Whenever I consider getting takeaway for lunch or running out for a latte during the workweek, I often pause to think about how much time it will cost me — not the time away from my desk, but rather the time spent working to add up to the amount I am about to spend. It doesn’t always stop me from making that impulse purchase, but it forces me to recognise that yes, this sandwich/drink/ice cream cone costs an amount of my paid time that I’m willing to part with.
It’s something I’ve done since I was a uni student working part time at a supermarket. Grabbing a slice of pizza and a soft drink from the food court during my lunch break would cost the equivalent of half-an-hour of paid work. It would be like only getting paid for 7.5 hours of work instead of eight, I’d think, and then often the next day I’d bring lunch from home.
If you’re someone who wishes you reconsidered your purchases more often, there’s a web tool that can remind you. The Time Well Spent extension changes prices for items you’re browsing online to amounts of time, based on salary information you supply.
I installed the extension and told it that I make $28 per hour. Then I went shopping. Here’s what it looks like:
A moment after the product page loads, the dollar signs switch over to minutes. Do I want to spend 52 minutes of my income on a Triceratops taco holder? Is it worth upgrading to the T. Rex taco holder for a full hour of the time I worked? Why is Triceratops the cut-rate taco holder? For some of life’s questions, we may never find the answers we seek.
The extension was developed by Aaron Z. Lewis, who cites the Time Well Spent movement as the inspiration for the extension. Here’s how he explained why it helps to view money as time in a blog post announcing the extension when it launched in 2018:
Every week, you sell your time and mental energy to an employer who gives you some money in return. Your paycheck is a literal representation of your time — the scarcest resource in the world. You usually use your time (in the form of money) to buy stuff, but you can also use it to buy freedom. The more dollars you have in your bank account, the more time you can keep to yourself.
Based on my experimentation and user reviews, the extension doesn’t work on every website and only converts U.S. dollars to time. But if boxes sometimes arrive at your door and you can’t recall what the heck you ordered while double-screening during your Netflix binge, you’ll want to try it. You can toggle the extension on and off with one click for those times when you just want to do some old-fashioned, dollar-to-dollar comparison shopping.
This extension won’t scare you into not shopping at all, but it may help curb those impulse purchases you don’t really need. Now, if only they would create one that follows me into coffee shops and converts the prices on all the baked goods to time.