Have you ever wondered if what you do to save money is worth your time and effort? I think about this from time to time, especially when someone asks me what things I do to save. And, while how I spend my time is a personal choice, I think it’s important to have a good answer.
Anything we choose has positives and negatives, but considering some perspectives can help us evaluate for ourselves. I admit, I do a variety of things to save money – budgeting, couponing, price comparing, among a few others. And not everything works for everyone, but let’s consider:
No one pays me for my spare time
Often, people equate the value of their time to their salary. But, if that’s the case, someone owes me money for watching TV! And the truth is that I often coupon while I watch TV. To me, both activities require only a small amount of concentration, plus, all I need to create my shopping list for the week is my laptop and an internet connection. Obviously, you should not neglect your loved ones, but if you can set aside the time or can multitask ways to save, then it’s likely worth it.
I shop with after-tax dollars
I consider my money saving activities as an after-tax benefit. Why? Because I’m spending less of or adding to what I’ve already been paid. For example, I sometimes use the website Swagbucks. They pay me to search online, watch videos, etc. Most of the videos auto play and I use their site for searching the web, which we all need to do from time to time anyways. I don’t feel this interferes with my work or family time. I don’t do all of their activities, they don’t all make sense for me to spend time on. Yet, every month I generate roughly $50 in gift cards. Over the course of 12 months this comes to $600 – that I will not be taxed on. In my case, my employer would have to increase my salary by about $800 extra dollars in order for me to have an additional $600 of take-home money to shop with.
How do you approach dollars saved?
In other words, are dollars saved from activities in your spare time an addition to your income or a reduction in the value of your time? This is a bit like asking if the glass is half full or half empty. I look at money saved as an addition to our household income – which, I admit, motivates me even more. For example, when I started using coupons it saved my family about $5,000. I could have chosen to focus on either the hours I spent couponing or on the “new” money I freed up. I chose to look at it as new income that my family could use for something else that adds even more value. In our case, we used the savings to increase our net worth by putting it towards debt, emergency fund, and saving for retirement.
Saving money should be fun!
I get a thrill of watching our savings grow! Who wouldn’t?! And I’m clearly one to applaud any activity that saves or generates extra cash, but sometimes there are things we just do not enjoy. For example, the electronic couponing sites, where you submit a picture of your receipt, are hugely popular and simple to use. I, however, confess that I detest taking pictures so I avoid using these. However, I still have access to great coupons and discounts through other ways. So I choose to focus on the activities that don’t cause me grief.
Obviously, the amount of time spent on saving money should not interfere with your job or quality family time, but if you have the spare time, it can be worth it to evaluate what can work for you.