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How Many Hours Did That Cost?

by Jaime Thompson on August 31, 2010

TimecardGetting ready to shop the upcoming holiday weekend sales?  Maybe you’ve already been busy with back to school shopping.  Have you ever thought to calculate how many hours of work those dollars spent just cost you?  It’s a powerful tool that might make you step back and reevaluate how you shop and what you buy.  I’m sure you have an idea of your gross salary, but lets look at what you actually take home after Uncle Sam, health insurance, and your 401k among other things take their share.  Go and get your most recent pay stub.  It’s in your organized file cabinet, right?  Divide your take home pay by the number of hours the paycheck covers.  What did you come up with?

Lets say your result is $20 per working hour.  So now we’ll apply that to your purchasing power.  Your $6 a weekday morning coffee and muffin habit means you have to work an hour and a half to pay for it.  The $60 video game, 3 hours.  Those must have designer jeans at $200 a pair cost you 10 hours at work.  $460 car payment is 23 hours in the office.  That one payment is over half a week of a typical work week and we still need a place to live and food to eat.

Want another view?  Include the hours you spend commuting to and from work and any other work related activities you do outside of the hours that paycheck covers.  Sadly, that $20 just dropped even lower.  This isn’t a way to shame you into not spending your money, just a tool that might make you think about how hard you really work to make that purchase.  Remember it’s not just a dollar amount, but your precious time spent working to earn that dollar.

Photo: Time Card by flickr user TheGoogly, used under CC license

  • Matt

    You could take this even further and consider the time it takes to travel and wait in line to buy something on sale. If something is $20 off but it takes you two hours to make the purchase and get home you would have paid $40 over the sale price. You could likely pay full price online then add shipping but still pay less because it only took 15 minutes to order!

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