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Have you heard the one about the homeschooling family that lives on less than $22K a year in an area that costs above 100% (116%) of the National CoL Index?

I haven't quite figured out why so many people still persist in perpetuating the myth that living on a single income and homeschooling on a dime aren't possible. I can only suppose these are people who can't imagine life without a daily trip to Starbucks and dinner out several times a week. The people who actually shop at malls (*shudder*) and think "Brand Name = Best". The people who really live by the "Keeping up with the Joneses" mentality.

That? Would not be us!

Welcome to our world. We cook from scratch. Buy from thrift stores. Find 95% of our homeschool materials for free. This is my blog and this is how we do it.

Friday, July 20, 2007

"My time is worth more than that."

So, I was reading a blog the other day by a gentleman who, among other things, says that it's all right that he spends at least $3 per serving per meal on his family, because his time is worth more than what it would require to cook from scratch.

I've come across that statement before, even in supposedly frugal books/articles. And I think, honestly, people aren't quite looking at it the right way. Yes, I get the concept they're putting forth. For instance, let's say it takes me 5 hours to make a scarf and hat for a gift and the yarn cost me 50 cents from a garage sale. Now, I could go to Target and buy a hat and scarf for $15 and the total trip time is 1 hour. The argument goes that my remaining time is worth more than whatever I saved in making it myself, because I only saved the equivalent of $3.63 an hour. This seems to be used especially by people who explain, "because I make $12 (or whatever) an hour at work" as why something less than minimum wage is beneath their dignity.

The problems I see with this thinking are twofold. First, the assumption is you are actually working instead of making the scarf and hat. Or, conversely, that you are somehow missing work in order to do it. Otherwise, this doesn't exactly stand up. After all, unless you have some really cool, unusual job, it's very unlikely that anyone is actually paying you to do whatever you did on your off hours instead of make the gift - watch TV, go to a mall, see a movie... and so on. The $3.63 saved is actually more than the $0 earned in this case. (More in full post.)

The second half of this problem is well, even more problematic. Please bear with me while I build a totally hypothetical story to make my point.

Bob and Joe are both single and 30 years old. They have the same salary, work the same hours, live in identical houses with the same mortgage note, and drive the same automobiles. Bob lives very frugally. He shops sales, makes his meals from scratch, gets his entertainment for free or as cheaply as possible. Joe, on the other hand, tends to eat out a lot and likes to "party" on the weekends. Neither man lives beyond his means. However, while Bob is banking a full $800 a month of his paycheck by living simply, Joe only saves $300. Joe doesn't like to bargain hunt, wouldn't dream of "wasting" his time on garage sales and figures it's okay to treat himself to nice meals because, after all, he can afford it. It is "not worth his time" to live like Bob does and save a penny here or a dollar there.

Flash-forward 30 years. Both men are now 60 and they've just paid off their mortgages. Bob looks at his savings and realizes that the interest alone will pay him more than he needs to continue living as he has, since he no longer has a house note to contend with. He can retire, re-invest some of his interest earnings to put away for his later years, and relax and enjoy himself. Joe, on the other hand, hasn't saved near the amount Bob did and needs more money month-to-month to maintain the lifestyle he's told himself he's worth these past 30 years. Joe looks at his savings and realizes he'll either need to sell his home, move somewhere smaller, and scale way back, something he's not accustomed to doing at all, or, he's going to have to keep on working, probably for many years.

And this is the big trap of the "my time is worth more than that" thinking when it comes to measuring how to do something. That attitude might carry someone through years of his working life, but it has the very real potential to hurt him in his golden years if it frequently leads to spending more for something than necessary, just because the frugal version would've required more work.

THIS ARTICLE FROM FRONTLINE talks about the rising costs of retirement and how many of us aren't prepared for it. In particular:

"According to the 401(k) plan records analyzed by the Employee Benefits Research Institute (EBRI), Americans approaching retirement have, on average, three times their annual salaries in their accounts. Without any other form of savings, these retirees will burn through their 401(k)s in just seven or eight years, leaving them facing 10 or 11 years, based on life expectancy, with nothing but Social Security."

The article then goes on to say people should have 10 - 15 times their annual salary saved. Now, granted, for people like Bob, the amount needed is likely lower, maybe even much lower, considering he already knows how to live on a smaller amount of money than other people in his income bracket. However, for all the (*ahem*) average Joes out there, they're in danger of finding themselves in this very situation, and it could've been prevented by not being so sure that it wasn't even worth their time to save $3.63 an hour on a gift. Or $2 per serving on a meal. Or $16 by not going to the first-run movie and buying a $5 bag of popcorn and $4 cola on top of the $7 ticket, instead of waiting to borrow it from the library when it comes out on DVD.

A penny saved really is penny earned. Being frugal is more than just a way to live within your means. It's also a ticket to how the rest of your life pans out. I know I'd rather save that money now, while I can, then be looking at needing supervised care when I'm 85 and not having the money to cover it, all because I was "worth more" when I was young. My future is worth more than that.

Labels:

43 Comments:
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sobering (of which I am painfully aware of). I'd love to hear how you and your family manage to save $$ (meaning put away) on your modest income. This is something that has been so difficult for us. We live very frugally and yet struggle to save. This year has been challenging - home repair we are still saving for & debt-payoff at the same time. We should be debt-free next year, but for now, savings seems like a real distant thing. We are living paycheck-to-paycheck to accomplish our goals. I'd like to remain anon. if okay, but I stop by often. I'm someone who is here for the frugal stuff only (since you didn't think you had readers just here for frugality reasons). I hope you won't stop posting about frugality! Thanks for your posts.

July 20, 2007 at 6:51 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

I totally agree with everything you just said! And I wanted to mention that my husband is a teacher and I stay home with the kids homeschooling them. We do it on 1 income as well. It can be done! I just takes more work than most people are willing to give.

July 20, 2007 at 9:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said!
For a while that was my same train of thought: my time is worth more than that. But since reading The Tightwad Gazette I realized this "different" way of seing this. Just this weekend I baked two loaves of the raisin cinnamon swirl I love to have for breakfast and told my husband how I had saved $3 each loaf by not buying it at the store. I also used it to make french toast instead of using the challah we buy at the bakery for $3.50. So yeah, now I am getting it.

July 20, 2007 at 10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We've been single income, lots of kids for years now. I am always looking for ways to shave expenses.
We are currently debt free except the mortgage but struggling a bit with everyday expenses. Camps, car repairs, a depleted pantry that needs restocking.
That is the hard part for me, when you are being as frugal as you can and the "extra" is going to living expenses. It's one thing to see it building in the bank - it's another to feel like your hard work is just keeping you afloat.

ArdenLynn (mama to 7)

p/s Ten times your salary to retire? Any percentages on who is actually able to DO this? Most people we know are spending every penny and then some.

July 21, 2007 at 9:01 AM  
Blogger His Girl said...

A great post!! I don't struggle with making frugal choices so much (handmade gifts, yard sale shopping, cooking from scratch), what has always been a struggle for me (but I have a great, non-judgmental mentor in my husband) is saving that money that I "just saved" with my frugal choices and not using it, instead, to treat myself to something. It's a habit I developed growing up. Your story about "Bob" and "Joe" was great motivation for me to change that habit!

July 21, 2007 at 2:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, free time is often counted as TIME, but you have to know your limits.

For example, my family needs unwind time before bed. If DH comes home from work at 6, then dinner, then gets into a house repair project from 7 till 9, he'll be up much too late because he hasn't unwound. And that reduces his work effectiveness.

Or if I HATE knitting (I don't), then the stress that knitting would generate would offset any benefit.

Finally, exercise is important. If you spend your extra time saving money, but neglect exercise, it's a losing proposition.

-- Jora

July 24, 2007 at 9:17 AM  
Anonymous amy said...

Okay, it's been 5 days. Let us know everything's alright!

July 25, 2007 at 7:45 PM  
Blogger Mare said...

Hi Jennifer

I've been reading your blog for some time now and wanted to let you know that I have nominated you for a Rockin Girl Blogger, you got a great site!

July 26, 2007 at 11:22 AM  
Blogger Mare said...

That should say a Rockin Girl Blogger Award :)

July 26, 2007 at 11:25 AM  
Blogger Ashley C aka Kitten said...

I enjoy your blog and I've missed you. Hope all is well.

July 27, 2007 at 5:53 PM  
Blogger ~Quasimodo~ said...

JENNI! Where are you?? I hope everything is ok, and that perhaps your computer is just giving you trouble! *goes to check OFE site to see if Jenni is posting over there*

Take care, Quasi

July 27, 2007 at 11:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you ever coming back????

August 2, 2007 at 10:00 AM  
Anonymous Anna said...

You have us all worried...are you and your family ok? We pray you are. We all understand your family comes first but it is unusual for you to be away from this blog for so long. Its got us all worried.

August 2, 2007 at 8:11 PM  
Blogger Maine Mama said...

I just stumbled on your blog and I think your great! Keep up the good work!

August 4, 2007 at 10:44 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

This is such an excellent post and a wonderful reminder of why that arguement doesn't even tread water. That statement bothers me about as much as the statement of, "But..I deserve it!" This is deserving to someone who can't afford to pay for it OF COURSE.

I happened to stumble upon your blog through the blogroll and just wanted to say that you are doing a great thing here :) Keep up the great work!!

August 6, 2007 at 8:53 AM  
Blogger Brenda L said...

I am actually in a situation where I would get paid more to not do things frugally. I work from home, and the time I spend cooking dinner (rather than going out with my husband when he comes home), cleaning the house (rather than hiring a cleaning service), taking care of my children myself (rather than using day care), and making gifts (rather than buying them), is taken out of the hours I could spend working.

However, I still do those things. Why? For some of those, it just doesn't make sense to me (yes, eating out can be nice, but it's not healthy to do it all the time) and some of it I enjoy. Sewing is my hobby. By sewing baby bibs to give as a gift (for example), I'm killing two birds with one store. I'm indulging in my hobby (I don't consider it work!) and I wind up with a gift (that is often times appreciated more than store bought gifts). I'd rather be "making" $3 something an hour doing something I enjoy than 8 times that doing work that (while I don't hate it) I don't love.

August 6, 2007 at 12:20 PM  
Blogger ~Quasimodo~ said...

I have spoken to Jenni on the phone and she and her family are fine. Jenni has hurt her back and has not been able to be at the computer, but she is getting much better and will be back very soon. Prayers are in order, everyone!

Jenni, we miss you!
(sorry it took so long for me to post this!)

August 14, 2007 at 10:55 AM  
Anonymous amy said...

Thank you quasi! Jenni-so sorry about your back but glad you are on the mend! Prayers!!

August 14, 2007 at 11:17 AM  
Blogger Ashley C aka Kitten said...

So relieved to hear that things are (generally) all right! Sorry to hear about your back. Will pray for quick and complete recovery!

August 14, 2007 at 2:16 PM  
Blogger Charity said...

Thank you so much for the update!

Get better, Jenni!

August 15, 2007 at 10:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, Quasimodo, thank you.

I've been checking Jenni's blog about every day ... and wondering. Since I'm a natural pessimist, I figured that the blog was just too time-intensive, and that Jenni quit for good.

I'm so glad that isn't the case.

And it'll stay on my Opera Home Page.

Jora

August 16, 2007 at 10:23 AM  
Blogger Tersie said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your back, Jenni! I hope you're well on your way to recovery. I haven't been to check on any blogs in such a long time. I had no idea that you had disappeared. I feel bad about that. I will certainly keep you and your family in my prayers!

August 16, 2007 at 4:45 PM  
Anonymous Lyn said...

I was just praying for you and popped in just to see if there was an update.

I am glad you are on the mend and hope you feel better soon.

August 17, 2007 at 11:50 PM  
Blogger Mon said...

My sister-in-law just emailed me your blog. It's so inspiring. I decided to stay home after having my second baby last winter. When summer came along I decided to start homeschooling my 1st grader. And we are about to move out on our own living only on my husband's income. It's scary, but it's very encourageing to know that others are doing it.

August 23, 2007 at 9:22 AM  
Anonymous Anna said...

Just wanted to add like we all do, that you are missed but take care of yourself and don't hurry anything. We all keep you and your family in prayer. Again thankyou for such insightful and refreshing ideas you have given us through your blog writings.

September 2, 2007 at 2:43 PM  
Blogger Dana said...

Why does this logic only come up for things we do not want to do? No one takes the same dollar per hour view of their vacation, or other leisure activities. And while people are busy checking for the cheapest gas in town, even if only by a pennt, they will eat out rather than take the time to prepare a meal.

Not that it is actually quicker to eat out...just that the time you would have spent cooking, you are sitting idle.

We put far too high a price on odleness.

September 13, 2007 at 11:11 PM  
Blogger Kacie said...

Hope you'll be feeling better and back to blogging soon!

September 27, 2007 at 1:30 AM  
Blogger Boltbabe said...

Here here. I just realized that these posts are from the summer. I sure hope you will have time to get back to blogging in the future, because I love what you have here.

Interstingly, I think that handmade gifts carry a much more personal sentiment than store bought ones. Right now I am making a blanket for my mom for Christmas and I have a list of toys and games I will be making for our kids. Great post!

October 3, 2007 at 12:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well it's Oct. 10 and we still haven't heard from you or about you so I'm guessing you have ending this blog with us. I am going to let you go now and I hope whatever is ailling you will soon be over. You haven't written since June and I hope all is well, but goodbye.

October 11, 2007 at 7:21 PM  
Anonymous Anna said...

I will keep checking back...hope you can/want to continue this blog. You were definately a bright star. If not I hope you will post one last time to say how you are...we are all worrried. Some place on another blog someone said you had hurt your back. Don't remember who or I would write them and see if they knew anything. I do want to thank you lots for all the great information you have shared with us and for keeping your blog up even if you cannot/don't want to add to it. Take care of yourself.

October 12, 2007 at 9:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi. Still missing you, but I think of you often. Almost every day, my 11-yr-old does one of the typing lessons you recommended.

Jora

October 23, 2007 at 12:36 PM  
Anonymous amy said...

Yes, I still check in everyday! Hope all is well and that you'll let us know that!

October 23, 2007 at 1:24 PM  
Blogger Mommy Cracked said...

Just found your blog and I love it! I'll be a frequent reader! Keep up the great work.

February 7, 2008 at 5:59 PM  
Anonymous Tara said...

I think it is great that you have cut the luxuries and have managed to balance your world. I think the homemade scarf would be worth more to me than the one bought at the store that most likely paid some child labor at $.25 an hour in a sweat room to make it, just so they could clear the $10 profit from the $15 purchase. People have lost the concept of tradition. The internet has so many resources that it is just amazing. Keep the faith, and forget everyone else, your children are going to be so much more well rounded for it.

February 20, 2008 at 1:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sadly, it's been almost a year since we last heard from you. Sigh.

Jora

July 13, 2008 at 6:27 PM  
Anonymous Ryan said...

We are trying to save money and cut down on where we spend money and when. I liked your post and the concept of cooking from scratch. Not only is it healthy and can sometimes save money, but it is enjoyable to cook a meal together or for a family. Some of my wife and I's best moments have been in the kitchen and at the dinner table! Thanks for your posts.

October 28, 2008 at 6:28 PM  
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Who knows where to download XRumer 5.0 Palladium?
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November 22, 2009 at 5:49 AM  
Blogger Ann said...

I thought you might be interested in my homeschool giveaway. I’ve got $100 to Amazon and also $100 to http://www.crawdaddystoys.com/. Hope you’ll join the fun.

Just post on your blog about the giveaway with a link to this page http://homeschoolcheercolorado.com/2010/03/the-cheer-giveaway/ and then post in the comments of the giveaway page including a link back to your post.

Good luck!

Ann

March 30, 2010 at 12:38 PM  
Anonymous Mary said...

All I remember from college economics is the concept of "utils", and I think I have it right still...it's a measurement of how much something is worth to you - i.e., how much enjoyment you get from it, etc.

I don't think a lot of people understand utils. LOL To sit and make the scarf gives you pleasure - unless you hate to knit, in which case, quit buying yarn? But for the time spent creating you are enjoying yourself and unless knitting is a passion of yours, you may see the time spent as a waste.

So, I have to think that people who say they are willing to spend $3/person for a meal simply don't enjoy cooking, or they enjoy spending money on food, or they make more money than they need, or they are maybe lazy...but to each his own!

May 28, 2010 at 7:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't people realize there hasen't been a new post here in many years? When the comment they don't seem to have noticed. :0 I am STILL wondering what happened to you!c I am praying you are doing well. You stopped blogging so suddenly it does make us wonder though....this blog was so wise and interesting...especially for such a young wife and mother. We miss you STILL! Are you blogging someplace else? Let us know where so we can go there!!! Anna

December 18, 2010 at 12:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay so I really loved your initial page info! We are also a family that lives on only one income, a income that comes from Social security (very low as you can imagine ) because my husband is disabled!!!! Is it easy to live on that NO!!! but defiantly can be done ;) I used to be one of those people who went thur money like you go thur water but now I look back and think WOW! I was stupid.... I think that there is a time when you pay full price and a time you shop for the used bargain... Anyways really have enjoyed reading your blogs :)
Keri
Sahm to my 2 little Online Learners

May 15, 2011 at 1:15 PM  
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