Time vs. Money

(Written Spring 1994)

Yes, it's an age-old equation. But specifically I'm talking about the interesting transition that I can see happened to me about three years ago. I crossed the boundary where my gating factor on doing most of what I'd like is time, not money. Previously (think: teenage/young adult years), limiting factors were "I can't afford that!". Now the limiting factor is "I don't have time for that!"

Take software. Previously, I often lusted after a new game or other piece of software. Now I own games that I will never play, simply due to time. I even buy some of them - like Flight Simulator 2004 - just in case. It's silly - I have to stop doing it. I keep downloading cool games (see the Marathon entry) when it's really just meaning I will never finish other projects.

(It's times like this that I can feel myself dying. It's terrifying.)

There's a thread going on about how a modded the XBox is cheaper than a Media Center PC (modulo some features). Someone made the comment that this is only true if your free time is not important.

I have some hazy hypothesis about the FOSS movement. It seems like the bulk of people (but certainly not all) who are contributing and benefiting are those who have more time than money. Once you have more money than time you are willing to pay for any shred of time you save. So rebuilding your kernel or tweaking your desktop manager really looses its charm, and you're willing to settle for plain old M$ Windoze.

Try and put a price on your time - what would someone have to pay you to waste 1 hour of your time?

I think I'm somewhere between $20 and $50. (Suddenly, consultant & lawyer fees don't look so crazy.)

My wife asked me the other day if she should make some teaching materials for our son, or purchase them. While we like working on craft projects, all I could see is that 4 hours of time spent on this - which would entirely consume the "time to ourselves" block of three evenings - would be necessary at a minimum, so the cost to purchase the finished materials outright would have to be significantly over $100 to justify it. Factor in the time to shop for the raw materials and their cost, and it's a slam dunk.

Note that when I'm not really eager to do something, my estimate goes up to $100/hr.