Time - clockIn my never ending quest to save both time and money, I’ve noticed that these two values are often at odds with each other. Saving time can cost money (eating out, hiring someone to clean the house, scouring stores or the internet for bargains) and saving money can cost time (see my 3 recent experiences below).

  • I saw an ad for an all-purpose travel bag that would hold my laptop computer, file folders, and planner, with pockets for my water bottle, pens, etc. Since my current one was wearing out, it looked perfect and was free. All I had to do was receive some literature on reverse mortgages. I figured someone might call me and try to entice me to get a reverse mortgage but I’m hardened against marketers so I figured I’d just say “No.” Eventually (60+ days later) I did get my bag, BUT it took listening to 3 sales pitches, 5 follow-up calls, numerous times on hold, and threatening to call the Better Business Bureau. Was it worth my time?
  • We needed more mulch for our garden. My local garden store had a rebate for a higher quality mulch which would make it cheaper than the regular mulch. I figured I’d just send in the rebate form and get my money back. Not so simple. The online rebate form took me 30 minutes to fill out since the directions were confusing. (2 computer reboots of the form, 5 trips to the garage to find the correct UPC code, and still it would take 6-8 weeks for processing.) All this for a total of $10.
  • It’s not good enough to be good. It takes time. Since I regularly work with children at church, I am certified in two states by Virtus – a child protection accrediting program. It was time for another background check. I filled out the form, the check was done, but one diocese was willing to pay for the background check and the other was not. Apparently they don’t talk well with each other. Eventually it was just easier to pay for the second one myself. (I was starting to get greedier with my time.)

Probably lots of frugal people like me have had similar experiences. I work at home and our children are grown so my time is flexible. I’m also very persistent, so if I feel like I’m not being treated fairly, I will doggedly pursue the perpetrator in the name of justice for the public. Still I want to make good use of my time and I wonder if trying to get the best deal is worth it. This has led me to the following 7 Time vs Money Protocols.

  1. dollar signDo I really need the item, or am I just attracted to it because it is FREE. Skip it. My time is not free.
  2. Do I have the money to pay the full price? Would I still buy this item if it were not such a “deal.” Pause and reflect.
  3. Assess the amount of discretionary time I’m willing to spend on a discount. If it will take more than 10 minutes and I have pressing productive things to do – pay the extra money. (Productive time can include being present to a loved one, playing a favorite game, or taking a needed nap.)
  4. Double the amount of time I expect that claiming the discount will take. It usually does. Is it worth it? What else might I do with this time?
  5. Be respectful and kind, but firm with the sales people I encounter when trying to claim my discount. They are usually just trying to make a living. Contact the Better Business Bureau or Snopes, however, if you suspect it might be a scam.
  6. If catching a good deal is your idea of fun and you have the time to fritter, enjoy the challenge.
  7. Ignore all cruise offers

For more ideas read 12 Sneaky Ways Online Retailers Get You to Spend More and Joshua Becker’s How Refund Policies Encourage Spending (and Reduce Returning).

What criteria do you use for deciding when saving money is more important than time and vice versa. Please comment.