23 February 2011


Time is Money

When I was little, one of my dad's favorite phrases was, "I could make that."  We would see something cool, and my dad would inevitably be able to make that something, only better.  A lot of times, he did.  Sometimes not (sorry dad, I'm thinking of the chair frame garage shelves).  

Well, I think I inherited the do-it-yourself gene from my dad.  I often see something and imagine how much money I could save by just doing it myself.  Halloween costumes, check.  Pillow cases, check.  Loaves of bread, check.

I would not describe myself as cheap; there are plenty of things I am happy to pay good money for (pedicures, babysitters, chocolate to name a few).  I guess I would call it being frugal.  

But as my life gets more and more chaotic with all these crazy kids running around, I'm finally learning to strike somewhat of a balance.  My secret?  I view my time as a commodity worth at least as much as my money.  Yeah, yeah, we all do that.  No great revelation.  But seriously, it's taken me 34 years to actually put this into practice.  Even though I know time is valuable, even though I know time is something I can't get back, I'm not convinced I do a very good job of protecting it.

So, whenever I am tempted to forego store bought and Do-It-Myself, I ask myself these questions:

Will it save me money?
Is the ready-made version more harmful to my family?
How much time will it realistically take?
Are the required supplies easily obtainable?
Will the homemade version work as well as store bought?

Not a perfect system, but it usually works.  I've had a couple failures.  For instance, cleaning supplies is a no-brainer for me.  I make all of our cleaners and laundry soap.  My one exception is dishwasher detergent.  I tried, but the cost saving was nominal, and it just didn't do a very good job at washing my dishes.  

Another exception is soap.  I like Dr. Bronner's soaps.  They are chemical free and able to do multiple jobs.  Not the cheapest soaps on the market, but I am unwilling at this point to invest my time in making homemade soap, so I choose to accept the price difference and buy these soaps.  One way I am saving money is by using this same soap for hand soap, body soap, and even a mild cleaner.  

I choose to make our bread because it tastes infinitely better than store bought bread.  I found a very simple method, so it is not a huge time investment.  

What's next on my time vs money experiment?  mayonnaise, butter, and *gasp* deodorant.  We'll also be trying our hands at container gardening this spring and summer.  

Time is not retrievable.  But some things are worth the investment, especially for the health and safety of my family.  The system is always a work in progress, but so far the experimentation has been fun, for all of us.

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