Do you factor in your time?

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by RedneckPete, Feb 3, 2005.

  1. RedneckPete

    RedneckPete Well-Known Member

    Aug 22, 2004
    Ontario, Canada
    Hi folks.

    I have a question for the homesteading folks. What is your time worth? Does this figure into your decisions about your homestead? Do you ever wonder if you are better off financially working a job as opposed to working your homestead?

    I often do, and I wonder if the time and energy I invest into my animals, firewood, vegetables, outbuildings, pastures, fixing up and renovating would be better spent working for pay. I wonder if I would be better off paying someone to do these things and I work to pay them.

    I do excavating and am self-employed. During the non-winter months I work at least 12 hour days in my business and turn away a substantial amount of work because I don’t have the time to do it. I’ve tried hiring employees but have concluded that due to my specialty type of work and intense personality it is hard to make it fly. Outside of my “working” hours I care for pigs, chickens, pigeons and my dog and do many chores around my place, such as cutting the grass and repairing and building pastures.

    My problem is this. I would be better off working and buying my eggs, pigs and paying someone to come and cut my grass. I do these things because I enjoy them.

    How do you balance this? I love my work, but after 13 hours on an excavator, I would rather go home and feed my pigs then sit on the machine for another hour. On the other hand, I would love to putter around the homestead all day, but clearly I can’t make a living like that.

    Do you assign a dollar figure to your time in your decision making? If you spend two days building a chicken coop, you probably could have bought the same thing from Home Depot and spent your time working a job. Same two days, same result.

    What do you do?

  2. Sparkey

    Sparkey Well-Known Member

    Oct 22, 2004
    Western WI
    Well Pete you ask, "how can I balance this ?" It's really a decision about 'wants' & 'needs'. If you're earning enough in your busy season to meet your needs ( immediate, retirement, insurances,etc.) you are entitled to work with your animals, garden or whatever you want to just because you enjoy it. Life consists of more than just "turning the crank on the dollar machine". I was in a similar situation...self employed, had employees(for a short time!) then ran the business (also seasonal) as a one man show...because I also have a somewhat 'intense personality'. I'd work 6 long days on the job, then on Sunday I'd work in my garden. My wife would tell me to relax on my one day off. My reply: "I AM relaxing !" For me gardening was enjoyable and it balance. You must take time for enjoyment The timer is ticking and we don't know when the bell will ring signaling the end of the show.

  3. Meg Z

    Meg Z winding down

    Jun 8, 2004

    Same two days...not the same result, in my book! You already said you do these things because you enjoy them!

    To me, the joy is part of my pay. Slinging hay bales and buckets of feed beats paying to go to the gym any day. Having a goat talk you into sitting on the feedroom steps so she can crawl in your lap and cuddle is much more relaxing than paying for yoga....or therapy!

    If you'd rather go home and feed pigs than work another hour...why on earth would you want to work more hours and pay someone else to do the fun part?

    Remind yourself what you like about homesteading...then see if you want to trade that in.

    I'm not trading.
  4. big rockpile

    big rockpile If I need a Shelter

    Feb 24, 2003
    Me and my FIL always got into it about this he said there was no way I could make a living on a Hundred Acres.I would figure what I would pay for rent,if I didn't own,I figured for Heat Cost if I didn't have wood,the price of meat that I got out of the woods if I had to go buy it.

    :no: He would always cry you can't figure that stuff!! Hey if it wasn't money coming out of my pocket,I counting it.Maybe not on Taxes but counting it.

    big rockpile
  5. Mid Tn Mama

    Mid Tn Mama Well-Known Member Supporter

    May 11, 2002
    Well, I do think of that, but also I think of the great satisfaction it gives me. Maybe I *could* work for money and buy these things, but then, as a tradeoff, I don't have my hair and nails done every week, no perm or coloring--for a lady--that alone is a big chunk of change. Another tradeoff I think of is that all these enjoyable pursuits are healthy things--breathing fresh air and exercising. carrying buckets of water or bags of feed build muscle. Walking around the property is aerobic exercise.

    Instead of this I could be paying a healthclub 75$/ month. Actually I don't know what that would cost, but it would be the cost of feed for sure. Again--other folks do more costly things for their satisfaction (expensive hobbies like golf or luxury travel) so I guess they would have no choice but to work harder to have that satisfaction. I don't consider feeding livestock work. And I would choose this work any day over my chosen profession (which I'm not actually doing anymore).

    Finally, we get a lot of satisfaction doing these things together. Beats working more to afford a marriage retreat or counseling :)
  6. minnikin1

    minnikin1 Shepherd

    Feb 3, 2003
    Central NY
    I used to factor in time, but no more.

    I've learned that no matter what you're doing, if you
    "sell" your time to someone else - it's gone.

    If you "spend" your time for your own chosen endeavors, it's yours forever.
  7. moonwolf

    moonwolf Well-Known Member

    Sep 19, 2004
    I believe the simple answer is how you percieve and put a value on time vs. the lifestyle you choose.
    If you require a certain payment for doing something you don't enjoy, than you'll probably continue with that out of necessity.
    If you don't require a set payment schedule for the time you put into something that you enjoy, than you'll continue with that even though your necessecities and expectations for remuneration may be less.
    Time is really what you make of it defined for your own constitution. How you choose the value on that time is defined by how you accept it.

    Homesteading has different standards and different values for different people. The common theme is that if you 'choose' that lifestyle, you take the ups and downs with it to your limitations about it. Where you draw the line between
    'Want' and 'Need' is up to you, and what you might want to do about it.
    One thing is that unless you deliver a professional service or occupation from wherever your location is set, the homesteading aspect is maybe separate from that anyway. So, you determine how much time spent to 'make a living', and if you have to question that the 'homesteading' aspect has to have a certain value, they you'll decide which side of that equation you'll want to rebalance. It's not always about money, even though the saying that 'time is money' is part of the system forced by external things we might not want to choose against. anyway, this is more of my philosophical thoughts about the topic. :eek:
  8. dreadstalker

    dreadstalker Well-Known Member

    Dec 22, 2004
    central nebraska
    how can you figure your time spent on your property doing something you enjoy.and there is a savings factor.for alot of us working off property is a fact of life and the 2 days spent on something versus 2 days working to pay for the samething means 2 days of pay that you can applie somewhere else
  9. Beeman

    Beeman Well-Known Member

    Dec 28, 2002
    East TN
    I agree with the people that don't count their time doing things they enjoy. Unfortunately there are a lot of things I don't enjoy doing. I can physically install a roof, but I would rather work at my job and pay someone else than to have to do it myself. it's not a job I would enjoy doing and I don't have enough help to do it properly and timely. Add in the additional risk factor of falling off the roof and it's cheaper and more enjoyable to hire someone. To me it might be roofing, to others it might be something else. This is also what I apply if I don't have the equipment for a job, like excavating. it's a better deal in the long run for me to work and hire you to use your equipment and do the job for me.
  10. gilberte

    gilberte Well-Known Member Supporter

    Sep 25, 2004
    I figure I'm saving between $150 to $300 an hour just working in the garden. Isn't that what them psychiatrists are making these days? I'd probably need one if not for the garden :D
  11. Lrose

    Lrose Well-Known Member

    Dec 17, 2004

    Greetings from our ten acre farm! We have been living off this farm 90% self-sufficient for twenty years come August. Ten of those years we worked for others to pay for this place. Now we work for others when we feel like it. We don't put monetary value on our farm work. We enjoy what we do. We do have to work to eat and choose to do it by producing our food and food for our animals. We still have power so need $50. every two months to pay that and $ 400. a year property tax. I figure we need $500 a year for incidentals such as underwear, socks, toilet paper. etc and a few groceries we don't produce ourselves. We choose to support a child through Compassion Ministries so that is another $500. a year and we like to be able to help others when needs arise. Other than that we don't care if we have money or not. We sell eggs , goat meat , garlic and rhubarb. My husband does a bit of flower gardening for one neighbour summers and this past year I clean house for an elderly lady once a week for $25. We could live on less if we didn't do the extra things but we like doing them. Our main idea is being as free as possible and having time to visit the sick, elderly and help out where we can with others. So it is about choices as to what you want to do with your life. I might stress we didn't gain this much freedom from the system and regular jobs easily. It came with ten years of us both working to pay for this place while raisng children. Also working well into the night gardening after working all day at jobs. When we made our last house payment we havn't had a steady job since but concentrated on developing the farm to produce food for us and our animals. It is all work but this is how we choose to work. It is alot of work and sacrifice to get to a place you can live without a 40 hour a week job but it can be done. Good luck in your endeavors.
  12. uncle Will in In.

    uncle Will in In. Well-Known Member Supporter

    May 11, 2002
    All work and no play, makes Jack a DULL boy.

    How dull do you choose to be?

    Love makes the world go around, but MONEY greases the wheels.

    How fast do you want your wheels to turn?

    Only you can answer your question.
  13. MorrisonCorner

    MorrisonCorner Mansfield, VT for 200 yrs

    Jul 27, 2004
    I'm of the "put a number on it" school of thought, and we regularly do a "break even analysis" when we're looking at a new project on our farm. I think putting a number on it keeps us from making costly mistakes or undervaluing each person's contribution to the new project.

    That said, we have different criteria for "hobbies" (the sheep are "hobbies") and sections of the farm that if they can't pay for themselves or even turn a modest profit, we'd discontinue in a heartbeat (chickens). The garden is a profit center (it produces more than we put into it) the wood cutting is definitely a profit center... Apple trees are a hobby.

    We actually do a calculation which lays out alternatives. We could do more skiing which would cost us $200/winter. Or we could cut wood... which costs us $200 in wear and tear but produces a commodity we can use or sell..

    You can't put a "price" on happiness, but you can come darn close to hanging a number on almost anything you do around your farm... and then, if you still want to do it, and the numbers don't quite work... you say "ok.. that's hobby, we're doing it for fun."

    Hey... you could be shelling out $3000 to schlep the kids to Disney World. Farming is cheap entertainment!
  14. amelia

    amelia Well-Known Member

    May 2, 2003
    Washington State
    There is a book called "Your Money or Your Life" that has an interesting perspective on this. It challenges you to calculate the REAL amount that you are paid for your labor in a traditional job by figuring in all of the "hidden" costs of being in the rat race (on-the-go lunches, convenience items, parking, time spent getting ready for work, commuting time, child care, wardrobe, taxes, etc.). It's surprising how little your time is really worth on a per-hour or per-minute basis when you figure in all of the hidden costs of traditional employment. The whole point of this book is to give you the ability to assess the true cost-effectiveness of a traditional job versus a more frugal lifestyle in which you have the time to pursue what's really meaningful in your life.
  15. HermitJohn

    HermitJohn Well-Known Member

    May 10, 2002
    Thats a cool book, I read it some time ago. Way I look at it is we all have a certain number of years of time on planet earth. We can spend our time in many ways. If we buy into money mode/affluenza and use all our time to crank the money machine, then we miss out on trying many things. Wait until you are "wealthy" and you may no longer be "healthy". If you try to avoid the money machine altogether, our society is set up where choices are very limited. Greed and "investment strategy" has inflated land prices to crazy levels in most places in the USA and increased regulation where you cant just opt out. You need $$$$ to first obtain land and then to jump through hoops to use the land and pay the yearly rent to the governmnet on the land and the improvements. You spin the wheel and take your chances.
  16. Blu3duk

    Blu3duk Well-Known Member

    Jun 2, 2002
    central idaho republic
    I believe a person should put a value on their time on the homestead if producing a product for sale, or personal consumption, that value may be arbitrary, but none the less it still has value in the end.

    Waht value you place on your time is entirely up to the individual, tae Joel salatin and his Polypay Farm for example, in every endeavor they use on the farm their goal is $15 per hour of labor involved, which is quite high for farm/homestead labor costs, but his farm pays out in the end and is supporting four households so something must be working.

    Some folks may tell you you cant put a price on your homegrown products, which in comparison is true, but the freedom from the unknown is also worth factoring into the equation. Knowing what you are growing, how it is grown, when it is ready to harvest, and process takes a great deal of value up in that equation as well. Something may cost you more to grow that the factory fams and imported food stuffs from who knows where.... but in the end the product is still worth no matter what you figger you got into growing it.

    My eggs cost me more than most people will pay at the store.... which around here averages about a dollar..... ive been getting $1.25 for mine all this past year.... people complain and in the same breath tell me how much better the eggs are.... I break even, get rid of the eggs and people come back to get another dozen next week. I have the chickens mostly because i love eggs, and cannot stand to eat the cardboard eggs a person gets from factory farming.

    So to sum it up, yes anythiong you do has a value in the time you put into the project, and just as any off fam work you do has a value, there is a limit to what a person can and will forgo before having someone else do the work.

  17. Mike in Ohio

    Mike in Ohio Well-Known Member

    Oct 29, 2002
    Sometimes I do factor in my time and sometimes I don't. For example, I do factor in my time with the beekeeping and nut business. Sometimes I'll buy my woodenware already assembled and painted (local Amish) because the value equation says buy. When we first started we bought a 4 frame electric extractor because it makes more sense (to us) than a handcranked one.

    There are other things that I don't consider the value of my time because it makes no sense to think about it that way. I'm building a dry stack stone wall in one spot on our farm. It makes absolutely no economic sense but it gives me a certain satisfaction as it progresses in fits and starts. Selecting and fitting the stones together like a giant puzzle is interesting. I do have to be careful not to throw my back out or injure myself. Some of the stones weigh 100 pounds or more.

    We don't raise chickens (although we have discussed it). A couple of people we know raise them and we get our eggs from them. At this time we don't want to be tied down with lots of animals.

    I'm working out a deal with our neighbor to run some cattle (beef) on our hay pasture. We will end up with a couple of animals (if all goes as planned) and he gets access to grazing (and hay to cut) that he otherwise wouldn't have access to. I couldn't see spending my time (at this point) dealing with cattle and it saves me the time of brush hogging that pasture.

    On the other hand, I enjoy brush hogging the trails that cut through our woods. Go figure.

    So I guess it depends on on the specific activity. No hard and fast rule.

  18. RedneckPete

    RedneckPete Well-Known Member

    Aug 22, 2004
    Ontario, Canada
    I try to factor my time presently by the following.

    Will this take time away from my business and so cost me lost income?

    Am I going to take a day off work to make the chicken coop or am I going to do it when I wouldn't be working anyways? If I take time off work my time is valuable, if not I guess it becomes recreation.

    Can I fit it in around my business without causing myself undue stress?

    I keep chickens because I can feed and water them every few days. I can pick up the eggs once a day and if I don't get to it right away it is no problem. I can always pick them up on my way in at the end of the day. Even the pigs could miss a feeding without any harm. They are on pasture and would spend the day cleaning up their spills and eating whatever they could find. No way I would get any kind of animal that needs to be on a strict schedual, like a milking cow. Even if I was home every day on time I would still be stressed about the extra demand.

    Can I do it in my "off" season?

    I cut and split all my firewood in the winter when I am slow in excavating work. Even then, if I have an chance to do some excavating in the winter I will drop the firewood until the paying work dries up.

    I guess at present I really push the paying work and try to fit in the other stuff around it. Don't know if that will ever change.

  19. Hoop

    Hoop Well-Known Member

    Jan 1, 2003
    Northern Wisconsin

    You are indeed fortunate to live in a country where you have universal health coverage. You will never be forced into deciding the agonizing choice of whether to spend your money on food or medical attention.

    US citizens don't have things as good and as such, need to constantly be vigilant on earning money, if for nothing else, to pay astronomical health insurance premiums. The average family can expect to pay upwards of $600/month in health insurance premiums, for basic, bare bones coverage. Those that gamble on having no health insurance are toying with complete financial disaster should a hospital stay ever occur.

    Of course one needs to figure their time into things. There are only so many hours in a week. Income has to be made. Health insurance premiums need to be paid. Property taxes. Vehicle & fuel costs. Even a bare bones existence entails huge expenses just to "get by".

    Yes, there are things in ones life that they just plain "ENJOY DOING". For me, its gathering firewood. From an economic viewpoint, I'm far better off working a few more hours and buying more propane. It is however, something I like to do.
  20. Haggis

    Haggis MacCurmudgeon

    Mar 11, 2004
    Northeastern Minnesota
    Does one factor in time or cost v. profit when rereading a good book, having an evening stroll with an old friend, watching the sun rise or set, or taking a child fishing?

    Factoring in time or cost v. profit may have their places and uses, but one must be clear on when, where, why, and how to do such factoring.

    I have heard folks discussing how much they made per hour on their jobs, but they rarely mention the drive to and from work as part of their time spent in earning, nor do they deduct wear and tear on their automobile, clothing, health, or meals from such earnings.