a brief history of the value of time
As a recent father the topic of the value of my time has been running through the old noggin a lot recently, and then lo and behold young ERG goes and writes a lovely post about it, pushing it even further to the front of my cranium.
I found I had a fair bit to say on the comments section there and wanted to explore my thoughts further, so at the risk of totally ripping off his post idea, here they are (sorry Guy!) – hopefully I’ve got a few new things to say about it though 🙂
I thought it would be fun to travel back in time and try to remember how I’ve valued my time at different stages in my life, and see if you guys felt the same kinds of things and also here your thoughts on it if they differed?
Up to the age of about 13 time is the only real currency you posses, barring a bit of pocket money and trading stuff with your mates of course. Although I’m not sure I was cognizant of this fact directly, I’m certain I valued my time very highly at this stage of my life, without being able to put an exact monetary value on it. I didn’t hate school as such but there were hundreds of things I could think of that I would rather be doing, and I definitely disliked elements of it such as being told what to do and when to do it 🙂
I remember thinking that free time (i.e. time outside of school and a few other activities I didn’t particularly like doing such as shopping for shoes with my parents) seemed really rather short. I also remember my parents telling me to make the most of it as things only get worse as you get older… I didn’t believe them for some strange reason but of course now I realise they were telling me the cold hard truth! Bonus lesson for any budding 6 year old FI seekers reading: Listen to your parents!
Time becomes even more scarce when you hit your teens, what with extra curricular clubs, more and more homework, and cramming for exams, and as the laws of supply and demand dictate it should therefore in theory become even more valuable to us.
Isn’t it strange then that we voluntarily go and do paper rounds and get Saturday jobs paying an absolute pittance? The reason of course is that we’ve learnt about money buy now and the standard advice is of course you earn money to buy a load of shit that you want*
*That have been heavily advertised to you
I think I’ve been aware that spare time is important at all stages throughout my life, but as money took over as the main currency I stopped thinking about it as much and I certainly didn’t think about the direct link between free time and money (oh to have been handed a copy of YMOL* 1 way back then!). Even though you know deep down that you are trading time for money, I mean it’s just obvious really, I definitely didn’t make the connection that by spending less I might be able to work less.
Following the status quo seemed the way to go at this age!
For some reason I remember having more free time in sixth form than at any time previously during my school life, despite doing 4 A Levels and holding down a number of part time jobs. The reason for this I am sure is that I really started to value the time that I had and thought about it quite a lot. As well as doing the usual socialising, mucking about on video games and playing a bit of sports with mates, I also got into making music on the PC and would spend hours engrossed in this creative and rewarding activity. It was at this age that I really started to dread going to work a proper job and thought Uni was the way “out” as that would give me more free time, however…
first full time job
… I first decided to see what it was like being full time employed for a year and to try to save up some cash to splash at Uni. I really enjoyed the elements of earning a crust and being well paid for it as well, and seeing my bank balance burgeoning for the first time ever. However time could not have been more short! The company I worked for was very short staffed and 6 day weeks were a common occurrence (luckily overtime was compensated!).
I have to admit I can’t remember what I thought about the value of my time as the year was a bit of a blur, I just didn’t have time to stop and think about it all that much. But as I say I was trading my time for some decent wedge for once, so at least I was getting a good exchange rate!
Free time all of a sudden shoots through the roof and ironically becomes much less valuable yet again. I ended up wasting a lot of my valuable time being hung over and watching crap on TV with mates, rather than doing productive things such as making music which was the original intention. I only regret that slightly though as the whole experience was a blast, if not an inexpensive one 🙂
Even though time was “wasted” I still knew that I wanted to continue my free time bonanza, which indicates that I did still value it quite highly. I thought about unconventional ways to make money from being a professional gambler to a golfer, none of which panned out of course 🙂
welcome to the real world!
I guess this whole article has just been building up to this point where I was in a full time job for the first time and there was no other viable alternative for the foreseeable, as this is when you really start to value your time. Although again I didn’t think about the direct link between money spent until years later, I was always looking at ideas to earn a bit of side income if possible (most of these involved gambling systems 2).
Something started to really click in my brain around the age of 30 that
I wasn’t sure what it was so I threw many ideas into the pot such as getting a new job, starting up as a freelancer, and starting some new businesses. It was around this time during my researching that I stumbled across MMM who introduced me to how you really work out the value of your time, or rather how to work out how much you are really being compensated for trading your time for money at work, via this review on Your Money Or Your Life.
It’s a simple but powerful concept which I think is worth repeating here:
- Take your (say) monthly salary
- Minus tax and other deductions
- Minus commuting costs
- Minus other work related expenses such as clothing, equipment, and so on
- Add up the number of hours you work in a month
- Add any unpaid overtime you normally do
- Add any time you spend getting ready, commuting to work, and so on
- Finally divide the first monetary figure by the second total hours to get your real hourly rate
If you haven’t ever done this before, do it now, it is eye opening and probably quite depressing!!!
As a rough example if I thought my hourly rate for being a software developer was a princely £25.64 per hour based on £50k and 37.5 hours per week then I am seriously deluded! Let’s keep it really simple and only take off tax, a train ticket and time of commuting and we are looking at something more like £33k and 60 hours a week which boils down to a relatively paltry £10.57 per hour!!!
Now next time you pay £10 for a car wash maybe you’ll think twice if you can do it yourself in half an hour?
magical time creation!
And so it is fair to say that after learning all of this stuff my time has become even more valuable to me, and not something to trade in for work without much second thought. I’ve also stopped wasting my own time and have drastically cut down on things that are a waste of time such as TV and social media 3. This has freed up more time than I ever thought I had before to do rewarding stuff like blogging, brewing beer, and smashing up parts of my house for fun (and rebuilding them, obvs) as well as trying to make a bit of cash on the side with things like matched betting, investing and generally life hacking everything that moves.
and then time becomes even more precious
That brings us up to the present day where Baby TFS has arrived and time could not be more precious, however my priorities have changed big time. It looks something along the lines of this:
- Spend time with Mrs T and the baby
- Spend time with friends and family
- Matched betting
- Other stuff (Blogging, internet surfing, exercising, golf, drinking with friends, and anything else that used to be much higher up the list!)
As you can imagine that has changed quite a bit after baby T came along and matched betting has managed to sneak above all of that other stuff, but please note that this does not mean I am doing tonnes of matched betting and none of the other stuff.
And that brings us full circle really back to Guy’s post whose main point was (I think) that now that he has a couple of potentially lucrative side hustles he is viewing all of his spare time as extra earnings potential full stop, whereas I am looking at mine from almost the complete opposite angle of: I want my free time damnit!
I’ve fought hard over the last couple of years to get some of my time back and now baby T has come along I don’t want to squander it making £7 here and £5 there on some crappy bookmaker in play offers that take half an hour to complete and tie you to the laptop on a beautiful Saturday afternoon.
I don’t want this to turn into a discussion purely on matched betting but it is one of the reasons why I’ve been thinking about value of time recently, so will make one final point clear: once I’d done a few offers that earn you £20+ and take only 10 minutes, the ones that are for a lower amount and can sometimes take longer, I just cannot be bothered with, so I am targeting high value offers if I have time for it and then getting on with the fun stuff. It may be an obvious point but it seems that is not how Guy and many others are seeing it and they are just looking at doing as many offers as possible and churning through offers regardless of the profit on each one. I dare say that I am valuing my time at a higher rate that those others do at this point in time and as I mentioned on the comments to Guy at some point you have to wonder whether greed has kicked in if you are missing out on other more healthy and fun aspects of your life.
Be careful out there guys that’s all I’m saying, too much of anything is just not good for you!
Right that’s enough on matched betting now, I will write any further thoughts on a full post about it soon!
Finally just briefly going back to my list of priorities above… I am sure you could quickly and easily conjure up your own list in your head without thinking very hard about it and no doubt it may look very similar?
Let me know your thoughts on it below and how you prioritise/value your time?
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- I’ll continue this aside down here. I ended up earning a small amount of money out of some of them each year and we got a few nice holidays out of it, but they were all a very low ROI when you took the time spent on them into account! Matched betting is the way forward in this area 😉 ! I almost certainly should have spent that time building something else up on the side such as a blog or proper side business. Or just given matched betting a proper go a lot earlier! ↩
- That’s not to say I’ve cut them out completely, as I do think they can be very useful in our modern lives! Just use them sparingly, only when it’s benefiting you and don’t use them mindlessly like most people do. ↩