How Much Is Your Free Time Worth? (or Why You Should Have an Equation)

You can't truly put a monetary value on your personal time. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't try.
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You can't truly put a monetary value on your personal time. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't try.
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There’s a certain type of man—he's usually wearing a fleece vest with some sort of corporate insignia—that will tell you his time is valuable. He’s not lying, per se, but it’s unlikely he’s done the math.  The only real way to react to a person like this is to ask them, “How valuable?” Demanding a specific answer not only underscores the fact that they should stop talking like an '80s sitcom villain but serves as a reminder that not everyone’s time is of equal value. It pays to have an idea of exactly how valuable your time actually is.

There are different ways to approach the question of dollars to minutes. One obvious approach is to talk to an actuary and have them estimate how long you’ve got left. That’s depressing. There is, after all, such a thing as too much perspective. That’s why we recommend creating an equation for yourself that takes your priorities and costs into account and spits out a rough dollars-an-hour figure. Remember that you sleep. Remember that you work.

Unless it’s what you do for a living, writing an equation can be a time-consuming, confounding endeavor. But there is a singular sort of satisfaction that comes from assigning values to what is an impossible-to-value commodity: your enjoyment of time on Earth. Just because it isn’t poetic doesn’t mean it isn’t a decent use of your time (except if it isn’t, which you’d need an equation to know. The easiest way to do this is to follow a three-step process.

1. Figure out how much money you are actually making and spending on a regular basis. If this is a difficult process for you, please stop reading this article. You have more pressing matters to attend to.

2. Figure out those things that you value and are not willing to do without. Figure out the activities you value and don’t want to miss while you’re at it.

3. Using your current finances and the monetary and chronological values associated with your various enthusiasms, attempt to divide the amount of money you’re making with the amount of time you’re spending fully conscious and doing whatever you want (washing the car doesn’t count, racing it does).

To speed up your process, we’ve put together a basic equation you can add onto as you see fit, allotting time and money for spelunking or bare-knuckle fighting or onanism—whatever you enjoy. Flesh it out and you’ll be able to quickly figure out when ordering in, hiring an event planner, or using TaskRabbit makes sense. Your time is valuable, but it’s devalued if you can’t put a figure to it.

An Hour of Free Time (MEASURED IN DOLLARS)=((($+ROI)/(((24-HWW-Z-⌘)+(24-ZZ)(365-251))))-(+(R/29.6) +((T++131)/365))/24)x(CL/2.60)


$: Salary

ROI: Annual return on invested capital

: Money spent on food daily

HWW: Hours worked per day

Z: Hours slept on a workday

ZZ: Hours slept when sleeping In

CL: Average cost of a Coors Light at your local bar (provides a cost-of-living adjustment)

T: Shirts

: Pants

⌘: Commute

R: Rent


251: Working days in a year

$131: Cost of NFL RedZone

24: Hours in a day

29.6: Average days in a month

$2.60: Average cost of a Coors Light in an American bar


This equation does not factor in money lost in the laundry, alot time for physical intimacy, factor in the amount of time spent relieving oneself (that can be free time too), or attempt to come to terms with the nature of time spent with one’s family, especially one’s aunts.

Photos by Miramax / Courtesy Everett Collection