Time. I see the time factor as having two components.
- Project hours = actual hours a project takes to complete
- Materials cost = hours worked to earn the funds to pay for the materials
Let's say the project will take 10 hours start to finish. The materials will cost $100 and I make $10 an hour. It will take me 10 hours to earn enough to pay for the materials, plus another 10 to complete the project. Total time is 20 hours. If I make the materials myself, that time would be added instead of a wage per hour cost. If I buy the materials on credit, then I need to compute the total with interest included. If I pay a 20% interest rate on my credit card, then the materials cost would be $120, assuming it was a straight and simple 20%. (The actual compounding of interest on credit cards turns out to be a whole lot more expensive, especially if only minimal monthly payments are made.)
Benefit. To figure out if the project is worth it, I have to evaluate the benefit. This is trickier because the value is subjective. (Also see "Comtemplations on Value & Money"). The benefit might be:
- Functional - for example, if it meets a genuine need
- Aesthetic - for example, if it beautifies or makes my environment more pleasant
- Personal - for example, a sense of accomplishment, bragging rights, or to increase a sense of self-reliance.
I tend to focus on the functional benefit, but always want it to be as pretty as possible. Then I start getting carried away with how to do that and my common sense gets clouded.
In a broader sense, one of the biggest reasons we humans buy (or make) things is because it promises to be time and labor saving. If I have this product then I'll have more time to do something else, something I enjoy. On the surface that sounds great, but in reality how much time must I spend to earn enough to buy it? (Or pay it off?) Then how much time and money will be required to maintain and fix or replace said time-and-labor-saving device? I think that sometimes, what we gain on the surface only forces us to dig a deeper pit.
All of this seems so clear to me when I write it down like this, but, there's one other factor which is often dominates the decision-making process. It's an elusive one, often hard to recognize, i.e. an emotional attachment to the project or to a particular way the project ought to be done.
Emotional attachment has likely undermined many a joint project. "A" wants to do it this way, "B" wants to do it that way, and nothing gets done because the two can't get past having it their own way. At the time it seems so important to be "right," but as Dan likes to say, "Whose gonna notice ten years from now? Whose gonna care?"
So how do you analyze whether or not a project or product is worth pursuing? Do you have a decision-making process? Do you try to think it through and consider alternatives, or whether it's really worth it in the long-run? Or are you more impulsive? How's your track record? Do your "that was worth its" outweigh your "that was a wastes?" My track record hasn't always been that great, which is why this post - I'm trying to do better.
The Time To Benefit Ratio © December 2016