In 1995 I bought a black half-slip. I have no idea what I paid for it, but seeing how I wore it up until last week, you can certainly say I got my money's worth.

Why did I stop? Well, I put it on a week ago under my skirt, and as I was hurrying down the stairs, my slip elastic decided that 23 years was certainly enough and it fell to my ankles.

Now, I'm thankful that it happened at home and not as I stood in front of my church congregation, directing the music, so I can't complain about it. I thought it was a funny story, so I shared the story on Facebook. We had a good group laugh and people shared stories about when their elastic had given up the ghost or they had observed someone else suffering the same fate. That's what I expected.

What I didn't expect was several people telling me that I shouldn't buy a new slip, but should just put new elastic in the old one. 

Now, my parents raised me to be frugal and the phrase "use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without" was repeated often in our family. I say it to my kids as well. But, I took that slip and threw it in the garbage, and in less than 5 minutes ordered a new one, which my lovely mailman brought right to my door two days later.

If I wanted to be frugal and fiscally responsible, I should have put new elastic in, right? Surely the cost of new elastic would be less than the cost of a new slip.

Hardly. The cost to buy new elastic would have been cheaper than the $20 or so I spent on the slip, but you always need to include the time cost.

Time to buy a new slip: 5 minutes.

Time to put in new elastic: First, I have to find elastic. I could order it, but a quick search of my usual sites don't give me many options or don't deliver to Switzerland. I can have it shipped to my post office box in Germany, but then that requires a trip to pick it up, which takes more time. I could go to the fabric store, but that's at least 30 minutes. So, regardless of whether I order it, or buy it directly from the store, I'm probably looking at at least 30 minutes to acquire the elastic.

Then, I have to take the old elastic out, I could just cut it out and shorten the sip by an inch, which would be fine. Then, I have to bring the sewing machine up from the basement and thread it with appropriate thread and put the proper foot on so I can sew on slippery-stretchy fabric. 

Then, I have to measure the elastic, cut it, pin it to the slip, and sew it in. I do know how to sew, but I don't do it often. All in all, if I worked quickly, and had no problems with the cloth or sewing machine, I'd guess the whole process would take about an hour. You may be able to do it faster. You may have extra elastic in your sewing box, but I don't.

So, all in all, it would take me about 1 hour and 30 minutes to put new elastic into cloth that would be old enough to drink. To save what? $15? 

Is my time worth $10 an hour? Or is it worth more?

It's absolutely worth more. In fact, using the time I saved by buying the new slip, I can write this article, for which Inc will pay me.

You may say, "yeah, well, I'm a salaried exempt employee, I don't earn any more money by working more hours," or "I'm paid by the hour, but I can only work the hours the boss wants me too." Either way, it seems that you'd save money by fixing the slip rather than buying a new one. But would you?

The answer is maybe. What would you do with the time otherwise? Could you work on building your side hustle? Could you clean out your gutters which will help prevent water from backing up and ruining your roof, which will cost thousands to repair. Could you pay your bills on time so that don't get any late fees? Balance your checking account so you don't accidentally bounce a check? Could you spend time playing Monopoly with your kids instead

Now, is it possible that you'd see this as a teaching moment you could use to teach your children to sew? That's great! If you enjoy sewing that's great too! Or if the only thing you'd do with the time is watch Netflix, then maybe it's a good use of your time to fix the broken clothing. 

But, don't think that taking the "frugal" route is the best way to save or earn money. It may be. It may not be. I want my children to learn basic sewing, but I also know that starting on slippery fabric isn't the best idea. Instead, I'll sit down with my son today and help him sew his patches on his Cub Scout shirt. Sewing is a life skill that everyone should have, but it's not the solution to every clothing problem.

Published on: Jan 29, 2018