The Time vs. Money Balancing Act

Rufous Hummingbird cropI haven’t had my fancy camera out as much lately – thank you convenient iPhone camera – but I set up the telephoto lens yesterday to capture a pic of this little guy. He’s a Rufous Hummingbird, who really shouldn’t show up until mid- to late-August, apparently. The pic is still a little blurry, but not bad considering I had to focus through a glass door and past a bird feeder and a hanging plant. I’ll try for a better one this weekend. He’s adopted our feeder and runs off the broad-tailed hummers, so I should have the opportunity.

Throughout my life, I’ve observed that a fundamental equation governs many of my decisions: time vs. money.

I first noticed this in graduate school, when I was truly off the parental teat and having to budget all of my expenses based on a fairly miserly Teaching Assistantship. Now, I don’t want to sound at all ungrateful. That assistantship paid my tuition and also gave me a stipend – I was lucky to have it. But still, it was hardly the life of Riley and I scraped by a great deal of the time. Despite a fairly heavy load of classes, teaching, research and tutoring, I found that it nearly always made more sense for me to do things myself, rather than pay for them.

This was mainly because I had no extra money, but I could usually make time. So, I made Christmas gifts instead of buying them. I figured out how to repair my own things. I cooked at home.

As I began to bring in more money, this equation gradually shifted. Fifteen years later, when I had a full-time career that had me traveling every two- to three-weeks, martial arts classes (taking and teaching) five- to six-times a week, stepkids and a writing career too new to call “budding,” I had *far* more money than time. I gradually discovered the joy of hiring work out. I paid someone to clean my house. At the advent of the least household repair – from plumbing to painting – I picked up the phone, happy to pay someone to take it off my To Do list. In fact, I often applied my hourly rate as a watermark – if paying someone cost less than what my time was worth, easy decision!

That lasted quite a long time. In fact, I got used to it.

Maybe a little TOO used to it, because the equation has shifted on me again. With my man retiring early to start a second career as a Doctor of Oriental Medicine and me making the transition into fewer hours in the corporate world and more sailing the choppy financial seas of writing as a source of income, I have less money to shell out than I did. I would say that I don’t really have more time, but – as in graduate school – I’m discovering that it’s easier for me to carve out the time than to find extra money lying about.

This hit me the other day when I inquired at my local computer place (Capitol Computer of Santa Fe – *love* them!) if they could take care of transferring all of my files, settings and software from my current laptop to a new one. I’ve been kind of dreading how much time this task will cost me. They quoted me a very reasonable price – one I would have happily paid, once upon a time. And I very nearly did.

Upon reflection, however, I realized that my equation had truly shifted back. I know how to do this transfer, so I should just spend the time doing it, rather than pay someone.

I’m sure this equation will shift back again someday. And there will be other factors – paying for expertise when technology has outstripped my skills, paying for youthful vigor and resilience when mine isn’t quite up to snuff.

Still, it’s interesting to watch this balance shift throughout my life. A kind of a marker.

Happy weekend everyone!

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