Your Voice Your Vote 2024

Live results
Last Updated: April 23, 10:42:16PM ET

In Ithaca, Time Is Money

ByABC News
August 30, 2002, 5:06 PM

Aug. 30 -- Time is money in Ithaca, N.Y., where they spend "Hours" instead of dollars to keep the local economy alive.

When Jim Houghton, a graphic designer in Ithaca goes shopping at the local farmers' market, he makes his purchases with a local currency, called Ithaca "Hours."

"Sometimes I spend them in restaurants or movie theaters," said Steve Sierigk, the designer of the 1/8 Hour denomination. "I think that it is in the spirit of self reliance and also really helps the small businesses a lot and builds community, which I think are all-American."

Ithaca is one of many communities in the United States that has added a local currency as a way to encourage a community's self-reliance and interdependence. Ithaca was particularly hard hit by the recession in the late '80s, so in 1991, residents created their own currency in order to help people who didn't have money to spend.

More than 500 businesses in Ithaca accept the local currency, which was named an "Hour" to remind people that the real source of money is people's time, skill and energy. Even though a single Hour has a $10 value, it deems one hour of everyone's time to be of equal value.

One can exchange dollars for Hours at the bank or buy them at a store. Also, an employer can pay their employees in Hours.

"There [are] almost 900 Hours in circulation now, which is $90,000-worth of local currency," said Monica Hargraves, an Ithaca Hour board member. "Local currency is really a valuable way of keeping money and wealth circulating within the community."

"It makes people think a little bit about the value of money, what gives it value, what gives the federal dollar value, what gives a local currency value," Hargraves added.

Keep Local Economy Alive

Unlike dollars and cents, which can be spent in the United States, Ithaca Hours can only be used in Ithaca.

"They stay right here. They travel 'round and 'round and 'round and build our economy through that multiplying effect of money changing hands back and forth enriching everyone," said Joseph Wetmore, who runs the Ithaca Hours bank from the cash drawer in his used book store called Autumn Leaves.