Friday Chatting About Time Vs. Money

And about values vs. revealed preferences


NICOLE: Which would you rather have right now: the rest of the afternoon off, but you’d earn the same as if you did a bunch of work, or to work for the rest of the day but double your daily income?

ESTER: Right now, A, the afternoon off, because I’m functioning on such little sleep I feel like I could float away, but that also feels like the wrong answer, and I’d be mad at myself later if I went with it, so actually I choose B; I’ll kick sleep to the curb yet again and keep working. Money over time. And you?

NICOLE: The afternoon off AND you’d still earn money? I’d take that for sure. Except I have a question about the work we’re (theoretically) not finishing. Who’s going to do that? Will we have to fit it into tomorrow’s work? Or will, like, the fairies take care of it with magic wands and stuff?

ESTER: This is, as they say, your party.

NICOLE: It’s been an interesting month for me in terms of time vs. money vs. workload because I’m going to have three “four day weeks” in a row: I had Labor Day off last week, I’m flying to NYC today, and I’ll be spending Monday with my sister and her husband and my nephew (who I am meeting for the first time, so excited!!!!!!).

So I’ve got three four day weeks, but that just means I’ve been getting five days’ worth of work done in four days. Give or take.

ESTER: Do you have any regrets? Are you kicking yourself for not getting more done? Or do you feel at peace with being slightly less efficient, potentially, in exchange for having these experiences? (HAMILTON!!!! And baby nephew, baby nephew’s good too. :))

NICOLE: I’ve been getting a lot done, so that’s less of a big deal. It’s more like the whole “oh, you’re getting some time off!” thing and I’m like “Sort of? I’ll be working on the plane, I’ll be working on the train, if there was a box and a fox I would be working with them as well.” The actual vacation time on my vacation is about 50 percent.

ESTER: When was the last time you took 100% vacation?

NICOLE: The holidays. No, wait, the JoCo Cruise came after that. It’s like Christmas week and cruise week are my two annual times off, which is a lot more than some people get. 14 vacation days plus the occasional federal holiday!

But even the cruise is kind of blurry because I do use it to talk about work and learn more about work — there is a whole “writing track” on the boat to discuss writing/money/time/creativity — so… um… never. Never vacation. Sometimes vacation for, like, a day.

ESTER: Yeah, me too. I miss vacation. My free time comes in, like, 45 minute increments these days, if it comes at all. I miss TV! I haven’t even gotten to watch TV this summer. Hopefully things will calm down somewhat, because this level of stress and adrenaline cannot be good. Or healthy. And that is another thing: I feel like, if you don’t give your body enough time, it will cost you both money and time, because it will get sick and demand your attention. You can ignore your mind but, after a certain point anyway, you cannot ignore your body.

NICOLE: There’s usually about one day a month where I just do nothing. Which is honestly luxurious, but it’s also like, this is because I am too exhausted to do anything else! It’s not the fun kind of nothing. But even that is kind of preventative? Like, I will tell myself “today is nap day because you need to rest up for the days that are coming and you don’t have time to get sick.” I don’t know.

ESTER: A “Should-less Day”!

Ellen Burstyn’s Lessons on Survival

NICOLE: Is this our generation’s version of the zipless fuck?

ESTER: Basically yes. God, that’s depressing.

NICOLE: But… life is interesting, really, and if our culture encourages / forces over-engagement then I guess it could be worse. I don’t know. I just signed up to be a volunteer with the Greater Seattle Bureau of Fearless Ideas, and there’s an orientation later this month, and I need another time commitment like I need the cliched hole in my head, but I’m still really excited about it.

ESTER: Ooh, I’ve never heard of this! Say more?

NICOLE: It’s a Seattle non-profit that helps young people with writing and related skills.

The Greater Seattle Bureau of Fearless Ideas | A nonprofit writing and communications center

All of the classes and workshops are free, so it’s available to kids from a variety of demographics.

ESTER: Aw, like 826NYC?

NICOLE: That was in fact its former name. 826 Seattle.

ESTER: That’s great. One of my dreams when I am more at liberty is to do the same. I’ve gone to benefit events and such for them.

NICOLE: I’ll let you know how it goes! I’m sure I’ll end up doing some Billfold post about “the cost of volunteering.” One of the good things about the Greater Seattle Bureau of Fearless Ideas is that it’s within walking distance, which means one of the costs won’t be Lyft rides.

ESTER: Yayyyy. But back to the main question of time vs. money, which I feel like is one of the animating tensions of modern life. In the abstract, I definitely value time more, so it’s kind of funny that my revealed preference is for money. Maybe it’s because of my particular situation right now, maybe if I moved to a small town — or ANYWHERE that wasn’t this hectic, hyped-up, hugely expensive sleepless city — I’d actually be able to act in accordance with my values. Or maybe I’m fooling myself. Maybe revealed preference is all there is. That’s what economists would say, right?

NICOLE: We do act rationally at all times, except for the times we act irrationally. That seems to be economics in a nutshell. But, having grown up in a small town, I can say that it still takes all afternoon to buy groceries because the big grocery store is in the next town over. So you only get some of that time back. Maybe you were thinking about moving to a slightly larger town, though.

ESTER: Yes, I would need there to be at least a local Trader Joe’s. And probably a Target. And a movie theater. And a bookstore. Ideally all within walking distance. That would be a really great small town.

NICOLE: I wonder what kind of rent that town would charge.

ESTER: There’s probably exactly that town somewhere in New Jersey and I could look it up and tell you.

NICOLE: Let’s save it for next week. I think both of us could use a little extra time right now.

ESTER: Hee! Well, enjoy your flight. Take at least some time to do nothing but watch a movie or read a book.

NICOLE: If I get all my work done, that’s what I’ll do on the flight back!

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