Consider this scene at the post office…

A man haggles with the postal clerk to see how many brochures he can stuff into his envelope before the postage price jumps to the next level.

When he realizes that the next level is only 17 cents higher, he tries to see how many brochures he can fit in the envelope until the next next level.

At some point, he decides the cost is too expensive. He then pulls out brochures until the envelope is just at the edge of the price he deemed to be too high.

After ten minutes of this, he pays the postmaster and leaves.

This is not a rant about how long you have to wait in line behind someone like this.

Nor is it a rant about a random man at the post office.

This man is all of us.

Especially if we’re solo business owners.

Maybe we don’t obsess over a postage meter in order to save a dollar.  But way too many of us have money-saving habits that ultimately waste money.

How to discover the value of your time (and your money!)

Let’s say that the man at the post office is an artisan selling a product.

Let’s say that he was sending his brochures to an exclusive crafts conference for display on a small table.

Let’s say it took him 15 minutes to drive to the post office, and 15 minutes to drive back to his studio. If we include his haggling time, that’s 40 minutes.

Add in the extra time it takes to shift focus and do a task like this – 10 minutes on either end. This brings his time expenditure to one hour.

So, let’s look at this like a junior high math problem:

A man crafts beautiful wood walking sticks that sell for $750 – $1500 each. It takes him five to ten hours to make each stick.

How much is his time worth per hour?

If you said, “$75 to $150 per hour,” then you’re correct.

Back to our junior high math problem…

A man’s time is worth $75 – $150 per hour. He spends one hour going to the post office so that he can save $1 on postage because he believes in being frugal.

How much money did his trip to the post office save him?

If you said, “One dollar,” you’re wrong.

It actually cost him $74. (Plus gas.)

Let’s say the man decides instead to stay home and spend the morning working on a new design of one of his walking sticks.

Let’s say he gets lost in the creativity and focus. Let’s say he enjoys the day and almost finishes a new walking stick. At 3pm, he looks up at the clock and remembers the brochures he has to mail. His mailman usually comes at 3:30.

The man, unsure of how much postage the envelope will require, stuffs a bunch of brochures into it, and puts $4 in postage on the envelope just so he can be sure it’ll make it to its destination. How much money did he just waste?

If you said, “Three dollars,” you’re wrong.

He actually saved $71 because he spent his time doing what makes him the most money. (Plus the added bonus of being happier and meditative, which contributes massively to his overall health.)

Here’s the lesson:

A penny saved is not always a penny earned.

The Suze Ormans of the world are usually way off base in each their techniques for squeezing every last dollar out of a day.  This is ESPECIALLY true if you run your own business.

As a business owner, your personal economy has to take into account how much your time is worth, and how much you value what you do with your time and knowing the ROI of each activity you do in a day.

So…

In the comments below, share with us Uplevelers how much your time is worth – and what “money-saving” tasks you need to stop doing so that you can Uplevel your income!

10 COMMENTS ADD A COMMENT
  • Shawnee Kilgore

    I made myself stand in front of the mirror one night, look myself in the eye and say over and over again, “My time and my talents are worth $100 an hour.” It was amazing to witness all of the squirming, giggling and trying to look away that took place! That was referring more to music, but I’m a photographer as well and finally started paying to have my photo orders delivered rather than saving the $4 by driving several miles to pick them up. Small steps, big boost! 🙂

  • Ali Cantarella

    I found this post very relevant and quite beautifully written. you really drove the point home and made it very easy to understand that time = money but not always in the way you think! Brilliant.

  • Emma

    Thanks for the reminder to get priorities and focuses right!
    I generally follow this approach, but run into danger when the small tasks start clogging up my to do list, cluttering up my brain, and resulting in me not being effective in my “big” tasks!

  • Amanda Young

    I know this to be true but find it hard to implement. And a catch-22 — I say that I’ll do this once I’m making money but I’m never making enough money to do it. That’s why I’m trying to act from where I want to be, not from where I am today. Thanks for sharing your wisdom with me.

  • Patrice Federspiel

    I know I’m guilty of this every time I “bag and tag” prints in preparation for a fair, or to restock a gallery. Last week I had UPS do the packing of a framed print they were shipping, and kept telling myself it was worth the added cost so I could begin a new painting (which I did).

    It’s up to me to hire someone to do these niggling tasks, and I pledge to do so before the next retreat!
    Mahalo, Patrice

  • Bonnie Brace

    What does the ‘ROI’ in the article stand for?

  • Jackie

    This is so true and it’s not something we tend to consider. I know I’ve been guilty of this sort of thing.

  • Cena Block from SaneSpaces.com

    You’re so VERY SENSIBLE Christine.. that’s just another reason I love you!! Thanks for your continued inspiration…!

  • Stacy

    I am guilty of this. Although I do have a bookkeeper who manages Quickbooks for me, I still do my own invoicing, and I write the checks to pay the bills each month. It’s helpful in some ways, as I have a good handle on the cash flow of my business, but in other ways it’s not the highest and best use of my time.

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