How Much is Your Time Worth? – The Story of the Riding Lawnmower

Yesterday I wrote an article about outsourcing tasks for my small business and one of the commenters mentioned that the same principles can apply to your personal life. I agree 100%. I recently wrote an article about whether or not changing your own oil was worth the savings. My time is more valuable to me than the few dollars I would save by doing it myself.

Other commenters mentioned outsourcing yard work, car maintenance, home repair, taxes, or other tasks. Many of these tasks can be accomplished by the average person, so long as he is willing to invest a little time and energy into learning how to do the task. But sometimes the time it would take to learn a new task is more valuable than spending the money to hire someone who already has the skills. Or in the case of the story below, time can be more valuable than the cost to purchase a tool to make life easier.

The story of the riding lawnmower

My friend and I were talking at work the other day about his elderly neighbor who is moving into a town home where his yard work is part of the association fees. His neighbor offered to sell him his gently used riding lawnmower for a reasonable price. But my friend wasn’t sure if he really needed a riding lawnmower.

Our conversation went something like this:

Coworker: “I’m just not sure if I need a riding lawnmower. I’ve used a push mower for years, my mower is still in good condition, and the exercise is good for me.”

Me: “How long does it take you to mow your yard?”

Coworker: “About an hour and a half.”

Me: “And you mow your yard, what, every 3 or 4 days?”

Coworker: “Yeah. Sometimes more often in the spring.”

Me: “So from April to October you spend 3-plus hours per week pushing a mower… 12-plus hours per month, and 84-plus hours per season.”

Coworker: “Yeah, I guess so.”

Me: “You do realize that a riding lawnmower can give you back 2 full days of your life every year. Not two weekend afternoons, but two around-the-clock 24 hour days.”

Coworker: Silence.

The next day my coworker told me it took him half an hour to mow his lawn with his gently used riding lawnmower. And he had an extra hour to play outside with his children.

How Much is Your Time Worth?

Originally published Jun 11, 2009 on my personal finance website,