« Strong loonie gives Cdn. Spring Breakers a boost | Main | Should budget cell phone users choose new player Public Mobile? »

March 17, 2022

How much is your time really worth?

When you buy something, you're trading hours of your life to acquire those goods and services.

So, is it worth hiring a housekeeper or a gardener to try and hang to a bit more of that time? What about a dog walker or a painter? 

Well, it all depends on what you figure your time is worth and how important you view the task.

Economists have labelled this the “comparative advantage” dilemma and it’s worth thinking about – particularly if you and your partner find yourself with different priorities.  

One way to do this is to simply look at your hourly wage. If you make $20 an hour and the item you’re considering costs $40, you can figure that it takes two hours of your life to pay for that item.  

If you're salaried, simply knock off the last three zeros on that annual stipend and halve the result to get a ball park number. So $68,000 becomes $68, which comes out to something like $34 an hour, assuming you clock a few hours of unpaid overtime each week.  

Of course, using gross pay overstates what you really make since you’re ignoring taxes. Try using an average tax rate of 25 per cent to get an approximation. In other words, you really need about $26 an hour to clear $20.

These calculations don’t account for the fact that paying for a service may be worthwhile if the task is one you don't do particularly well. A good painter may cost you the same per hour than you could net at work, but that's money well spent if you're actually a danger around the house.

Once you’ve got an approximate number to work with, start with the tasks that create the most strife around the house. Then see where you can make a few tradeoffs. In exchange for hiring a housekeeper or maid service, for instance, perhaps you might eat out less often or take the bus a bit more.  

Where do you draw the line on hiring out? Have you been able to free up time to build your business or career?

By Gordon Powers, MSN Money



Post a comment


Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

James HaversJames Havers

James is the senior editor of MSN Money living in Toronto. He has worked for the Nikkei Shimbun (Tokyo),,, Canadian Business and other publications. Havers turned to journalism after teaching overseas.

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...