Lesson in Frugality: Time vs. Money

February 15, 2011

Time is money They say time is money, but have you given this any thought?  Everything you want in life, whether it be a good experience or a good product will cost you one of two things:  time or money, and they don’t have an equal exchange rate!

I wrote earlier of understanding your priorities in order to direct where your money should be spent, and where it should be cut back.  Part of directing your money most effectively is of knowing how to get what you want- to be frugal you must properly either budget your money or budget your time.

Many frugal people become die-hard D.I.Y.ers- learning new skills, fixing things themselves, buying things second hand, or simply identifying situations that paying someone else to do a task is a waste of money!  But how much is your time worth?  When does it become more cost effective to spend the money instead of spending your time?

Example:  Buying Secondhand

I love thrift store shopping- you can find some great items that are like new but are cheaper than buy it that way, and you can also find gorgeous jewelry, vintage clothes or antiques you cannot find elsewhere!  If you’re going into thrift stores for the joy of finding unique pieces, or know there’s an appliance or household item you don’t need new- this is a great tactic, but beware- if you’re trying to put together an entire household or really jazz up a wardrobe from scratch, this could be more of a time-zapper than it’s worth.  Of course, this is different for each person- if your time could be better spent bringing in some income or buying one really nice item you plan to wear till its threadbare instead of a used item that may be on it’s way out, you need to make that call!

The ease of finding a simple black pear of black pumps or a pyrex dish might be worth the price at a cheaper retail store instead of shopping at several thrift stores trying to find the same item in your size or color.

Example:  Housecleaning and Maintenance

When I lived in California, it was ineffective for my sanity and my calendar to try and clean the house I shared with my family.  I could make more money and accomplish more by having someone come once a month and tidy up in the time it would have taken me to clean the oversized house we shared.  It’s no longer necessary for me to do this, but during a rough patch with my family, this really made life easier.  Though it was pricey, it helped us get through a very difficult time for our family.

Example:  Give Away or Garage Sale?

I could have made a fortune off of the things I gave away to charity before moving to Chicago.  I knew though, that seeing my Gram’s things (who had passed away a year prior) would totally break my heart, and going through it twice- to decide what to sell, and then putting it out for display, would be a total emotional drain.  I was running low on time and decided to donate everything to Gram’s favorite charity instead so they could sell what they wanted in their thrift store.  Sure, I didn’t make any money- but it saved me time and a lot of emotional stress…time well spent.

Example:  Buy or Borrow?

Sometimes it is so tempting to just have something on hand at all times- a rarely used blender, a leaf blower, books you may rarely read but never want a late fee on!  While it can be a pain to have to find someone who can loan out an item, (or returning it on time!) -borrowing items can be a great way to cut back on excesses.  This semester, I got all of my books for school at the public and school libraries.   I have loaned out my knitting supplies to someone so they can test it out the hobby before buying expensive supplies.  If it’s feasible and you have the option to borrow instead of buying, try it out!  Just be sure you reward people that loan you their car or vaccumm cleaners so they don’t regret the kindness!

Example:  Making or Buying Gifts?

Crafting is fabulous- it’s fun for the crafter and great for the recipient, but sometimes it can get pricey. It can be misleading to think that crafting is a budget-friendly way to create gifts, but in fact- when you factor in the cost of supplies and the hours it takes to knit a scarf or put together a scrapbook, it could easily cost more than your anticipated “cost” of a gift!  Of course, if the point of the gift is to give from the heart or to create a keepsake, or even to provide yourself with hours of entertainment in its crafting- go for it!  If you’re trying to simply “save money,”  simply having something handmade won’t mean it’s affordable to make, sometimes a gift card in a modest amount or another venture would be a better choice for the giver and recipient.

As a crafter myself who has tackled an array of invitations, centerpieces and event programs- I have often made the mistake of underestimating the amount of time and money it would take to D.I.Y.  Simply having the invites printed with a good coupon could have saved me a lot of stress and frustration when a project takes longer and needs more glitter and ribbon than anticipated!

Example:  Off Brand or Name Brand?

I think there are some items you should buy for cheap-  socks, tights, undershirts, store-brand food items, rugs/towels (any items that take a lot of abuse and probably won’t look nice for long).  But there are other items that I think you shouldn’t skimp on- toilet paper and comfortable but stylish shoes are the two I have learned recently.  Also, I have bought cleaning products and paper products from the dollar store, only to find the products were watered down or ineffective!  Sometimes it’s easy to cut corners, other times- having to go back to the store and buy a cleaning product that works or a pair of shoes you can tolerate will cost you more time and money.

We have all bought something simply because it’s “cheap,” but sometimes buying a more expensive pair of shoes that you adore and know you’ll wear (without them killing your feet) might be your best bet!  I am currently saving my pennies for a Tiffany Necklace I have been wanting for over a year now- it’s terribly expensive, but I plan on wearing and loving it for years.  It goes with everything, and in this one instance, I’d rather have one nice piece that I treasure over other trendy/costume pieces…and if I still love it in 2 years when I finally have enough for it, we’ll be set!

We have all experienced projects where we run out of paint, didn’t buy the right supplies, didn’t anticipate how “broken” something is, or realized we weren’t as savvy as we thought- at times, it’s okay to throw in the towel and call in the professionals!

Here are some other blogs articles on this topic:

8 Ways Convenience Is Screwing Your Finances @WiseBread

Sometimes Budget Items Are Awful @BudgetSmartGirl

Rules To Grow Rich By:  Do It Yourself @TheSimpleDollar

The Case For Expensive Shoes @WiseBread

1 comments so far.

One response to “Lesson in Frugality: Time vs. Money”

  1. […] exposed my expensive food habits in general.  I have realized that everything we do is a matter of time vs. money, and I’m going to have to apply that knowledge to my food since I have little time and little […]


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