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Counting the Time Cost of Purchased Service

As you know, we’ve been talking quite a bit about the way that time relates to frugal practices and frugal though I am, I’ve said that sometimes, it makes sense to pay for a service in order to free up some time.

But as I was cutting my dear son’s hair recently, I was reminded that it’s also important to remember that even some paid-for services have a time cost too.

In short, it’s not always as if the DIY option takes 100% more time than the pay-someone-else option.

For instance, if I had someone else cut my boy’s hair, I’d have to drive to the barber/salon, wait for his hair to be cut, and drive him back home.

I’m guessing that would probably take about 30 minutes of my day, right?

Well, I can cut his hair myself at home in about 20 minutes and then clean up the mess in 5 (less if it’s nice and we can do the haircut outside!).

So, not only does his haircut not cost me anything in real dollars, it also doesn’t cost me any time. In fact, it might save me a whole 5 minutes. 😉

I also remind myself of this fact when I’m tempted to get takeout instead of cooking at home. A lot of times, I mentally figure the time cost of takeout as 0 minutes, but that’s not really true.

(ok, maybe it is if you’re getting delivery, or you happen to be out near your favorite takeout joint. But neither of those things are usually true for me.)

That’s because I have to decide what takeout I want, order it, drive to pick it up, and drive back home. A lot of times, that IS faster than cooking an entire meal from scratch at home, but it’s not 100% faster.

And if you compare the time it takes to make, say, pizza bagels, to the time it takes to order and pick up a pizza, there’s not a lot of difference.

Of course, sometimes I do decide that it’s worth it to pay someone for a service even if it doesn’t save me a lot of time (I sometimes order takeout and I don’t cut some of my girls’ hair).

I’m not trying to say that DIY always saves time and money because that’s just not true!

But when we’re considering the relationship between frugality and money, I do think that we need to take into account not only the time it takes to do it ourselves but also the time we’d spend getting it done by someone else.

And if you’re like me, taking that into consideration might give you the push you need to keep on keeping on.

What do you think? Do you ever find that paying for a service doesn’t actually save you much time?


Today’s 365 post: Well, hello there, end-of-the-math-book!

Joshua’s 365 post: Baby Robin

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Friday 4th of May 2012

On oil changes - a lifetime supply of free oil changes came with purchasing our car, so for us it's only a time issue. It's usually a full hour out of my day, but I usually can plan ahead enough to bring my calendar and get my menu planning for the week done, and maybe plan out some more financial-related stuff (like birthday presents, ideas for anniversaries, etc.). My son likes to explore all the cars in the showroom at the dealership, so keeping him entertained isn't a problem, and my daughter is still at the age where she's content with a good supply of scrap paper to shred.

I definitely agree about the takeout time thing in general. However, we occasionally do it also because it reduces the time spent doing dishes in the evening. So for our date nights, I can do all the dishes for the day ahead of time, then just have a few plates and silverware from dinner to load.

I think looking at the time factor for both options (DIY and hiring out) can be an important step in determining if something is worth DIY. We ended up deciding to hire out our kitchen remodel. Yes, it would be incredibly rewarding to do the work ourselves. But we don't already have the tools or most of the expertise, plus all those little "tricks" that can mean the difference between a 10-minute project and one that takes most of the day. With our contractor, it took less than 4 days to rip out all the old metal cabinets, add some outlets, replace a single ceiling fixture with four recessed cans, and fix the plumbing. That amount of work would have taken us at least two weeks, and that's if we had access to regular free babysitting (which we don't) and my dad's tools (which we don't - he's four hours away), and nothing went wrong (old house - ha!).

When our kids are older, I'd be more willing to undertake a similar adventure. Right now, it's worth the money to not be without a kitchen for months on end!


Friday 4th of May 2012

Talking pizza, I make it for dinner every Saturday. Time taken is 10 mins prep and kneading. Then it rises for an hour (but I'm not required during that time, of course). Spread toms on, add cheese - 5 mins - then pop in oven - probably 1o mins max? I can get a piping hot one to the table in less than half an hour (hands on time and watching the oven), I've yet to experience one being delivered that quick! Oh and one home-made 10" margarita (8 slices) cost approx. 75p - delivered £10 ... Case closed!!!! ;-)


Thursday 3rd of May 2012

And sometimes hiring the service is the way to go:

The car battery had been giving us some trouble for the past week. Today roommate needed a jump and this weekend would be an inconvenient time for an unreliable car. At 7.00pm, roommate called AAA to ask about battery replacement. The guy arrived by 7.45, replaced the battery, tested lights/high beams/radio/AC, took away the old battery, and was done by 8.05. The battery comes with a 3 year replacement warranty.

The cost for a battery, delivered and installed within an hour of calling? THREE DOLLARS LESS than the same battery at AutoZone.

Jenn H

Saturday 5th of May 2012

This is good info to know. I knew I could call for a battery jump but never thought about a replacement!

Meredith Phillips

Thursday 3rd of May 2012

We splurged on a house cleaning last summer when we moved. After all our stuff was loaded onto the truck, I had maids come through and do the final apartment cleaning before the landlord looked it over. They did an awesome job and after moving all our stuff out of one place and into another on the second hottest day of the entire summer (over 100 degrees, people), the $300 I spent on maids was SO WORTH IT!! It looked way better than we could have ever done and we were so tired after moving, it certainly saved us some sore muscles!


Thursday 3rd of May 2012

I can't tell you how many times I have made the decision to get takeout for dinner, totally committed to the plan, then at dinnertime, when faced with the trip to go get it, cooked something instead. Now, it's just my husband and me, and I doubt when the kids were little that this would've been a very popular choice! In those days even a hamburger out was a real treat!!

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