Time V Money

One of the things that become more clear as one gets older is that time is a limited resource. On the other hand money is something one can (usually) get more of. So while I have a reasonable appreciation for money I value it most for when it can be used to save me time.

For example. yesterday I was trimming my bushes with an electric hedge clipper and managed to cut the extension cord. It wasn’t the first time and I doubt it will be the last. Once I found and reset the circuit breaker and took a good look at the cord I decided I was done for the day. I was too tired to continue and do a good job. This morning I found a replacement plug and used it to repair the extension cord. Well that was the goal. It turns out that something when wrong and the cord was shorting out. So I took it all apart, looked it over, tried a few things and low and behold … yeah it was still shorting. So now I am faced with a decision. Do I keep working on the cord or do I get a new cord? Working on the cord, assuming I finally get it right, only costs me time. Buying a new cord costs money. I got a new cord. Well to be honest I used another cord I had in the basement but I’ll probably still have to replace the cord eventually. The cost of a new cord is less than the value I place on my time.

After reading an article that did a lot of economic analysis on free time/recreation time compared to time one is paid for I set a value on my time (for things like this) at half my hourly pay rate. So if something costs me half what I get paid an hour and will save me an hour it is worth paying for. Or rather it is not worth not paying for. Unless of course it is something that I enjoy doing for the fun, exercise or has other non-monetary value to me.

This is why I pay someone to cut my lawn BTW. I hate cutting the grass and there are many things I would rather do with my weekend. It is also how I justified hiring someone to paint my house a couple of years ago. It is a model that works for me.

Of course this sort of thing applies to a lot of  things. For example I can program user interfaces much faster using Visual Studio and VB or C# than I can using Java. In fact I think that the cost of buying Visual Studio would pay for itself (at full suggested retail) in a couple of days over using a ‘Free” Java environment. This may not be true for everyone of course but it sure is for me. That’s why I don’t understand anyone using price of tools as a reason to use Java over VB or C#.

I understand the “write once, debug everywhere” argument for Java. Not the free verses pay argument. I suspect that a lot of professional developers who use “free” tools also pay for some performance enhancement tools as well. Most pros do in most any field. The trade off though is the same – will the cost of the tool pay off in time saved or other means. So much comes down to that trade off between time and money.

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