Is Saving Money Worth My Time?

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Is saving money worth my time? I have a formula I use to figure out whether a particular deal is worth pursuing or not.

I love a good bargain.

But there’s more to life than saving money. A lot more.

Some people think it’s a waste of time to clip coupons and shop for bargains. And you know what? I think they’re right. Well, sometimes.

Is Saving Money Worth My Time?

Time is a precious commodity. We all have a finite number of hours on this earth, and we’re constantly making decisions about how to spend our time. In theory, we all want to spend lots of time doing things that make us happy with our family and friends. But the practicalities of life require us to spend much of our time earning money, paying bills, opening mail, sorting through children’s schoolwork, and taking out the trash.

I’m a math person, so I actually enjoy analyzing the pros and cons of different money-saving scenarios. A few years ago I came up with a system to help me decide whether or not it’s worth it to make an extra stop at a store because something is on sale there.

When people go to work, they often earn an hourly wage. When I save money, I look at that as my hourly wage. I translate the amount of money I would save with a given deal to an hourly rate, and then I decide if it’s worth it.

What’s My Time Worth?

If I were to get a part-time job in addition to the writing work I already do, $20 an hour would be the minimum rate I would accept. So when I’m shopping, I set my time at a value of $20 an hour. If I need to go thirty minutes out of my way to use a $2 coupon, I look at that as an earning rate of $4 an hour. My time is worth more than that.

If, on the other hand, I can go thirty minutes out of my way and save $15, that’s equivalent to an earning rate of $30 an hour. That is worth my time, so that’s an extra stop I’d be willing to make.

Yesterday I went to two grocery stores to do my weekly shopping. I had a list based on the sales flyers at each store, and I knew there were enough items on sale at each store to make it worthwhile to go to both. It took me an extra 20 minutes to go to that second store, but I saved $10 there. That’s $30 an hour, and I was happy as I dropped off my empty cart in the parking lot after the shop.

What’s the Goal?

For me, saving money isn’t the goal when I shop. Saving money is a means to an end.

I save money on groceries so I have more of it to do the things I want to do. I can work part-time instead of full-time because we don’t have such big bills to pay. Saving money allows me to be on the PTA at my children’s school, and it allows me to volunteer in their school library and computer lab. We can pay our credit card bill in full every month and even save a little for a rainy day.

It’s all about having the freedom to live the life you want to live.

26 Comments

  1. Calculating the savings in terms of what your hourly rate is is a great way to sort the good deals from the bad! I recently started using coupons more and am surprised at the room saving money on household goods has put in my budget to spend on healthy foods. I enjoy deal hunting, so I’m willing to give some of my leisure time to it as a hobby (not too many other hobbies cost as little, and cheap hobbies are what I need at this phase of life). Thanks for the practical advice!

  2. Interesting perspective. You can save alot of money cherrypicking as they call it. (going from store to store and picking up the best deals at each of the stores) Some of us have more time than others to devote to those kinds of things. I have found that I shop at one main store. They have low prices on most things. They get some real killer deals on produce and other items that I use on a regular basis. They have a good day old meat bin, and I know when they mark down other items. They are a small local place and the customer service is hard to beat. I am a fan for life.

    I will browse the other stores ads and with the help of the internet, will check for those extreme deals with the coupons. If I find several items that will make sense for me, I will stop at that store to buy those particiular items. For me the criteria is simple. If it is something that I would normally buy and the price is right. I have learned through sad experience that buying something simply because you have a coupon and it is on sale is not always the best idea. If your family will not eat it, you have wasted time and money.

    I do try to keep it simple and local. I hardley ever buy from the big box stores. They tend to get to much of my money and I get to little out of it besides a headache. Thanks for sharing I am visiting from fight back friday

    1. I feel so much better buying from smaller local stores, too. I wish I had a local grocery store like yours where I could do most of my shopping for a good price.

  3. Great food for thought. I like the hourly wage idea! Thank you for sharing on Healthy 2Day Wednesdays!

  4. When I shop for groceries, it’s all about saving but my husband, it’s all about taste. He eats the most expensive foods, however, it’s his money when he shops and if he can swing it, more power to him. For me, I always have coupons and a list to help keep my bill low.

    1. It’s tricky to negotiate when one spouse is frugal and the other one isn’t. I think many of us deal with this issue.

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