Should Have Paid for the Delivery, or: Value Your Time

Just before the weekend I realised I needed a few items from Ikea at fairly short notice. Nothing complicated. A rug and some rails of the sort kitchen utensils dangle from. My in-progress kitchen would definitely remain in-progress without the latter. The obvious solution was the usual online shopping and home delivery combo. I fired up Ikea.com and lobbed everything I needed into the basket. I clicked checkout. Cost for delivery: £35, said the site. "Daylight robbery!" said I. I think you can see where this is going. More specifically: I think you can see where I was going.

Ikea is 60 minutes away from me by public transport. 30 minutes by car. Driving myself in a ZipCar was more logistics than I was looking for, so I decided public transport there, Uber back was my best option. Off I set. About two hours later I had a heavy yellow Ikea sack hanging from my shoulder (because obviously I also spotted a couple of other things we could really use). I started to manhandle the 2.5 metre rug off the shelf in the self service warehouse. I'm sure I knew how big the rug was beforehand, but it hadn't entirely registered until this point. It was beginning to dawn on me: "this is silly."

In the end the 30 minute Uber back cost me £17.14. The 60 minute trip on public transport to get there in the first place cost £6.60. I spend around an hour trudging around Ikea. So the final tally was £23.74. I saved £11.26, but I spent 2 and a half hours of my life. In other words I payed myself almost exactly £4.50 an hour for my time.

I really like to think that my time is worth more than that. It's certainly worth more than that to me. I generally have a rule that if I can pay money to increase quality of life for myself or my partner I will do so without hesitation. I broke that rule spectacularly here.

I can handle the economy cabin for a long flight, but if it's overnight I will tend to upgrade to premium. Business would be nice but I generally can't afford it when paying for myself. An overnight flight in economy will usually leave me completely destroyed the next day. It will be several days and a lot of coffee before I'm back up to speed. It's worth it to me to pay the extra money and avoid that.

Another example is taking my shirts to the laundrette. It takes me something like 30 minutes to do a crappy job of ironing a shirt. But for £1.50 each my local laundrette will wash and iron them. For me it's an absolute no brainer1.

In a world of Amazon Prime and public transport which feels free at point of use, £35 sounded like a lot of money for delivery. In fact I was thinking about it in entirely the wrong way, and my maths was deeply flawed. You should value your time highly. Very highly. If someone is providing a service which is genuinely useful to you, then you should pay them for it. I should have been praising Ikea for charging for delivery, and not just disguising the cost elsewhere.

The longwinded upshot is this: Next time it comes up, I'm definitely paying Ikea for the damn delivery. Replace the words "Ikea" and "delivery" as appropriate.

  1. Before someone says it: I'm not saying my time is worth more than the person ironing the shirts in the laundrette. I'm saying they'll iron the shirt in 3 minutes and do a much better job of it.