This week, I've learned that I was dramatically underestimating my level of income in World of Warcraft.
Because I don't generally play the game for more than a few nights per month, there had been an extended stretch in which the rate at which new gear that I could obtain was added to the game far exceeded the rate at which I was obtaining it. What I observed was my overall gold balance dropping steadily, as I used my cash reserves to pay for gems and enchanting materials for my latest acquisitions.
Now that my gear acquisition has plateaued out - half of my gear is now the best available to me for the rest of the expansion, and the remaining upgrades include several pieces on the valor point vendor that can only be obtained at a rate of one every 2-3 weeks - I'm seeing that the net change was not the whole story. It turns out that I was bringing in substantial income the whole time, only to have that wiped out by even more staggering costs. Now that the costs have abated, my cash balance is shooting steadily upwards.
I've balked at paying thousand gold prices for minipets on the auction house, but it turns out that I make that in 2-3 evenings. Ironically, I no longer need any of the reputation rewards for any of the daily quest factions (other than the shoulder enchant token, and various achievements). Instead, I'm effectively pulling down a third of a minipet or a stack of tradeskill ingredients or whatever else gold can buy as a reward for basically whatever I was doing in game anyway.
I didn't realize this is what I was doing, but effectively I had already made the choice that my time playing the game has more value than the virtual currency. I'd subconsciously arrived at a budget threshold for what I was willing to pay (e.g. yes to blue gems, no to purple enchants) based on how quickly my gold balance was dropping. Knowing the real numbers may or may not change my behavior, but it's interesting - even though there is a currency involved, I'm effectively functioning as if it was a barter economy.