Time is money or is it really?

Time is money. This week in Time magazine they note that $37. 7 billion dollars is the amount U.S. workers lose each year waiting for repairs, installations and deliveries. This equates to 11 hours and 37 minutes per worker or $242 dollars for each worker (Time, 11-28-2011). That sounds like a lot of money. If only we could speed up those lazy repair people up, we could save almost ½ day each in time, not to mention billions of dollars. So let’s just suppose we could save all this time, what do you think the average American would do with it?

My best guess is the average American would probably spend more time watching TV, buying lottery tickets or waiting in line for “Black Friday” specials. Just think, this year many of the stores are going to open at 12 mid-night on Friday. At church on Sunday, our pastor said that people were already lined up and camping out at Best Buys around the country. You may argue that these exuberant shoppers are going to save money and are also stimulating the economy but somehow the idea of spending over 72 hours waiting in line for a bargain does not seem to me to be a very effective use of time or is it?

Let me assume for a second that the average American worker earns $23.19 per hour (http://www.bls.gov/eag/eag.us.htm) , then waiting in line for 72 hours equals $1669.68 of potentially lost productivity and wages. Now you may say I am exaggerating here. Most people are not going to stand in line for 72 hours to get a bargain. Well, let’s assume a more modest time of say 4 hours. That equates to $92.76. If your bargains total more than $100 dollars than an economist would say that spending the four hours is a rational use of your time. However, many experts note that on the average these probably aren’t the lowest prices of the season. Retailers will see how well sales go this weekend, then mark items down between now and Christmas. You can even shop online and find better bargains and not waste any time waiting.

However, we all know that the real reason for getting up early is the fun and excitement that goes with the bargain “hunt.” We are not really being economic beings who are coldly calculating dollars and cents against time spent. Most of the calculations on the rationality of spending time really miss the point. We do not watch our time and measure it in dollars and cents. If we did, perhaps watches or cellphones would calculate wasted time for us and translate it into wasted productivity. Watches and cellphones could have a Central Dollar Time that they would beam to that would provide the latest updates in average dollar earnings and let us know exactly what each minute we were spending was costing us. As I write this blog, I fear I have just lost 1.5 hours or $34.78.

Time is more of a qualitative metric than it is a quantitative metric. Like beauty, time spent, time wasted and productive time are all in the eyes of the beholder. What is a waste of time to me is time well spent to you. What are you going to “waste” your time on today? What things are you going to do that are productive? How do you tell the difference? Do you have too much wasted time in your life? How can you better balance your productive and wasted time?

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. krad
    Dec 05, 2011 @ 08:48:04

    Great post John, I agree on this “time is money”. It happened that I'm working as a freelancer and time management is very important. Where, I get paid for the projects that I do for clients. The more projects I do and finish the more I earn. However, it is not easy to do different projects a day. One thing that helps me manage time effectively to do more work is by using a time management tool. This tool is what I use personally, using this tool I list my entire task that I should do and organize it starting with the highest priority level to the less priority. I also set an amount of time to do each task that I eagerly follow. Self discipline is my key to follow time schedule to do each task. Using this strategy, I am more productive than before.



  2. GAbe
    Nov 21, 2012 @ 21:15:12

    The thing is that the average paid person isn't waiting in line for three days. A lot of times the people waiting in line are unemployed or underemployed.



  3. John Persico
    Nov 21, 2012 @ 21:59:49

    Thanks for the comments. You illustrate my points exactly.



  4. John Persico
    Nov 21, 2012 @ 22:01:34

    This comment has been removed by the author.



  5. John Persico
    Nov 21, 2012 @ 22:04:40

    Dear Gabe, SInce the unemployed represent less than 8 percent of the workforce, then the odds are that the “average person” waiting in line is probably not unemployed. I have no data on the “under-employed” which is probably anyone not making what they think they are worth, hence we are all under-employed. Do you make what you are worth? How do you value your time?



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