Published on February 2nd, 2015 | by Chuck20
Should We Calculate Hourly Earnings When Manufacturing Spend?
This is another post in our Manufactured Monday series. We try to offer some insights into manufactured spend each Monday. You can view all posts in this series by clicking here.
When you manufacture spend (MS) do you calculate your hourly earnings? Should you calculate your hourly earnings? Is MS always worth it?
I think about this question often, and I was just reminded of the topic by Free-quent Flyer. He writes:
Unlike many of my readers, I don’t place a high value on my time, or rather, I don’t treat manufactured spend as a time “suck:” I do much of my manufactured spend on foot, which makes it feel vaguely healthy; I listen to funny and educational podcasts while I work; and I’m always gathering more news and updates for this blog, increasing the value I provide my readers. So I don’t feel the need to put a dollar cost on my time spent, since I love my job!
It got me thinking because I’m exactly the opposite; I’m constantly calculating how long each MS run took and how that translates into hourly wages. Not because I’m an attorney who could be billing $300 per hour. Not because I necessarily had a different paying job that I could have been doing. Just because I find myself constantly busy, and – unlike Free-quent Flyer – I find myself unable to get anything done while I MS. It’s completely dead time. It’s only not dead… if I’m actually making money.
“Money” in this context wouldn’t have to be green dollars. It could be airline miles or any other reward currency as well. But if it’s airline miles, then I’d be calculating how much those miles are worth to me in dollars. If it’s elite status, then I’d calculate how many hours it took me to get the elite status. Whenever I do a particularly time consuming MS run, I’ll chuckle to myself, ‘Haha, you just worked for less than minimum wage.’
If I didn’t calculate everything by hourly wages, I’d end up doing all the wrong things. There’s simply not enough time in the day to do all MS and all other things on the agenda. I need to prioritize.
Case in Point
Let’s take Buxx, for example. I don’t have US Bank Buxx, only Nationwide Buxx. It has a $1000 monthly load limit which costs $4 to load ($500 +$2 and $500 +$2). The way the system is set up is that you can’t even do one clean $1000 run with it once a month – you have to do $500 and $500, or $800 and $200. Now, it would depend which card you’re loading Buxx with. If you got a Citi retention bonus of 3x ThankYou points, maybe it could be very valuable. But let’s suppose you’re getting a straight 2.2% with Arrival. How much did you actually make? Around $22 minus $4 in fees, or $18. Is it really worth the time?
To be clear, there are many scenarios which I’d use Buxx. It could be a great way to meet a minimum spend threshold. It could be great if you have 3x ThankYou points, as mentioned. Moreover, if I was going shopping in Walmart and I had some extra load room on my Serve card, I’d make sure to load up $500 on my Buxx before going and load the $500 onto Serve. There would still be around 5-15 minutes of time spent on it, but to me that’s worth it for the $9 I’ll net on my Arrival card.
Maybe I’d even make an extra stop into Walmart, if I was passing by. In that case, I’d be netting the $9 in around 25 minutes, after accounting for the lines in Walmart. And I’d probably still do it… but I’d definitely calculate it in an hourly wage type of fashion. And I wouldn’t do it if it was busy season for me, or if there was different MS venue I could be doing at a higher value.
In conclusion, don’t get me wrong: I’ve gone long ways to earn minimal points in the past. Sometimes, it was an error in hindsight. Other times, I just got caught up in the point-accruing mindset and wasn’t interested in calculating the time involved. But it’s not the norm for me.
Many other people will constantly seek to maximize any point venue they have, irrespective of time. And I’m not against that at all. If someone enjoys it, or if someone gets into the hobby and goes all out to take advantage of every point-earning opportunity they have, I respect that fully. A hobby could be very fulfilling. I just don’t find myself in that position personally. I’m constantly calculating minutes and dollars.
What do you think? Should we calculate the dollars, or should we pursue it as a hobby? Do you mentally calculate the hourly wages of each churn? Am I the only one who calculates whether I just earned minimum wage?