Time is Money

Our friend Angela at Salt of the Earth Urban Farm recently posted on Facebook about ways to trim fat from an already lean budget. She got a lot of really good responses, from thrifting to making your own laundry soap to offer to barter services for food at the farmer’s market. These are all things I’ve thought about doing, as our own budget has gotten leaner and leaner and leaner over the past few years while the cost of living and gone up and up and up.

But the problem with things that save money is that they very nearly always take more time! One of her commenters had a great idea to ask the farmers at the farmer’s market what kind of services they might barter for food. Perhaps the farmer needs his/her house painted and that only takes time! But time has a cost, too. That’s time I’m not working on my own house, playing with my kids, or doing something that makes me more money than I’m saving! So I have to weigh the pros and cons. How much time do I want to devote to saving money?

What's your time worth?

I have two hard and fast rules on taking my time to save money. First, I only spend significant time on money saving activities that I enjoy. In this way, I make my hobbies pay for themselves. I enjoy sewing, so I make a few pieces of clothing per year and do my own mending. I enjoy my chickens, so I keep chickens. I love hanging laundry on the line. On the flip side, baking my own bread might have saved me money back when we ate a lot of it, but I hate baking bread. So I never did. I don’t enjoy spending time in thrift stores, so I don’t shop in them often.

The second is an exception to the first. If I’m going to spend time on an activity that I don’t enjoy, it had better save me a significant amount of money. Our friend Jasie saves money by making her own laundry detergent. Making laundry detergent doesn’t really float my boat, though. Two years ago I bought the 50 lb box of Biokleen powdered detergent for $70 and it’s going to take us at least another 3 months to finish it off. That’s 27 months of laundry detergent at $2.60 per month. Even if we went through laundry detergent twice as fast, that’s still only $5 per month. Yep, not going to save enough money to make it worth it to me. Same goes for the 50 lbs of dishwasher detergent I bought at the same time.

A skirt I made for Mama

I made that skirt for $20, including the pattern! For the next one, all I'll have to pay for is fabric and notions!

What can we do in a financial crunch with a budget that won’t be trimmed any more and having run out of activities to save real money? When we are already so frugal, our only solution in a financial crunch is to make more money and sometimes that means charging people for our skills! I provide private tutoring for local high school and college students. Just one tutoring client a week is $50 for one hour of easy work that I enjoy and an hour for transportation; two at the same time is $80. Just for two hours of my time! I can’t save that much money anywhere in our already lean budget.

What about you? What trade offs have you made to save/make money?

This post is part of Fat Tuesday, Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways.

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3 comments to Time is Money

  • This is so great, and encouraging. Sometimes I get bogged down in all of the things I “should” be doing to save my family money. I will bookmark this post for later!

  • I feel the same way! One of the things that I’ve started doing is couponing. The only thing is that I find I’m buying stuff that I normally wouldn’t buy. So I’m working on that. I also do all my own yard work/gardening. I recycle pallets and try to make usable things with them. We are just getting started and it takes some getting used to, life adjusting.

    • Yep, you gotta be careful with coupons, as they’re almost always for processed foods! Don’t buy something just because it’s a good deal. The learning curve is steep, but once you get a system worked out, it gets a lot easier. Good luck, Sandi!

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