The folks at Kiplinger personal finance magazine put together a very helpful list called “How to wipe out 33 Pesky Fees.” I went through it on the web and thought it contained some helpful ideas.
One suggested that “to avoid priority-seating fees from airlines which can add an extra $50 each way to your travel tab” you get to” the airport check-in a couple of hours before flight time and asking if any desirable seats are available.” Another advocated shopping for your own title insurer instead of simply going with the one ponied up by your realtor or lender. The story notes: “You can cut the $2,000 to $3,000 cost by hundreds of dollars by shopping for a title service on your own.” And on they went in a similar vein.
As a rule, I love lists. I find they can be extremely helpful in getting through my day without, say, forgetting to pick up the dry cleaning, or make the appointment at the vet. But this one bothered me because although – as I said – it was helpful, it didn’t take one vital element into account. Time. Your time. My time. Would I spend an hour or so shopping around for title insurance to save hundreds of dollars? Yes. Would I arrive at an airport a couple of hours earlier than necessary to save $50? No.
Why? Because I know what an hour of my time is worth. Many people don’t. And it’s actually a very important number to keep in your head. If you know what your time is worth, you have a rubric (my kids are headed back to school, so I’m thinking about rubric’s again) to use to figure out when to do something vs. when not to do it and when to take it on yourself vs. when to hire out.
That’s not to say that money is the only consideration. There’s opportunity cost. You also have to think about what else you might do with the time. In the first instance, if I planned to spend the afternoon reading and I could do it just as easily sitting in an airport as at home, then why not arrive at the airport early and save the $50. Alternately, if I had a story to write (for pay) the two hours would be better spent in quiet getting it done.
Fun is an equally important to think about. Take gardening. If it’s not your cup of tea, you might prefer to outsource the weeding to someone else. But if you enjoy getting down and dirty, it doesn’t matter if you could make more money working at your day job. You want to spend your time doing this.
All in all, it’s just another part of the equation…albeit one worth at least a little of your time (pun intended).