How Much is An Hour of Your Life Worth?

The following blog post is part of The Road to Financial Wellness blog tour. The Road to Financial Wellness is a three-month, grassroots campaign promoting financial empowerment on a national level and encourages people to pursue their dream lifestyle. Find out more about local events near you.

If you're in the Nashville area, reserve your spot for Pit Stop #18 on June 30th!

My earliest memory of trading my time for money was working as a “mother's helper” with my sister for .50 an hour.

A total steal, right?

We were under 10-years-old and promoted our services through flyers we hand-delivered to the mailboxes of the families in our neighborhood.

We weren't old enough to babysit, but we offered parents something invaluable—more time back in their day. And at .50 per hour for two helpers, our summer vacation was booked up pretty quickly.

Even with my limited understanding of money, it didn't take long to start feeling disappointed by my lack of earnings. After all, chasing someone's toddler around all day wasn't easy. And a good day was only yielding $2-3, to split.

I longed to be old enough to start earning babysitter wages.

My Teenage Years

At fourteen, I was finally old enough to get hired in the kitchen of a local Italian restaurant. For minimum wage, I mopped the floors, cleaned the bathrooms, and made a ton of cannoli filling.

I loved my free plate of pasta every shift, but I knew tipped employees earned more, so I kept my ear to the ground for opportunities to bus tables.

For the next few years, I worked as a hostess and bus person. Plus, I picked up some hours at a local dry cleaner. Making just above minimum wage, the dry cleaner gig was a constant reminder I could be earning more per hour.

I celebrated my eighteenth birthday by applying for server jobs all over town.

My College Years

Working as a server during college was the perfect job — a high hourly rate, relatively flexible, and constant opportunities to pick up additional shifts.

For two summers, I was able to balance unpaid internships with a server job at a local seafood restaurant. I saved about $5,000 a summer, which helped a lot during the school year.

My Twenties

I earned $25,000 at my first full-time job.

I loved working for a classical record label so much, I barely noticed I was earning less per hour than my restaurant jobs.

To supplement my income, I sold beer at Tennessee Titans Stadium on the side, usually earning $50-100 per game.

I spent the next several years working for an independent concert promoter. I started at $11 per hour as the temporary receptionist, and was quickly promoted to a $28,000 assistant job. After a couple of years, my salary was bumped up to $40,000. And eventually, I earned $52,000 as a talent buyer.

I never minded the lower salaries in my early twenties because I was working my “dream job,” traveling all over the United States and Canada, producing concerts. But by the time I was earning my highest salary I was immensely burnt out from the stress, life on the road, and complete lack of self-care.

Looking Ahead

My current job, social media marketing for a tech company, earns less per hour than my job as a promoter. But I'm working far fewer hours and I'm sharpening my digital marketing skill set a little more every day.

At 32, an hour of my time is worth a lot more than what I accepted as a mother's helper, kitchen worker, busser, server, a marketer for a record label, beer seller, concert promoter, and a lot of other jobs.

There's an opportunity cost attached to every hour of our lives we trade for money. I've worked a lot of jobs, and I'm just beginning to understand this.

My time outside of my full-time job is sold at a premium because it reduces my time for resting, exercising, or spending time with friends and family.

I don't accept work below a minimum price, and I only agree to side gigs that propel me closer to my long-term goals. Plus, I'm actively working on building additional streams of revenue, especially passive ones.

Our time is a precious resource. Because the more hours we've lived, the more valuable our remaining hours become.

Readers: How much is an hour of your life worth?

I'm really proud to be co-hosting The Road to Financial Wellness Pit Stop #18 in Nashville on Thursday, June 30th at The Bistro at Emma!

The event is FREE and features:

Jason Vitug from Phroogal
Kristin Larsen from Believe in a Budget
Travis Johnson from Millennial Money Coach
Tim Gray of Grayscale Entertainment Marketing and Grayscale Entertainment
Ayumi Bennett from Startup Southerner
Courtney Webb of Hey Rooster General Store and Y'alls Balls
Corey Davis from Emerge Financial Wellness

Oh, and I'll be speaking, too!

The event is already 90% sold out, so please RSVP here if you want to go.

Did I mention there will be free food and drinks? 🙂

Thanks to Emerge Financial Wellness and Startup Southerner for their support!

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Discussions — 35 Responses

  • Melanie @ Dear Debt June 10, 2016 on 9:46 am

    This is so important to think about as you grow in your career. I’m so happy my hourly rate has increased and I can decide what is worth it or not. Also, I think of purchases in hours worked. A dinner out suddenly doesn’t seem so great if it costs 2+ hours of work/time! Great post, thanks for participating 🙂

    Reply
    • Kate Dore Melanie @ Dear Debt June 17, 2016 on 6:38 pm

      Great idea, Melanie! I’ll have to think about how many hours it will take me to pay for an expensive dinner next time I’m tempted 🙂

      Reply
  • Brian @ Debt Discipline June 10, 2016 on 10:04 am

    A great topic. Important to consider when taking on a job. It’s something I’ve been talking to my teenage children about, to think outside the tradition trade your time for money for someone else. Are there things you can to do (talents/skills) that could earn you more.

    Enjoy the pit stop! We had a great time in NYC on #TheRoad2016!

    Reply
    • Kate Dore Brian @ Debt Discipline June 17, 2016 on 6:36 pm

      That’s fantastic, Brian! Your kids are lucky you’re having those types of conversations with them at such a young age.

      Reply
  • Donna June 11, 2016 on 9:32 am

    Oh, how this brings back memories (of the early-mid ’70s for me). My sister & I also babysat together for .50/hr, no matter how many kids were involved. Couldn’t raise your rates because girls didn’t have as many work options back then, so there were plenty of other babysitters if your rates were too high. By the time we split our earnings… just like for you, there wasn’t much left. 🙂

    Reply
    • Kate Dore Donna June 17, 2016 on 6:36 pm

      Thanks so much for sharing, Donna! Wow, it sounds like my sister and I were seriously undercharging 😉

      Reply
  • Tonya@Budget and the Beach June 11, 2016 on 10:09 am

    There are definitely some jobs not worth the money if they “cost” you in other areas of your life. The golden ticket is to strike that balance with a job that give you decent pay, and a decent life outside of work. Glad you’re moving in that direction!

    Reply
    • Kate Dore Tonya@Budget and the Beach June 17, 2016 on 6:35 pm

      Thanks, Tonya! You’re totally right. Someday I’ll just have one job, and a better work-life balance (I hope!)

      Reply
  • Kirsten June 11, 2016 on 10:25 am

    I think this is a big reason I let go of freelancing so quickly. I could not stomach the low pay. I knew I could make double the pay per hour (or more) by working full time in my field. Plus I could get benefits! Sure, I might be lucky enough to earn some big clients but… My time was worth more right then.

    Reply
    • Kate Dore Kirsten June 17, 2016 on 6:34 pm

      That’s another reason why I don’t agree to rates below a certain amount. I find myself instantly regretting my decision. And I definitely don’t want to earn less than what I make per hour at my day job!

      Reply
  • John June 11, 2016 on 2:31 pm

    Each new post seems to get more and more interesting. I remember all of your work endeavors all the way back to the mother’s helper job. You and your sister are no strangers to hard work and the dollars earned. So happy and proud I got to supply some of the transportation support in your early years.

    Reply
    • Kate Dore John June 17, 2016 on 6:31 pm

      Haha, yup! I definitely couldn’t have gotten to and from Giuseppi’s without rides from you.

      Reply
  • Julie @ Millennial Boss June 13, 2016 on 1:35 am

    This post hits home. I recently downsized and have been selling the extra stuff on Craigslist. It’s been really successful (made 2k in the last two weeks) but also taking up all of my time outside of work. I decided today to donate the last of my “merchandise” because I needed that “me” time back. It was hard because I knew what I had left could get me probably another $500 or so if I really hustled but it wasn’t worth it to me.

    Reply
    • Kate Dore Julie @ Millennial Boss June 17, 2016 on 6:30 pm

      Nice, Julie! I’d be tempted by that extra $500, too. But it sounds like you made the right choice!

      Reply
  • Mike June 14, 2016 on 2:23 pm

    this is an interesting article…knowing your worth is important so that you do not get taken advantage of…i do photography on the side and only accept jobs that pay more then my minimum requirement…i’m through getting low-balled…
    i do not look at social events as “hours spent”…i feel that having a good time is what life is all about…

    Reply
    • Kate Dore Mike June 17, 2016 on 6:29 pm

      Good for you, Mike! I totally agree. Whether I’m singing, taking pictures, writing, or social media consulting, my time has value. And I’m not willing to accept low-ball offers either.

      Reply
  • Catherine Alford June 15, 2016 on 10:28 am

    I value my time a lot more now that I’m a mom. I know that my time off is important for spending with my kids and I only take work I enjoy or that meets my standard for how I value my time.

    Reply
    • Kate Dore Catherine Alford June 17, 2016 on 6:27 pm

      That’s a great place to be professionally, Cat! I really admire how you’ve managed to balance your work and being a mother of two toddlers by valuing your time like that.

      Reply
  • Thias @It Pays Dividends June 15, 2016 on 5:09 pm

    It is important to remember to include all the time you put into work outside of the normal work hours such as your commute or advancing skills for your particular job. When you add it all up, your true wage is usually a lot lower than you realize.

    Reply
    • Kate Dore Thias @It Pays Dividends June 17, 2016 on 6:25 pm

      That’s a great point, Thias! And it’s part of why I primarily work from home now. That extra 40-60 minutes a day is incredibly valuable.

      Reply
  • Jason Vitug June 15, 2016 on 10:01 pm

    Time is a really valuable resource, and one that we cannot recoup back. I strive to use my time wisely and efficiently in doing the things i love and have the most impact on the community.

    Thanks for being part of the blog tour!

    Reply
    • Kate Dore Jason Vitug June 17, 2016 on 6:23 pm

      My pleasure, Jason! I’m counting down the days until Pit Stop #18 in Nashville!

      Reply
  • MaryEllen Miller June 17, 2016 on 1:46 pm

    This is the very thought that finally got me to quit the corporate job that paid well but took all my time. I was time starved and needed to put a higher value on having time to live a life. Great post.

    Reply
    • Kate Dore MaryEllen Miller June 17, 2016 on 6:18 pm

      Congratulations on making such a difficult choice, MaryEllen! I’m sure it wasn’t easy, but it sounds like you make the right decision.

      Reply
  • DC @ Young Adult Money June 19, 2016 on 10:05 am

    I like that you mention long-term goals. I think there are a lot of people who would do well in freelance writing, but aren’t willing to work their first gig for rock-bottom prices. Some freelancers I know who make $100+ per article started by writing for free and/or a really low cost per post.

    Reply
    • Kate Dore DC @ Young Adult Money July 9, 2016 on 9:14 pm

      Good point, DC. It’s tough for a lot of people to think about working for free or cheap after so many years in the workforce (or so many unpaid internships). But sometimes it’s necessary to reach a greater goal.

      Reply
  • Abigail @ipickuppennies June 21, 2016 on 12:32 pm

    I definitely go back and forth about this. I don’t do much freelance work because, when it comes to work, I can get overtime for significantly more (since I write and edit and edit and edit some more). But when it comes to saving a few bucks I’ll often put in more time than it might actually be “worth.” It’s different because I’m not doing work, per se. Just concentrating on our goal.

    Reply
    • Kate Dore Abigail @ipickuppennies July 9, 2016 on 9:11 pm

      Interesting, Abigail. I don’t have the opportunity to make overtime pay, and my job rarely requires more than 40 hours per week. But I’d probably think about freelancing differently if I were given that option.

      Reply
  • Ty @ Get Rich Quickish June 21, 2016 on 1:03 pm

    Professionally speaking, I’m at almost exactly $60/hr with my full time job. As far as jobs go, it ain’t bad. But as my family grows up and as I get older I find myself more and more willing to take less money in return for more time.

    For example, what if I cut my pay in half, but only worked half the hours? Not sure I’m willing to do that quite yet, but I’m quickly getting there, even if that means I have to push out my FI date.

    Reply
    • Kate Dore Ty @ Get Rich Quickish July 9, 2016 on 9:10 pm

      That’s great, Ty! Both your currently hourly rate and how you’re thinking about your time. Someday I may have to make those choices, as well. But for now, I’m still hustling 🙂

      Reply
  • Holly Johnson June 22, 2016 on 7:31 am

    Since I have kids, I have to be very careful with my time. I can’t afford to take on low-paying work when I would rather be taking care of my kids or at least spending time with them.
    I had plenty of low-paying but rewarding jobs in my early 20’s and they were all fine at the time.

    Reply
    • Kate Dore Holly Johnson July 9, 2016 on 9:08 pm

      Great point, Holly. It’s hard to put a price of time spent with family. The truth is, most jobs probably aren’t worth skipping that time for.

      Reply
  • Pamela June 29, 2016 on 4:04 pm

    Time is always valuable, but to me, it feels more valuable the older I get. Your story and experience with work depicted what I think many people feel and may not express.
    The valuable life skills that you acquired during these experiences must have made a huge difference. Its great that you stuck through and remained committed.

    Reply
    • Kate Dore Pamela July 9, 2016 on 9:07 pm

      I feel the same way, Pamela. And I suspect that will continue as I move through different phases of my life. Thanks for the words of encouragement!

      Reply
  • NZ Muse July 28, 2016 on 6:41 pm

    As my salary has increased so has the value I put on my time. For example I don’t want to freelance for less per hour than my salary works out to.

    Reply