October 3, 2003

Time As A Luxury Item

I was surfing the web the other day – or more accurately, since all I have is a modem connection here that won’t go faster than 33K, I was limping the web the other day – and came across this item on the San Francisco Chronicle’s web site:

RICK DELVECCHIO, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE - Bare-bones household costs for a two-income family of four in the Bay Area now top $70,000 a year, an increase of 14 percent since 2001, a new study has found.

One of the reasons we left Marin, beautiful as it is, is that it was incredibly expensive to live there, especially on one salary. We’d made a concious decision to have Rachel stay at home pretty much full time until the boys were at least four or five. We had a nanny two days a week, which was a godsend for Rachel’s sanity (and consequently mine as well), but she was essentially a stay at home mom, and for all the downsides really loved doing it.

A couple of years ago, when Rachel was attending Naropa University, I attended one of her classes entitled Voluntary Simplicity. In the class we began by calculating the true hourly wage we were earning. For example, if you make $100,000 a year , and work 40 hours per week, you probably think you’re getting paid $50 per hour. Think again. If you need to go to the gym, because you’re too stressed out otherwise, or you need to pay $20 a day in parking, or you buy lunch every day, then you need to deduct those costs from your salary. If you need to travel one hour each way because you live in Novato because that’s all you can afford, or it takes you an hour a day to get dressed, or you need to go to the gym 5 hours a week, then you need to add those hours to the number of hours a week you work. Do that for all of the money and time you spend to work, and then do the calculation again. What you may find is that you actually make $80,000 (after deducting the cost to work), and work 60 hours a week (after adding the travel, dressing and gym totals). After doing the calculation again you’ll see that you’re really only making $27 per hour, not the $50 you thought you were making (all before taxes of course). The question was then posed, would it make more sense to take a $27 per hour job closer to home, doing something you loved, rather than the job you’re currently doing?

The exercise was an interesting one, but there was just one problem with the equation: what if you just couldn’t live in the Bay Area on $54,000 per year (40 hours a week at $27 per hour), what if you needed to bring home that $80,000?

So, last year we took a deep breath and decided to leave the Bay Area. Why? Because we felt that the only way to get out of the rat race (besides winning the lottery) was to physically leave the site of the rat race. This was a very difficult decision as most of our friends, and quite a bit of my family lives there. I’ve been there for 25 years, and Rachel for 13 years, and leaving was an emotional as well as physical undertaking.

So now we’re in Cornwall, where some things are more expensive, like petrol for the car, and going out to eat; but lots of things are less expensive. We are living in Rachel’s summer house, doing odd jobs around the house in exchange for rent. We eat at home instead of going out. Because I’m at home, Rachel and I trade-off giving each other a break from the kids, so there’s little need for a nanny. And being on National Health means that we don’t have to spend $10,000 a year on health care for the family (we were paying $896 per month for COBRA coverage for the four of us).

But the thing we have the most of now is time. Time to reflect. Time to write. But best of all time to hang out with each other and the kids, and to figure out what we want to do next. I don’t know how you put a price on time, but I do know you can’t buy it at Neiman Marcus in San Francisco, or Harrod’s in London.

Posted by: Frank @ 10:27 am — Filed under:

1 Comment »

  1. Im currently going to school at the University of Georgia and am only 20 years old but I have been thinking a lot about trying to get a job in England when I graduate. Things seem to be so much more relaxing and fulfilling. I recently spent about a month in Oxford and found it to be just lovely. My girlfriend and I are planning to make the skip over the pond when we graduate next May for a time to get the real immersion into the European culture and state of mind. I hope that it is as great as I remember it and helps to shuttle the decision of moving there some day.

    Great blog.

    Comment by AdamK — February 19, 2008 @ 6:09 pm

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