My last blog post dealt with when is a bargain not a bargain. (See Deal or No Deal) Now I’d like to expand on that by evaluating a few other items that involve weighing time vs. money. How much is my time worth? The bench mark I’m starting to establish for myself is that a discount or sale should not require me to spend more than $1 per minute. For example, if the discount will be $10, it should take no more than 10 minutes of my time. If the sale will save me $60, it shouldn’t take more than an hour to research and claim it. Of course this is a totally arbitrary rule of thumb, but it helps me assess whether it’s worth my time. Some recent examples:

  • Days 365+130 Swarovski bear 1Valuables: I inherited some nice Swarovski crystal. I’m saving a couple figurines but decided to let go of a crystal bear. The going price on Ebay ranges from $20 -$250. I’ve never sold anything on Ebay. It would take me awhile to figure out the system and then securely mail it to a buyer. Meanwhile, our parish just requested items for a raffle. I decided the trouble to sell the bear wasn’t worth my time since I have a worthy alternative.
  • Phone solicitations: I never donate to anyone who calls me on the phone because they almost always call during dinner and we only donate to causes that we are personally involved with. BUT, how do we respectfully respond to these inconvenient calls without cancelling our landline which we need for our home offices? I researched and signed up on the Do Not Call Registry,  but that doesn’t apply to charities and political campaign calls. Why The ‘Do Not Call’ List Doesn’t Stop Annoying Robocalls — And What To Do About It gives helpful background. Still, the time it would take me to find a solution to this is more than I want to commit. My decision? Answer solicitations with this mantra: “Yes, you have a worthy cause but we have already committed all our donation dollars for this year. Good bye.” (The IRS scam, Cardholder Services, and cruise offers don’t require this courtesy.
  • Days 365+129 air con home croppedAir conditioner: When we installed replacement windows last year it meant taking out a large window air conditioner. We decided to try to live without the AC. The summer’s almost over. It’s been hot. We’re still not sure if we will get a new unit, get central air, or tough it out in the basement “cave.” Regardless, we won’t use the current one because it’s noisy and blocks our view. After delaying for most of the summer, I felt guilty about having a usable air conditioner sitting unused in the garage when many people were suffering from the heat and didn’t have a basement to retreat to. I could sell it to an AC repair company but it only took a short internet search to learn that Salvation Army is one of the few places that will pick up a used but working air conditioner.

Time expended on air conditioner:
3 months = Procrastination
5 minutes = Internet research & 2 phone calls
1 week = Waiting to get back in town to finalize the deal
1 minute = Schedule a pick-up

LESSON: Even nice formulas (like $1 per minute) still need human judgment about when and how strictly to implement. It’s like most decisions in life.