February 21, 2020
Genevieve Burke, 14, remembers the first time she got paid for work. It was two years ago. She took care of a neighbor’s dog, Utley, while the family was on vacation. After a week of feeding Utley, walking him, and taking him out to play, she was handed $50.
Genevieve says this income was different from getting birthday money from Grandma or an allowance from Mom and Dad. “I felt like I earned it,” she says. The money felt more valuable to her. Experts would say that’s because she traded something equally valuable for it—her time.
Time Is Limited
Think of the world’s limited resources . These include oil, water, and precious metals. Time is a limited resource too. You’ve only got 24 hours in a day. When you use a couple of them to do one thing, such as play video games, you’re not using them to do something else, such as spend time with friends or go to work.
What you lose by not doing those other things is called an opportunity cost . Whether you’re missing a chance to do something fun or a chance to earn money, you pay a price. So how do you make the right decision about whether to spend time doing one thing versus another?
First, let’s agree there are periods of time you don’t really have control of, such as the hours you spend in school, or asleep. What you do control is your free time.
Weighing Your Options
TIME for Kids spoke to Betsey Stevenson, a professor of public policy and economics. She works for the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan. Stevenson suggests asking yourself, “Or what else?” Say you’ve got three hours free on a weekend afternoon. You were thinking of watching a movie. When you ask yourself the “Or what else?” question, you start to consider other options. You could visit your grandparents. You could take on a babysitting job. You could do housework, or get ahead on your homework, or read a book.
Weighing choices like these is what economists like Stevenson call doing a cost-benefit analysis. You look at the pros, or benefits, and the cons, or costs, before you make a decision. For instance, one benefit of taking the babysitting job is that you’ll make extra money for the week. The cost? You won’t be able to talk with friends about the movie because you haven’t seen it. There’s no right or wrong answer—you have to figure out what’s worth the most to you in a given situation. What’s Your Time Worth?
As you get older, the value of your time will grow. There are ways to increase the amount you’re able to earn, such as by learning new skills or going to college. But no matter how much money you get paid per hour, your time—just like your money—is a limited resource that you should protect. Think carefully about how you want to use it. —By Rebecca Cohen
Make A Time Budget
“While you can generally make more money, you can never make more time,” says Laura Vanderkam, who writes and lectures on time management. One way to maximize your time is to create a time budget.
Here’s how to do it. Draw up a calendar for the week. Fill in the time you don’t have control of, such as your school hours and activities and family commitments. Then think about when would be a good time for other things. For example, if your homework is due on Fridays but your Thursday nights are always busy, find another time earlier in the week to get your homework done.
When you designate time slots for what you need to do, you’ll find yourself with more time for what you want to do!
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Extra! Click here to read a related article from TIME for Kids.