Saturday, February 21, 2015

How do you value time v. money?

For anyone not living in the arctic tundra formerly known as Boston, you may not be aware of how crazy things have been lately. We've received over seven feet of snow in less than a month, and our aging public transit system, the T, has not been able to keep up. I won't speak to the policy and politics behind all of this - I'm not well informed enough on those issues to speak with any authority - but it's brought to my mind a major question: How do I value my time?

Look, snow!

Rewind to Tuesday night.

I live on an above-ground line of the T, and after our most recent blizzard, the above ground trains weren't running. I run-commuted (ran-commuted? ran?) to work on Tuesday morning to avoid dealing with the transit mess, but Tuesday evening I still had to get home, and running again wasn't an option. Instead, I figured out which busses were running and were most likely to get me home efficiently. I walked to a bus stop, waited about an hour for the bus, got on and rode to the next destination where I waited another half hour or so, and finally boarded a bus that would take me within half a mile of my home. All told, it took me close to three hours to get home.

I commute in style
All the time that I was standing in the cold, in the dark, with one very wet foot (I had run to work, so I didn't have my boots and was instead wearing running shoes. Stepping in a freezing puddle in running shoes is not something I'd recommend, and standing outside for an hour after doing so is what most people would call "foolish."), I found myself thinking about time and money.

On the occasions that I've taken a cab home from the office, it's usually cost me about $20. I haven't done this in many months as I've been focused on getting my spending under control, and it hasn't seemed worth it to save half an hour by spending that much. On Tuesday night, though, I think I should have changed my tune. Admittedly, with traffic as bad as it has been, a cab probably would have cost me a lot more, but I also probably would have been a lot less miserable and that is worth something. Actually, I think that's worth a lot.

Let's assume a cab would have taken about half an hour to get me home, and cost $40. It would have saved me two and a half hours. I would have paid about $16 per hour saved. So the question becomes, would that be worth it?

I don't have an answer for you. This is a question that's been on my mind a lot this week. We have student employees in my office who are so desperate to get to work they're paying $60 for Uber rides, when they'll only earn $30 during their shift. We have other student's who've opted to get to work 3 hours early to avoid the morning rush, or who have walked 4 miles through the slush to be on time. None of it is necessarily wrong or right, and after living in this mess for a while, none of it seems crazy to me. It just makes me think.

What is your time worth? These days, I think my time is worth more than $16 per hour, especially if it means getting me out of the cold. That said, I still haven't been willing to bite the bullet and pay for a cab, and the T is slowly returning to normal.

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