What’s Your Time Worth?

Every single retailer these days, whether they sell coffee, clothing, or office supplies, wants your email address. And they offer “rewards” in return. And what do those “rewards” get you? An occasional discount, maybe one free cup of coffee every ten cups, and lots and lots of emails. Sometimes several a day from each and every company. In return for a piece of your privacy, and a lot of your time, you may save a few bucks. Maybe.

Before you automatically hand over your email address in return for some nebulous “reward”, think about what your time is worth. Scrolling through all of that junk mail, every ad, every “sale” that’s not really a sale, every pitch for your money, takes up time. Even if it’s just a click and delete. How many of these freebies are really free? Your time is worth something – even if it’s only a few seconds at a time. Add those seconds up, and you might find that what you get back from giving away your email address is not worth the time you spend digging through all of that digital junk mail, clicking, deleting, and unsubscribing.

I ask the same question – “what’s your time worth?” – too many clients who want to sell, rather than donate, the stuff they’ve decided to let go. The hard reality of selling things online through sites like E-bay and Craigslist, or in consignment stores, is that your stuff is only worth what someone will pay for it. Let me repeat that: your stuff is only worth what someone else is willing to pay for it. Not the price you set on it. Not what you think it’s worth. Not what you paid for it (not even close.) But what someone else thinks it’s worth, and what they’re willing to pay for it. Before you embark upon the project of selling objects with the hope of recouping some of your initial investment, consider what tasks are necessary for you to accomplish your ultimate goal. If you intend to list items online, add up the time it will take to do the following tasks:

  1. Take a photo of the object(s) for sale.
  2. Research what price similar objects have sold for – not what they’re currently listed for, but what they’ve actually netted the seller.
  3. Write up a description of the object(s).
  4. Post everything online.
  5. Monitor the bids/offers you receive.
  6. Negotiate with potential buyers, if and when you receive offers.
  7. Arrange to pack and ship the object – necessitating the purchase of packing materials and time to go to the post office/shipping center – OR – set up and take time to meet with the buyer to deliver the object and receive payment.

Figure out approximately how much you earn per hour at your livelihood (most folks can at least get a ballpark figure, even with a yearly salary.) Then estimate the time that all of the above steps will take. Attach a dollar amount to the time that you will have spent selling your stuff. Will you come out ahead? Say you manage to sell your now-adult child’s collection of Beanie Babies for $50. In simple figures, say you earn $50 an hour at your job. If you have spent one minute more than an hour in the process of selling those Beanie Babies, you’ve lost money.

Most people don’t factor in the cost of their time when it comes to thinking about things like sorting through junk mail – both paper and digital. Nor do they consider the fact that they might actually be losing money when they make the effort to sell possessions rather than simply donating them to a worthy cause. For a unique and interesting perspective on time and how we spend it, check out this short video.

Your time is the most valuable possession you have. Don’t waste it. It’s the one thing in your life that, no matter what the circumstances, you will never, ever be able to get back.

“Time is really the only capital any human being has, and the one thing he can’t afford to waste.” (Thomas Edison)

Lisa Griffith

About The Author

Lisa Griffith is a speaker and consultant who provides services, both on-site and virtually, to help busy professionals organize their offices, systems and calendars. In addition to business and home office organizing, productivity and time management coaching, she provides workshops & seminars for business and community groups.