Will Those Jeans Cost You a Week of Work?

It's a whole new way to look at buying a pair of jeans. Or those cute new sandals you saw last week.

Say you're out shopping: Do these two phrases sound like they're referring to the same amount?

"They're $200, sure, but I really like them!"
"I'd have to work two full days to pay for those, but I really like them!"

Framing your purchases in terms of hours worked is a great way to put things in perspective. After all, $50 probably means something very different to you if you're making $100 an hour versus $10.


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Your results will sound something like this: "This brunch cost me three hours of work." "There goes another hour of answering phones to get this eyeliner."  "I worked two whole days for this train ticket!"

We made this mental math simple by building you a calculator to figure out exactly how many hours you're spending each time you swipe your card.

First, select a spending habit (example: that twice-a-week $10 work lunch). Then input the hours you work per week, the number you see on your paycheck and how many times you get that check each year (such as: 45 hours, $1,400 per paycheck, 26 paychecks) and hit calculate.

Oh dear. You could be working 62 hours—almost a full week—to afford that lunchtime sushi and falafel.

And it works for a single purchase, too. Those Citizens of Humanity jeans? 13 hours. Brunch with unlimited mimosas? 2 hours. Plane ticket to Vermont? 22 hours.

Going forward, use this new lens to think about whether your next purchase is really worth it. Ask yourself whether you'd rather have that designer sundress/spa treatment/fancy dinner out, or if you'd rather not work however many hours. You might not be able to quit your job just yet, but if you choose the "I don't want to work that much" option, it's a good clue that whatever the purchase is, it isn't worth your money in time.

Now it's your turn: Play with this calculator and, if you feel compelled, share your calculations in the comments. Don't be embarrassed—we're all friends here.

In the meantime, we'll be over in the My Money Center ... revising our budget.



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