Time-Money Exchange Rates

18 Jul

I should be working just now. I should be writing an essay that will take me about three days, for which I will receive about as much money as my husband can make in one day. (He’s a stonemason and builder, in case you were wondering. He’s very good, and he has his own website here: Tony Murdarasi, Builder.)

The thing is, though, when I say “about three days”, I mean three days in which I find the time to write this blog, do the housework, get out in the sunshine for a while, and maybe (if the work goes well) get to the cinema and / or finish a short story I’m working on. We’re not talking 18-hour days. This, and the fact that the work is interesting, make the job worth taking on, even though three solid days at a minimum wage job would actually earn me more.

The reason I’ve been thinking about the value of time is that I’ve spent quite a lot of it lately doing unpleasant things, and some of it doing pleasant things, and it has made me realise that if time is money, there must be a variety of exchange rates. Let me illustrate.


This is a wee blanket toy that I made for a friend’s baby. I estimate it took about five hours altogether, although it didn’t feel like a terribly long time because for some of it I was chatting with friends and for other bits I was sitting on the grass getting a tan. (What an amazing summer, by the way!) Items like this sell for between £10 and £25, so let’s say it’s worth £20, to keep the arithmetic simple. That would mean I “earned” about £4 per hour. Not much. But on the other hand, I enjoy crochet, I get a sense of satisfaction from creating something beautiful, and I know that my present is unique.

Now take car insurance. My husband has a van for his business, so he needs insurance, but things are complicated by the fact that for many years he had a non-EU licence, and most insurers won’t take those years into account. I spent a good hour and a half finding him insurance the night after he bought it, only to find when the documents came through that it wasn’t valid (a problem with the website wording), so I had to spend another hour and a half finding more insurance. That’s three hours, and by spending that time I managed to save at least £1,000 on what we would have spent if I hadn’t shopped around. That makes an hourly rate of £333, much better than the crochet, but far, far less satisfying. I know which hours I’d like to get back.

Inbetween the two, there was a cleaning shift I did, to fill a gap in a rota. Eight hours of sweaty slog, up and down stairs, and pulling hair out of plugholes (eugh!) at minimum wage, making a few dozen quid. (You can work out exactly how much if you have a calculator, information on the current minimum wage and tax levels, and too much time on your hands.) To be honest, that one shift was fine, but I’ve done that job before on a more regular basis, and when you come in again, and do exactly the same things again, and go home with sore legs again, the value of your time seems to increase in your mind, compared with what you’re getting paid for it. It’s disheartening to earn less in a day than a lawyer can make (or rather, charge, which is actually a different thing) in fifteen or twenty minutes.

So what is an hour worth? How much have I therefore squandered in writing this short blog post? I don’t think there’s a straightforward answer. It depends on how much you’re enjoying, or suffering through, the activity. It depends on the individual, and how important liberty is to you, compared to financial stability. It depends on your state of mind, which can make hours stretch or fly, and can make an amount of money seem either tempting or insulting. Whatever my time is worth, though, there is only a limited amount of it between now and my deadline, so I will leave you to ponder the question, and I’ll get back to work.


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