Valuing a flexible week

For the last couple of weeks my wife has taken time off from work, and given that I’m freelancing, we as a couple now have a flexible week. Yesterday, we went shopping. We were at the Bangalore Central store in JP Nagar, and for the first time in a really long time, were able to shop without bumping into fellow-shoppers every other moment. My wife didn’t have to wait endless hours in the queue just to get into the trial rooms (yeah, this happens at large format apparel stores on weekends). We shopped at Food Bazaar sub-store, and could take our time in deciding what to buy, without sharing aisles with other shoppers. The checkout counter was empty, ABSOLUTELY EMPTY, and we had an extremely peaceful experience there. It was an awesome day of shopping.

There are certain things that are done so much easier on weekdays than on weekends. Shops are significantly less crowded. If you have to get work done in government offices, you are better off going there on a weekday than on Saturday (when there are more consumers, and the employees are pissed off at the end of a long week). You don’t need to book cinema tickets hours before. Restaurants aren’t crowded. If you go for a day trip, you can expect your destination to not be flooded with other tourists. Of course, there are activities which are so much easily done on weekends rather than on weekdays – this involves anything that involves driving across the city in “peak traffic” hours.

So it’s clear that the “flexible working week” that I have provides some intangible value. Of course, since my wife doesn’t have a flexible week, we as a couple don’t always get to enjoy my flexible week, but leave that aside for now. What I’m trying to understand is the extra value that I”m getting thanks to my having a flexible week, and if I can put a number on it.

One way I can think of valuing my flexible week is in terms of optionality. I’ve listed down some of the advantages of doing certain things on a weekday. Maybe I can quantify the value of each of them? Maybe the value of the time I save by not standing in a queue at a checkout counter? The economic value of buying more and better clothes because I can shop peacefully? The additional value I get by having the picnic spot to myself rather than sharing it with a hundred others. The option value of being able to walk into a movie hall and buy tickets a minute before the show. And so on. And all this multiplied, of course, by the probability of my wanting to do each of these activities. Sounds right?

Of course, I’m talking about a flexible week here, and not about a week where you have weekly holiday on a weekday, like my wife had earlier this year. Thanks to some power supply issues, the local electricity distribution company mandated different weekly holidays for heavy industries in different parts of the city, thanks to which my wife had her weekly off on Wednesdays. And they were among the two most disorienting months I’ve been through. We were unable to do all those things that we would have normally done on weekends (and which are more advantageous to be done on weekends). I couldn’t do a full day of work on Saturday to compensate for not working on Wednesday. And I would try to work on Wednesday but wouldn’t be able to because my wife had her weekly off that day. It was absolutely mindfucking.

So yeah, maybe the next time someone asks me how much I”m making as a freelancer, I must include the “value of a flexible week” in the number I tell them!

Gift List

So over the last few days there have been several people who have met or called me and asked what gift Pinky and I want for our wedding. Hari the kid, one such caller, even suggested that we need to make a wedding wish list and put it up on our wedding website or something.

Now the thing is that gifting is a hard business. Economic research shows that the average value to the gifted is much less than the average cost to the gifter, and thus gifts create a dead weight economic loss. This, however, is compensated by the good will that the gifter earns from the gifted (if it is a good gift, that is).

When the potential gifter asks the gifted what he/she wants, the intangible value (value of a pleasant surprise minus value of unpleasant surprise, appropriately weighted by respective probabilities) is substituted by the tangible value of greater value for the gifted per rupee spent by the gifter. Also, the fact that the gifter cared to ask what the gifted wanted goes some way in compensating for the intangible value.

Anyway the question is if we should put up a gift wish list on our website. Now, one problem with that is that people might perceive us to be arrogant. After all, in this era of “no gifts/bouquets please ” (we haven’t put that on our invite cards) people might get offended at our audacity of not just asking for gifts, but also telling people what to give us. Thus there is reputational risk involved, but we can explain on the same page the collective economic benefits of the wish list, so this might be taken care of.

The bigger problem is that if we were to put up a gift list the onus is on us to come up with a list of things that we want. We need to come up with a range of things such that it fits people’s varying budgets. There should be something in the list for someone who is willing to spend a hundred rupees on our gift, and also something for someone who is willing to spend ten thousand. ┬áSo in the middle of all the other wedding work for us, we also need to decide on what we want, what we don’t want, what kind of stuff we want, and so on.

Then there is quality control. We could well put up on the wish list that we want a LCD TV, but it would sure sound too audacious to be much more specific than that. And if the gifters were to get us some LCD TV that we would ultimately end up not liking, the dead weight economic loss to all of us is huge. So we need to be specific without being arrogant, which is even more work for us.

But I think we will end up making all the effort and put up a wish list, and hopefully that will improve the collective economic condition of us and our gifters.