drying. This added up over a month would be approximately $24 for making sure your family look nice. Now, lets say you have run out of clothes, your family and you are standing around wearing towels as there isn’t anything clean to wear. You can’t wait until midnight to run the laundry so you must run it now. Per load you would be paying 46 cents per was and 34 cents for drying. An additional 25 cents per load. Over a month that adds up to around $35. Would you want to pay eleven dollars more for laundry just for the ability to wash when you want to?

This time, it isn’t so much about the time taken as the convenience of being able to do the laundry when you want to. If you have to wait, stop doing something else to make sure that laundry is run during off peak, or find yourself not having that lovely blouse for the office party, is it worth pretty much 1 hour of your minimum wage life job?

If you cry havoc and release the dogs of war, I mean run your laundry when you want to, there is no guarantee that all your laundry will be washing during peak hours but for the sake of argument let’s say it is. You are able to wash your clothes when you want to so your jeans, the ones with the rips in the bum that your mother demanded you throw out, can be washed ready for date night. The duvet that your kids decided to spill cough medicine on can be use that night rather than having to huddle under a thin blanket that a dog would refuse. Is that worth one hour of your minimum wage life job?

Remember that you may value your life job as double or more of minimum wage. This decreases the amount of time needed to make the more expensive option seem more reasonable. How your value your time is up to you. If you have kids, it is probably more expensive than if you are single and playing World of Warcraft in your mothers basement. I’m not saying, I’m just saying. Either way, we all assign a different importance to our time, especially at our real jobs, just not so much at other times.

I chose examples that most of us are faced with, laundry and gas for cars, so I didn’t pick other such examples as watching a bad movie versus walking out, or good date versus bad date. I’ll let you work those ones out yourself!

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