I encountered one of my favorite money lessons this past week. Ben and I had some house decorating – hanging shelves and art work – that we’ve been putting off for a couple of months. But Ben was determined to get it done. So we debated whether we would do it ourselves or hire a handyman.
I was on board with the handyman from the beginning. Neither of us are very handy, and I could already anticipate the argument that we would have when trying to complete the project together. My main point to Ben was a lesson I’ve written about previously – Time is Money. We had to consider whether the $100 we would spend was worth the extra two or three hours (in addition to the arguments and frustration) that we would face doing it ourselves.
In the end, Ben agreed to hire the handyman and not only did he complete what we wanted in 45 minutes, he did two additional jobs while he was in the house. In honor of a successful exercise in smart spending, I wanted to repost my lesson on what to consider when weighing your time and your money.
Time is Money
I’ll start with the principle: Time is Money.
The concept pretty much speaks for itself. Simply put, we value our time. The time you spend doing one activity could be used doing something else. And you usually put a price on that time, for example, when you choose to go to work instead of spend time with your family, or you chose to hire a cleaning person rather than clean yourself, or you choose to take a cab over public transportation. (Ben and I argue about this one a lot.)
The concept also cuts the other way. We consider how many days, weeks, or months of work it will cost us to pay for that car repair, new winter jacket, or the much needed vacation. Whether rich, poor, or somewhere in between, we choose between our money and our time.
Time might be better spent doing something else
This past weekend, I decided to fix our leaky toilet. It had been running constantly and was very hard to flush. After some quick research, it was pretty clear to me that the problem was with the fill and flushing valves. All of the insight online said I could easily replace the valves myself, so I ventured to ACE hardware, got a new valve kit, and dug out my toolbox.
Things went very well in the beginning, despite me not being the handiest of people. I took off the tank, removed the old valves, installed the new ones, and was ready to connect the tank back to the bowl.
My first attempt of putting everything back together caused water to spray everywhere because I didn’t connect the tank to the water pipe (again, not the handiest.) I fixed that and filled the tank with water. But almost immediately water flowed right through it and onto the floor. After some quick research, I replaced some washers and filled the tank again. Water didn’t gush this time, but it still seeped out.
After five or six times of taking off the tank and playing with the screws, I had managed to move the leak from one screw to another, all the while creating a wet mess on our bathroom floor. I also managed to spend eight hours of my Saturday trying to resolve the issue to no avail. When I realized how much time I spent, I thought about all of those other things I could have done with that eight hours – read, nap, write, spend time with Ben.
I had sense enough to give up for the day and try again on Sunday. Yet three hours into Sunday, the tank continued to drip, drip, drip. Despite knowing I had other things to do, I stubbornly Googled, Youtubed, and trialed and errored my way through the issue. After my frustrations with the water and annoyance with the task itself boiled over, Ben asked “Don’t you think your time would be better spent doing something else.” It finally clicked; I needed to pay someone to fix the situation and spend my time doing those things I should have done over the past two days.
I called a local handyman who fixed the leak in about 15 minutes. And it only took that long because he kindly walked me through everything I did wrong (after a good laugh). In addition to fixing the leaky toilet, he repaired our other one, cleaned out our drain, and figured out why our kitchen faucet leaked water. In 1/12th of the time it took me to do one task, he completed four, teaching me every step of the way. I was so grateful for his assistance I gave him a $20 tip on a $60 bill. In essence, I could have paid $60 for 12 hours of my weekend. Instead, I lost 12 hours and paid $80.
The toilet debacle made realize that I need to consider the true cost of a money decision. It’s not that I shouldn’t have tried to fix the toilet (I learned a lot) or that I want to start paying people to do everything for me (I don’t have the money or patience for that). I should have done a cost benefit analysis three or four hours into what should have been an easy task. If I had done that, I probably wouldn’t have felt that I wasted my weekend.
In the end, you have to find a balance and make sure to spend your time and money wisely.
Here are some examples of things you might consider:
- Am I really saving money or creating value if I decide to spend my time accomplishing a task that someone else can do faster and more efficiently?
- Did I do something valuable with that extra time?
- Is the extra money earned by working late worth the time spent away from my family?
- Did I make a smart decision with that money?