time vs money

I keep thinking about the balance between time and money. How much is my time worth? One calculation of that is to work it out from my salary, but is that a true reflection of my worth? Does it depend if I’m thinking about the cost of my time at work, or outside of work?

Years ago I bought a mattress and thought that it was a bargain that the shop I was buying it from would deliver it for only £25. The boyfriend I was with at that time considered this a waste of money and offered to do it himself (and I could pay him the £25). So we ended up having to fold it in half to fit it in my car, and we then carried it up the three flights of stairs to the flat I was living in then – there wasn’t a lift. I still think it would have been far easier to pay them to deliver it, but thinking back to that occasion has made me think about the different values we put on our time.

Time management is an ability that is often touted as one of the key skills needed for someone to be successful, but I think this needs to be tempered with an understanding of the value of your time and what it is actually better/cheaper/more effective to get someone else to do for you. There is only a certain amount of time in a day, so you need to spend it wisely doing the things that only you can do and that help you get where you want to be. If that means that you have no time to do things like ironing then you need to balance the cost of getting someone else to do it for you, against the time that you will save. [Personally I don’t mind ironing – It’s a fairly mindless task that means I can let my mind wander where it will. As long as I have a trashy film to watch at the same time, which is why I let it all pile up until there’s a film’s worth! It’s best if the film doesn’t have subtitles – it’s very difficult to read the screen and iron at the same time!]

One thing that I want to work on this year is being more concious about the decisions I make about how I spend my time and this underpins my new years resolutions.

So Happy New Year and here’s to 2011 – so far so good I think!


  1. Great post Clari, and something I’ve been thinking about recently too.

    We had a similar discussion about the value of time and effort when we recently needed to return some cushions but it was a faff to return them (they were massive and I was using public transport!). I decided the extra effort was worth the £60 I got back and I stick by that, but if they had been less expensive I’m not so sure.

    My current job is valued in terms of time spent on each project, and although I don’t stick to it rigidly each week it is worthwhile reviewing every now and again to ensure my focus is in the right place. I’m lucky in that I get paid a monthly salary, but our departmental income (we’re self-funded) varies depending on projects so it’s important to consider that when planning our time.

    • I like the comment about the cushions, Jo. It’s interesting isn’t it how differently people value time – within work you can look at salary and (depending on whether you think it’s fair or not) use that as a benchmark, but outside work it becomes far more subjective.

  2. I once read that brushing your teeth is one of the most valuable ways to spend your time – in terms of time spent vs money saved

  3. The interesting thing about time-money analyses is that the two are not directly comparable. You can choose, within limits, the rate at which you spend your money. Time passes irrespective of your choices.

    This is relevant to my current situation. If I can’t find ‘my sort’ of job in Denmark, then I may as well take whatever I can find. Some people wouldn’t clean toilets because they (rightly or wrongly) regard their talents better spend elsewhere. But however menial the work, is it really better to ‘spend your time’ doing nothing?

    The point I’m trying to make is that whilst your time might be worth a certain amount of money, it is not intrinsic to you or even your abilities. It is situational, and can change radically even from day to day.

    The things that’s now messing with my head, is the idea that if one’s time-value can change over time, even if you adjust for the change in value of money, then time itself is a function of time.

    I’ve no idea whether what I’ve just written is utterly profound, or profound idiocy, but it probably wasn’t worth your time reading it.

    • Also, is your time worth different amounts at work compared to outside work? Does it depend on the activity under consideration? The time of the day?

      Not sure that time ends up being a function of time though…

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