dord (dôrd), n. density of mind; chiefly exhibited by one who attempts to demonstrate supposed knowledge --adj. dord'ish


A Better Way to Waste? (Pt. 2)

In addition to the issue of saving money in order to waste it elsewhere, there is the problem of wasting time in order to save money. A few days ago, shortly after buying the textbook for one of my classes this semester, I discovered that I could have saved about $6.50 by buying it elsewhere. My thoughts upon realizing this resembled the following: Bummer. Well, it's not a huge difference on an eighty dollar book. Then again, $6.50 is $6.50. If I'd spent $6.50 on a few ice cream cones and dropped them on the sidewalk, I'd feel I lost it for nothing.

The book is returnable, and I might return it to buy it at the lower price--a minor hassle, considering I could be going back anyway--but thinking about it made me wonder, what makes it worth it to take the extra time to save money? And how do we know when, in our attempts to save money, we are instead wasting time?

First there are obvious cases: the "big ticket" items such as houses and cars. A wise person will spend the necessary time to investigate different options, compare costs and benefits, and make an informed decision. But what about smaller things? It's obvious that it's important to shop around for the best price on cars; it's obvious that it's much less important to shop around for the best price on apples; but what about the stuff in between, like books or electronics?

Now, I realize that with the internet it is possible to compare a lot of prices online. But this is not always possible. At such times, you must ask yourself whether it's worthwhile to go to two or three different stores to discover where you can save a few dollars.

The first question to ask, I think, is whether your time would be better spent elsewhere. If you're supposed to run to the store to buy some more soft drinks before the cookout begins, it's probably better to pay a little extra at the convenience store and return to help around the house than to drive an extra twenty minutes to save money at the superstore. I'm sure you could come up with plenty of other, better examples, but I think you can understand my point.

But if there is nothing else in particular that we should be doing? Like me, you've probably heard (without having any idea where) the saying, "Time is money." Materialists may intend it to mean that time is to be turned into money. In my opinion, however, this saying points out the willingness that even--or especially--the frugal may have to waste time.

So when is it worthwhile to spend an extra thirty minutes to go to another store? Remember that other saying, "A penny saved is a penny earned"? (Actually, taking taxes into account. . . never mind.) Here is my theory: if you're saving less money hourly than you make hourly, it's probably not worth your time. Because that probably didn't make a lot of sense, I'll give an example. The items on a certain grocery list can be purchased at the SuperCenter for $120. The shopping takes one hour. The same groceries can be purchased for a total of $100 if one goes to five different stores scattered across town. To do this, however, would take three hours. To a person earning $8/hour, saving twenty dollars in two hours would be well worth it. The same may not be true, however, for a person earning $20/hour.

Let me clarify a few things. First, I don't believe that we can categorically put a quantifiable value on time. If this were so, it would never be worthwhile for us to have non business-related conversations. If, however, the time in question would be spent trying to save money, this way of thinking might be useful.

Second, just as we must ask ourselves who our money belongs to, so too we must also ask ourselves Who our time belongs to. One person, in best stewarding his time and money, may spend more time saving money, while another may spend more money saving time. I'm curious to hear what others think. And yes, I admit to often being way too analytical.



Blogger Laedelas Greenleaf said...

Jason, I'm curious to know what you think about buying things from specific retailers. For example, my mom buys as much of her dairy products from local farms, though they might be more expensive and are definitely not convenient. She does it for many reasons. She knows the farm owners and they treat their animals well (no fake hormones, free-range chickens, etc.), so the food is healthier and the farm is environmentally (more) sustainable, plus she's investing in the local economy. Some people buy things from other places because they support certain causes or whatever. Do intangible things like that affect your purchases? Or is that too much thinking, and--hand me the coke already! (heh)

Kicking Children Inside Xylophones=Dumb

8/26/2006 2:26 AM

Blogger Jason said...


Yeah, intangible things do affect my purchases. (For instance, I don't buy gas from Citgo, even if it's cheaper.)

There are so many things that affect the way we all spend money. What I was mainly talking about in this post is when, all other things being equal, we spend an hour to save a buck. For your mom, supporting certain farms and eating healthier (more healthily???) is more important, and understandably so. That's a lot different from driving an extra half hour to save $2 on milk that still came from cows with a bunch of fake hormones. Does this answer your question?

Many Anarchic Yaks Kick Soggy Socks

8/26/2006 11:46 AM

Blogger Laedelas Greenleaf said...

What's wrong with Citgo?

Your answer is a lot more simple than the one I was expecting :-) Thanks!

TeleVision Lets Elementary Thinkers Kill Helpful Hours

8/27/2006 11:30 PM

Blogger Jason said...

That probably means the post itself was a lot more complicated than it should have been. :-)

RE Citgo:

I'm not boycott crazed, but I thought it would be worthwhile to buy gas elsewhere.

Parking Kangaroos Alongside Jeeps Kills Fright

8/28/2006 3:26 PM


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