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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.