Village of Frugality, Cambria County, Pennsylvania

What’s My Frugality Salary? A Calculator that Tests the Worthiness of any Frugal Project

Note: A new version of this calculator, released in January, 2017, replaces the embedded spreadsheet that appears below with an interactive online version powered by HTML5 and Javascript. To use this new and improved version of the “What’s My Frugality Salary Calculator?,” click here.

If you were asked to sum up the frugal lifestyle, you might describe it as a procession of projects great and small—all of them working to build your wealth.

For example, you might spend a day to paint a spare bedroom (this project costs much less than hiring a professional painter). Next, you might take a few minutes to complete a rebate form (this project lowers the price of your new computer). Later, you might use a weekend to shop for a used Toyota (this project saves you thousands on a new car).

With each frugal project, you trade a bit of time for a bit of money.

But are the savings really worth the effort?

A good way to answer this important question is to compute your “Frugality Salary.” That’s the implied wage you earn whenever you spend time on a frugal pursuit.

To help you test the merits of all your frugal efforts, today’s post introduces a new calculator: “What’s My Frugality Salary?” (WMFS, for short). WMFS lets you compare your salary at work to the salary you earn from any frugal project. If a given project pays better than your day job, then it’s worth pursing and you don’t have to worry about wasting your time.

WMFS delivers big advantages.

First, it’s a great motivator. If you know you’ll earn 4.5 times your salary when you spend a few hours building a rock wall, you become a very enthused landscaper.

Second, WMFS shuts down scoffers. If friends sneer when they see you selling a car instead of trading it in, they might cheer once they learn this minor hassle earns you $557 per hour.

Third, WMFS makes you more efficient. If you know the Frugality Salaries for your various projects, you can abandon low-paying ones and pursue those that deliver higher returns.

WMFS covers just about any frugal project you can think of, so maybe the best way to explore it is to review some examples.

Case Study No. 1: John Dough Launches a Lunch

John questions whether it’s worth his time to prepare a brown bag lunch. He figures he can make a sandwich in about 6½ minutes. The brown bag ingredients cost $2 whereas dining out costs $12.50, so his net savings are $10.50. John makes $81,200 per year, which places him in the 28 percent federal tax bracket and in the 4.63 percent bracket for his state (his city doesn’t levy income taxes).

Should John bag his own sandwich—or should he bag this frugal project altogether?

WMFS Brown Bagger

WMFS issues a clear verdict for the brown bags. In 6½ minutes making lunch, John earns 3.48 times more than 6½ minutes spent at work. Without question, this use of John’s time is profitable.

Case Study No. 2: Jane Dough Considers Low-Flow Aerators

Jane wonders about the benefits of installing three faucet aerators. She earns $350,000 per year, so she doubts this small project will pay nearly as much as her job. She figures it will take about one hour and 15 minutes to buy and install the aerators. She calculates that over the next decade they will save her about $60 per year in water fees, wastewater charges, and water heating costs (for more on these savings click here). Using an online calculator, she determines that the present value of this ten-year income stream is about $483 (after netting out the aerators’ cost).

Should this big-time wage earner pursue such small-time frugality?

WMFS Aerator Installer

WMFS loves aerators! Jane’s 1.25 hours of effort will earn her 3.24 times more than she could earn at her lucrative job. Bottom line: Jane can pursue this project knowing that she’s not wasting her time.

Case Study No. 3: Mark Mooney Questions Coupon Clipping

Mark is an avid couponer who wonders about its profitability (his friends are enthusiastic scoffers). He earns $122,000 per year. He spends 45 minutes each week cutting coupons, gathering them together, and presenting them at checkout counters. He figures all this effort saves him about $2.50 per week.

Should Mark continue his weekly clippings?

WMFS Coupon Clipper

According to WMFS, clipping coupons earns Mark only $4.59 per hour, which is far below the minimum wage.

Does this prove that Mark should abandon his coupon ritual?

Certainly Mark could earn more fixing lunches or installing aerators. But if he truly enjoys couponing, he should continue at his current clip. The $4.59 per hour doesn’t provide a living wage, but it’s still more than he earns watching ESPN.

WMFS Calculator

Having reviewed some case studies, you’re ready for the calculator.

Use WMFS early and often to test the worthiness of any frugal project great or small—whether you’re doing your own taxes, changing the car’s oil, or picking up sidewalk pennies. For extra motivation, print the results and post them on the fridge—or you can even show them to your most ardent scoffers.

WMFS Notes

1.  To expand WMFS into a full-sized spreadsheet, click the icon that appears in its lower right hand corner.

2.  When inputing line 3, be sure to enter your net savings. If the local shop charges $65 for an oil change, you don’t save $65 doing it yourself because you still have to buy oil and a filter. If these items cost $20, your net savings are $45.

3.  When entering your salary on line 4, don’t include investment gains. WMFS computes the value of your time, not the value of passive income streams.

4.  WMFS asks for your tax brackets. This lets WMFS convert your post-tax frugality savings into pre-tax wages that can be compared to your current salary. For a list of 2015 federal tax brackets, click here. For a list of 2015 state tax brackets, click here.

5.  To review WMFS’s inner workings, go to the lower part of the calculator and click the tab marked “WMFS Detail.”

6.  Pursuant to current law, WMFS computes Social Security withholding at 6.2 percent for salaries up to $118,500. At higher salary levels, the withholding is zero.

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If you’d like to explore other Frugal Fringe calculators, click any of the following:

Photo by Matthew Hunt taken outside the Village of Frugality, Cambria County, Pennsylvania. It must be a sign! 🙂

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12 Responses to What’s My Frugality Salary? A Calculator that Tests the Worthiness of any Frugal Project

  1. Lauren@HoneyDrift June 2, 2015 at 8:51 AM #

    What an interesting calculator! I love it. I always toss around how “worth it” things are to do myself, and this is a great tool! Good Job!

    • A Noonan Moose June 2, 2015 at 8:53 AM #

      Thanks for stopping by Lauren!

  2. Dawn June 2, 2015 at 10:49 AM #

    What an interesting calculator! Great idea!
    Dawn recently posted…A Credit Confession. Applied and Denied!My Profile

    • A Noonan Moose June 2, 2015 at 11:01 AM #

      Thank you for giving WMFS a spin!

  3. Heather June 2, 2015 at 7:24 PM #

    I like this! It’s really true that sometimes our attempts to be frugal cost us more in time where it’s just not worth it. It’s nice to have this calculator to spell it out.
    Heather recently posted…Another Method For Organizing CordsMy Profile

    • A Noonan Moose June 2, 2015 at 8:06 PM #

      Thanks so much for stopping by Heather—and congrats on paying off the auto loan!

  4. Brian June 3, 2015 at 4:31 AM #

    Great article! Its great to think this way, as its often times quite amazing how much money you can ‘make’ when doing things yourself…..especially when you consider that your ‘earnings’ are tax free! Nice job!

    • A Noonan Moose June 3, 2015 at 6:18 AM #

      Great point about taxes, Brian. Thanks for visiting!

  5. Kurt June 3, 2015 at 8:36 AM #

    This looks like fun! Working now to figure the frugality salary of getting my excellent coffee at home…
    Kurt recently posted…$200,000 Windfall! Now What?My Profile

    • A Noonan Moose June 3, 2015 at 9:49 AM #

      Brewing up some good data, perhaps? 😉

  6. Emma Healey June 17, 2015 at 1:15 PM #

    This is great. Especially the calculator. I personally know that having my hair done at the local student salon saves me around $80 compared to a full salon so for the three hours of torture that I must endure I clear over $26 per hour after taxes. That’s about $35 per hour gross and the minimum for which I would charge a freelance client so it is definitely worth my while.
    Emma Healey recently posted…Why Buying a Starter House (and Staying in It Forever) Is a Smart MoveMy Profile

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  1. Best PF Articles from this Past Week (and Website Growth Reports) - Life And My Finances - June 7, 2015

    […] What’s My Frugality Salary? – by Frugal Fringe – It might take you a bit to catch onto the calculation, but after a few minutes it will make total sense. Basically, how much money can you save within a small amount of time? The more you can save in the shorter amount of time, the more you essentially “earn” per hour. It’s a great way to measure if your actions are really making a difference in your personal finances. […]

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