Making Your Time Less Money-Dense

One of the biggest ways to leak money is to spend your time in money-dense ways. The easiest way to explain it is to just show you a bunch of examples.

Spending eight hours at Disney World with the requisite food, drink, and souvenir purchases costs about $200. The cost per hour of this event is $25 per hour. This is a very money dense activity.

Spending eight hours reading a book you checked out from the library costs nothing at all. The cost here is $0 per hour.

Watching a DVD at home that you borrowed from a friend costs perhaps $0.20 in electricity ($0.08 per hour).

On the other hand, going out to a movie for two and a half hours costs you $10 for the ticket ($4 per hour) or, if you buy drinks and popcorn, $18 for the trip (about $7.50 per hour).

You can do this for virtually any activity with which you might spend your leisure time. From shopping for clothes to playing a video game, all such leisure activities have a cost per hour, and the lower you can make that cost per hour, the better off you’ll be.

But how can you actually use this idea?

What I did a while back is simply make a giant list of all of my favorite leisure activities. Taking a walk. Playing a board game. Reading a book. Playing a video game. Playing basketball. Playing with my kids. Working in the garden. Going to movies. Going to bookstores. Going to the library. The list was quite long.

Then, I figured up the approximate cost per hour of engaging in those activities.

Going to the movies was pretty expensive, as was going to the bookstore (because I rarely leave it without a book in hand). Playing a board game or a video game were usually pretty cheap, as the cost of each is prorated down because of the many times I’ve played each one ($1 per hour or, often, much less than that, and even that’s merely recovering a sunk cost). Other activities, like taking a walk or playing at the rec, were effectively free. Gardening arguably earns a little bit for each hour invested in it.

What happened was that when I had brainstormed this huge list of activities and actually figured out what they cost per hour, I began to spend more of my time on the lower cost activities (like taking a walk or yard work or reading a book or playing games) and less of my time on the more expensive things for the time invested (like going to movies).

It wasn’t even a conscious choice, really. Just by raising my awareness of the implicit cost of engaging in various activities I enjoy, I began to migrate towards the ones that drained my wallet at a slower rate.

Naturally, my entertainment and hobby budgets have dropped over the last year or so at no cost to my enjoyment of life at all. I just simply improved my awareness of the real cost of many of the things I enjoy and started making my choices of how to spend my scant free time from a more enlightened perspective.

Trent Hamm
Trent Hamm
Founder of The Simple Dollar

Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 after developing innovative financial strategies to get out of debt. Since then, he’s written three books (published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press), contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.

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