Are You Spending Your Time Wisely?

This post is by Marie at Family Money Values.


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Yesterday, I was poignantly reminded that time is a limited commodity by my 88 year old Mother-in-law – as she told me about the death of three distant family members in the past month.

Our allotted time does run out….are you using it wisely?  Do you ever wonder about paths not taken in the way you have ‘spent’ your time?

All my life, I have traded time for money, or money for time.  Yet I still struggle to achieve balance between the two.

The Cost of Growing Vegetables

Years ago, while I was a stay at home Mom, I spent time growing vegetables.  I also worked part time.  At some point, several summers into gardening (yes I am a slow learner) it occurred to me that I really wasn’t saving any money by growing our own vegetables.  Granted, I enjoyed the activity, but we paid for the plants, we paid for the fertilizer, we paid for the water and we lost the pay I would have made at my part time job.

What did it really cost us to grow those vegetables?  Would I have been better off spending my time on the job?  Elena Fawkner in The Money Value of Time on Living a Better Life posted about how to start thinking about the money value of your time.  Maybe I should have spent my time reading her post?

Hiring Done Vs. Doing

Hubby and I have always been people who ‘did it ourselves’.  It’s the way we were raised, and it did keep us from spending money.  But what would we have done with the time saved if we had been able to afford to hire someone to do the work we were doing?  What ideas might we have pursued, ventures started or moments enjoyed?

During my twenty years as a salaried software development manager I traded huge chunks of my time for money.  While I was employed we did hire some things done:

  • We had a contractor replace parts of our roof and re-shingle the house.
  • We hired someone to re-do our master bathroom and install cabinets in the utility room.
  • We hired someone to do a large structural landscaping job – lining our creek with enormous blocks of stone.

I thought that those items were ones on which it was worth spending the money.  We didn’t have the know how or the experience to do them ourselves in any kind of time effective manner.  We would have lost vacation time (which, by the way, I saved up and for which I have recently been paid) to do them and we would have spent money on specialized equipment to get them done. But, we didn’t like having other people in our home and we weren’t always satisfied with the job as done.

How Should You Allocate Time vs. Money?

All my life I have struggled with the proper allocation of time vs. money.  What should I take the time to do myself vs. what should I hire someone to do?

Often it wasn’t as clear cut as the above example.  For instance, do you spend the time to make your own laundry detergent to save money?  Or do you drive to a discount store an hour away to save money on your grocery bills?  Kira at Tip Hero asked her readers that question in When Do You Spend Money to Save Time? She got some interesting answers.

Even now, I am in the process of spending my time tiling a bathroom floor – sealing the travertine tiles, then cutting them to fit, applying thin set mortar to lay them, grouting the cracks and etc.  It is my first experience laying tiles. It is taking me a long time to complete.  It has seriously cut into my blogging time!  I wonder if I should have hired it done?

My experience laying the tile floor has so far been both painful and rewarding.  Painful because the old body can’t take it like it used to.  Rewarding because I am learning new skills and feel like I am actually doing a better job than the last contractor who invaded our home to lay tile – and of course, the labor is free (wink wink).

My Dad died at 65.  If I do the same, I only have 3 years left – shouldn’t I be spending that time on something more worthwhile?  But what would that be?  What would be that path not taken?  Would I have enjoyed it more?  Would it have bettered the world?

Brett Arends, at the Wall Street Journal thinks that the value of our time has eroded since the 2008 recession – after all, there are many people out of work.  In Spend Some Time, Save Some Money, he suggests “Converting time to cash is one of the easiest ways to boost your savings. It helps to do the math.”

Are You Spending Your Limited Time on the Life Path Best for You?

What are you willing to spend money on to avoid spending the time on it?  How do you make the decision between spending the time vs. spending the money?

This was a guest post by Marie at Family Money Values.

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  1. says

    So true.

    That’s my major worry about saving for retirement – we have some long-lived women in my family. My grandmother is 92 this year. But what if I die of a heart attack at age 65, the day I retire, after saving enough to live on for another 30 years?

    Of course, that money can be left to children, etc, but it is important not to sacrifice time you could spend with those children in order to save the money. I’m sure there’s some sort of balance point out there, but even at 24 I struggle to find the time and funds to do the things I enjoy.

  2. says

    The problem we have in hiring someone out, is that many people don’t do the work to the level of our standards so we end up spending the money and still aren’t happy with the result.

    So, we end up doing the projects ourselves and even if it takes extra time. Plus, I sort of like doing home improvement projects. I just love the look of before and after and know that I had a hand in it all.

  3. says

    We hire everything out because we are terrible at home improvements. We cook, we clean, but we do not tile and we do not do plumbing or electrical. I would rather pay for what would be a quality product than save a little and worry that we screwed something up. Plus, we just don’t have the expertise.

  4. says

    Great post, Marie. It’s a good exercise to step back and look at the activities in our life that don’t produce a decent value in exchange for the time invested. Although I might quibble with your thoughts on growing vegetables. The learning curve is no doubt steep (offset by intangible benefits such as being outside in the sunshine, exercise, etc), but after a few seasons, the costs decrease as we save seed or have plants spontaneously re-seed, and improve soil fertility with composting and mulch. As for water costs, I don’t know…. it is more expensive to water a grassy lawn or phlox ground cover, or a raised bed of cucumbers and canteloupes? But if vegetable gardening doesn’t float your boat, no sense in persisting… Do what you like, what provides the greatest sense of satisfaction, and more importantly, do it NOW!

  5. says

    When it comes to home renovations, my wife and I hire contractors or carpenters to do the work for us because we know how much the job will cost us and how long it will take. Plus, we are not efficient at this type of work so we channel our skills in other directions!

    Nice post!

  6. says

    I’m a huge believe in the 80/20 rule and ROI on time/effort expended. Now that I can make money in my free time blogging, I try to outsource (pay others) for tedious, time consuming tasks I used to do myself when I was more “frugal”. This allows me to spend more daylight waking hours with my kids. Weekends are especially important. It pains me, but someday I might even get around to paying a lawn service. Time is short!

  7. says

    Marie – I thoroughly enjoyed your post.

    If you are 62, please, please, by all means live it up and enjoy! You mention your dad dying at 65……. we should all think we’ll die before the median age of 79-80.

    Let’s live it up!

  8. Super Frugalette says

    I chuckled to myself reading this post. I spent $100 on garden stuff…I will admit that I did not prepare for the garden. Purchased the last plants at home and garden centers and had no clue what I was doing.

    I have lost money on everything. However, it has been fun watching some of my herbs grow…like chocolate mint (it was one of the few herbs remaining). I am happy seeing the mint, but have I used any? No. I did find a dill plant. Within 2 days of planting this large dill plant, the most beautiful caterpillar found my dill plant and proceeded to pig out on it. Did I get rid of the caterpillar…nope, he was so cute!

    I have had fun watching my plants grow, and hoping that they will grow. I guess I am paying for entertainment.

  9. says

    Nice post Marie (and thanks to Kevin for sharing this :)

    I try to make my decision based on questions like a) how much is my time worth? and b) how well can I do this job?

    If answers to these questions are at all ‘fuzzy’, I spend the money.

    While money is important, it is, after all, just money.

  10. says

    Great review! You actually overviewed some great news in your post. I came across it by using Google and I’ve got to admit that I already subscribed to the RSS, will be following you on my iphone :)

  11. says

    For me, the key to finding this balance goes back to the life values, goals, and dreams I laid out in establishing my Purpose Focused Financial Plan. If something is taking significant time away from me doing an activity that would enable me to meet a life value, I think it’s best to pay someone to do it.

  12. says

    Am I spending it wisely be glueing myself to the computer working on my blog? because I can’t seem to get enough of it. I love this community and sharing my ideas and helping people


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