$100 as a measure of time.

We often hear that time is money but have you ever calculated it? Literally?

When I was 22, I decided to calculate the exact number of working minutes it took for me to SPEND $100 in cold hard cash. At the time, $100 required me to work 5 hours and 38 minutes to earn. As I have progressed in my career, the time required per $100 spent has fortunately gotten shorter; an ideal trajectory for us all.

This calculation directly attached working hours to the price tag of any shiny new object that captured my attention. Pondering purchases in minutes-worked resulted, more often than not, in me returning the tempting item back on its shelf. The joyful jolts borne from impulsive splurges now seldom felt worthy of the time it took for me to earn that money. 

This framework helped me regain a sense of choice over the feeling of constant deprivation I felt in my twenties. I lived on a tight post-university budget, paying myself a cash allowance of $120 per week for meals, entertainment, and clothing. I wanted to aggressively repay student loans and my rent was exorbitant at my first job in Toronto. These self-imposed fiscal handcuffs permitted few indulgences, so after months of “good” behaviour, I would often rebel by splurging on pretty little things to fill the void in my self-worth which was aggravated by long works hours, loneliness and my zealous penny-pinching. I soon became a yo-yo budgeter, bingeing then dieting. I tried a multitude of tactics to improve my money management from custom Excel spreadsheets to the full Quicken suite. I created daily ritualistic money routines to count every cent. They mostly ended in failure and with me feeling like one too.

My ultimate goals were to save and travel more but I desperately needed a paradigm shift. I had to learn that splurging on feel-good items meant needing to work even more for the things I really wanted. Emotionally-driven purchases were the small leaky holes in my financial bucket. Once I started quantifying the value of money as a function of time, I stopped believing that hard work deserved its own reward; this erroneous mindset rewarded effort not outcomes, which when it came to savings, prolonged the attainment of the important goals I had set. The unhealthy link between consumerism and self-worth created the “I deserve it” mentality which had hidden costs that I wanted to make visible.

Fortunately, I stumbled onto Gail Vaz Oxlade‘s incredibly helpful Budget Binder and Spending Jars on her show Til Debt do us Part. Her resources coupled with David Chilton’s 10 Percent Solution and other tips in his book the Wealthy Barber helped me forge a solid financial mindset. However, all their tips only came together for me when I conceived this $100 framework. My wants were now tangible – costed out in time. A new coat was 2 days of work, a Caribbean vacation was 6 work days, a nice dinner was 5 working hours, my car was 3.5 days a month, rent was 8.5 days a month. I could now ask myself if the expense was worth its weight in time. If the answer was “Fuck Yes!” then I bought it without hesitation. By seeing money expressed in time, I learned to appreciate the value of each minute I worked. Binge buying stopped because when contextualized in real working hours, most impulsive purchases felt like derailments rather than indulgences, as such many naturally fell to the wayside with a resounding “No!”.

 

The calculation is easy.

1. Take the amount deposited into your bank account by your employer (your take-home pay after all taxes & deductions), known as your Net Pay;

2. Divide that amount by the number of hours worked in that pay period to obtain your Net Hourly Wage;

3. Divide $100 by your Net Hourly Wage;

4. The resulting whole number is the number of work hours required;

5. Multiply the remaining decimals by 60 to obtain the residual minutes;

6. And presto! This is how many hours and minutes you have to work to spend $100.

So say your Net Pay is $1500 every 2 weeks for 80 work hours. Then your Net Hourly Wage is $18.75/hr. And $100/$18.75 = 5.33 (5 hours) and .33 x 60 = 19.8 ~ 20 mins. Which means you have to work 5 hours and 20 mins for every $100 you spend.

 

To make this even easier, below is a cheatsheet with reference annual salaries for you to ballpark your own $100 cost in work hours. You will see how taxes often adds an hour of work per $100 spent *ouch*. Hence the importance of using Net Pay as the baseline because in the end, we spend Net Pay (salary after taxes & deductions), not Gross Pay. Reference: Canadian tax calculator

$100 Table Abridged

 

My hope is that this new framework will help you see the value of purchases in a different light; through the lens of time. When we gain a deeper appreciation of a dollar spent versus a dollar earned, we can see in plain-sight how instant gratification from impulse buys delays us from reaching our goals, akin to drilling holes in our boat while rowing ashore. Simple mental tools such as this one can give us the confidence and peace of mind to make better decisions every day, when it counts so we can more easily prioritize and focus on the important planned expenditures in our lives; the ones that will give us the satisfaction and joy we ultimately seek

 

Alan Lakein

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Geeks R Us” Appendix :

For geeks like me, here is the complete table where I calculated the difference between Gross and Net Pay. It shows how deceiving Gross Pay can be when used to calculate anything, especially to determine how much we can afford to spend on monthly mortgage or car payments, this is because our pay is deposited after taxes and deductions – Net Pay is our real spending power.

$100 Full Form Table

 

Introducing the 168 Time Budget

The fact that most of us budget money and not time has always intrigued me. Money is an elastic resource that is figuratively infinite. Time, however, is finite; we can’t make more of it, once it is gone, it is gone.

168 hours a week. That is all we have.

You, me, Elon Musk, Oprah Winfrey, Warren Buffet, Elizabeth Gilbert, Jack Ma, Malala Yousafzai and every other being on this pale blue dot has 168 hours a week to realize greatness. And even at that, the number of weeks available to us are also counting down. Time stops for no one.

So I ask you, how do you spend your time?

Prior to diving into my 168 Time Budget concept, I would like to introduce the following short story to create the right context. If you have read it before, I encourage you to re-read it now for full effect.

A teacher walks into a classroom and sets a glass jar on the table. She silently places large rocks in the jar until no more can fit. She asks the class if the jar is full and they agree it is. She says, “Really,” and pulls out a pile of small pebbles, adding them to the jar, shaking it slightly until they fill the spaces between the rocks. She asks again, “Is the jar full?” They agree. So next, she pours sand into the jar, filling the space between the pebbles and asks the question again. This time, the class is divided, some feeling that the jar is obviously full, but others are wary of another trick. Before they answer, she reaches for a pitcher of water and fills the jar to the brim, and asks, “If this jar is your life, what does this experiment show you?” A bold student replies, “No matter how busy you think you are, you can always take on more.” “That is one view,” she replies.

Then she looks out at the class making eye contact with everyone, “The rocks represent the BIG things in your life – what you will value at the end of your life – your family, your partner, your health, fulfilling your hopes and dreams. The pebbles are the other things in your life that give it meaning, like your job, your house, your hobbies, your friendships. The sand and water represent the ‘small stuff’ that fills our time, like checking social media, watching TV or running errands.”

Looking out at the class again, she asks, “Can you imagine what would happen to life if we had started with the water, the sand or the pebbles?”

Like so many, I too have let water and sand fill every crevice at many intervals in my life; not realizing that I left no time or energy for what really mattered to me. With distractions everywhere, I learned over the years to become mindful, vigilant and a fervent guardian of my time. I also started to gain an acute awareness of the elements that bring me joy. By applying traditional money budgeting techniques to time management, I now invest more of myself in things that make me happy. The time budget I created for myself is aptly named 168.

My 168 Time Budget concept is quite simple.

  1. Identify the “big rocks” that create great JOY in your life.
    • Health including sleep & exercise, family, partner, life goals, key relationships.
  2. List and prioritize the “pebbles” that add significance & meaning to your life.
    • Work including paid & volunteering, community, friends, hobbies
  3. Allocate a range of hours towards each rock & pebble totaling ~160 hours.
    • Leaving a few spare hours for sand & water is key, otherwise, the 168 budget won’t function in reality. Rigidity will derail new habit adhesion.
  4. Calculate the % of time each line item represents of 168 to check if you are indeed putting enough time towards the rocks, then the pebbles.
  5. Lastly, be kind to yourself if you derail slightly from week to week.
    • Social media, random articles or phone calls will likely steal precious minutes totaling in wasted hours but such is life.
    • Acknowledge, accept and aim to do better but most importantly, forgive yourself and move onwards and upwards!

Here is an example from my life:

  • 168 hours per week; totaling 61 320 hours in 2018.
    • 49 hours / 29% : 7hrs of sleep per night x 7 nights
    • 60 hours / 36% : 10hrs of work + 2 hrs of commute x 5 days
    • 10-20 hours / 6-12% : TEDxMontreal meetings & work
    • 8-20 hours / 5-12% : Time with partner & extended family
    • 10 hours / 6% : “Me time” to relax, read, write & let my mind wander
    • 8-12 hours / 5-7% : hanging out or speaking with friends /colleagues/ networks in person
    • 8-15 hours / 5-9% : conversing with friends online & social media
    • 3-5 hours / 2-3% : exercise (running, biking, other)
  • Cumulating in a range btwn 156 – 191 hours that ebbs & flows depending on the time of year.

The level of precision is up to you. It does not have to be granular down to the minute; the principle behind my 168 Time Budget is that it creates awareness around the time we spend (or don’t spend) on our life priorities. For those who desire precision, you can track Actual versus Budgeted time in a nifty time-tracking app on your phone but I have found this more useful as a high-level mental guide.

With finite time and finite energy during our time here, I hope my 168 idea will help you find time to invest in yourself, your dreams and your worldly ambitions. Each minute, hour and day, when channeled into purposeful actions can spark great change within us and ignite impactful change in others and the world.

So be great, be purposeful and be you, 168 hours at a time!

time flies

Mental rumble-strips. Using the past and the future to stay in the present.

Since returning from paradise, I am slowly re-plugging myself back into the Matrix of everyday life. Fortunately, the Tico magic still lingers, continuing to gift me with profound reflections this week. Akin to fruit ripening after being picked from a tree, many ideas planted during my time in Costa Rica are slowly taking shape. One such idea is the notion of emotions being guideposts to keep our state of mind on the path of joy and contentment. Let me elaborate.

Most of us know that living in the present moment is a tremendous source of joy. The tricky part has always been how to keep the wandering mind in the present. Therein lies the rub.

Let us start by analyzing the moments when we are not joyful. Often it is when we are worried about the future or looking back into our past.  All the mental energy we spend wishing this or that had happened differently or thinking about the future generates stress. And we all know stress is a joy killer.

Since stress is a joy killer, and being present is a way to counter stress, then finding ways to keep us consciously present will connect us to more joy and happiness. “Wonderful!” you say, but how can I be more present? The answer lies in self-awareness. In our ability to catch ourselves mentally drifting.

In addition to experiencing emotions mentally and physically, they can be used as powerful indicators, showing us the state of our mind. When we can ‘step out’ of the emotion itself, we come into meta awareness, which is the difference between being angry and realizing that we are feeling angry. With this awareness, certain emotions can be used as the ‘painted lane lines’ on our happiness highway, helping us to drive within the lane of joy more easily.

On the lane’s left shoulder lies feelings of anger, resentment, inequity, guilt, remorse and regret – these are all emotions generated when the mind thinks about the past. When we mull over the would-have, should-have, could-haves, our minds have veered off the lane of the present onto the shoulder of the past. On the right shoulder are feelings of worry, anxiety, apprehension and fear – these emotions are signs that we are thinking about the future. We contemplate scenarios of which 99.9% will never occur, we roam the land of what-ifs, exploring all possible outcomes – successes and failures – with failures getting the lion’s share of our attention. Whenever we feel uncertain or nervous, this is a sign that we have drifted off the lane of the present, onto the shoulder of the future. And unless you have installed rumble-strips to warn you that you’ve drifted to the left or the right – the past or the future – you will have no awareness cues to get you back on track.

So with this knowledge, let’s install some mental rumble-strips. Let’s use emotions as cues to help us realize that we have veered off the lane of joy. The next time you feel the emotional suites of the past (anger, regret, remorse) or the future (anxiety, fear, worry), take action, grab your steering wheel and bring your mind back into the present, back into the center of the happiness lane.

Using these emotions as guideposts means we understand that the Present lives delicately between the Past and the Future. So don’t sit idly by letting time turn your tomorrows into yesterdays. Make sure you spend quality time on the smooth road of today because life has enough twists and turns in and of itself, that you don’t need to be driving on the bumpy shoulders of the past or the future until the end of days. You deserve to drive in the happiness lane for as much of the journey as possible. And hopefully installing these emotional rumble-strips will increase the amount of joy during the ride!

PastPresentFuture