This week I have been thinking a lot about the value we place on our time.
The other day I found myself in a tiny north east town in Scotland, an hour early for a meeting. Having driven for 4 hours straight to get there, not to put too fine a point on it, I was searching for a toilet.
The obvious places did not presenting themselves so I decided to see if such things as public toilets still exist. I was duly directed to one, about 2 minutes walk away, but when I got there it required a 20p piece to open the door - I shook my pockets dry and turned out pounds and 50s but the 20p eluded me. Stuck, I asked a couple of locals if they had change. The woman produced a single 20p leaving me with the only option but to offer her 50p for the 20p just to get into the toilet. As it happens she did not leave me with that option, saying instead that it "would be crazy to waste 20p when there is a free toilet in Tescos" as she put the money away.
Of course, this being a tiny town there was a giant Tesco, I should have realised.
I made the decision not to argue and take the advice. So where is the Tesco I asked:"Oh, turn right, then go though over the grass, beside the old bakers, past the large park, through the trees and then you will see it. About 10 minutes walk or so". 10 minutes walk to save 20p.
That is the point. I was quite happy to spend 50p for the pleasure of using the facilities there and then, probably more. Walking for 10 minutes there and 10 minutes back was an added dimension that sounded like a bad deal. As I followed the Narnian directions my mind turned to think about value.
This was saving me a penny a minute. A measly penny.
Should that matter? The time was my own, I was not due anywhere for an hour so the money saving walk was not conflicting with responsibilities. It reminded me of the scenario we all experience when trying to save money - the true value and how intrinsically this is related to scale.
What I mean is that if you were buying something for a pound you might go to the shop next door if the same item was 80p, saving 20p is valuable in the scale of that transaction and yet how much would you have to save when buying a car for you to cross the road to a rival dealer - a lot more than 20p I imagine. We seem to use scale to determine true value when saving money but this seems to me to be the wrong equation and thinking more deeply about it made me question other areas of life where a quick discount is perceived to be paramount VS true value - such as furiously lane swapping on a congested motorway to save 5 minutes, but finishing the drive feeling stressed, or a worse outcome. How does the perception of time and value become hardwired?
Thoughts, feelings, criticism @markofrespect on Twitter, or below.
Quotes from comments that made me think:
"Time spend with loved ones is infinitly more valuable than what my employer pays me" @drop4three
I couldn't afford fancy bread this week but I can apparently afford to pay £22 + booking fee to watch Leeds vs Spurs. FletchtheMonkey (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Maybe people should better evaluate the genuinely precious times in their lives, the beer with an old friend, the family meals and the spontaneous affection, rather than incorrectly banking a cheap relationship 'cashback'. @pyllon
So....did you pee yourself or not?!? Bryan Campbell (email@example.com)
Money and time are illusions man made constructs to order our society. Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Case in point, I had to collect a (free) prescription for paracetamol from a doctor (60 tabs). The surgery was 20 minutes away (each way). I was passing a Tesco and got 64 paracetamol for 48p. I came to the conclusion that even *I* value my time at more than 1p a minute! Richard (email@example.com)