Today’s incredibly simple, and simultaneously complex question is: What is time? There are some super deep answers to that simple question, like this one, by Theoretical Physicist Sean Carroll. Carroll discusses what he likes to call an “arrow of time” with the past on one end and the future on the other. Clocks measure this “arrow of time,” but a clock can be anything. Carroll discusses how the Earth and the Sun form a clock, with the Earth rotating around its axis 365 and a quarter times for each revolution around the Sun. For more on Carroll and a video of him see this article as well.
Today we’ll be stepping back from Thermodynamics, entropy, and Time as a dimension type discussions, and instead discuss time as a resource at our disposal. When you think about it our time each day is limited. The very best of us can function on 4-6 hours of sleep, which leaves 18-20 hours a day for everything else. Carve out a commute- a workday, dinner, time with your loved ones, and when it comes down to it there isn’t a whole lot left of that 1/365 revolutions of the earth around the sun.
Time is the Ultimate Non-Renewable Resource
We’ve discussed time here on Milenomics before, asking you to place a value on it, your T-Rate. We’ve also talked a lot about how time can factor into our costs to acquire and manufacture miles and points. The reason I talk so much about time is that it is a limited resource, maybe my most limited. There are only 24 hours in each day. Nothing any of us can do will ever change that (Theory of Relativity aside).
If you’re in a position to spend 8 hours a day researching, driving around, buying, cashing in, and earning miles there is no doubt that will yield amazing results–just as focusing that much time on anything should. If you’re not able to focus that much time on earning miles that’s where Milenomics can help. What good is earning the miles if you then spend them wastefully? We’re focused on both ends of the spectrum–earning our miles as cheaply as possible, and then using them to travel as much as possible for as few miles as possible.
Two miles earned and spent foolishly could be worth less than one earned and spent wisely. And Miles earned and never spent are actually much worse than never earning the miles to begin with. You’ve invested time, and money into those miles, and by not using them you’ve wasted both.
Scarcity Means Giving up Something
If you’re like me, free time is a very scarce resource. I’ve mentioned before, but between sleep, work, time at home with my family, and volunteer commitments I really have about 1 hour a day to spend on miles. This limitation is why I’m so adamant about keeping track of costs–and making sure a MMR to earn miles makes financial sense for me.
All of what I’ve come up with–cost tracking, Demand Schedules, keeping a supply of the miles I need are all because I don’t have time to waste. The Scarcity of Time in your life will dictate what kind of trade-offs you come up with. We all want to fly Business or First everywhere we go–but the scarcity of money (for paid tickets, and to a lesser extent for miles) and time (for earning miles) will dictate how close you get to that goal. This is why on Day 1 of Milenomics I asked you to think of your travel needs not your travel wants.
Miles (Earned) Per Hour
A great part of using Milenomics Cost Tracking is the personal data you collect. After a few months you have a log of all your purchases, the distance driven, and the time it took you to earn those miles. When you need miles for a future trip, say you’re 40,000 miles short, we all know how to calculate the fees we’ll be expected to pay on those 40,000 miles. Divide 40,000 by whatever you’ll earn from each purchase, then Multiply by the fee paid per purchse.
For VR earning at 1x this would look like:
40,000 / 500 = 80 VR x $3.95 = $316
This is the same no matter if you live in Texas, Florida, Washington, Indiana, so long as you can buy at 1x with a CC this is your fixed cost.
Lets look at how much time it will take you to earn these 40,000 miles. We can do this because of the data we have collected on past purchases. Is this important? Yes, it can be.
A useful tool to use is to calculate your Miles Earned Per Hour. Not to be confused with a measure of speed, this Miles Per Hour is the amount of miles you can earn in 1 hour of “work.” If purchasing 5,000 miles at your local CVS takes 10 minutes the math would be:
(60 minutes / 10 minutes ) * 5000 Miles = 30,000 Miles Per Hour
At 30,000 Miles Per Hour it would take you 1 hour and 20 minutes worth of “work” to earn your 40,000 miles.
The above is an academic example, but how can we know, or at least estimate, the amount of time the purchase of those 40,000 miles will take us?
Pull up your Trusty Cost Tracking Spreadsheet, and run a command which Sums up your time spent, and miles earned, and then Use the above formula =(60/Total Minutes) * Total Miles to get your MPH:
When I have a goal I need I can use this estimate to see if my goal is realistic. If I need to I might even “carve out” the time I will need to earn the miles I need from the rest of my schedule.
Note: You’ll may have noticed in the above I don’t buy 5,000 miles in one shot, as I discussed last year. Sadly one of my best mile earning opportunities died for me late in December, so I may just have to include VR at some point in 2014.
Keeping up with the Joneses
Reading online reviews of trips can make you feel inadequately prepared for your own travel. Threads like this one, which often turn into a “mileage measuring contest” can also push you to keep earning miles you don’t need. You want to have the most, fly the best, and take photos as you do it all. Slow down, and think about what travel is all about: the destination.
I have to commend CanadianKMS writer Jeff on this. In his latest post he echos something I’ve found to be true as well:
“Maybe it’s just me, but I think international first class is just a nice way to travel. In nearly all cases I’ve found the food and sleep which are the one of the primary parts of first class flying to be better on the ground.”
Do what’s best for you–that might mean earning enough miles for coach tickets. Maybe spending less time and money driving to banks, Wal-Mart, Grocery stores, Staples is right for you. You’ll end up with more time to research what to do with an extra day you now have by flying nonstop in coach rather than around the world in 2 days in Business. Or maybe the opposite is true, you love airplanes and want to fly as many as possible. Milenomics is about creating a system, and sticking to that system. No two systems will be alike.
Ultimately your time is just that, yours. Only you decide how much or how little to use/not use on each area of your life. Earning miles and never using them is a great way to waste time and money.
Everything below this line is automatically inserted into this post and is not necessarily endorsed by Milenomics:
– Written by Sam Simon. All ideas are my own, but I encourage you to see my point of view and I promise I’ll try to do the same. Connect with me on Twitter @Milenomics.