Wife Math

By | December 20, 2016

A couple of months ago, my wife and I went to the mall with some friends. After walking around a bit she tells me she needs to do some running around and I should go to the bar and grab a beer. What husband would ever turn down a beer at the mall? About 40 minutes later, my wife and her friend comes back to find me; and she proceeds to tell me that she applied for a job at a big box store. Now, my wife already has a full-time job, so I was pretty stunned by this news. She is not one to pick up an additional job for the hell of it; there had to be an additional motive. Of course, there was. It turns out that employees at this store receive a 40% discount on any purchase, and my wife had found an expensive sofa that we evidently just had to have in our living room. We have our motive.

Wife Math Turkey & Taxes BlogWhen the store called her to schedule an interview the following week, she was actually a little nervous. I was happy to see this as it meant she was taking it more seriously than I thought and not just doing it for the sofa. (Turns out she wasn’t nervous about the job, but rather about getting the job so she could get the all-important discount.) About two days after her interview, she received the, “you have the job” call.

Now, being analytical at heart, I started to think about this. She is going to make about $10/hour and will be gone almost every weekend for about six hours a day – during football season. Free football Saturdays and Sundays sound like a good plan to me, so I start to encourage this endeavor. Now I have a motive.

As I mentioned, she does have a full-time job and we had some trips already planned, all of which reduced her hours available to work. In the end, she only worked about 10 hours a week at the store and mostly on weeknights. There went the free football weekends.

About eight weeks into this venture she had worked a total of 40 hours and was able to order the sofa with her hefty employee discount. With her mission accomplished, she quit the job. (Note – Surprisingly, the big box store was totally fine about it for what seems two reasons: One, while she was very friendly with the customers and she actually enjoyed the job, she is not a very good salesperson; and two, on the morning she purchased the sofa, they made “quota” early in the day and announced it over the headsets. In her mind, it made it a win/win.)

Here’s where it gets very interesting. While out the other day, I overheard her telling a friend of hers that this job paid her about $52 an hour. That, as you can imagine, caught my attention. I said, “I thought you only made $10 an hour and had to pay for parking?” She tells me that she indeed made $10 an hour but she saved about $1700 with her discount. If you take the savings and divide by the hours she worked (1700/40 = 42.5) then add that to the $10 an hour in salary, she actually made $52 an hour. She then looks at me as if to say, “In addition, Mr. Tax Guy, it was tax free and you did not have to use after tax dollars to buy it, so I probably made closer to $70 an hour using after tax dollars! I sacrificed 40 hours of my life for our family savings. You are welcome!”

I have a college education, a CPA, a Masters in Tax, and have taken several economic and financial classes so I consider myself somewhat informed about financial planning, and this sounds like the dumbest thing I have ever heard. Or is it? I go through the next couple of days trying to figure out how to punch holes in her theory only to realize that I can’t. My God, she is brilliant! I have a name for this type of calculation – Wife Math.

I came to realize, as many husbands can relate, that no matter what, we were buying the sofa. So she did make $10 an hour and used my credit card for parking (hence, it was free for her). She only worked a small amount of hours and did put, indirectly, $1700 of tax free income into our family pockets that we would not have had if she had not had that job. And now we have a fancy new sofa on the way.

This all reminded me of the Jimmy Buffett song entitled, “Let’s get drunk and screw” that he often introduces in concert as “A love song from a different point of view.” I think I just learned about an hourly rate from a different point of view.

Happy Holidays and I hope your wife is as educated in Wife Math as mine.