Welcome back to our series on the Complete Tightwad Gazette! Today we’re going to discuss the delicate balance between saving time and saving money. Most families find it impossible to save both and simultaneously keep their sanity. Yes, we could work full-time jobs while growing all our own food, but most people need to sleep. This is why we invented grocery stores, thank you very much.
In her book, Amy Dacyczyn wrote about this very problem. She and her husband solved the problem by coming up with a formula and a chart to determine if a chore was worth the time and money it saved. I will let her explain in her own words:
I often time how many minutes a job requires to determine how many times I could, in theory, complete the job in an hour. I then calculate how much money a job saves. I multiply the times per hour by the savings per job to determine the hourly value. For example: A 10-minute task saves $2. The task could be done six times an hour. The hourly worth is $12 per hour (page 103).
She then took that hourly wage and added two other factors: 1) other values that add to the chore, like environmental impact or family time, and 2) personal enjoyment. For example, I could keep a cow, and then make my own yogurt from the milk. My daughter eats a ton of yogurt, so this could save me $4 a week. Also, I’d be saving the environment by not buying yogurt in those plastic containers.
However, I have no idea of how long it takes to make yogurt when you start with an udder and a pail. Days, I’m guessing. And we can’t ignore the cost of keeping the cow; that’s not cheap. And then we have to add in the fact that I hate taking care of animals, so my enjoyment factor would be about -10. Added all up, that $4 a week for yogurt is becoming a bargain.
On the other hand, I do bake my own bread. I love to do this, Eric loves to eat it, and I can churn out gourmet loaves of bread for about 50 cents each. It takes a bit of time, but it’s totally worth it.
I rarely find it worth my time to run around town finding all the best deals. I know other people who do this, coupons in hand, and make out like bandits. This whole experience usually makes me so crabby that I am unfit company for the rest of the day, so I have given up. But I do keep my eyes peeled for good deals, and I snap them up when I see them. Today I found nuts on clearance at Wal-Mart for $1 a canister, so I grabbed four. It took me about twenty seconds to save $12, and I think that was well worth my time.
If I use Amy’s formula, this gives me an hourly wage of $2,160. And as I sit here typing this post with cashew-breath, my enjoyment of the experience is about a 10. Win, win, win!
What are your favorite ways to save money, and how much time does it take each time you do it?