Tuesday, May 9, 2006

Putting a Hard Dollar Figure on Your Time

Author: Nick
Category: Money

tick tock

You may recall that one of my main complaints about clipping coupons to save money at the grocery store is that it takes time. I noted that I wasn’t prepared to give up 30 minutes a week to cutting out coupons unless it was worth my time… but I didn’t really comment on how much my time is worth.

So let’s put a dollar amount on an hour of my time.

Rather, let’s figure out how to put a dollar amount on anybody’s time so you’ll be able to determine if pursuing a money-saving option is truly worth your time. But how should we start on this sort of vague calculation? I guess the best place would be with your job’s pay rate.

Assuming you work a single job for a consistent wage or salary, you should be able to determine your equivalent hourly pay rate pretty easily. Of course, you may be in a situation where you work uncompensated overtime, or your pay rate depends on what shift you work, or you may just have a position where your income varies from hour to hour. Still, you should be able to come up with a dollar amount that, if you were paid it hourly instead of whatever your current pay rate is, you would be making as much money as you make right now. You may also wish to consider the value of benefits you receive such as vacation, medical/dental/vision, and employee discounts. For my calculations, I’ve included these extra benefits and have given myself an estimated hourly compensation rate of $60.

Next, take into consideration that your time is your time. It doesn’t belong to your job or to the government or to anyone else… except maybe your spouse or children, but you’re not about to charge them for it, are you? Since this is time beyond what you normally spend working each week, let’s call it overtime. As such, you should multiply that hourly compensation rate by 1.5 or an even higher multiple if you wish. I’ll stick with 1.5, so my final figure becomes $90.

So if you want an hour of my free time, you’re going to need to make it worth $90, right? Maybe, but then I probably wouldn’t have many friends. At this point, you discount your hourly “fee” depending on how your time will be spent. Here are some examples taken from my life of discounts I’d offer:

  • Time spent writing to educate y’all about the wonders of personal finance: 50% off, or $45/hour (maybe one day…)
  • Tutoring a neighbor’s granddaughter in math: 83% off, or $15/hour
  • Helping our friends mulch: 95% off, payable in those delicious brownies they make (ideally)
  • Time spent with family: 110% off, or -$9/hour (for the gas to drive to see them)

If you’re going to discount your time so much for just about anything, then for what would you charge the full rate? For me, if it were legally possible, I would charge $90 an hour to anyone who wastes my time. This would include idiot drivers who cause traffic backups, people who enter supermarket express lanes ahead of me with 50 items in their baskets, and the makers of jarred foods that take forever to get open.

It would also include senders of unsolicited e-mails (spammers). Oddly enough, I once managed to successfully collect my equivalent hourly rate from such a person, but that’s a story for another time.

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