How much is your time worth?

Lord, I hear this question so often as justification for an overpriced widget or service.  Apparently some people think one should spend any amount of money to avoid doing a few hours’ worth of work.

The latest example is a neat little box for use on experimental aircraft.  It replaces the traditional master battery and starter contactors, as well as a current measuring shunt and maybe a fuse or two.  I think there may even be a diode or two thrown in for good measure.  It would simplify the wiring on the firewall side of an experimental plane, sure.  It might even shave one or two nights off of your build time.  Maybe.  You’ll still need to do some wiring, and of course there’s a nice canon plug on the back side, so you’ll still need a crimp tool and it’ll need to be connected to various switches and stuff on the panel.  All in all, I’d say it would be a nice little $200-$300 box.

The problem is, they’re apparently going to want about $1200 for  it.  Say what?  that’s about $1050 or $1100 more than I’d spend on the parts to do the job the old fashioned way.  On one of the very few online forums I use any more, there is a little bit of discussion about it.  And just as sure as Godwin’s Law it’s only a matter of time before someone chimes in with, “How much is your time worth?” – as if that justifies any expenditure, no matter how ridiculous.

Well, I’ll tell you.  For one thing, my “internal billing rate” — how much time I’m willing to expend to avoid an expense, or conversely how much money I’m willing to spend to avoid work — varies greatly with how much I enjoy or do not enjoy the work to be avoided.  Self-surgery?  Yeah, sure, I’ll pay a professional to avoid doing that work.  Mowing the lawn?  It better be cheap, I’m not shelling out $40 a pop for that.  Wiring work on an airplane I’m building?  Well, let’s just say $1200 will buy an awful lot of hours.  I figure it will probably take about 2 evenings of work — let’s be really generous and call it six hours — to do that wiring, of which maybe half would be saved using the new whiz-bang box.  So that works out to – oh, let’s see, carry the one…  roughly $350 an hour, and if the bloody thing ever breaks I have a plane out of commission for God only knows how long, versus a trip to Auto Zone for parts.  I don’t know how long they will be manufacturing and supporting these, but I’ll bet my airplane is flying for longer than that…  meaning that some day this thing is almost certainly going to cause a time consuming and expensive problem.  Hmm, there goes all that time we “saved” on the front end.

I’m sure they’ll get some customers, but I’m afraid I won’t be one of them.  And I won’t even feel like a tightwad.