Your Clock or Your Cash (How to Rethink your Personal Economy) - Christine Kane

Years ago, I witnessed this scene at the post office…

A man haggled with the postal clerk to see how many brochures he could stuff into his envelope before the postage price jumped to the next level.

When he realized that the next level was only 17 cents higher, he tried to see how many brochures he could fit in the envelope until the next next level.

At some point, he decided the cost was too expensive. He then pulled out brochures until the envelope was just at the edge of the price that he deemed to be too high.

After ten minutes of this, he paid the postmaster and left.

This is not a rant about how long I had to wait in line.

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 not always correct in each of their techniques for squeezing every last dollar out of a day.  This is ESPECIALLY true if you are self-employed.

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.


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!


  • Lorii Abela

    Love this article. Great point and great reminder on how to save money and time. Thanks for sharing.

  • Marialuisa Aliotta

    Christine, this is great!

    I am a perfectionist at heart, and this post just makes realise how much money I waste by simply spending far to much time in making things perfect, when actually good enough would do. And by the way, my “good enough” standard would probably be far above average anyway. So here is the thing. I’m going to take your advice and try to become a professional imperfectionist (see, this word does not even exist, but I’ll leave it there 🙂 ).

    In addition, as I am working on module three of UYB programme, I thought I could take this opportunity to do my homework, that is leave a comment on other people’s blog (yours in this case 🙂 ) and provide some value. So, talking about wasting money, I thought I could share an interesting post I happened to read recently. Here is the link:
    Interesting insights.

  • Roxane Lessa

    Hey Christine,
    I’m currently on Module 3 in Uplevel Your Biz, so I am commenting on blogs today, and cleaning out my inbox of emails. Seriously thinking of hiring a VA. But my time is worth roughly, don’t know. You are forcing me to look at this issue again-which is great. I will figure this out today. See you next week in Charlotte!

  • Katherine Peter

    Christine – you are so right on the money! (no pun intended) Even as a Virtual Assistant, I have found that there are certain tasks that are black holes – and I have begun to outsource menial tasks to other VAs so that I can focus on higher-level technical and creative projects that really “float my boat”. My time is worth $50/hour right now – but I’ve decided to branch out to doing something that I love (developing WordPress websites) and am going to offer packages, rather than selling my time by the hour. Onwards and upwards! Thanks so much for the inspiration 🙂

  • Kelly Epperson

    Funny how often I need this reminder! Thanks, Christine!

  • Angela

    I’m a VBM (Virtual Business Manager, like a VA plus more, hello Sage!) and have just started reading your newsletters, Christine. It’s a great sign that lately, I’ve been intuitively discovering that there are many ways I am wasting time through these deceiving little money savers. I will definitely shift my focus and pay closer attention to how I spend my time from here on out.

  • Wendy

    Hi Christine!
    Wow, I love this post. I just recently took your advice on hiring out a job that I could have done myself and it was such an eye-opening experience!

    I had spent oodles and oodles of hours trying to create an advertising postcard for my Art & Nature Retreat that I am leading this September. It looked pretty good, but when I took it in to a professional printer she made a few suggestions and ended up redesigning the whole thing in about an hour. It looks fantastic! It still reflects my personality and vision, but looks professional and inviting. And it only cost $45 for the design services and 250 postcards!

    Next time I’m going straight to her and not wasting anymore of my creative juices (and money!) on something she can do so easily for me. I’m still working out my hourly worth. As a high school teacher, my summer school wage is $31 an hour. How much is my artistry worth? I’m not sure yet. I’m thinking $100.

    Thank you!!!

    • Christine Kane

      Hey Wendy — the way I advise people on this is: Stop trying to get better at things you were born to suck at. (Not that you suck at design. It’s just probably not your genius work.) Sounds like that designer just knows what to do and how to do it fast! Great lesson!

  • Christine Springer

    Thanks, Christine! I have found that you are SO right about this. I stopped using a cleaning lady for a while and felt frugal for saving $160/month but I found that I felt stressed every week about doing the cleaning myself and angry that my schedule was compressed even more by something I hated doing. I started using her again in January….. The $80 I spend every other week gives me peace of mind and makes me feel energized to work on the things I love to do (and that bring me income)!

    • Christine Kane

      Christine — Good for you! All that anger and stress costs you and your business money!

  • Stacey Pruim

    Was that a chorus of angels singing in the background as I was reading?

  • Sage

    This is game changing for me! There are so many administrative things I’m doing that are wasting my time and money when I could be working on my products and services. This is the push I need to get a VA. You’re awesome, Christine. Thanks the wake-up call! 🙂

    • Christine Kane

      You are most welcome, Sage! Good luck on your search. See Angela’s post below.

  • Nneka Kelly

    Sad to say that I am currently trading my time at $50/hour (less than that if you count overtime, travel, and all the other items in YMOYL). HOWEVER, I am, as I type, upleveling to $250/hour, thanks to Uplevel Your Business.

    I loved the book, Your Money or Your Life. It got my finances into sharp focus. It clarified what I value. It got me to take a look at how much dollars I’m trading my time for. It got me to rethink what it would take for me to have financial freedom. It was an upleveling in and of itself.

    • Penny Hammond

      Hi Nneka~I am still trading hours for dollars at my day job (trust me it is not even close to $50/hour and I am suppose to be fall on the ground grateful to have it if you listen to the outside world) and working on Upleveling in the evening. To say and I on a roller coaster and living in two worlds is very true. I am getting closer to living in the Uplevel world but until then you motivated me to order this book, thanks!

      • Christine Kane

        Penny – Yes, for a while, you really can feel like you’re living in two worlds. But I promise you that they will eventually converge into an amazing result!

    • Christine Kane

      Woohooo Nneka! (I can’t pronounce your name on the Q&A calls – but I can spell it right at least!) Glad you like the book and that you are indeed UPLEVELING big time!

      • Nneka, Working Mystic

        LOL! 🙂 En-nay-kah

        I actually did the math from the High Leverage Accelerator Pack and my number is $162.76. This is a great starting point for me. It feels completely doable and I feel I am worth it.

        $250 is my stretch goal. Something to look forward to 🙂

  • Jessica

    I try to repeat to myself something you taught me, Christine, and that is to stay in my “genius work” as much as possible. As I look into my business growing I have to make a list of what my genius work is, and make goals and plans to do more of it. I recently turned down an offer to renew a contract writing with a national magazine, because for the first time, my business came first. It’s hard to know which opportunities will help network and grow your business (but will take your time) and which opportunities are best left behind because they are a time suck and your time is very valuable.

    When it’s “your business” it can be hard to outsource and grow because you have such a personal tie to all aspects of your business (because at one time you were running it ALL). Now, I am starting to see the light, have a team growing because I am overbooked and overwhelmed.
    Question: Christine, do you have any tips for empowering your team? How do you make UpLevel You an appealing and amazing place to work. How do you help your team feel your dream and work for your dream? I suppose paying them helps. (LOL) When it’s your business it’s hard to get others to buy in, and truly they will never care as much as you do, but I am anxious to hear your tips.

    • Christine Kane

      Jessica — Congratulations on turning down the writing gig!

      Okay so, I could teach on team for days and days and days.

      My first question to you is: have you hired the FIRST person yet? It all starts in the HIRING process. You have to be ruthless in your commitment to your vision and make sure that you’re getting someone who is passionate, high follow-through and accountable.

      Yes, there’s a big learning curve. But give yourself a break. If there’s ANY energy drains on your team, get rid of them FAST. Are you coming to the Uplevel Your Biz retreat in July by any chance?

      • Jessica

        Hey Christine,
        Thanks for your reply! Yes, I have hired the first person (independent contractor status, not full time) and am adding more to my team. You are so right. Passion and accountability are key. I plan on attending one of your sessions someday! I know I would love it.

  • Erika

    Interesting article! I’ve been going through the Uplevel cycle again and between this article and Day 45 goodness, I think I’m on the verge of something!

    If my time is worth $100/hour, then until web surfing or procrastinating starts sending in the cheques, I’d better turn my focus to other, more productive, things.

    I’d love to stay and chat more, but there’s an article I”ve been putting off that’s just gotta get written. 😉



    ps: Teri, LOVE the idea of hiring a housekeeper! That’s going on my list of things to consider. 🙂

    • Christine Kane

      Thanks Erika! Hope you got it written!

      • Erika

        Yes ma’am! 🙂 It’s now in the polishing stage. 🙂 Thanks for holding me accountable!

  • Barb Churchill

    Hey Christine! Great article! As I was reading, I remembered that one of the things on my “To Do” list today is to contact VAs and get one hired so I can have her do the SEO and other “techie” stuff that isn’t my genius work. Cool timing, right? Funny how things come along at just the right moment, huh! 🙂 Loved the photo of you and your gal pals, too!

    • Penny Hammond

      Hi Barb, I’m looking for a VA can you send me some contact information for him/her? Are you going to Atlanta in July?

    • Christine Kane

      Thanks Barb! And Congratulations! See Angela below – she might be able to help you out!

  • Teri Beckman

    Hi Christine – My time is worth $125 per hour today. I am so so happy to report I hired a housekeeper this week who will spend 4 hours cleaning my house today for $100, so I made a quick $400 there. I also hired a guy to work on our long neglected yard for $15 per hour – there I will save $115 for every hour he works. I am so happy I am finally doing these things. THANK YOU for this post and the many other times you have encouraged us in this way. Gotta get my girlfriend to read this post who is whining softly in the background “we could do this ourselves – did Christine tell you to do this? Is your whole Gold class doing this?”. I think she will also not whine too much when she comes home today and the bloody house is clean with none of her sweat so she can concentrate on her own biz!

    • Christine Kane

      Teri — Upleveling, as you know, involves to tracks. The one track is the strategy. The other is the soul ( or mindset) — so she’s going through the usual mindset fears that come up around really claiming your success and upleveling in a big way. It gets easier and easier over time – because you’ll see that it WORKS!

  • Frauke Möbius

    Hi Christine,
    I know exactly what you are talking about. The other day I decided to mail back a contract to the local community college instead of getting on my bike and taking it there physically. I spent 55c for the stamp, and gained an hour of productive time, as well as a lot of ease of mind. I really felt that my feeling good was worth 55c!
    Thanks for reminding me!
    – Frauke

  • Rachel Luna – Author of Successful People are Full of C.R.A.P.

    Great post Christine! My time is worth $175 per hour and today I stopped myself from tinkering around with website updates I can technically do myself and instead delegated them to my web guy whom I keep on retainer for $22 per month (yes, I know I’m getting him for a steal!). Could I have done the work myself? You bet? Would it have taken me at least 4 hours? Yup! I saved myself $678 today by staying in my lane, doing what I do best, not what I know how to do. It was liberating!

    Thanks for the wonderful reminder.


    Rachel Luna

    • Nneka Kelly

      Rachel, who is you web guy? I desperately need one!

    • Alexandre L’Eveille

      Wow, how can I get your web guy? I am working on being less of a control freak. Over the past year, I’ve been more willing to have my printer deliver jobs rather than running them over myself. However, in some instances, I like to go myself to get face time and an opportunity to prospect. As I uplevel my deliverables to focus on the brand facilitation and communications audit, I will get face time in bigger and better ways.

    • Christine Kane

      Okay Rachel, now we have to work on your pricing strategy so you’re not even charging per hour! 🙂 And yeah, nice catch with the web programmer there!

  • Jessica Ballantyne

    Thanks for that Christine!!This was a reminder for me to watch myself more, especially when I almost obsessively, search for “better” deals for things I need on line. Almost every time I do not even end up buying what I need because of the time and effort its taken me to look around and the “better” deals are not always there, especially with high quality items. The effort this takes is certainly not worth the few pounds I might be saving:) thank you!

    • Christine Kane

      Hey Jessica – a GREAT example of this kind of thing! Thanks and you go girl!

  • Devon Clement

    Surprised and happy to see my picture up there today 🙂 I don’t really do any of these things – because I have always worked hourly (before Upleveling), I’ve always highly valued my time (don’t tell Facebook LOL). But I see my friends and clients doing stuff that KILLS me! Particularly selling their cheap old belongings either on Craigslist or at garage sales rather than giving them away. In the time it takes you to set it up, take a photo, post, respond to posts, etc, is it really worth the few bucks? Or garage sales – how long does it take to make a sticker that says 25 cents? More than 25 cents worth of time, I bet. LOL!

    • Christine Kane

      Thanks Devon! Okay – so after someone gets clarity on the level that I’m describing in this blog post — what I often notice is that when the stakes get higher in their biz (as they make more money like you are now doing!) — they find other ways to hold on tight… getting support, upleveling their marketing, etc. And they have to reevaluate their personal / biz economy once again! (Another upleveling experience! yay!)