Village of Frugality, Cambria County, Pennsylvania

What’s My Frugality Salary? (WMFS 2.0): Calculate the Worthiness of any Frugal Project

The original What’s My Frugality Salary calculator (WMFS) was released in 2015 as a spreadsheet embedded into one of my blog posts. Since then, I’ve learned more about coding, so it’s time for WMFS 2.0. This update replaces the spreadsheet format with an interactive online calculator that’s powered by HTML5 and Javascript.

Introduction to WMFS 2.0

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 costs less than hiring a professional painter). Next, you might take a few minutes to fill out a rebate form (this cuts the price of your new computer). Later, you might spend a few hours completing your tax returns (this saves you hundreds on accountants).

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

But are the savings really worth the effort?

A great way to answer this question is to compute your “Frugality Salary.” That’s the implied wage you earn whenever you pursue a frugal project.

To test the merits of your frugal efforts, today’s post introduces a new version of this site’s popular calculator: “What’s My Frugality Salary?” WMFS lets you compare your pre-tax work wages to the implied wages you earn from frugal projects. If a given project pays more than your day job, then it’s worth pursuing.

WMFS delivers several big advantages.

First, it’s a great motivator. When you know you’ll earn 4.5 times your salary by building a rock wall yourself instead of hiring someone, you become an inspired landscaper.

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

Third, WMFS increases your efficiency. If you know the Frugality Salaries for your various projects, you can abandon the low-paying gigs in favor of those with higher returns.

Since WMFS covers all types of frugal projects, maybe the best way to explore it is to review some examples.

Case Study No. 1: John Dough Launches a Lunch

John wonders whether it’s worth his time to prepare a brown bag lunch. He figures he makes a sandwich in about 6½ minutes. The 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?

Hallelujah! WMFS issues a clear verdict for brown bags. In 6½ minutes making lunch, John earns 3.48 times more than he does in 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 loves aerators! Jane’s 1.25 hours of effort will earn her 3.24 times more than she earns at her lucrative job. Bottom line: Jane can pursue this project knowing that it’s a great investment of her time.

Case Study No. 3: Mark Mooney Questions Coupon Clipping

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

Should Mark continue his weekly clippings?

According to WMFS, clipping coupons earns Mark only $4.80 per hour, which is far below the minimum wage.

Does this prove that Mark should abandon his coupon ritual?

Not necessarily. It’s true that Mark could earn more fixing lunches or installing aerators. But if he truly enjoys couponing, he should continue at his current clip. The $4.80 per hour isn’t much, but it’s still more than he earns watching ESPN.

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

Use WMFS often to test the worthiness of any frugal project great or small—whether you’re doing taxes, changing the car’s oil, or picking up sidewalk pennies. For extra motivation, take screen shots of the results and email them to your most ardent scoffers.

What’s My Frugality Salary 2.0

1. Input Short Description of Frugal Project [35 or fewer characters]:
2. Input How Many Hours You Spent on Frugal Project . . .:
3. and Input How Many Minutes You Spent on Frugal Project:
4. Input Total Net Savings [e.g., if $12.33, enter 12.33]:
5. Input Gross Salary (Pre-Tax) [e.g., if $53,690, enter 53690]:
6. Input Top Federal Income Tax Bracket [e.g., if 39.6%, enter 39.6]:
7. Input Top State & Local Income Tax Bracket [e.g., if 4.5%, enter 4.5]:

Click the button to see your frugality earnings stated as pre-tax wages. The last line shows whether you make more from your frugal project than from your job.

my Frugality Salary would be:
 Hourly Frugality Salary (Pre-Tax):
 Weekly Frugality Salary (Pre-Tax):
 Monthly Frugality Salary (Pre-Tax):
 Annual Frugality Salary (Pre-Tax):
is this many times higher than my current gross salary (see line 5):

WMFS 2.0 Notes

1.  When inputing line 4, be sure to enter your net savings. An example. 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.

2.  When entering your salary on line 5, don’t include any investment gains. WMFS computes the value of your time, not the value of passive income streams.

3.  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 gross salary. For a list of 2017 federal tax brackets, click here. For a list of 2017 state tax brackets, click here.

4. Pursuant to current law, WMFS computes Social Security withholding at 6.2 percent for salaries up to $127,200. At higher salary levels, the withholding is zero. WMFS computes Medicare withholding at 1.45 percent for all income levels.

*   *   *

WMFS is designed to help you nudge yourself just a little further into the habit of frugality. This site hosts other calculators that seek to do the same thing. To see the full collection in all its parsimonious glory, click here.

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

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6 Responses to What’s My Frugality Salary? (WMFS 2.0): Calculate the Worthiness of any Frugal Project

  1. Mrs. Picky Pincher January 30, 2017 at 7:28 AM #

    This is a FANTASTIC idea. Many times we take up little projects that seem to be money-saving, but are actually time-wasters with minimum returns. This is a great way to quantify whether a “frugal” activity is actually frugal or if you’re wasting precious time for little or small gains.

    • A Noonan Moose January 30, 2017 at 8:14 AM #

      Thanks MPP!

      I’ve misspent many hours in the subjective belief that i was engaged in saving myself major dollars. When i back test the projects objectively with WMFS, i get educated real fast.

  2. Kraken Fireball January 30, 2017 at 3:52 PM #

    This calculator is the perfect way to answer that question “what is my time worth?” I know I am always trading time for money when doing any task myself, but now a price tag can be definitively added to it. Thanks for putting your knowledge to use and making this useful calculator.
    I’m curious, have you noticed what chores are the most profitable for you?
    Kraken Fireball recently posted…Recipe to Quit Your Job: Frugality + Side HustleMy Profile

    • A Noonan Moose January 30, 2017 at 4:35 PM #

      I think my most profitable chore post-retirement has been doing our household’s own taxes. Careful tax planning allows us to convert money tax free from traditional IRAs to Roth IRAs (this saved us over $8,000 in state and federal taxes in 2016). Careful tax planning also gets us FREE health insurance thanks to the Obamacare premium tax credit (our credit for 2016 will be about $8,300). Tax work takes me about 50 hours per year so my $16,300 in tax savings compares to an annualized pre-tax income of $863,060.22 according to WMFS 2.0. Not a bad payback for implementing a few basic tax strategies!

  3. fbgcai January 30, 2017 at 4:45 PM #

    Great little calculator!
    One thing though – how do you quantify/monetize the tertiary benefits of a task e.g. the brown bag scenario – how do you account for the probably way healthy brown bag lunch? and the time not spent in getting take away lunch? or for an project the sense of personal accomplishment/ learning/ self reliance?
    just curious 🙂
    I know I’ve undertaken many projects that would have been better outsourced but were invaluable to me for insight/experiences I gained.

    • A Noonan Moose January 30, 2017 at 5:38 PM #

      You make very wise points fbgcai.

      Calculators quantify that which can be quantified. Health benefits and life insights thus fall outside of the ambit of WMFS 2.0, as you correctly point out.

      On the other hand, WMFS 2.0 is capable of quantifying time savings. All you have to do is net out any minutes saved against whatever time is spent on the frugal project itself. For example, in the first case above, if John Dough averages 5 minutes waiting in line for take away lunches, then he can “take away” those minutes from his sandwich prep time. For Mr. Dough, this produces a net frugal project time-cost of just 1.5 minutes (6.5 mins – 5.0 mins = 1.5 mins). Running that net figure through WMFS 2.0 yields an amazing result: Mr. Dough’s implied annual Frugality Salary skyrockets from $282,804 to $1,225,486—proof that even the busiest workers should sandwich in some time to make their own lunch! 🙂

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