Think of your purchases in terms of work hours

July 10, 2014

By Pam Leibfried

Think of your purchases in terms of work hours

It’s easy to overspend, especially on the fun social activities and spur-of-the-moment purchases that consume most people’s “discretionary” budget.

Some of us find it hard to say “no” to an invitation to dinner, drinks, a movie or a ballgame. Or we have a hard time resisting the latest tech gadget we read about or the cool baseball jersey or purse that we saw in the store window and loved. We rationalize spending money on an activity or purchase that isn’t really all that important to us because, after all, it “only” costs $xx, and we have that in our checking account, so why not spend it?

One way to combat the urge to make unnecessary purchases is to think of the dollar amount you are about to spend in terms of the number of hours that you worked to get that money. To make this calculation, it’s best to consider just your take-home pay – after all, you can’t spend any of the money that is withheld from your paycheck, right? If your take-home pay is $600 each week, that means you are bringing home $15 for each hour you work (assuming a 40-hour workweek). Once you’ve made this calculation for your own salary, remember the dollar amount, and keep it in mind when you are tempted to make an impetuous purchase.

Using the take-home pay and impulse purchases mentioned above – a $600 paycheck and a baseball jersey or purse – let’s see how we can approach our spending decision with an “hours-worked” mentality. For our example, we’ll say that each item is on sale for $60 this week. Now, instead of thinking of it as being “only” $60, you could ask yourself if you really think that the item is worth FOUR HOURS of your time.

Ask yourself this question: If your boss asked you to come in and work for four hours on Saturday, offering you the jersey or purse in exchange, would you think it was an OK deal? If the answer is that you would NEVER work that many hours for a mere jersey/purse, maybe you should think twice about spending your hard-earned money on this purchase. But if you are really enthralled with the item, and would be willing to put in a half day of work for it, then it might not be a bad purchase for you – provided you have $60 of spending money in your budget.

Introducing this new hourly-rate consideration into your decision-making process can help you to change your “it’s only $xx” spending mentality to be a bit more thoughtful and savings-oriented. It can make it a little easier to say “no” to purchases you really don’t need, helping you to spend your money on the things that you truly value, rather than on frivolous or impetuous purchases.

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