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How Much is Your Time Worth?

No April Fool’s joke from me.  As usual, I’m Missy No Fun.

I’m having a lot of trouble concentrating this week.  My work tasks feel big and gooey, like trying to scoop up mountains of marshmallow filling and put it in plastic containers.

Actually, the tasks themselves are not that difficult.  Maybe it’s my brain that feels like a mountain of marshmallow filling (the vegan kind, of course), trying to hold some shape in my plastic skull.

i09 had a post about an online calculator that can tell you how much your time is worth.  I clicked over to fill out the questionnaire and find out my hourly rate, but I didn’t like the terms of service for the site (a heads up to all: read it and understand it before you use the calculator), so I didn’t fill out the questionnaire.  Therefore, I do not know my worth.  I mean, I can guess, but no algorithm has spat out how much I should get paid.

I guess I was also turned off by the calculator creator’s comment on i09:

Greenberg says many of us don’t delegate as much as we should, instead continuing to do tasks — for instance, cleaning, household repairs, or errands — that others who place a lower dollar value on their own time could do at least as effectively, if not more so.

At first, I was like, “oh, maybe I should hire someone to do these menial tasks in my life.”  But then I thought, “wait, why should someone else do these things that I can do?”  It’s one thing if I can’t get X done, and I hire Y to get X done.  If doing X takes me away from something more important,  or if I worked out of the house and could not possibly find time to do X.  It’s another thing to be perfectly capable of getting X done, but hiring Y to do it simply because an algorithm told me that my time is worth more.  It’s not as if I’d use that gained time to make more money.  I can’t just decide that I’d like to use my hours to earn more vs. taking care of unpaid daily tasks.  I would need to find someone who wishes to hire me to work for those hours, and to do so, I’d have to use a lot of hours trying to find work: not the best use of my gained time.

The way Greenberg puts it, it sounds like I should take advantage of some poor fool who doesn’t know that they could put more value on their time. (“Who place a lower dollar value on their own time” — so it’s not that some employers pay less for certain jobs; it’s that those employees have placed a lower value on their own time by doing them?)  I understand that there is a benefit to both parties when you hire someone — you get the work done for you, and the other person receives money for doing the job — and that it is detrimental to people in need of a job if I don’t hire them and provide a job.  But still, the whole thing felt a little Alex P. Keaton-esque.  I almost expected there to be a note within the terms of service that Alex P. Keaton will show up at your house to mock your liberal ideals.

The whole thing made me feel a little sad for humanity if we start looking at the worth of our time in that way.  I liked that the woman in the article spent time thinking about how to spend the gift card.  Maybe she enjoyed considering her options for twenty minutes.  Maybe she was trying to take the giver of the card into consideration and wonder internally what they would want her to buy.  The concept of quick, mindless consumption, just spending the gift card as if it’s some task to check off a to-do list instead of something to enjoy (someone gave it to her as a gift!), all for the sake of some algorithm which told her that she’d be better off clicking on the first item she sees and then getting back to work because… time is money.

The worth of my time has been on my mind a lot because I’m reading Michael Moss’s Salt, Sugar, Fat, and it has drastically changed our life.  We’ve gone back to how we used to eat, and then surpassed that craziness into a pit of insanity that even I sometimes look around in and say, “is this really the best use of our time?”  A long time ago, we ate few processed foods.  I made our bread, vegetable stock, and ice cream.  The kids were home with me, and we didn’t have anything “better” to do.  So I made everything.

And then, when they started school, I picked up more hours of work.  And with that work, I ran out of time to make most things.  I started buying my bread and ice cream. (I still made the veggie stock, but that’s only because I’m very particular.)  Actually, I bought a lot of things.  Most things.  I still baked and cooked, but I took a lot of short-cuts.

And then came this book, and I decided that we needed to stop purchasing processed foods.  Making your own food creates a major time suck.  I’ve managed to boil down bread baking to a minimal amount of time, but still.  Every minute that I’m baking and cooking is a minute that I’m not working.  Or I’m not relaxing.  Or I’m not… virtual farming on Hay Day or wiping out confections on Candy Crush.

Is it worth my time?  To eat better?  To remove a lot of those chemicals from our lives?  Which items are worth buying and which items are worth making?  And is it enough if we eat like this 80% of the time if the other 20% of the time is laden with high fructose corn syrup or azodicarbonamide?

You can see how disjointed my brain is this week: this post began about a time calculator and ended up being a musing on clean eating.

Is anyone else cutting out processed foods from their life?  Would you have any interest in hearing how I’m doing it and sharing recipes/methods?  Creating a small virtual village of Moss’ers (that’s what I’m privately calling all of us who are freaked out after reading Moss’s book and suddenly dumping our nutella), where we can list the homemade mixes we’ve created in order to save time?


1 Nicoleandmaggie { 04.01.14 at 7:49 am }

You’re forgetting that people also have different utilities and dis utilities. Some people like gardening. Some people enjoy cleaning. Some people prefer these $25/hr tasks including compensation to lower wage tasks that they could do instead. You can still be a liberal and outsource, and better to do it in a way that pays fair value and doesn’t outsource to overseas child labor.

We cut processed foods out back when there was a chance that doing so could help me ovulate. (It didn’t.). Dh does a lot of the baking as a form of stress relief. I just buy bread when it is me, but I do check labels. Most of the processed stuff we do buy has minimal ingredients and I know what they are.

2 Carla { 04.01.14 at 8:30 am }

I would love to hear some of your recipes and methods. A few weeks ago we cut out processed foods and committed to a vegetarian diet (actually pescatarian, we do still eat fish) and I bought a juice extractor, which I am loving. The thing even grinds peanuts into peanut butter in seconds. It takes about 45 minutes each night to make all of our juice for the next day, but so far the weight I have lost and the difference I’ve seen in my skin have made the time worthwhile! But I am struggling at dinner time–after work, I fight traffic to get home, exercise for 20-30 minutes, make the juice for the next day, and then about all I can manage at dinner is to heat up some vegetable soup. Any ideas/processes/recipes that you could share would be greatly appreciated!

3 Pepper { 04.01.14 at 8:32 am }

I would be really interested in recipes, methods, etc. I am cutting out a lot of processed foods but I still do not bake my own bread. I am always looking for tips. Please share!!

4 Catwoman73 { 04.01.14 at 9:29 am }

I am cutting out processed foods as much as I possibly can, but it’s not always practical. When I’m working 60 hours worth of night shifts in one week, I suddenly become the pizza ordering queen! But when I have some time off, I make my own pizza dough and sauce, and everything else, for that matter! But I am always interested in recipes and tips for eating clean. I lose weight very easily when I’m eating clean, and bloat like a pig when I’m not, so I welcome any help I can get with cutting out the crap!

5 nicoleandmaggie { 04.01.14 at 9:40 am }

btw, we recommend these two cookbooks for quick healthy and tasty meals: http://nicoleandmaggie.wordpress.com/2013/02/13/mental-load-and-menu-planning/

6 Jill { 04.01.14 at 9:52 am }

There is a book called Make the Bread; Buy the Butter that deals with what exactly is worth putting the time and effort into making on your own. Not comprehensive of course, but each food is evaluated for cost, time, nutrition, etc. Worth checking out.

7 nicoleandmaggie { 04.01.14 at 10:15 am }

To respond to your comment– as it notes in our post, the Faster! book was written after the author married a vegetarian, so a lot of the recipes are vegetarian or have notes for how to modify into becoming vegetarian recipes.

8 Tara { 04.01.14 at 11:00 am }

I went Paleo a year and a half ago and since then have learned how to make a lot of things myself. I regularly make mayo, ketchup, BBQ sauce, stir fry sauce, tortilla wraps, etc. I make pretty much Every Single Thing I/we eat. It is DEFINITELY a time suck and the shape of how I spend my days/weeks has completely changed because of this. (If I could hire someone to do it for me I would seriously consider it). But it is worthwhile to take the crap out of our bodies any way we can. Clearer thinking, happier bodies. Huge sacrifice.

9 Chris { 04.01.14 at 12:09 pm }

I’m going back to the start of your post on what our time is worth. This is something I’m really struggling with. I feel guilty for wanting to hire someone to come in and clean the house once a month. And yet, I have a nerve disease that makes some of it difficult (and painful for me) which I have been just doing anyway, but add to that how much the disease has been exacerbated by the fact that I’ve been working overtime all of 2014 and somehow I’m crying out for help. But, I feel guilty about it. I work from home even if I do work far too many hours I feel I should do it all myself. And I don’t care for the TOS either…

10 Ana { 04.01.14 at 12:22 pm }

Well you’ve convinced me NOT to read the book. I honestly can’t make all that stuff from scratch given the constraints of our current lifestyle…and I don’t need to feel guilty about it! In all honesty I think we do very well with mostly home-cooked meals and lots of fruits/veggies, limited meat.

11 Cassie { 04.01.14 at 1:01 pm }

I was going to mention Make the Bread, Buy the Butter too! I also have a book called The Homemade Pantry by Alana Chernila which has a lot of really great recipes for a lot of simple food stuffs that you always have/need around the house. Some things are beyond me (like making my own yogurt) but there are a lot of recipes that I like. My sister in law just suggested I read Salt Sugar Fat, but I’m scared ha ha. I eat fairly healthy, but a lot of times can’t be bothered with things that are too time consuming. My biggest thing is I like the taste a homemade a lot better usually.

12 Lori Lavender Luz { 04.01.14 at 4:28 pm }

Homemade vegan marshmallow filling?

I would love to be in your Moss group. I haven’t read the book (but I’ve read others, and this article just came across my radar http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/03/science-compared-every-diet-and-the-winner-is-real-food/284595/) but we do try to avoid processed foods when possible.

13 Queenie { 04.01.14 at 7:50 pm }

We don’t eat much processed food. It doesn’t’t really exist here, and what does is crazy expensive. And not my cup of tea, anyway. I’m using the crock pot a ton, actually. It’s a huge time saver, and makes up for those convenience foods that make working parents lives easier in the US.

Chris, let me make you feel better about monthly house cleaning. I have someone five days a week (I’m not in the US, and even paying above minimum wage here, it’s affordable). It’s worth every penny, because it improves my quality of life. You can’t put a price on that. Go for it! You can always stop if you don’t think it’s worth it. But I bet you’ll love it!

14 Mali { 04.01.14 at 8:13 pm }

Oh, you’re providing lots of inspiration this week for posts! Thinking about the value of our time is a useful process, but I’m with you – I like that someone takes time to spend a gift card. But we don’t run our lives like a business – or we shouldn’t – so there will be times when I think an activity is worth my time and attention, and others won’t. Value and $$s don’t necessarily mean the same either. You’ve got me thinking again.

15 Chris { 04.01.14 at 9:09 pm }

Thank you Queenie! When we lived in another state, I had someone come in every two weeks, and I loved it! Oh how I loved it! I was trying economize but after almost 3 years I’m ready to cave…in fact I’m calling someone tomorrow. I need less stress, thanks! 🙂

16 deathstar { 04.02.14 at 2:19 am }

Look, maybe it’s just a huge patriarchal scheme to get all the women riled up about processed food. After all processed food saves a lot of time, doesn’t it? And so, if women had to start making all their food from scratch (because we all know how women care about the health of themselves and their families) they will have less time to think and do other things, like work or fighting for equal pay. They’ll just be “consumed” by competing with one another about their homemade from scratch recipes. Kidding. Sort of. Well everything in moderation, I say. Try to eat healthily and if you eat a box of scalloped potatoes once in a while, don’t sweat it. We’re all afraid of getting sick and dying. And you know, it’s going to happen anyway.

17 Aerotropolitan Comitissa { 04.02.14 at 5:44 am }

You should definitely do the recipe thing, because P is in a cooking phase so we’re making more.

As for the time/money thing – of course money is just a way of calculating *value*. It’s not actually money anyone’s interested in at the end of the day, it’s value.

So maybe cooking your own stuff from scratch is more valuable to you than whatever it is you could be earning in that time – time well spent. Or maybe you’d rather watch TV and pay someone to do your housework and your disposable income is such that this is a lifestyle choice you can make, like TV watching is your hobby that you spend your money on. Fine.

These economic calculators are ways of thinking about value in our lives for people who are used to thinking of most things in terms of dollars. In reality, it’s better to make the leap into thinking of things in terms of how much each item or task will support the way in which you want to live.

18 KeAnne { 04.02.14 at 11:10 am }

I was going to write what Deathstar did. I get that processed foods are far worse for us than from scratch and after reading anything about the crap that’s in the food we eat, I have an urge to plant a garden, buy a cow and go off the grid. BUT: there’s no way I could cook everything from scratch because that would be all I do, and the cynical part of me thinks that the subliminal message is for women to quit working and make everything from scratch because it’s better for the family. I try to cook as much as possible and try to cook in bulk, but it’s still tough. As a matter of fact, we are eating takeout every night this week most likely. Granted, it’s not pizza, but it’s still takeout.

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