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Paying Others to Work for You, Part 1

Valuing Your Time

There are 168 hours in a week. About 56 of those hours are spent sleeping and another 40 or so are spent working, leaving 72 hours, or about 7 hours a day. What you do with those hours is entirely up to you. Maybe you love to clean. Maybe you love to do laundry. Maybe you love to do yard work. Great. For the rest of us, let’s figure out how we can get someone else to do it for us so we can get back to looking at pictures of Jessica Pare.

But, before we do that, we have to figure out if it makes good financial sense. How long would it take to do the job? How much would it cost to pay someone else to do it for us? Can we do other things (like look at pictures of Lizzy Caplan) while it is happening?

What you could be doing with your free time.

What you could be doing with your free time.

For example, I could probably change my own oil. To do it, I’d have to go to the store to pick up about six quarts of oil and an oil filter. Then, I’d have to drain the old oil and blah, blah, blah, I’ve already lost interest. (I like to drive cars, and I like to know how they work, but changing the oil sounds about as much fun as picking up pet poop. If you want to know how to change your oil, go here.) Assuming everything went as planned, It would probably take me about three hours to do it. I can drive to a quick oil change place and pay about $30 to get it done in an hour.

Now, you can look at this two ways. For about $30, I get two hours to do something else that I want to do. Or, I could save $9 (5 liters of oil for $14 plus $7 for an oil filter) and do it myself. So, we spend two hours to get $9 in savings and thus, we are valuing our time at about $4.50 an hour. Is it worth our time to change our oil ourselves even if we don’t get to use that time to look at photos of Lyndsy Fonseca?

To answer this, we need to know the value of our time. Here are a few different thoughts on it, so that you can answer for yourself.

Different Ways To Look At It

If you’re not working, you’re not getting paid. Since you aren’t getting paid for your free time, it doesn’t have a value. It’s just there.

The pay rate for a job you could have. Let’s say we all could at least get a job for minimum wage at Taco Bell in addition to our day job. So, if we were working instead of using free time to do something else, the value would be $7.25 an hour ($8 in California – check here for your state.)

The pay rate for the job you have. If you have found someone to give you $25 an hour for your skill set, isn’t that a good idea of the value of your time? Your expertise is such that you bring about $25 of value an hour to your company. Shouldn’t others feel the same way?

The pay rate if you were working overtime. We all know that if we get paid for 40 hours a week, anything above that should be considered overtime and we should get paid time and a half. If we were making $25 an hour, if we worked that 41st hour, it would be worth $37.50 an hour.

My free time is priceless. Think of it like a MasterCard commercial. We work so that we have free time to do what we like to do. If we worked instead of having free time, we wouldn’t be happy. We don’t want to miss seeing our girlfriends, our friends, kids, donkey shows, pictures of Collette Wolfe or whatever. Working all the time doesn’t give us that chance. Some people probably wouldn’t trade the free time they’re using to go to party in Costa Rica, be an usher at a friend’s wedding or see their family over the holidays for anything.

Think about those five scenarios and see how you value your time. If it feels it should be worth more than zero, but less than your hourly wage, that’s fine. Whatever you think put a number on it. It’s not set in stone, just a good way to look at your time.

After you have that number for the value of our time, we can answer the question above. If it is $3 an hour, yes, change the oil yourself. If it is $20 an hour, get someone else to do it.

For me, I’m happy to pay that extra $9 for someone to change my oil. Of course, there are other considerations and next time I’ll explore those.

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About Jason McClain Jason is an aspiring novelist, which means there is a lot of time to put off writing and watch baseball or go fly-fishing, hiking and traveling. By "a lot of time", Jason means "procrastination."

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