Updated on 04.16.09

Time, Frugality, and Values

Trent Hamm

A few days ago, I wrote about the dilemma of whether it’s worth spending twenty minutes arguing to earn $10, a post that I hoped would generate some good discussion (and it certainly did). For me, I wouldn’t engage in the argument – it’s not worth it to me to spend twenty minutes engaged in confrontation for $10.

Some astute readers made the point that I’m quite willing to engage in frugal projects for a much smaller return than that – and that’s true. I’ll work on frugal projects all the time that earn significantly less than that $30 an hour rate that I would have earned from the argument.

What’s the difference? Why would I work on a frugal project for less than $30 an hour, but not engage in waiting at a store for the same amount?

There are a lot of reasons, actually.

I get more from most of my frugal projects than just some savings. I enjoy making my own laundry detergent. I enjoy brewing my own beer. I enjoy finding ways to improve the energy efficiency of my home. I enjoy finding free activities in the community.

For me, things like this are a lot of fun. I view it as a very enjoyable challenge to find interesting projects that save money.

I don’t enjoy engaging in activities that interfere with the lives of others. I don’t enjoy arguing or public confrontation. I don’t enjoy dragging other people into my personal desire to save money. I especially don’t enjoy making my kids sit in a checkout line – or leave them sitting at home waiting for me.

It takes a lot of money to put me in a situation where I’m thoroughly uncomfortable. Public confrontation is one of those situations. I don’t like witnessing such confrontations, either. So, unless there’s a lot of money at stake, I simply won’t engage in it. If it’s a confrontation with a business, I will very directly take my business elsewhere.

I prefer doing things that I can involve my family in. When I make a meal, the kids can often help with it. When I make homemade laundry detergent, I’ll let my son stir the mixture. When I replace light bulbs or do other home tasks, I’ll have my kids tag along and help in some way (like holding a bulb or a small sack).

This turns frugality into family moments. They learn something from this – not only is it normal to find ways to save money in your life, but it’s also normal to try new things. They also learn that it’s fun to do things for yourself and make things for yourself. For me, the value of such moments and lessons is quite high.

My free time has more value than my work time. Let’s say, hypothetically, that I earn $10 an hour for each hour I work. Even given that, I won’t take $30 an hour to interfere with my personal time.

Each and every day, I set aside a number of hours for me and for my family. That time is what I work for – it’s what I put up with frustrations for. That time – which generally falls between 4 PM and about 9 PM each weekday – is sacred to me, and I won’t interrupt it unless I have to. Those times are such because of the schedule of my wife (who gets off work at about 3:30 PM each day) and my children (who go to bed around 8 PM each day).

If I were single (since many people think that I “dog” on single people), that equation would change somewhat. My personal time would be more flexible because I wouldn’t be working around the 5 PM soccer match and the 8 PM bed time of my children. I might be anxious to get home to play World of Warcraft or something, but that could wait while I was engaged in an opportunity to put $10 in my pocket. I might have plenty of things to do, but many of those things have more flexibility because they don’t affect the schedules and needs of others as much.

The value of my time is more than just dollars and cents. What I’m doing at the moment affects that value greatly. If I’m being made to do something unenjoyable, there needs to be a much larger pot of gold at the end of the rainbow than if I’m doing something fun.

For me, at least, $30 an hour isn’t enough to convince me to argue in public, but $5 an hour is more than enough to engage in a fun frugality project with my kids and wife in tow. If it’s hard work by myself, $20 an hour might do it. All time is not created equal, after all.

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  1. SJ says:

    “All time is not created equal, after all.”

    there’s me time, school time, waste time.. etc. =)

    I place diff values on each of the times! Despite that I need the balance for various reasons hehe

  2. Johanna says:

    “This turns frugality into family moments. They learn something from this – not only is it normal to find ways to save money in your life, but it’s also normal to try new things. They also learn that it’s fun to do things for yourself and make things for yourself. For me, the value of such moments and lessons is quite high.”

    Your kids would also learn something from witnessing a confrontation between you and the managers at Target: They’d learn that it’s normal to stand up for yourself when you feel that a business is taking advantage of you. Could it be that the very reason you feel uncomfortable in such situations is that you were never taught that lesson yourself?

  3. Nowooski says:

    Good point that all time is not equal.

    I happen to fall on the other side of the fence when it comes to disagreements at a store or restaurant.

    My inner “Consumer Man” so dislikes being taken advantage of by a business, that I will fight it out over very small amounts of money.

    This is particularly true when a store tries to enact a minimum purchase amount to use a credit card.

  4. Jon says:

    What about public confrontation regarding your interest in a career in politics? I’m not trying to troll, just curious as to how you draw the line and separate the difference.

  5. Andrew says:

    @Johanna @Jon I agree with both of your points!

  6. alison says:

    I agree with some of the posters here – I don’t understand why you wouldn’t stand up for your rightfully owed $10 – you’re making it this dramatic scenario “$10 or precious, once-in-a-lifetime moments with my children” – we all have things (people) who are “more” important to us than $10…that doesn’t mean a store can overcharge me and get away with it.

    I think it’s a bigger issue of standing up for yourself and I would definitely feel taken advantage of if I just said “okay” – paid extra and walked away. Also, if you’re living a ‘frugal’ lifestyle – how do you defend willingly paying 20% more for an item than you should? It’s just my opinion, but I don’t understand the logic here.

  7. alison says:

    And, honestly, at some point I would have just walked away and left the items there at the checkout. If it’s not worth the hassle, it’s not worth overpaying $10 too.

  8. dave says:

    where are you at in the learning the rubiks cube process?

    I recently found a rubiks cube at a garage sale for a quarter and decided to learn it. I also found the petrus solution online (although i didnt know the name and clicked on your link anyway) I have found that getting the 3x3x2 becomes natural after several runs. The last ‘layer’ is much more difficult. I can do it easily, but i am just going through the motions.. i dont feel like it will ever feel natural.

  9. DebtGoal says:

    A lot of families that struggle with finances right now that want to improve their situation have no choice but to drastically cut back on discretionary costs. In cutting back, they are actually rediscovering these corollary benefits to living frugally, such as cooking meals together at home, grocery shopping with the kids, enjoying time together in the park or on a hike, and sharing the stories and life experiences that characterized and enriched the parent-child bonds during previous generations. It’s a win-win situation all around.

  10. I see the point you’re making about how your children have a big impact on the structure of your non-work time, but there are plenty of things that people without children do that can be similarly unflexible: going to school (or back to school), working a second job, volunteering for a particular event, meeting an out-of-town friend during a limited in-town visit, performing in a community theater or musical group, trying to learn a language in a limited amount of time before a trip, and so on. (Those are all things that people with children can also do, of course.) Those can all be things which can be as deeply important to someone as family time can be to a parent.

  11. Rob says:

    Every second of my day is accounted for. Literally. Bad spelling on my part, but I’m not a writer. Also every penny is accounted for. Every penny. A single father of one. Would I change it? No. He is my life. But the one thing that irks me is YES…I will bother people ( if standing up to a corporation ) to get 10 dollars that is owed me. Sorry, I need the money. I cant lose it. How many time do I stand in walmart, behind the idiots…..I cant even finish this post. It will get to rude. How many TIMES my life is interupted by feral people that have no clue. Case closed.

  12. SteveJ says:

    Great point about not all time being created equal, I agree entirely.

    Just a thought about the Target fiasco…if I’ve chosen to give up family time to go shopping, haven’t I already made the trade-off? And would that factor into your decision on whether or not it would be worthwhile to stick to my guns? If I truly had that time set aside to be with my family, I wouldn’t be at target.

    Like you, I dislike confrontation. I also dislike passive agressiveness. So if I’m unhappy with a situation, I either have to let it go or bring it to light. Usually it’s the former, but if I’m genuinely upset, I’ve got to speak up. It’s not fair to the other party for me to treat them with a chip on my shoulder when they’re not even aware of how I feel I’ve been wronged.

  13. Troy says:

    I am on Trent’s side.

    I agree – not all time is created, or worth, equal amounts.

    Sure, I’ll give you 10 minutes of my time for $100 under normal circumstances, but if those 5 minutes happen to be during the birth of my child, you couldn’t pay me $1 Million for it.

    And @Johanna, you don’t have to have a public confrontation to teach anyone to stand up for themselves.

    Quite the opposite actually. If you really want to teach your kids something, teach them to not put up with any type confrontation.

    If you are not satisfied with something…WALK.

    Don’t talk, argue, whine, complain, discuss, convince, persuade or otherwise “stand up for yourself” with someone who doesn’t respect your position as a customer

    Take your money, and your business, and your lessons and go somewhere else. Teach you kids that anyone who deals with you as ONE chance to respect you. If they fail, chance is gone. No arguing, or combating, or discussing this with a supervisor. You teach them to go somewhere else.

  14. SteveJ says:

    @Troy – I do agree with you. I have no problem blacklisting a store and spreading negative word of mouth (if it comes up).

    My only quibble is that you’ve got to speak up before you walk. The store can’t possibly rectify the situation if you don’t bring the issue up. If you’re at a restaurant and the waiter brings you chicken instead of steak do you get up and walk out? I’d hope not. People make mistakes and they should have the opportunity to resolve an issue to your joint satisfaction.

  15. I think for this all depends on how desperate you are for money. If you’re on the brink of starvation or getting kicked out of your home, then you can’t afford to lose $10, regardless of how much time it takes to argue over it.

    Steve, I agree with your point about speaking up before you walk. It’s good to at least give them the chance to rectify the problem.

  16. michael says:

    The biggest lesson is life is you’re not winning any battle with the store, unless the person you’re dealing with is the owner. Does anyone think the cashier or manager at a Target or Wal-Mart give a damn, at all? They don’t. They’re just like you & me. You aren’t ‘winning’ anything. If they could give you the refund/rebate/discount, they would.

    My favorite is ‘Im not mad at you, I’m mad at the store’ and then they proceed to tear the person down for the victory of the fight on savings. There’s no victory like when your mom and dad used to win them; because their consumer wars were real. Then Target etc put them out of business and now there’s no face to the company.

    You can’t beat the faceless opponent. Just remember not to shop there again; saves the blood pressure and time as well.

  17. rpw says:

    Sorry Trent – but your credibility continues to diminish. Frugality is not something that’s practiced only when it’s enjoyable or involves family time.

    Frugal means “Practicing or marked by economy, as in the expenditure of money or the use of material resources.” Using an hourly rate doesn’t fit into the definition. You are talking about investment. Is the investment of time going to return a worthwhile yield?

    Keep in mind it’s rare to know before hand how much time will be required when a retail transaction deviates from the norm. Suppose it only took five minutes – then the hourly rate would be $120.00. Would that be enough for you to chase that “pot of gold”? Many of your astute commenters asked that exact question – Was it really 20 minutes? Also asked – Did you wait behind that lady for the entire time?

    Disappointed in your follow-up post. Expected better from you!

  18. Barb says:

    Trent I think you ‘dog’ (as you say) on single people because it sounds like you did not have a qualify life when you were single — “I might be anxious to get home to play World of Warcraft or something”. If the thing you’re getting home to is to a role playing computer game – you obviously did not have a full life with quality activities. Most singles have a much fuller life with significant other, friends, family, possibly children.

    If in your mind you equating single lifestyle to role playing geeks, there is no wonder how you came to your conclusion the time of someone married with children as so much more valuable.

    I’m glad you are married with kids, I’m sure you are much happier in this life then you were as a single.

    That’s not the same for everyone – I have several friends that are much happier people and better parents now that they are divorced.

  19. alison says:

    @Troy – Unless I missed something, no where in this conversation does Trent (or anyone else) ask you to miss the birth of your child for $100. Seriously, of course that is priceless. Trent mentioned general “family time” – wrestling in the living room/playing Memory.

    @Barb – I totally agree!

    Trent – I really enjoy your site, I guess we just don’t see eye to eye on this one! :)

  20. imelda says:

    Trent you make some VERY good points about all time not being created equal. Arguing with a cashier in a store is certainly one of the more unpleasant ways of making money.

    That said, I really think you should rethink your belief that YOU are responsible for holding up the people in line behind you. If you are in the right, and the store has made the mistake, it is THEIR fault. As difficult as it sometimes is to read what Johanna says, I recommend you look at her above comment, #2.

    As for your inability to imagine (or recall) what single people might be doing beyond playing weird computer games at home…Bah. I won’t even waste my time.

  21. Johanna says:

    @Troy: I called it a confrontation because that’s what Trent called it. I wasn’t there (and it sounds like Trent wasn’t there for all of it), so I couldn’t tell you if that’s an accurate word to describe what actually happened. I also couldn’t tell you if the woman actually had a legitimate case, or if she could have achieved the same result while causing less of a “scene.” If what happened was that the woman had an invalid raincheck, but she shouted and yelled until the managers gave in, then I agree that her response was not appropriate, and we shouldn’t be teaching children that it is (although if that’s what happened, I still think the managers should have just thrown her out of the store).

    But I think that the approach Trent described – ask once, and if they say no, buy the items anyway – isn’t ideal either. Being just a little bit more assertive – be polite, but make the case if you think you have a case, and ask to speak to a manager if you have to – even if it makes you uncomfortable, could work out, and would be a good lesson for the kids. I don’t know whether you’d call that a “confrontation” or not. But that’s the sort of thing I mean.

  22. @Troy: The birth of a child is a good (if extreme) analogy.

    @SteveJ: You should definitely speak up first. ou don’t have to make a big fuss – just quietly alert a member of staff to the situation. If they don’t know what’s wrong they can’t fix it.

    @Barb: Look, I don’t think Trent is “getting at” single people at all. He’s married and that’s what he knows about. He’s only ever properly looked at personal finance and frugality in the context of his married life. Sure he was single once, but looking back on something and trying to think about life changes you could have made is nothing compared to have to make them while living that life. I wish people would just back off and stop accusing Trent of singles-bashing. He’s writing, as it were, to himself. His archetype. Which is a married man. If I were a single man living in the US, would you expect me to write articulately about married life in China? No, of course not.

  23. Esme says:

    #15- Credibility? Who are you, some faceless 3 letter acronym on the internet, to make some decree about Trent’s lack of ‘credibiity’ ? Who the hell are you that you can make such an arrogant statement? Just because he approaches things differently from you? Get over yourself. You aren’t the arbiter of anyone’s credibility. If you don’t have anything constructive to say, leave.

  24. Adrienne says:

    It’s a nice follow-up and helps to explain your thinking but I think you are wrong to call it a “confrontation”. Asking (even demanding) that you are treated fairly by a store does not have to be a meanspirited exchange. I do this all the time with kindness for those involved. Most people are willing to help those who are nicer anyway. You can still be firm but kind.

    I think working on those skills yourself could be worth even more than the money saved.

  25. sunshinguy says:

    life isn’t all about dollars and cents. glad you have your priorities straight!

    enjoyed the article, i agree, although I do not mind making a scene, but in that certain situation, i’d probably just pay the amount myself as well.

  26. Joey says:

    It sounds like you didn’t value your free time that much when you were single. That’s fine. But don’t assume everyone else lived mundane existences until they got hitched and reproduced. It’s a recurring theme with your posts, which has become tiresome.

  27. Chris says:

    People who have no value for their life or time until they can marry someone to breed with are sad. I’m childfree by choice, and I think it’s sad when people have to have children to feel they have a purpose. I think enough of myself that I don’t have to live vicariously through my wife or child, living for them so I can feel that my life matters because I now contribute to the support of this person or child that may one day contribute to society where I feel I didn’t. Breeders like that are sad, so sad.

  28. Jill says:

    I read the paragraph that starts with “If I were single” several times trying to understand it. I am single, so I wanted to understand how my time would be MORE flexible. At first read I thought, why wouldn’t I have to work around the soccer game and bed time? I really thought you meant to say that single parents were on less of a strict routine. I didn’t consider you were talking about a single person without children until I had read it several times. I am single, but have a lot less flexiblity in my schedule because I am raising my daughter and provinding a family, income, everything, etc. by myself. That part in your article wasn’t clear, and by the way, I WOULD have argued the money to prove my point more so than for the money.

  29. J says:

    I would also be interested in knowing how “I don’t enjoy engaging in activities that interfere with the lives of others” jibes with your interest in local politics. In most elections, about half the people disagree with you, and depending on the local government style, you will at some point have some sort of public disagreement with someone else.

  30. Alexandra says:

    I am with you, Trent. I don’t like confrontation. Some people really like to make a scene. I cannot stand that. I understand that sometimes it is necessary to make a fuss to right an obvious wrong. But I would not care to have young children see me having a temper tantrum in a store. I don’t think Trent means that if other people were single and childless, they wouldn’t think of things to do. I think he’s talking about himself (based on previous posts, this is how he had lived his life). There IS something about parenting that does make you think about time seriously–at least, it should.

  31. jc says:

    Jill>> you’ve caught him assuming that only married people raise children. thanks for the reminder that single people raise kids, too, and it’s more than twice as difficult. but in fairness to Trent, I think he meant “if I were STILL single” since he has no personal experience with raising kids by himself.

    I think part of the disagreement here is that none of us saw the “scene” being caused at the register. Trent shared a moment with a cash register clerk, and it made him think further about “how much is my time really worth?” I don’t see how any of you can fault him for giving a subjective assessment of that, but some of you are apparently so jonesing for an (electronic) confrontation that you’ll start one for free!

    rpw>> your “bottom line” frugality is particularly absurd. none of us is that rational in the pursuit of maximizing $/hr. or how else do you explain so many of us wasting our time leaving comments on a blog that you obviously ought to just stop reading if it’s so lacking in credibility?

  32. Blou says:

    “…many of those things have more flexibility because they don’t affect the schedules and needs of others as much.”

    Being single does not equal not having important, meaningful relationships with other people to whom we have responsibilities. Why does being single mean my time between 4 and 8 pm each weekday is any less sacred than yours because you’re married?

    Single people have parents, siblings, friends, significant others, perhaps children. All of these are relationships that are just as valid as a spouse.

    I appreciate your blog and your keen insights on the value of a dollar. I can do without your opinions about the value of my time as a single person.

  33. Mark says:

    Lighten up. Some of you are acting like we are debating the end of the world here. Attacking Trent for his opinion is saying more about you then him.

    I want to say one thing to Nowooski though. Isn’t it a privilege to use a credit card at a store? You present it like it is your God given right.

  34. @Barb: Look, I don’t think Trent is “getting at” single people at all. He’s married and that’s what he knows about. He’s only ever properly looked at personal finance and frugality in the context of his married life. Sure he was single once, but looking back on something and trying to think about life changes you could have made is nothing compared to have to make them while living that life. I wish people would just back off and stop accusing Trent of singles-bashing. He’s writing, as it were, to himself. His archetype. Which is a married man. If I were a single man living in the US, would you expect me to write articulately about married life in China? No, of course not.

  35. You are touching on the old time vs. money debate. Which is more valuable?

    If you think about it, you will realize the answer is time. The sad part, is that people squander time more than they squander money. As an example, just think TV . . .

    Time is more valuable because you only get so much of it– time ticks away and is gone forever. Think of time as a decaying asset. Money on the other hand, can made and remade.

    Time should be guarded and used sparingly.

  36. Jeanine says:

    Great article Trent, My gardening hobby not only supplements our diet, but it’s a stress reducer and exercise for me. It feels good to raise fruits and vegetables for my family and my son plants his own corn for us. You can’t trade that for any money.

  37. J says:

    @Jeanie – Corn is something like $1/cob at our grocery store, and other fruits and vegetables are also available. We also signed up with a CSA this year. But then again, I don’t like gardening, so I gladly trade my money for fully grown food. :)

    @Mark – if a merchant accepts a credit card, they are supposed to accept it for ANY amount without requiring a minimum purchase amount. For instance, from MasterCard’s site (http://www.mastercard.com/us/business/en/common/faq.html#211):

    Q: Can a merchant charge me a fee to use my MasterCard card? Can a merchant require a minimum purchase amount to use my MasterCard card?
    A: The answer to the first question is almost never; the answer to the second question is not ever. (and there’s more — follow the link to read it all)

    The other card issuers have similar terms.

  38. @Mark It can be considered a privilege to use a credit card at a store, but the fact is that Visa & MasterCard’s contracts with stores stipulate that you cannot enforce a minimum purchase amount for credit card charges (the rules are different for AmEx & Discover). Stores want to set a minimum because they have to pay a fee to Visa/MC to charge the order and thus make less on the transaction than if you’d paid cash, but technically they can only ask nicely that you pay cash for small transactions. If they demand it, then they are technically in the wrong (for Visa/MC, anyway).


  39. J says:

    @Troy – I disagree. One of the most valuable lesson you can teach anyone is how to effectively escalate an issue to reach (hopefully) a desired conclusion. The most effective way to do this is to remain calm and collected, and treat the other party with respect. Yelling, making a scene, insulting or angering the other party will likely just result in everyone getting angry.

    Note that I’m not saying to walk away — stand your ground, by all means. Use terms like “unacceptable” when the resolution is not one you like. If the person you are talking with becomes angry, ask for their supervisor/manager calmly. When the manager comes, talk with them in the same way. If the manager can’t help you, ask for their manager, or their manager’s contact information. Repeat up the chain until you get to the owner or CEO.

    Of course, at some point this will become a waste of everyone’s time and you might want to drop it — but I’ve found that most businesses respond to the rational and calm approach rather than the angry one. If I have an option to use another business, I’ll inform them that I am doing so, and if applicable I will also write a complaint to the BBB and (again, if applicable) file a complaint with the state Attorney General. I’ve had to use the Attorney General route once for a business that would not stop charging me for a canceled service.

    Also, in some cases I’ve had to deal with a business that was the sole source of what I was looking for, or was the only approved supplier my company worked with — so walking away was not an option, I needed equipment working from that supplier to get my job done, and I had to get it done on time.

  40. mary says:

    I agree with J, just “where has customer service gone?”. If you were rightfully entitled to the $10.00, then not fighting for it is telling the other side you are willing to not fight for it. In the corporate world, this all they need for their analysts to do an analysis report telling directors that the trend is that people “as a whole” won’t fight for justice. I personally don’t think we should have to fight for customer service…what happened to companies actually wanting to keep their customers??? This is one of the reasons customer service has gotten as bad as it has. The attitude of “Oh, I’ll just give in…Who cares about a little bit of money, I can’t do anything about it anyway.” We are wondering why this country, our economy, and customer service is going downhill so fast, we not look farther than our own individual actions….admittedly mine included at times.

  41. Beth says:

    Nowooski, stores are charged a flat fee plus a percentage of the purchase each time someone uses a credit card. IF you want to put $3 on your credit card, then the store hardly makes any profit on the item you’re buying. They would be better off if you didn’t make the purchase at all so someone else could pay cash for it or buy it as part of a larger purchase where the margins aren’t so close.

    Trent, you’re totally out of touch with the members of your audience who are single. It’s people like you who make it hard to be single because we’re constantly being judged and looked down on as somehow “less than” people who are married.

    Just because we’re not working around children’s soccer games or bed times doesn’t mean we don’t have obligations like volunteer work, church, family, work, sports, etc. Your readers keep telling you this, but you just aren’t getting the point. I don’t see you making discriminatory comments based on race, weight, religion or ethnicity, so why are you making them about single people? (World of Warcraft indeed!)

  42. JB says:

    For me personally, after having a negative confrontation experience with customer service, I usually take a while to calm down and vent about the experience. While I may have saved some money or felt personally justified by the experience, I am often not in a good mood to deal with my family immediately after such an encounter. Sometimes, I find myself avoiding getting into such a situation to begin with because I want to be my best self when I’m around those that I care for, regardless of the potential savings.

  43. Tyler says:

    @Nowooski and @Beth and @Mark:

    Businesses that require a minimum dollar amount to use a credit card (i.e. a minimum $5 purchase) are violating their agreement/contract with the credit card companies – the contracts explicitly say there is no minimum purchase amount required, so you could buy a couple Tootsie Rolls and should be able to pay by credit card. The credit card companies request that you let them know of any businesses violating these agreements so the situation can be corrected.

    As it relates to the single vs. married and no children vs. children debate, I’m curious what people would think of my situation – I’m engaged, buy my fiancée and I live 1000 miles apart right now (I’m working, she’s in school.) A plane ticket is roughly $500 roundtrip. How should I be valuing my time? Should I spend the money to visit her more frequently than I do (once every two months), knowing it requires the cost of vacation from work in addition to the plane ticket? Should I be working as much as possible (and thus not enjoying my remaining “single time” at all) to accumulate savings before we both live in the same place?

  44. J says:

    @Beth: When a store accepts a credit card, they agree with the card issuer (MC, Visa, Amex, Discover) that they will not charge fees or require a minimum purchase from their customers. If they don’t want to incur these fees, they are free not to accept credit cards, accept only debit cards, accept only cash, accept only checks, etc.

    Of course, a lot of research shows that people who use credit cards spend more than people with cash, so if I was a merchant I’d happily ring up those sales.

  45. tightwadfan says:

    I feel the same way – there are some activities I would spend 20 minutes on to save $10 and some I wouldn’t.

    I might engage in a confrontation at a store depending on what’s involved. I have done this in order to get full refunds that stores were balking on for defective appliances. Then I took my money to other appliance stores and never shopped at the bad stores again.

    I certainly wouldn’t spend 20 minutes holding up a checkout line in order to drop $50 on two crappy, made-in-China, Target stools. In fact I can’t think of any confrontation it would be worth getting involved in that would end with me giving, not getting back, my money from a store.

    Why does anybody think they are teaching Target some kind of lesson here? Hey everybody, Target got $50 of your hard-earned cash even if you “won” the confrontation. They won’t change as long as they’re getting your money.

    The only “lesson” Target learned is that you’ll allow them to treat you like dirt for $10 “savings”. No thanks, I’ll take my money and to a store that will treat me right.

  46. Mister E says:

    For being so fullfilled and confident with their lives a lot of these single people sure do seem touchy. Just saying.

    For what it’s worth I’ve been living common law for a few years with no kids yet. But I certainly imagine that when we do have kids my time will be at a much higher premium than it is now. Now I get to do more or less what I want, I keep myself pretty busy between classes, Toastmasters, side projects through work and going to the gym – it’s not like I’m just going home to World of Warcraft, but when I have kids all of that stuff I do to keep myself busy will become stuff I MIGHT get to do IF I have time because my kids will dictate a lot of my time FOR me. There’s nothing in the world wrong with being single at all but at the very least childless folk (like me) can’t compare their lives with people who have kids because we’ve never been there. Trent has been single and now is married with kids and can accurately compare the two, in his case at any rate. Can we all just agree that he finds his time to be at more of a premium now then it was pre-wife and kids and not take every statement as a personal attack on the childless?

    I’d still fight for the $10 though and I think I’d be doing my (theoretical) children more of a favour by showing them how to effectively manage a confrontation when you are the wronged party than to just suggest that confrontation should be avoided at all times which is complete and utter nonsense. There are certainly confrontations in life that should

    If the store was COMPLETELY unresponsive then I would leave and write a couple of letters and if that accomplished nothing THEN I would start avoiding the store and encouraging others to as well.

  47. Kathy says:

    I too picked up on the mis-match of the value you placed re money saved by confronting Target vs making your own soap. And… I wondered whether people making $10 an hour would feel slapped/”dogged” by your post.

    Thanks for clarifying your position in this response. I enjoy your thoughtful approaches to frugality, but I enjoy your approach to creating quality family life even more.


  48. Judy M says:

    I’m single, and I value my time as much as anyone with children. It’s VERY insulting for you to imply that my time isn’t as valuable as yours.

    I’m a new reader of your blog, and if this “dogging” of single people is a recurring theme in your column I will be unsubscribing rather quickly.

  49. Kelly says:

    “For being so fullfilled and confident with their lives a lot of these single people sure do seem touchy. Just saying.”

    @Mister E:

    Nah, just tired of being told by the world we’re somehow less important because there is not spawn bearing our genes. FWIW, my mom couldn’t have children for YEARS. She’d argue that the years she spent single, then married without children, were just as fulfilled as the days with us rugrats. No, I don’t get offended by that or see a therapist ;)

    I said on the earlier post that yes, Trent has the right to view time differently now that he has children. But come on, just because I don’t have a bedtime story to read doesn’t mean I value my time less than Trent. I work 3 jobs, freelance, write a blog, maintain my home, see friends, volunteer and care for my grandfather. But I don’t sit around and whine that my time is more important because my grandpa has, realistically, less time left than someone’s kid.

    Trent: if you’re going to make this a married person with kids blog let me know. Otherwise TRY to relate to your unmarried and/or childless readers. Did your survey tell you how many of us there are?

  50. Valerie says:

    What creeps me out about the comments is how many people get critical not because they think your articles are incorrect, or immoral, but because you aren’t them.

    I really wish some of them would get their own blogs, instead of expecting other people to write their stories for them, as it were. It would be healthier, and less annoying.

    Or I guess I could jump on the bandwagon and complain that you’re always writing from a man’s point of view instead of a woman’s, and therefor you’re insulting me, or somesuch foolishness!

  51. Jon says:

    I can see how single people might take offense to the comments made by Trent. However, his comments only point out the types of things that HE would do if he was single (they start with the word “I”), not necessarily the activities of all who are single.

    We all know that those who are single can be and probably are more busy than those who are married. They also probably have just as many strict time requirements and responsibilities on their schedules that those who are married with kids do.

    To me Trent is saying that if he were single then his free time would be mostly void of activities that he deemed highly time sensitive or time valuable. That is his personal choice, and one that it appears many readers would not choose to engage in.

  52. J says:

    An enterprising frugal single person could get quite a start since “thesingledollar.com” is still wide open as a domain name. You heard it here first, and don’t forget your good buddy J when you make a fortune :). Unfortunately I couldn’t do it myself since I’m not only married, but also have two kids.

  53. Beth says:

    I appreciate Trent’s point of view as a father and husband. I can learn a lot from his point of view because it’s different from my own. A lot of people had to have kids and spouses before they learned how to be frugal. I don’t expect writers to write “for me”. I’m smart enough to take good advice when I find it and adapt it to my own circumstances.

    However, the point is that Trent can be a father and a husband without putting down other people to make his point. If he was a Christian putting down Jews or Muslims, a “white” person putting down a “black” person, a man being disparaging to women, or a thin person making fun of someone overweight, I doubt people would be so quick to say “oh lighten up.”

    But I think there’s an interesting lesson in this. Perhaps we’re as judgmental about how other people spend their time as we are how they spend their money?

  54. Mister E says:

    I do see how single or childless people could have trouble relating to some of the things that appear in this blog and I do sympathize – I’m currently childless myself and at an age (30ish) that a lot of people I know are having babies and asking me (over and over!) when we’ll be next. My girlfriend has actually had one of her friends tell her that she had better get pregnant now because she (the friend) is having her second and last and my girlfriend won’t want to be pregnant alone. I am also keenly aware of the attitude of some parents that their status as parents makes them and their needs more important than me and my needs in every conceivable way. It sucks. On the flip side I’ve also heard more than a few childless people refer to people with kids as “breeders” or something similar with a sneer and that’s really not very nice either.

    But at the end of the day this is Trent’s blog and he is a college educated, straight, married man with children in his early 30’s (I think?) living in a rural setting and working from home. As such he writes from that point of view and the further you are from that template the less you will be able to relate to the personal side of his posts.

    If the reader is a high school dropout, gay, single woman with no children in her late 50’s, living in the city and working in retail there is bound to be a slight disconnect.

    There is certainly wisdom contained in most of his posts that is applicable to almost anyone but the personal anecdotes and subjective opinions will not and can not apply to all.

    If your personal situation strays wildly from the author’s you must either find someone closer to your own situation to read or understand and accept that not everything he says on the personal side will apply to you and just take away the parts that do. I don’t think his intention is to say that YOUR life must be empty if you’re childless, but maybe his was at least comparatively so.

    If I was reading a personal finance blog written by the 50-something lesbian I would take it as par for the course that she would say some things that I, as a 30ish straight man, would have trouble relating to but I wouldn’t take her every comment as a judgement of me and my lifestyle.

    If tomorrow’s post is titled “Children: If You Don’t Have Them You’re a Loser Living an Empty, Unfullfilled Life” then count me among the outraged but until then I really do think people are over reacting.

  55. Another Beth says:

    Perhaps we’re missing the point here? Is it really about time or about confrontation? A lot of the comments from people who say they would fight it based their decision on principle and not on how much their time is or isn’t worth. It seems to me that it’s not a question of “is $10 worth my time” as it is “is ten dollars worth getting into a fight over”?

    Some people will fight over little things, and some people won’t. I don’t think it’s a matter of how much your time is worth so much as it is how comfortable you are engaging in confrontation.

  56. Chiara says:

    LOL, Valerie! Yeah, what about my perspective as a stay-at-home mom?! Oh, right, that’s in a million other blogs. :) People write what they know and what’s great about the comments is that everyone can add their own perspective.

    When I was single, I was ridiculously busy, always running from full-time job to class to lessons and whatever else for YEARS. I did the swoop in/change clothes/swoop out thing at my apartment all the time.

    These days I feel like I’ve got nothing but time. I would and have burned up time working on getting some shopping thing corrected, either when I have a small child attached to my hip all day or when I head out for some peaceful alone shopping time. But I would never call this kind of thing a confrontation – I can’t imagine what would inspire me to cause an actual SCENE in a store and (having worked in customer service) would be suspicious of the motives of anyone who did.

  57. Johanna says:

    I confess I haven’t noticed Trent “putting down” single people so much as making sweeping generalizations of the form “XYZ only matters to married people with kids. To single people without kids, it doesn’t matter.” Sometimes those generalizations have some truth to them (single people without kids generally don’t need life insurance, for example), and that’s fine.

    But other times, they seem to be based on the difference between Trent’s own experience as a married parent versus his experience as a single non-parent, and here he needs to realize that factors other than marriage and parenthood may be in play. For example, there was the assertion a while back that having kids saves you $6000 of your food and entertainment budget because instead of eating out and going to the movies all the time, you stay home and play with your kids. The problem is that plenty of non-parents (including most of the ones who read this blog, probably) *don’t* eat out and go to the movies all the time.

    It sounds like for Trent, having kids had a lot to do with his “conversion” to frugality and his finding meaning in his life. And again, that’s fine. But it’s possible, I think, that even if he hadn’t had kids, he would still have grown and changed and had a financial turnaround and found meaning in his life. So that’s why it rubs me a little bit the wrong way when he says things like “If I were single, all I’d worry about is how soon I could get home to play computer games.” Maybe he means that *when* he was single, all he worried about was how soon he could get home to play computer games. But who’s to say that he’d still be living that kind of life if he’d never married or had kids?

  58. Lisa says:

    I think everyone agrees that not all time is equal in value. Include me in the group that see the Primary issue in this scenario as politely standing up for yourself (or not). We don’t all live in SprawlWorld and can just choose another big box. Dealing with an issue when you are wronged is something most of us will have to deal with in our lives. It could be a co-worker, bog box, boss, wife, landlord, etc. There is help for those with conflict/confrontation phobia.

  59. IRG says:

    Mister E writes:
    “For being so fulfilled and confident with their lives a lot of these single people sure do seem touchy. Just saying.”

    Gee, how is it when single people take the time to comment here they are being touchy? But that’s not the case for all the married, common law, etc. (and other than single with no kids)who comment here?

    Double standard. Which, I think, is what many single people were responding too. We live with it. A lot.

    Our time is as valuable to us as yours is to you as a father, mother, etc. And while I would not choose to spend mine online playing games, hey, that’s not my business how someone else spends their time.

    and if you think some of us are snippy here, you should try the workplace where many of us frequently have to cover for co-workers with kids who are sick, at games, etc. and parents have to leave.

    Nobody says nada to them. Being a parent is so virtuous. (Even when, as we often find out, those same parents have lied and have NOT left to attend a family event or take care of a sick child!)

    Being single with no kids in the world dominated by “traditional” families and single parent families? It’s like we are considered selfish (for NOT having kids and/or being married) and our time is NOT as valuable as theirs. So, of course, we’ve got NOTHING else to do but stay late at work while the parents MUST leave early.

    Again, double standard.

    That’s our issue.

  60. Jim says:

    Its certainly true that not all of our time is equal. And its OK if Trent or anyone else prefers to save money doing one thing more than another thing. I’d rather spend 20 minutes to get $10 that a store owes me than spend 20 minutes making soap that I can buy at a store. Its OK that Trent and I disagree on that.

    Asking a store to honor a raincheck isn’t a confrontation and its not your fault if the people in line behind you are inconvenienced. Is it OK to inconvenience the people in line behind you by using a big pile of coupons?

    Generalizations about being single will come across as offensive. If Trent means “nothing better to do than play World of Warcraft” then he should say so rather than “single”. The 2 are not equivalent for most of us. Its no better to say “if I were single” than “if I were old” or “if I were a housewife”.

  61. J says:

    @IRG – I’d really suggest figuring out some positive channels for the anger you have towards parents.

    Perhaps you should speak up to your management and get some equal time for you to do single person things? Comp time for when you work late / cover for someone else? If you are happy to be the doormat and allow people to walk over you, then people will continue to do so. Stand up for what you deserve rather than grumbling on comment sections of Internet blogs. Maybe you can say “no” to working late when asked and/or covering for people who are sick? You could just as well say “I’ve got plans after work” or “I’ve got a family event” and turn down the work.

    Keep in mind, though, that you are likely getting recognition for working late and covering, and getting a reputation as a “go-to person”, while the people who are taking off to deal with their kids are likely getting a far different reputation — perhaps “unreliable” or “not a team member”. I hope the person who lied about having to deal with a sick child is getting a reputation that will get them to the head of the layoff/firing line.

    As a parent (and previously single person), I will make up time off work that I need to miss by working late another day, working a night or on the weekend (I can work from home). I really agree with you that parents who use their kids as excuses to get out of work (and expect it to not take sick/vacation time) are really not being fair to their co-workers … and lying … well, that’s just plain wrong.

    I realize that I did make a choice to become a parent, and I certainly am not consciously leaning on other people at work because of that choice. But on your terms, am I allowed to be mad when I have to cover for some single person who closed the bar last night and is sleeping under their desk? Or who stayed up late playing video games? People (single, married, parents) all have good days and bad days. I’ve had to cover for plenty of unmarried, childless folks when they didn’t come in for some reason, too.

  62. Nik says:

    @35 It isn’t quite as distasteful as those who call everyone who doesn’t fall on hands and knees in praise of the author’s remarks that deride those that don’t have a whole brood of mouths to feed “creepy” and “unhealthy.”

    I’ve said in the past that I enjoy your personal commentary, Trent. If you can’t admit that you stuck your foot in your mouth and choose to hide behind your “family values” when called to task, don’t cry when people take exception to it. You can also “negatively impact the lives of others” by being a self-involved individual that refuses to see that there is a world beyond the family room and encouraging others to do so.

  63. PML says:

    All time is not created equal, but all time flies equally, except when your doing something that is no fun.

  64. Bill in Houston says:

    Trent: You said, “I don’t enjoy engaging in activities that interfere with the lives of others.”

    Neither do I. When this presents itself I usually say, “May I speak with a manager about this? I don’t want to hold up the folks in line behind me.”

    The cashier is nearly always happy and cheerful to do this because… they don’t have to deal with me. The folks behind me are nearly always grateful because I’m not holding them up. I would get my ten bucks. Win-win-win!

    It is worth your time if you handle it right. It took me a while, but I did.

  65. Sally says:

    Obviously singles, marrieds, with-kids, and without kids all have different values – some take advantage at the workplace and some don’t – no matter what their “status”

  66. Oh for gosh sake, gigantic eyeroll. Thanks for the suggestion that http://www.thesingledollar.com is still available. The great thing about blogs is that anyone can start one. So let’s see you go out and see how well you do at not offending anyone’s hyper-inflamed sensitivities. Betcha can’t do it! Thanks for the post Trent, it was thoughtful and measured.

  67. Sara says:

    I have been single, been married, been married with a child, then divorced and raising the child alone. Now the child is grown and once again I am alone–so i guess i can relate to everyone. I don’t think that an insisting (politely, of course) that a store–any store–honor its commitment is being “confrontational.” I would have been ashamed for my son to see me not stand up for my raincheck price and if I had stood behind someone who just gave up, I would have explained to my son, once we were out of the store, why it’s important to be assertive and get what was promised. Why should the fact that it was “only” $10 make any difference?

  68. Shilo says:

    regarding website building:

    wordpress.com is not the only wordpress option.
    Wordpress.ORG is also free, very similar and easy to .com and you can run ads on it. There are hundreds of thousands of theme options and ways to customize it.
    the downside is, you generally have to get it externally hosted and they make you pull a bit more weight in the site design. thankfully css and php tutorials abound for free on the internet. it only takes an effort.

  69. Sharon says:

    Some people have difficulty distinguishing between assertiveness and aggression, and see any assertive discussion as a “confrontation” and “making a scene.” Assuming that the lady with the raincheck started by asking politely and was forced to escalate things by unreasonable responses, it was simply standing up for what she was entitled to. That is a good lesson for children and passive-aggressive adults as well.

    Could she have asked to speak to a manager and/or gone to the customer “service” desk? Sure. But how did she know it was going to esclate? How did she know she was dealing with idiots when she started?

    When we stand up for our rights, we have no way to know how the interaction is going to go. (Unless you are dealing with a health insurance company. Then it is a given that they will be unreasonable.) If we start out and remain polite, and reasonable, it becomes clear to any onlookers who is the one in the right. Failing to stand up for ourselves because we fear that the other party will become unreasonable is giving them complete power over us.

    I had to learn as I matured that there are times when assertiveness, confrontation and even making scenes is important to do sometimes. I don’t just stand up for myself. I stand up for the others who cannot or will not do it for themselves.

    Ultimately, I know what my intention was and that I was in the right. If someone else decides that I am in the wrong, oh well. That is because they don’t have all the information.

    Incidently, this ties into the calling for a public apology after a public accusation. If you don’t answer a public charge publically, or have it retracted, others assume that the charge is accurate and you didn’t rebut it for that reason. This then erodes into your relationships with others as they look for things to confirm their assumption.

    Being assertive simply means asking for what is yours, either a thing, service, or respect, without trampling on the rights of others. You are only responsible for your own actions; nobody can “make” anyone else do something. Being assertive doesn’t create a confrontation or even a scene. Unreasonable responses do.

  70. lgt says:

    I used to really enjoy this blog when it was about saving money and living a simplified life. Now it is a blog about family values and the wonders of raising kids. As a single person living in nyc (who has never played world of warcraft or any other role playing game…) I don’t really resonate with most of the articles anymore and I have removed myself from the mailing list, but still check occasionally to see if any interesting articles have been posted.

    That being said, perhaps some of the disconnect is that the articles have become much more provincial in their tone and world view than they used to be. Trent, you may want to avoid arguing and conflict and spend all your time working in your rural home and spending time with your family and preaching the virtues of both of your choices. Good for you, I applaud your decisions, but your choice to work out of your farmhouse has made you more dissconnected from the rest of us and made your views provincial.

    Imagine you came to nyc for a visit to promote your book or blog and got into a long cab line where people kept cutting if front of you, but you said nothing. Then you got into a cab where you were overcharged by the cab driver (who blasted loud music and talked on his cell phone the whole ride) but you said nothing. You would have already lost time and money before you even got to the hotel, and your trip is just beginning.

    Now imagine you get to the hotel and they have messed up your reservation and the only category of room they have available is 50 dollars a night more. (this is not an uncommon occurance in nyc at all) Do you fight or spend the money? How much do you fight? Let’s say there is a line behind you and you decide not to fight, you get to your overpriced double bed room on the third floor (you wanted the 50th floor and a king bed) and you can hear the loud music and laughter from a party directly below you (it’s the world of warcraft club’s singles night at the bar and all the singles are out partying…) You ignore the noise and hook up your laptop to check your email. The internet connection you just paid twenty five dollars for just went dead. You do not call the front desk to complain or get a refund though because you hate confrontation. Anyway you get the point…. In most places that are not rural people have to be assertive to save both money and time. If you choose not to do that then you will have a miserable and expensive experience in those places.

    Just my opinion….


  71. Sharon says:

    Igt, it is ironic that you post. Moving from Colorado to NYC is exactly where I learned the need to be assertive on a regular basis!

  72. wren says:

    Wow people, internalize much? Just for kicks, I started counting personal pronouns, separating them into the I/me/my etc pile and the you/your pile. I stopped counting the I pile at 50, and the you pile got up to about 3. Yet, from reading the comments alone, a new reader might think that all Trent talked about in this post was YOU! I’ve been single and married, and can attest to busy times and wasted time in both circumstances, as I have no doubt WE all can. Anyone who claims that they never waste a moment of their precious time is lying. You might not have played WoW, SWG, EQ II, or any of the others, but you’ve wasted time, or otherwise spent it in a way that someone else might not.

    Please get over the idea that every post must fit your exact needs and take them for what they are… glimpses into one way of doing things that may, or may not, reflect or work for you. Otherwise the bleh that comes out here might just start spilling over into your precious life.

  73. Sunit says:


    I usually just read these posts without commenting, but this time I wanted to say that the first section about time really cleared up some dissonant thoughts within myself. Thanks loads!

    Sidenote: Couldn’t help but smile when hearing about you and Rubik’s cube. I too had the desire to learn it (November 08), picked up the beginner method and now the Fridrich. Whole month of practise until I went below a minute if I remember. (at least an hour a day) Good luck!

  74. Bill in Houston says:

    Um, wren… people use “I” when they write about personal experiences.

    I don’t know anyone who has said that every post must fit their exact need. Aren’t you being a bit overreaching here? Relax. All is well. The force is in balance. Ahhhhh, Darvocet.

  75. reulte says:

    J (#37) … thesingledollar.com – that idea just delights me! Unfortunately, I don’t think most of the singles here would consider me ‘single’ since I do have a 6 year old. Maybe, I could go for thenot-quite-singledollar.com! :-)

  76. Sierra says:

    I love the point that not all time is created equal: some of my time is certainly worth more than other time.

    For me, however, one of the most important lessons in frugality is that I have to do things I don’t like out of respect for my budget. Sometimes this means slaving over a byzantine rebate form instead of just paying for the new appliance and forgetting about it. Sometimes it means requesting a refund or price correction at a store when I just want to get through the line and be done with it. Sometimes it means spending an evening balancing my finances instead of watching a movie with my partner.

    I used to blow off the unpleasant sides of personal finance all the time. I’d spend hours every week baking my own bread, but would forget to pay bills and get slapped with $40 late fees. I had to learn the hard way that it is worth my time to do the grunt work as well as the fun stuff.

  77. LindaB says:

    lgt, love your post. I never lived in NYC, but had to up my assertiveness level just hold my own when we moved from SoCal to Long Island. Sometimes, just to get a parking spot in a shopping center I had to act like I was willing to run into more aggressive drivers. And of course when in doubt, honk your car horn!

    After living on Long Island, NY we’ve moved to a small town in NE Texas. I’ve had to adjust my behavior once again in an attempt to fit in.

  78. wren says:

    @bill in houston – If you look at some of the comments, people are saying that every post must fit their exact need. Because Trent talks more about TP use, or how important his kids are to him, they just don’t get it anymore. Because he talks about what he would do in situation A or B or C, and it’s not exactly what they would do, then he must be wrong. I find it amusing, and so no, I don’t think I’m overreaching. Pity though, overreaching is a good bit of exercise, and I can always use a new cardio bit to add to my others: pushing my luck, jumping to conclusions, and flying off the handle. :D

    No, the Force isn’t in balance yet… but it will be. No darvocet necessary. Chocolate…

  79. Bill in Houston says:

    Chocolate’s good, too.

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