April 22, 2016

Time Versus Money

Now this is a topic that everyone can relate to. Who doesn't struggle with the dilemma of time versus money? Do I save money and do it myself, or do I save time and buy it? That can mean buying the item outright, or hiring someone to do some work. Sometimes doing it myself means having to buy the tools and supplies necessary to get the job done. Which is the better choice? I don't know about you, but sometimes one wins out, sometimes the other.

Modern thinking tends to assume money represents leisure and freedom from work, i.e. the more money I have the more toys, entertainments, and free time I can have. Here's a real life example: When the kids were growing up, Dan and I believed they needed a full time mother. Also we believed in homeschooling. Every single person we encountered (except for other homeschoolers) assumed that I stayed home because we could "afford" it. That Dan made a big enough salary so that I didn't have to work. No one seemed to guess that we did what we did out of a spiritual conviction, and that some things are more important than money. The reality of our situation was that we really tightened our belts and lived what others would consider a denialist lifestyle.

I don't think it was always that way. Do you remember in Farmer Boy about Almanzo, his father, and the pumpkins?

     Father asked: "Almanzo, do you know what this is?"
     "Half a dollar," Almanzo answered.
     "Yes, but do you know what half a dollar is?... It's work, son. That's what money is; it's hard work... Say you have a seed potato in the spring, what do you do with it?" ...
     "First you manure the field, and plow it. Then you harrow, and mark the ground. And plant the potatoes, and plow them, and hoe them. You plow and hoe them twice... Then you dig them and put them down cellar."
     "And if you get a good price son, how much do you get to show for all that work? How much do you get for half a bushel of potatoes?"
    "Half a dollar," Almanzo said.
     "Yes," said Father. "That's what's in this half-dollar. The work that raised half a bushel of potatoes is in it."

When my kids were little there was a lot of social discussion about mothers and going to work. That was before the supermom myth had been busted and women were looking to have it all. I think it was Dr. James Dobson (or was it Larry Burkett?) who recommended that mothers count the cost of a job before assuming that having a paycheck would mean they had more money: childcare, transportation, wardrobe, meals, vehicle maintenance, and conveniences to make up for one's lack of time all add up. I've had friends who told me that their job was actually costing money rather than making money.

I mention that because the principle also applies to some aspects of homesteading. A couple of years ago I wrote a blog post about growing our own goat feed, and I received a comment that said it sounded like too much work. The point is, it's work either way, whether I grow it myself or buy it. If a bag of feed is $15 and I make $10 an hour, then it "costs" me an hour and a half of my time to purchase the feed (plus the fuel and time to go buy it). If I make $30 an hour, then it's only a half hour of my labor. The question then becomes, would I rather go work for someone else to pay for my feed, or work for myself (and my goats)?

Sometimes we have more time than money, sometimes we have more money than time. Sometimes it's the little things which are personally important that tip the balance. There is no way to say one choice is better than the other, but I would say it is wise to count the true cost and then make choices based on our goals, priorities, and what we believe will achieve the most beneficial outcome.

37 comments:

  1. Hubby & I both grew up doing a lot for ourselves because there wasn't money to pay for someone else to do it. Now we are both really frugal about a lot of things but there are some things that it is just worth it to pay someone else to do... (hubby tends to think this way about my garden...he doesn't eat any of what I grow so why should I spend time on it. :p I like gardening, that's why.) So we have a mix of things we do because we have to and because we want to and then some things we pay for. Recently the dryer broke. We could just buy a new one, this one is over 20 years old. We could pay to have someone else repair it. Or we could order the part and hubby could fix it. And in the end hubby fixed it because I don't want a new dryer...they don't make new ones as well as the old ones. And appliance repair guys are expensive. If you can find the parts, they are usually pretty cheap and I'm lucky that hubby can fix it.
    We both know how to fix a lot on our cars (not that new fangled computer stuff though), but since we don't have the tools and our HOA doesn't allow us to work on cars we pay to have that done. That hurts our wallet too because of what mechanics charge. :p

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    1. There's quite a sense of freedom in being able to fix things, isn't there? Like you, I feel very lucky Dan is so handy at fixing things! I don't know what I'd do without him.

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  2. Great topic, Leigh. Your last paragraph hits the mark.

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    1. Thanks Su! I'm guessing most homesteading folks would be more inclined to do things themselves if possible. At least it's usually true for Dan and me, but if we have the money, sometimes trading it for materials or services is the best choice. The most important thing for us is staying out of debt. One thing we don't do is buying on credit.

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  3. interesting way of looking at things, when we fist moved we needed fencing there wasnt any here, fencing is a big expense hot so much the materials but the man hours hubby didnt have the time if we had attempted it ourselves it would have taken months to complete at the expense of other things that needed doing, we farmed the job out to a local company. we look at lots of major things like that, if time is on our side we attempt the job if its not then local labour is hired.

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    1. Fencing is a huge expense, but so important. So is being able to find good labor. Sounds like you have good local options. That really helps in the decision making!

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  4. this is an awesome post Leigh! me and jam are "look it up on the internet and decide if one of us can do it" kind of people - but we know when we can't and that's when we call in an expert! and here on the island we have lots of people that will do exceptional work and not charge you an arm and a leg. our friend j just welded a few spots on the bottom of our truck and only charged us for parts that he needed. he did that because he knows he has loyal customers that will use him for the rest of our lives. he also fixed our atv for little to next to nothing.

    when it came to fixing our truck and atv - jambaloney could have jerry-rigged some kind of fixes - but giving them to our friend j who fixed both of them in 2 days meant that jambaloney could work those 2 days, make money, for us, and to pay j, and it would have taken jambaloney days without being paid in order to try and fix both vehicles.

    and now we have a very trust-worthy friend, who we can hire, pay money to, and get our stuff working tip-top and he will never overcharge us.

    here's a funny one for you - at our local lumber/supply store - jam made a real good friend when he brought him some seed potatoes a few years ago. we get really good deals from that supply store ever since.

    making relationships, doing for yourself, but also helping others and providing them jobs that you can't do - makes real sense around here.

    sending much love. your friend,
    kymber

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    1. Kymber, you make a really good point! True community is the best resource of all!

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  5. A third aspect to the equation is Quality. I despise paying for something I could do and do better.

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    1. Quality has been one a huge reason why we rarely hire a job out anymore. Our experiences have been pretty frustrating and results have been poor. We've also experienced a lot of disrespect of our property by so-called professionals. Obviously others have better experiences and results than we've had, but it hasn't helped us have confidence in that option!

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  6. In Virginia our neighbors had made a choice, the wife was to stay home with the children until kindergarten. So she did, then when the time came they did the math. A car, insurance, fuel, daycare, babysitters, wardrobe etc....it was much better for them to have her stay home. Happy children in the loving care of their mother, there when they came home from school.
    We do most things ourselvespecially but somethings we realize spending money on is a necessity. Lucky for us we are in this very rural and Amish influenced community. I see people who work like maniacs to pay for all the latest stuff and then are too tired or having to work extra hours to pay for it all.
    I commend anyone who decides their children are worth full time parenting with a parent at home. Isn't that something that pays huge dividends! Great post!☆☆☆☆☆

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    1. I think the Amish have an excellent system for community help and work. Their attitude toward material things is admirable as well.

      I have to say that now that my kids are grown and on their own, I never once regret staying home with them and teaching them. I would make the same choice if I needed to. And what did we "miss"? A bunch of stuff that is now so obsolete that nobody would give a plug nickle for it.

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  7. The game is rigged in many ways where it costs more to do it yourself today but doing it yourself maybe the only option tomorrow. Many things I have learned how to do it myself then stopped doing it secure in the knowledge that I have the skills and tools to do it again when I need to.

    Always a fine line to balance on like you say.

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    1. Very true. I used to make my own clothes to save money, but somewhere along the way the do-it-yourselfer became the new cash cow and costs of patterns and fabrics skyrocketed. Now it's cheaper to buy poorly made mass produced clothing. And one no longer gets what one pays for! Expensive stuff rarely seems to be any better quality nowadays than the cheap stuff.

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  8. I find this topic very interesting too. I have recently left full time work where I had less time but we had two incomes. The the lack of time really did start to cost ie when you are exhausted and a takeaway is just so much easier and grocery shopping gets rushed and unplanned, menu planning goes out the window, indulgences start to creep in. Now I am doing some casual work, less hours, a lot less income but that extra bit of time is making all the difference at the moment and we are spending less on food and going out. Time gives you quality time with family and friends. My perfect scenario is working full time for a while - allowing us to save for major purchases/ repairs and then going part time or casual again for a while and getting back the benefits that come with extra time. I enjoy the frugality that I resurrect when our income reduces - spending less and stopping to smell the roses!

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    1. Well put! Your experience is exactly what I'm talking about. It's interesting how much less money we really need when we don't have a job to support. Dan and I have found that frugality forces us to be more creative, too, and I like that. I think we make much wiser choices too, because there isn't an option to simply buy another or buy more. We have to get it right the first time.

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  9. I look at time as money. Back when I had a job, I never had enough time to do all those things I loved. I had money but no time. I even offered at one point to take a pay cut if they just gave me more time off but it was always declined. Finally after leaving the nine to five world, I now have all the time I want to do those things I enjoy. For me, time has always been more important than the money. It helps that my lifestyle and hobbies require little in the way of money and I could care less about what my neighbors buy with their money.

    Excellent post!

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    1. Thanks Ed! I wonder if you concept of money has anything to do with growing up on a farm(?). Farmers and their families are so much closer to the source that I can't help but think it would effect their understanding of what real work really is.

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  10. Leigh,
    Your so right! As I told you in my e-mail, I had just lost my off the Homestead job. And at the time I though OMG, "What do I do now"?
    It took a few day's for me realize that this was a GOD sent! As I now have the time to work on the Homestead, which I did not have as I was sleeping a day, So I could work all night!
    I do not have the Money from that job any more, But I have the Time to grow my Homestead business of raising Chickens and selling Eggs.
    I have plans to put in a garden this year and trying my hand on building "Farm House Table's" to sell.
    Also the Homestead is a mess right now and I can work on getting that taken care of now.
    And you know that I'm working on getting a WEB-SITE of my own with a Blog so I can get back in touch with my BLOGGING Friends like you!
    Tom

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    1. Tom, you life and prospects are truly exciting right now. And you're hitting an important nail on the head - attitude! You were able to see opportunity in what others would see as disaster. Thankfully you had the makings of a new future available. I'm really looking forward to your getting your new website up and running. I think it will be exciting to see how Star Homestead works out.

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  11. oh yes.. time, cost, quality, speed of the work, is it all worth it in the end? it doesn't help when your goals don't seem really set in stone, either. The best laid plans and all that - I am a fatalist now about planning. I think of it is a joke. Eric still thinks planning is a good thing. Probably because some of his planning yielded him gains when he was younger, so he assumes that it works.
    I have yet to have that experience. lol.

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    1. Katy, experience is so key! It really forms and molds our ways of doing things. I've mentioned that our experiences in hiring others has not been encouraging. Obviously that's a huge factor in the choices we make now.

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  12. Excellent post, well said!! It's the same reason I bust my butt to grow my own veggies and put them up at the end of the season. Yes, I could buy them....but it's not quite the same, is it?

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    1. No, it isn't the same! I think a lot of folks don't get that, don't understand the satisfaction that comes from doing something yourself. There's something rewarding in being personally involved with the basic aspects of living. It seems so many jobs don't give folks any sense of purpose and self-satisfaction nowadays. No wonder they are frantically chasing after gadgets and gizmos.

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  13. I constantly look at things in this way, but then I'm terrible at letting anyone else do anything. All I do is think it would be better for someone else to do something and then end up doing it myself! I'll learn one day!

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    1. Kev, you sound like you lack a little confidence in yourself! But your blog is filled with such great homesteading experiences and material. In the end there's a sense of personal accomplishment in doing it oneself, don't you think?

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    2. There really is, but then my wife keeps telling me I'm going to kill myself if I carry on - I doubt it, it makes me stronger I think!

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    3. I keep telling Dan the same thing!

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  14. Great article. I am a believer to stay home with kids if possible also. Nancy

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    1. Thanks Nancy! That was a decision I've never regretted.

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  15. Hi Leigh! This is a good post! I'm in the same boat Ed above was. I have a few more years at the "day job" before I can retire, so money is easier to come by than time. I grew up on a small farm so I know what it is to have it the other way around. At least from my child and teen perspective, life seemed SO much simpler when we fixed everything that could be fixed, grudgingly purchased the things we couldn't, and enjoyed the time and things so much more. I'm looking forward to those times again!

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    1. I think life is simpler when the ability to simply buy, buy, buy is removed. Dan and I find that having no money forces us to be creative and simplify. Your farming background should serve you well in years to come!

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  16. Just read your 'Book', chose this recent post to respond to because of the Farmer Boy reference-more on that later, someone handed it to me as something that would interest me(not them tho) and I thought 'oh, geez *another* homesteading book'. I was *very* pleasantly surprised at it's overall tone of Reality over Romance, the details of options in each category, awareness of doing more with less instead of merely consuming-agrarian vs industrial, the wide breadth of view between current popularity of 'green' terms vs the 70's ecological/economic awareness...and your 'voice' and use of language. A thoroughly pleasant read, partly because we are probably close in age with similar life and cultural experiences.

    I commenced to read quite a bit of your blog, mostly the chicken stuff-about the only grow your own food I do, and look forward to reading much more. The Farmer Boy reference made me really smile, a favorite book as a kid I reread it a couple years ago just to see how/if it still clicked and realized it's an excellent, simplistic yet pretty thorough, years overview of *truly* homesteading.

    Anyway, Thanks for writing 'The Book'!

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    1. Aart, I can't tell you what your comment means to me. You absolutely made my day. So nice to meet like-minded folks like yourself!

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  17. I think more people are going to be staying home with their kids and that society might be on its way to a reversal of what you described: assuming staying home means that one parent can't afford to work.

    Growing up, I always assumed I would work full time after having children, but after learning it would cost 1100-1200 dollars a month (or 2/3 of my wages) to put a 3 month old in day care so that I could work a retail job I did not love, my perspective quickly changed. I also wanted to be with my son.

    Our family helped us out by watching the baby while I transitioned to part time work. I work evenings and weekends only now so that my son is always with one of his parents. My pay pretty much equates to either the mortgage or the cost of our family health insurance. Unfortunately, we can't really economize further on those.

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    1. Clearwing, I think you are absolutely correct and I really appreciate reading your story. It's interesting to look at the thought changes over the generations. My grandmother was very happy being a wife, mother, and homekeeper. My mother was discontent and kept pushing me toward a career. My generation tried to have it all and discovered it wasn't all it was promised to be. My daughter's generation are now proudly SAHMs.

      I commend you for taking the steps you have and for making your son a priority. In the end, the stuff fades away, but the relationship with our children is long lasting. I've never regretted staying home with my children and not following the way of the world.

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