Time vs Money

A queue in front of a shop - a common sight in...

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In this corner, weighing in at the only thing you have in this life that you can’t possibly get more of: Time!

And in this corner, weighing in at the thing people think they need to be happy: Money!

Keep it clean.  No biting, scratching or hitting your opponents with a chair unless my back is turned.  Fight!

Yesterday was Jimmy John’s customer appreciation day.   They had subs for $1, but you had to go there in person to get it.   At noon, there were more than 50 people standing in line.  If it takes 1 minute to make a sandwich, that’s almost an hour in line.   To save $5.

Good for Jimmy John’s.  They brought thousands of extra people into the restaurant and had a huge line running down the sidewalk.  That makes them look great to everyone driving by.

But, the people?  Really?  Would you work, at any job, for anyone(excluding charitable work) for $5 per hour?

Round 1: Time!

My mother-in-law regularly drive 6 miles out of her way to save 5 cent per gallon on gas.   If usually takes 10-15 minutes to get there, if the stoplights behave and traffic is decent.    If she arrive with her gas gauge on “E”, she gets to put 15 gallons of gas in her car, for a savings of 75 cents.   That’s an effective rate of $2.25 per hour, not counting the gas used to drive there.   However, if I ask her to give her $2 to stand in her driveway doing nothing for an hour, she looks at me like I’m nuts!

Round 2: Time!

My wife will occasionally make a shopping list that includes coupons and items spanning three grocery stores.   If that were to happen, there would be an extra hour wasted, just traveling between the stores, minimum.  Then another hour wasted walking past the items in the first store that were slated to be purchased at the second, or third store.  Add another 15 minutes per store to check out, and we’re looking at 2 and a half hours down the tubes to save a possible $20?

No freaking way.

Round 3: Time!

My time is valuable.  No matter what I do, or how hard I work, I can never get more than my allotment.  Why would I waste it to save a fraction of what I can earn by using it in other ways?

And the winner is….Time!

What’s the craziest thing you’ve done to save a few bucks?

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    1. Great post. Some of these examples were a good chuckle. I honestly can’t think of something goofy we have done at the moment but I can say that we really have been living the time is money philosophy. We have been trying to be more efficient with our time since it is so precious and if we can delegate some stuff to do so then we are. It’s been working great.

    2. I couldn’t agree more that my time is far more valuable than saving a few pennies & dollars here and there. The part about your MIL reminds me of my grandparents–I can definitely remember times where they’d “take a drive” just to go to the “cheap” gas station!

    3. Historically, I haven’t been too big on saving money. So I’ll give you some of my grandfather’s stories instead since he’s the most frugal guy I know.

      – He drives 100 miles round trip to trade an empty printer cartridge for a ream of computer paper at an office supply store.

      – He once drove to ANOTHER STATE to get $7 off a $12 box of Tide.

      – He stops on the side of the road to pick up bungee cords, coolers, wrenches, hats, and anything else he can find that people have dropped or lost. As a result, he has a 3-car garage that his lawnmower won’t even fit into, much less his car.

      I definitely value time over money. If I can save very quickly (visiting one website vs. another), that’s fine. If it’s a substantial amount of money? Also okay. But if I have to drive all over the country and spend hours to save a dollar? No thanks!

    4. I can’t think of anything that I have done to save a few dollars because I have always felt my time is valuable to me and do the type of calculations you do above regularly in my life.

      Now with a Chevy Suburban that holds almost 30 gallons of gas, I can usually get quite a bit of savings but that is only because prices can vary by as much as a quarter and all these stations are on my route anyway.

      Great post, love the format and concept.

    5. I wonder if you are really making value of every second, hour, minute of the day such that it means you couldn’t possibly have time to go a little out of your way to save a bit of money. Watching tv, etc is idle time that you could use instead to save a little money by going to a second or third grocery store, or driving a few miles away to save on petrol. I just don’t think you can have a 24/7 measure of the time value of money because everyone has done time, so if you use that time productively rather than just sitting around, why not.

    6. My husband has always been a time over money kind of guy. We even bought a house that was $60k more than the one we were currently living in, that we liked less, because of the value of time over money- our commutes went from 40-50 miles (each way) to 3 miles (me) and 15 miles (him) and instead of being out of the house for 12-16 hours, I’m out of the house for less than 9 each day. (Though that change did save us money on car care.)

      I did have one great-great uncle who used to buy suspenders and only use one at a time so that they would last twice as long. Silly frugal in some senses, but he spent the money on what he loved- his heirs have a museum quality classic car collection.

    7. It is also time over money for me. I believe that lost time is already lost but lost money and investment can still be recovered.

    8. I think you were writing about my mom with the gas example! She wastes money millions of other ways, but it drives her crazy to not pay the cheapest price for gas!

    9. My dad is terrible at time waste to save a few bucks…or worse he doesn’t take into account all the ancillary costs of gas and tolls.

      Notwithstanding the fact that I generally agree with you, I think your equation is missing something. What would you be doing otherwise. Very few people can always be working, so that 10 bucks the Wife saves at the supermarket should be compared to actually doing nothing. The equation gets skewed more if that person is enjoying the money saving activity.

      • Even doing nothing has value. I chase around so much that 20 minutes of downtime is golden.

        If the person is enjoying the activity, then they are getting value that doesn’t fit into the equation well.

    10. LOL! That is a great way of putting it! IMHO, time is your most valuable commodity.

      The beloved SDXB (Semi-Demi-Ex-Boyfriend) is a master at saving money on groceries…or at least, so it appears. The truth is, he spends hours running around the city in search of savings that amount to no more than a few cents.

      Now it’s true, a few cents here and a few cents there do add up. But I’ve always thought I’d rather go to the Safeway and get everything I want in one place, in one trip, than to spend half the day and a couple gallons of gas bouncing from Fry’s to Albertson’s to Food City to Target to Walmart to Safeway to the base exchange and back. The cost in gasoline alone uses up your savings, to say nothing of the waste of your time.

      This is also the reason I shop as much as possible at Costco: when I can get a lifetime supply of all my staples and household goods, it greatly limits the time-killing trips to the grocery store. So far I haven’t been able to cut the trips to regular grocers to just once a month, solely because I eat a lot of fresh produce. But if one would stick to frozen and canned fruits in veggies, in theory shopping monthly at a warehouse store could eliminate the once-a-week junket to the grocery store.

    11. Great post!

      I love when my parents do this. But they do not drive the extra distance just to save, they wait until they are in that area and then purchase it.

      They usually say, “go pick this up from store X 10 miles away, only if you are going in that vicinity in the first place. do not go just for that!”

      I value time over money any day.

    12. It’s also a waste of time to have two people go shopping at the same time for the same household. Do any of you do it? (I go shopping with my girlfriend, but it’s a social activity together – intrinsic reward.)

      The time-over-money focus skips over the discussion of extrinsic vs. intrinsic rewards. Those stories of friends/relatives that go extra distance – if they’re enjoying it, great. Now, if your mom was angry about driving the extra miles, then sure. Chances are she enjoyed being able to embrace a stubborn aspect of her personality.

      (I’m more practical, along the lines of your discussion – wasting time = bad!) But saying that they’re incorrect, just shows a lack of awareness of others’ ideals/motives.

      • We rarely go shopping together, unless we are out doing something else together anyway. For us, it’s not two people going shopping, it’s 5, with the accompanying whining, car seats, time, and arguments.

    13. Olive Mere says:

      I just recently got a used car because I got tired of all the time wasted because I had to rely on public transportation. Our system keeps bragging about how you’ll save money with them BUT that has yet to increase ridership. Why? Because people value time over money. Yesterday, I got out of work early and went straight on home. That saved me over an hour (including the 20 minute walk I had after the bus).

      I have also found though that time vs. money depends upon the opportunity costs and the particular ordeal you’ll face with each choice. For instance, some people are willing to use public transportation in good weather, but when it gets bad, you want to take a car or a cab so that you are exposed to the weather minimally.

      Basically one has to consider what will give them the biggest bang for their buck…or choice. How much time will be saved or sacrificed and how much money will be saved or given up.


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