In the budget the income of the family represented by money is all that can be noted, yet the family must never forget that it has other income on which it should reckon. Every member of the family has time, energy, experience and ability. In time every one theoretically has the same amount - twenty-four hours a day - but as each person has a certain amount mortgaged to sleep, eating, dressing, and either education or vocation, the margin of free time left to one individual may differ much from that left to another. And in the use of the margin what would be for one person sheer waste of time may for another prove of great creative value. It is comparatively easy to judge whether a person wastes time on a manual task, though not always so easy to prove how far the task itself is worth doing. It is hard to judge when time spent in preparation for a piece of creative work is well spent. These problems are for the individual concerned. If he or she is to get far, honesty in facing the question is essential.
It is for example easy to criticize the artist who lounges and smokes all day, and once in a while paints a picture. Perhaps he is really lazy and is making an excuse of the necessity for being "ready" when he puts brush to canvas. Perhaps, on the other hand, he is quite justified, and that is the only way he, with his abilities and temperament, can do his best work. It is easy too to condemn the housewife who is constantly and complacently telling that she is not a slave to her work, and finds plenty of free time to work or play outside her own home, when one knows that her family has hastily prepared meals, with extravagant marketing and perhaps even poor cooking, that her children's clothing shows lack of care in repair and cleaning, that the house is untidy and not overclean, and that the family is always in debt. But it is not so easy to judge of the housewife who, with limited physical strength and so of working time, intelligently omits or neglects some of the household routine that seems to most of us essential in order that she may have time free for what rests her and makes life livable. If people keep out of money debt, and in no way injure themselves or their children morally, it is hard to justify public opinion in condemning them for letting the children go barefoot or having no shades at their windows or eating in the kitchen. If a family has decided what its own values are, it has a right to live according to its own scale - always granting that it has met its own debt to society.
And it is worth noting that the worst failures in any community are oftener those of families who have made every effort to live like their much richer neighbors than of families who have disregarded public opinion in matters (other than morals) that affect social standing.
Time and energy have to be considered together, and used as each family or individual judges best. Ability and experience also go hand in hand, and on them the family or individual should draw freely. Both improve by use, and both make time and energy more fruitful. All four - time, energy, ability, experience - are expressed in an income known to economists as "the labor income." Every individual does some things for himself that he might get some one else to do. There are a few people who have maids or valets to care for their clothing, dress them and generally relieve them of that "buttoning and unbuttoning" that the Frenchman of the story found so wearing that he killed himself to escape it. But only an imbecile or a helpless invalid does no part of the work for himself. And the overwhelming majority of people not only dress themselves and take care of their own clothing, but count on themselves or some member of their family to clean their clothing, mend it, even make it. All this work is labor income. So is that of the household processes of cleaning, caring for food, cooking, sewing, dish-washing, bedmaking, washing of clothing and house linen, and the thousand minor tasks that claim the attention of every housekeeper.
This labor income of the household routine is contributed chiefly by the woman at the head of the house, often, and especially in large families, with the assistance of the other women of the family. In pioneer days there was a large contribution from the men and boys - the "chores" that are still an important element in country life. Wood to saw and split and to carry to the wood box, water to bring from the well, the cows to milk, the horse to feed, the paths to clear - these are ever-recurring and insistent tasks. As city life or city conditions become established, the wood changes to coal, to be brought from the cellar to the kitchen stove; the furnace is to be cared for, but there is no water to bring, no cow to milk, no horse to feed. Conditions change still more and the kitchen stove uses gas from a pipe or electricity carried on wires, and the apartment is steam heated, from a central plant the householder never sees. Even the "tinkering" necessary in any home - a shelf to put up, a chair to mend, a bucket handle to replace - is often better done by the janitor of the apartment or the handyman of the neighborhood than by the man of the house. The janitor or the handyman has the tools, and a place in which to work, and the facility that comes from practice. And when the janitor changes in type and no longer does odd jobs, and the handyman who works for a low wage disappears, then the carpenter, the upholsterer and the tinsmith replace them. The money cost is not great - only 25 cents for putting up the shelf, only 50 cents for mending the chair, only 15 cents for mending the handle. But 90 cents of the family income goes to pay these little items, formerly paid by the labor income of the family, and presently these conditions make it possible for the workers - who need and should have more money, to meet the rising costs of living - to charge $1.80 for the work, and the family wonders where its money goes. Any household task that is given up by the members of it costs money that seems to most of them unjustified. They quite commonly declaim against the "robbery" of those who do what they could so easily do for themselves, and which, incidentally, they would be entirely unwilling to do for others at the price they themselves are asked to pay.