Is Drastic Cost Cutting Costing You in Time?

grocery storeWith the credit crunch squeezing hard, many of us are trying to make our pennies go a bit further. But are your money-saving habits starting to cost you more time than they’re worth?

If you’re spending hours every weekend clipping coupons for the sake of a couple of dollars or discounts, or if every shopping trip involves trekking around multiple shops to compare prices, you might want to step back and consider whether the time spent is worth it.

How Long Are You Searching?

When you find yourself spending time in order to save money, make a note of how long it takes. Do you spend four hours making a batch of homemade laundry detergent in order to save money? Do you hunt through websites like Money Saving Expert for tips on grocery offers? It’s easy to spend a lot of time online seeking out the best bargains, only to find that there’s a difference of perhaps a couple of dollars in it.

Is the hour you spend searching worth more than a couple of bucks?

How Much Are You Saving?
How much are you really saving? Maybe you got a book for $0.40 cheaper after hunting through every bookstore in town and every online bookseller – that might mean you spent a couple of hours of your life for the sake of $0.40! You would never take a job for $0.20/hour, so think seriously about whether the savings are worth it.

If it takes you an hour to make your own salsa, but it only costs $1 more to buy it ready-made from the store, again, you might want to question if your time is really only worth $1/hour.

Go For The Best Savings For Time Spent

Chances are, 20% of your time is yielding 80% of your savings (or thereabouts). Look for the high payoff savings that don’t take much time. For example, these might be:

  • Using just the highest-value coupons
  • Checking the offers from two main grocery stores online, not six.
  • Buying from either Amazon or Barnes and Noble, not hunting through every online bookstore and high street store.
  • Using sites that will compare tons of stores at once, like PriceGrabber.
  • Using ebay for second-hand clothes, but setting a time limit on how long you’ll spend searching on the site. Does it really matter if you end up spending $0.30 more on a sweatshirt?

Enjoy Hobbies That Save Money
The one caveat is that if you have a hobby that saves money (for example, if you’re a keen knitter and love making your own clothes, or if you enjoy gardening and grow your own vegetables), you needn’t worry how time-effective it is. The point of a hobby is to enjoy an activity for its own sake.

But in order to have time for your hobbies and interests, you need to look at where you’re spending too much time to save too little money. It’s easy to become obsessed with frugality, but just like being overly focused on productivity, you’ll find that you get diminishing returns for each hour spent “tweaking” your lifestyle.

Now, if you are going to stop clipping coupons simply to watch TV, you’re not getting the intent of this. The intent is to use your time in a way that will maximize your cost savings or earnings.

What money saving habits do you have that don’t cost you much time?

Written on 1/13/2009 by Ali Hale. Ali runs Alpha Student, a blog packed with academic, financial and practical tips to help students get the most out of their time at university. Photo Credit: CJ Sorg


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