Am I Saving Money – Or Just Wasting My Time?

Following the theme of time-management in previous posts about paying myself first with my time, I wanted to discuss something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately:

Are some of the things we do to save money…  really just wasting our time?

Here’s a simple example – something I did one time when I was also doing a time log.

For a couple months I wrote down how long it took to fill up my car at two different gas stations – and today, I want to show you my results.

Gas Prices Versus Extra Time

I tracked how long it took me to fill up my car at

  1. Costco: where gas is relatively cheap, but often has a line. 
  2. Chevron: where gas is more expensive, but I’ve never had to wait.

I also tracked how much the gas costs, and the difference is pretty consistently about 4% (exact numbers below)

Here is what I found:

Data and Calculations:

  • Costco Price: $3.849 per gallon = $3.74 after Amex 3% off
  • Chevron price: $4.079 per gallon = $3.96 after Amex 3% off
  • 12.72 gallons filled
  • At Costco: 15 Minutes of waiting to use the pump.  
  • $0.22 difference in price per gallon
  • Total Savings at Costco:  $2.84

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Is It Worth The Time?

Let’s assume that the only extra time is the time spent waiting in line.  Since I am paying with post-tax dollars, I will consider the amount of pre-tax dollars I need to earn for the difference in price as well. I’ll go with a marginal tax rate of about 30%.  For $2.84 saved per trip:

  • I spend an extra 15 minutes
  • I save about $11.35 per hour.
  • This is the equivalent of earning about $16 per hour


How about those with SUVs and Minivans?

SUVs and Minivans:

  • About 21 gallon tanks
  • They are likely saving as much as $4.69 per  fillup
  • This works out to saving about $18.74 per hour
  • This is the equivalent of earning about $25 an hour.

Depending on who you are, it may or may not be worth it. 

In my case, I’m not really saving any money – if I sit in a long line to save a few cents on gas, I’m just wasting my time.

This About More Than Gas

Now, I’ve used gas in this article as an example – but the truth is, this is more than just about gas.

This is about a mindset of analyzing where your time really goes.  I no longer worry about saving money on gas, because I’m looking at how much it costs me in time

Once I started thinking like this, it’s what led me to some other interesting experiments in my life where I began trading money for more time. 

And if you haven’t started it already, I encourage you to see where your time goes – do a time log

Track everything – and maybe you’ll find your own example of something where saving money is more expensive than you think!

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