They’re only $30! If you’re like most people, you probably hear yourself or your family members throwing around phrases like that all the time, but the reality is that the value of something really depends on whether or not you can afford it. This is a great tool to keep in mind when you’re trying to make a budget and stick to it.

There are a lot of ways to assess how much something costs, but instead of just looking at the price tag, you may want to consider how long it takes you to earn it. Let’s take a closer look.

Calculating Prices Based on Working Hours

To explain how this concept works, imagine you make $20 an hour, and you want to go to the movies. At the full price theater, two tickets cost $10 each, so that’s an hour of work in exchange for a two hour movie. However, once you add popcorn, drinks, and candy to the total, that brings it up to $40, and that’s two hours of work.

Maybe you love movies, and it’s totally worth it. Maybe you would rather wait a couple months and pay $6 to stream the movie at home. That way it takes you less than 20 minutes to earn those 2 hours of fun.

Make a Budget Based on Hours Worked

You can actually apply this concept to your entire budget, but if you want to do that, you shouldn’t take your exact hourly wage into account. You need to account for taxes and other deductions. The easiest way to do that is to look at your take home pay and then divide that amount by the number of hours you worked.

For instance, if you earn $20 per hour, by the time your boss takes out taxes and insurance, your paycheck may end up being $712. When you divide that by 40 hours it works out to $17.80 an hour.

Now figure out how much you earn a month, write down all your bills, and convert them to hours worked. Let’s say it takes 60 hours to earn your rent, 20 to cover food, 15 for utilities, 5 for your car insurance, and another 5 for your cell phone bill. In this case, if you work 160 hours per month, you have 55 hours left over for fun money.

When you break it down like that, it’s easier to make decisions about what you want. For instance, if you spend $5 on a latte every day, that doesn’t sound like much, but over a month, it works out to $150. When you divide that by your hourly take-home wage of $17.80, you work 8.4 hours per month to pay for coffees. You may be fine with that, or you may prefer to quit coffee (or make it at home) and take a day off every month.

Saving for Big Expenses

You can also apply this calculation method to big financial goals. In particular, imagine you want to go on a vacation once a year and you need $3,000 for that. Based on the hourly wage above, that equates to 169 hours. Basically, that’s 14 hours per month or between 3 and 4 hours per week. Even if a vacation doesn’t seem affordable now, it looks OK when you realize it’s just the equivalent of a few hours per week.

Ultimately, you have to decide if certain expenses are worth the time you spend working. When you look at expenses through this lens, it helps you hone in on what you truly want. This approach can also make it easier to make a budget and stick to it. Additionally, it can help you make decisions about over-time, part-time jobs, or other work.

We’re Here to Help!

If you have questions on how to make a budget or need assistance with organizing your spending, give us a call at (315) 671-4000 or chat with us at We have financial coaches who want to help you make the most of your money!