How much does something cost?
When we hear that word, our automatic assumption is that we are talking about money, a numerical value, some tangible currency to use as a frame of reference. How much, say, does it cost to watch an episode of The Game of Thrones (GoT)?
There are many angles we can use to measure this question. We can start with the cost of production, the budgets and numbers it took to make the thing. Then there’s the creation of technology to send the episode out, dutifully delivering it each week to its viewership. Finally, to the viewer themselves there’s a monthly subscription fee to access the stream, and of course then there’s the time you put in to actually watch the end product. Lots of different costs, all spread out across the chain.
Now suppose for work you have a large deadline due the next day, and you need to work on it but you also know that an episode of GoT just came out. Suppose you decide to put down what you’re doing and take a break – come on, you deserve it! – and take some time to watch the episode. Before you know it, you’re being flung awake, it’s the next day, and that deadline you sat on the sidelines is now squarely in your face. You’re not properly prepared, it’s not sitting well with your boss, and suddenly you find yourself out of a job.
So just how much did that episode of GoT cost? Not the $14.99 a month subscription fee, no, it cost you a job. How many other things in life carry hidden costs that we either don’t realize or ignore? How many of us are walking around with depleted emotional bank accounts, even while our savings is showing a whole lot of zeros before the dot? If we only knew the consequences, the actual consequences, of what we are paying into before the fact, how much pain and buyer’s remorse do you think we could circumvent?
Take for example, a night out with friends. If you were to weigh the cost vs. benefit on something like this, on the surface level you may just be considering the monetary aspects – how much have you got left on your budget, how much have you already gone out this month, do you really need to eat groceries next week or will ramen suffice? But there is something much bigger at work here, something that will impact your days ahead even more than a lack of nutritional grocery fare. Who is the company that you are choosing to spend time with? Are they people who fulfill you, or do they just fulfill your need for people?
If it’s the former, then no monetary value can compare to the sharing of quality time with those for whom you care. If it’s the latter, then money is the least of what you are paying for. The time you spend in underwhelming company is still the time you spend. Whatever else that you could have been doing, things that may have fulfilled or added to your life, missing those moments is what it really cost to spend such a night. Have too many of these, and before you know it the precious moments you have with yourself, the time to sit with your own creativity or just your own voice, has been recklessly spent away. And no matter how much money you can make back, once time has left your account it doesn’t find its way back in.
“My favourite things in life don’t cost any money. It’s really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time.” – Steve Jobs
How much things cost, even in monetary values, is still a perception. Consider paying for a gym membership that is one hundred dollars a month. If someone uses their pass every day, each of their gym sessions averages just over three dollars. If someone else uses their pass only once in that month, their session cost them one hundred dollars. But the price of the pass for both members is exactly the same. If we only consider the monetary value of evaluating costs, then we begin to miss the bigger picture.
Take another example, this time of trying to cure yourself of a habit that’s not serving you, be it a sugar addiction, alcohol, or social media. While we all would like to stick to our resolve no one is perfect, and there may come a time when a ‘cheat’ presents itself on the horizon. Sure, you may justify that it’s fine if you ‘treat yo’self’ but know the true cost of what it is you are springing for. It may just be a one time thing then you are right back on the wagon, or it may not. If you open the door to the very thing you are trying to close, chances are high that seeing the tip may just lead to the rest of the iceberg. One treat leads to five, may lead to the whole thing come crashing down. How much of a ‘treat’ is it now, if it leads to the end of all your efforts? What is the true cost of that “Just this once”?
Understanding cost and benefit is a struggle I am constantly dealing with. The value of taking a break – and I don’t mean the helpful kind where you stop and go for a walk, I’m talking about the kind where you say one episode and binge watch the season, or take a ‘me’ day and have it last a week – is so nonchalant on the surface, but is devastating in reality. What is one hour on paper may cost me my focus for the afternoon. What is supposed to be only a ten minute scroll of my newsfeeds may end up costing me hours of sleep (from playing catch up for the work I lost during the day). When looked at in this way, things that seem to have an inconsequential cost suddenly start looking disproportionately expensive.
Make no mistake, every choice we make will come at a price. How much value there is between what it costs and what we pay will become infinitely clearer the more critically we look at the transaction. Anything material, for example, starts to devaluate the moment we walk off the lot – you will never get your full money’s worth for it back even though the item itself has not changed (bar some art, collectibles, you get the idea). Memories on the other hand, only increase in value with time. It may hurt your wallet to pay for that adventure, but once the payment’s gone through you can bet you’re not counting your receipts while trekking up a mountain, or safariing in the plains. Instead, you’ll be planning on how you’re going to tell your grandchildren about how much of a badass Grandma was back in the day.
You can make all the money that you want, and you can spend it frugally or with wild abandon, but be mindful that what things may cost on the surface is not all that it is charging. If you take a closer look at what things cost, whether you are spending your money, your time, or your emotional charge account, weigh it out again. What did you spend and what are you getting? Is it worth it?
Author’s Note: Thanks for reading, if you like please Share and Like it helps to spread the word. Take care, and see you back next Wednesday!