(Author's note: "The original title 'Time is Money' has been shortened in the interest of saving both time and money.")
"Time is money," my ex-wife used to say, mostly when she wanted me to go out and get a second job and usually from her command post on the couch. But I suspect that was so she wouldn't have to get off the couch and find a first job. Another favorite saying that rings around in my brain is the one that friends often used to console me during the long and costly divorce proceedings: "They can't get blood from a stone."
The truth, I have discovered, lies somewhere between the two.
In order to accurately determine exactly how much my time was worth and establish a workable "Time to Money" ratio, I first had to calculate my personal "Time is Money" scale, reduced to "TIM" in the interest of saving time and money.
TIM is a concept that lawyers have been using for years, only they call it "Billable Hours." An attorney's $250+ an hour fee as reflected in a client's monthly bill includes time actually spent with a client, as well as time spent by a client on the telephone waiting on hold while the receptionist tries to locate Mr. Cheatum, who is always "in a meeting" or "on another line." A resourceful legal secretary can rack up more billable hours for the firm and earn a substantial Christmas bonus with a simple, "Mr. Steal is presently with a client. Please hold." (Click)
This tactic can keep a client on hold and add up to fifteen minutes to an actual three minute call, and it will now show up as a twenty minute "tele-conference" on the firm's next monthly invoice!
Billable hours also include the time lawyers spend driving in their BMWs to court, all the time in court reading newspapers while waiting for the judge's late arrival (averaging up to an hour) at court and for the legal system to engage. Best of all is time spent by an attorney on the cell phone calling the office about other clients. These expenses, in addition to the actual cost of the call itself, will be charged to the client in court waiting for the judge as well as the one who is the subject of the cell phone call, becoming a Double-TIM Bonus. Simply inquiring about more clients during that one call can easily result in a Multi-TIM Bonanza.
But I am not a lawyer and neither am I a mathematician, so I used a calculator in arriving at my personal TIM rate. I decided on $72.00, less than my last year's hourly teaching salary, but considerably more than the minimum wage. In arriving at the figure I took into consideration that I do have a Masters Degree in English and could have, with a little more effort on my part, easily rolled over all those extra graduate credits into a Ph.D. or, with a lot more effort, changed careers and made some real money. But I settled on the number primarily because seventy-two is conveniently divisible by the number of minutes in an hour, amounting to $1.20 a minute, or 2˘ for every second saved in my TIM Account. It also brings to mind another phrase I have often heard: "putting in my two cents worth."
Here's how TIM works. Using pre-stick postage stamps instead of the ones that require the application of "personal moisture" saves one second, or 2˘ per stamp. Carry the savings forward with a pre-stick envelope flap and add to that total the five seconds a pre-printed, pre-stick return address label saves (5 x 2˘ = 10˘), and then, depending on the number of pieces mailed during the course of the day/week/month/year, those pennies will add up.
Now consider meals. I have reduced my cooking time by replacing things termed "old fashioned" with everything "instant," "quick" or "jiffy," including Instant Breakfast and Quick Oats, Jiffy Mix and Jiffy Pop. Pre-measured coffee packets that yield only one cup per serving, like using tea bags instead of loose leaves, save time as well as money by cutting down on waste. I must admit that there have been mornings when I've passed up a much-needed second cup in the interest of pocketing some change.
I have further optimized my use of kitchen time by switching from hardboiled eggs to those that are softer and I now eat my steaks rare, although I prefer them well done. From a purely theoretical standpoint my "frost-free" refrigerator has, over the years, added hours to my life and put money into my pocket, even though I never really defrosted my old "frost-full" unit. And I have to admit that non-stick pans are a TIM savings boon. Besides not having to scrape them, properly seasoned non-stick frying pans don't even have to be washed!
Outside the house there is a TIM gold mine waiting to be exploited and I have been able to amass a virtual fortune. It starts with the automatic garage door opener, which I named "Viagra," because now I can get it up any time I want. Of course I had to factor in the cost of the unit and professional installation, but every time I pull up the driveway I save fifteen seconds and deposit 30˘ into my TIM vault. At that rate (sometimes I drive up and down the driveway many times unnecessarily just to make more money) the garage door opener will be paid off in two years and then I will start showing a real profit.
On the road my E-Z Pass speeds me through tollbooths (except at the Verrazano Bridge), and I recently purchased an "Inflata-Man" from an online buying service (I saved the time it takes to shop in crowded malls) which I keep in the back seat of the car so I can use the HOV lane whenever traffic is particularly heavy. By the way, if God wanted us to change our own motor oil he wouldn't have invented Jiffy Lube.
I only patronize businesses with drive through windows and revolving doors. Before I switched to wash and wear clothes that need no ironing at all, I used One Hour Martinizing Dry Cleaning , and the 59 Minute Photo Shop saves me a minute every time I drop off my film. I even switched to an on-line doctor so I don't need to waste time in a crowded waiting room. Now I am looking into an online dentist as well. Remote controls, speed dial, re-dial, Crazy Glue and anything Velcro have all gone a long way in adding to my undeclared wealth. And come April 15th you can be sure I will use the IRS short form instead of itemizing my taxes.
There has been one drawback in my economic scheme. My ex-wife recently brought me back to Family Court to recalculate my—as her $250 an hour attorney called it—"enhanced net worth," employing my very own TIM calculations. As a result, Family Court has imputed my income and added $20,000 to my earning potential! They have recalculated my child support obligation, increased my monthly alimony payments and I have been ordered to send her a check every year for exactly half of the windfall profits!
Time, it seems, really is money, and with very little effort they can get blood from a stone. This discovery has reaffirmed my intention never to re-marry. But, if I weaken and if I ever decide to "take the plunge" again, in the interest of saving time and money, it will be with a woman who already has children, so we don't have to wait!
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