Cut Spending By Looking At Hours Of Work Put In To Pay For Stuff.

How many hours of your week is spent working just to pay for your “wants” versus your “needs”? Do you have to put in overtime just to keep up with minimum credit card payments, or can you survive comfortably on your regular salary? Are you working for your stuff or are you working for you? These are important questions to ask yourself when you feel the desire to spend your hard-earned money on “stuff” rather than putting it in savings or buying necessities. While most people work to live, many people work so they can try to buy their happiness — and it’s never going to work. Instead, they find themselves working longer hours at jobs they hate or extra jobs just to try to keep up with paying for their “stuff” that is supposed to being them happiness. What a horrible way to have to live! When you start breaking down how many hours of your day are spent working just to pay for the extras in life, suddenly the extras are not that attractive anymore. If I was still spending like I did in my early 20’s, I would have to be working 3 jobs just to put food on the table. It’s definitely not a good way to go through life, and I am glad I stopped all that nonsense sooner rather than later.

Just for fun, let’s do some math and look at the work vs. “stuff” exchange rate, shall we? (And this is not taking into account taxes being taken out, so the real numbers are even more)

  • Let’s say that a new decent-sized LCD flat-screen TV is $1,000. If you get paid $20 per hour at work (more than the national average), you have to work 50 hours just to pay for that TV… with cash. You have to work even more if you buy on credit and pay interest. How much better does the TV you already have look now?
  • BMW’s are great cars, don’t get me wrong. I love the way they drive and the way the look. But at a minimum of $33,600 for a 4 door 3 Series, they aren’t cheap. Using the same $20/hour rate, paying for that car in cash would take 1,680 hours of your working life. That’s 42 weeks of work just to pay for that car! (And way more if you finance it) Is it worth it? Not for me. As much as I love cars and driving fast, owing that much isn’t in the cards for me anymore. A Honda Civic is much more my speed, as it’s more reliable than the BMW, can still seat 4-5 people, easily cruises at whatever speed you want, gets good MPG, and still looks nice. Plus, it’s starting price is about $18,000 less than the BMW is. At $15,000 it would take you 750 hours to pay cash for that car – or 18.75 weeks. That’s like getting 23 weeks of vacation just for buying the cheaper car!
  • Let’s talk about clothes for a minute. Clothing is one of the biggest “extra” expenses of many people, as most don’t need designer duds to go to work or see a movie in. 99% of the time I do just fine in my $15 t-shirts and Gap jeans for $39. And when I used to have to look nice to go to work, I still bought my clothes at places like Gap, Target, Express Men and Macy’s. Nothing high-end for me! However, some people I know spend $200+ on a single pair of jeans or $250+ on a pair of shoes – it’s crazy! I have never (and never will) spending that kind of cash on a pair of jeans! Who wants to work 10 hours just to own jeans? Not me, thanks. I have better things to do with my time!

Creative Commons License photo credit: Jeff Karpala

Imagine how much less you could work if you considered how much you have to work to pay for your stuff? More time for hobbies, for family, for friends. More time doing the things you love to do instead of working to pay off your $200 jeans. I stopped trading my time for “stuff” years ago, and now mostly buy the things I need, with an occasional splurge on a wanted item now and then. When I go to make bigger purchases, I take into account how much work it is going to take to pay for the item in question, and I ask myself if it is worth the time put in. If the answer is yes, than I go ahead and buy it. But oftentimes, the answer is no – and the item gets denied entry into our house. Do you do anything like this to control your spending? If so, let us all hear about it. And if not, well, give it a try – I bet it will keep your spending and consumption habits down!

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Comments (3)

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  1. Though not employed currently, I would definitely work less if I could, as long as I still brought enough money home to provide for my family.

  2. Brian says:

    Don’t forget that the number of people that actually clear $20 an hour after TAXES is even smaller – so you’d really have to work almost twice as many hours by the time you get robbed at fed state and local levels!

  3. Mneiae says:

    Spending money on clothes is definitely a status thing. I came from a very affluent community, where everyone had a lake house, and spending $400+ per pair of jeans was the norm. Will these girls have good financial habits once they stop receiving their enormous allowances from their parents? No. This is why 1/3 of Gen Y, my generation, still lives at home. They can’t NOT do with some of what other generations would consider luxuries. As a byproduct of my wealthy immigrant parents, I hate spending money and going shopping now. I have professional clothing because I’m a business student, but that’s pretty much it for my expensive clothes.