How to budget for time

In Money cents by Donna Willan

Here’s an age-old question: how much is my time really worth? If I’m spending less money but a significant amount of time doing something I really don’t enjoy doing or find very difficult, am I really saving? Or am I wasting my time?

I guess the question goes back to an earlier column where I reflected on when to outsource. What is a real saving? Is it a real saving if it takes double the time? What is time worth when we are budgeting? What is the right balance?

I have found that in order to save money, and live within my budget, I am doing a whole lot of things myself, but then I have no ‘fun and relaxing time’, because it takes so long. This seems like a false saving to me!

For example, in a previous column I explained my rationale for outsourcing the pool maintenance; it costs R500 a month to have someone else maintain the pool, AND it is always blue, so I don’t need to worry about it and I save huge amounts of stress and time. But on a tight budget, is it worth it? I am living on a very tight budget but time is also tight – in truth which one do we have less of, money or time? We have no idea of course, so how do we make the best choices with that big unknown?

Let’s look at bread as another example. You’ve read about me wanting to be more connected and do more ‘fun things’; for me this includes making my own bread. I have the bread machine, it tastes and smells delicious, it’s cheaper than shop bread; but it still takes time and planning. The alternative is to shop once a week, buy five loaves of bread, stick them in the freezer and take one out every evening. Yes, ideally I would love fresh, warm, home-baked bread everyday – but in reality it steals my time for a minimal saving. So sadly freshly baked bread becomes an occasional luxury; I choose to spend slightly more on shop bread, but save some time.

At the end of the day I think saving time might be more important than saving money, but I am working on a limited budget – so how do I get that balance right?

In my next column I am going to reflect on the question of debt – why do we have it and what should we do about it?


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