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.


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

  2. 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.

  3. This is the main reason why I limit my shopping to one or two stores. I just can’t put in all the hours. My main stores are BJ’s (of course!) and Stop and Shop or Market Basket.

    Your system is much like mine when considering deals. I’ve also adopted the mantra, that if I miss a deal, there will always be another one.

    I too try to make the menu around the sales. I keep a list of meal ideas on hand and then use Pinterest for new recipe inspiration.

    If it will help with price comparison, I have a BJ’s price book for you to look at. Often, the everyday prices per unit are the same as a sale price at Stop and Shop.

    Then, there are great BJ’s coupons which can be stacked with manufacturer coupons. This is the main way our family has been saving money over the years.

    Thank you for your thoughtful post. Time with our families is so precious.

    1. I love your mantra, Melanie! It’s so true, and it’s a nice way to give yourself a break when you just don’t have time to run out for free toothpaste. I’m excited to look at your BJ’s price book. We have one in the next town, but I haven’t gotten a membership there. I know many people who do most of their shopping at BJ’s, so clearly I should check it out.

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