Often when we shop our main decision basis is one of price. We review the price tags as well as asking ourselves questions like; is it on special? Does it come with something free? Can I get two for one or buy one get one half price? We assume that we are frugal or budget savvy by considering these price points before purchasing. The issue is that this often means that the true cost of a purchase is not considered.
When we only consider these price points in the decision making process for new purchases we forget the most important costs. One of the prime and irreplaceable costs being – our time. One of my favourite quotes is from Minimalist blogger Joshua Becker from Becoming Minimalist. He says “We don’t buy things with money. We buy them with hours from our lives.” A thought I try to be conscious of this each day.
Before we head out to the shops, or to buy something online – or anywhere, we need to consider a few things. Not just the money spent to make that purchase, but the investment of time involved in owning something. This assessment allows us to truly make wiser purchasing decisions and to consider the true cost of our stuff.
There is much more that needs to be considered than just price alone. Here are 7 other things you should consider when making purchasing decisions to assess the true cost:
- Lack of mobility
When you consume excessively your rob yourself of future opportunities. What if a new position came up interstate that would be perfect for you but because you have a huge home filled with stuff you can’t move. What if you find the perfect rental property and you need to be out in a week but miss out because you can’t physically pack up all of your stuff that quickly. What if you need to sell your house whilst the market is booming but you take three months to declutter and pack your stuff and during that period the market drops suddenly and you lose thousands in the lost market price? Having too much stuff can hold you back from decisions that make you happy and add to your life and stop you from being mobile when you need to be.
- Environmental Cost of Excessive Consumption
When we consume in excess we increase our impact on the environment. Everything you buy comes with packaging – boxes, plastic, tape, tissue paper, foam and other stuff that will quite possibly end up in landfill. Not to mention the cost on our natural resources. Clothing manufacturing uses vast amounts of water and chemicals. The more we buy, the more our valuable resources are depleted and the more waste we create.
This impact is often not seen by the consumers but born by the wildlife and locals who live in the areas of manufacturing. Check out True Cost on Netflix for a great documentary on the environmental and human cost of our fast fashion industry.
- Opportunity Cost
This is the cost of what you could have done with that money had you not spent it on a new outfit or tech gadget. Instead of buying more stuff you could have invested that cash in yourself such as; by starting your own business, signing up for an educational course, contributing to your retirement, going on a holiday, paying off your mortgage or other debt. All these things have the potential to greatly improve your circumstances.
When people reach the end of their lives the common regret is not wishing they bought more things over there life times, but wishing they would have spent more time with family and friends and traveled more. There would be more time to do in our younger years if we stopped working more and more to buy things we don’t need. Rather than spending our hard earned cash on more stuff, we should consider the true cost – the opportunity costs of spending that money on stuff which could have been redirected to save for our future and retire earlier and have more time to spend with the people we love, doing things we truly enjoy!
- Less time for your important relationships.
Whilst you are spending all Saturday morning cleaning your large home you’ve missed out on brunch with a friend, going out with the kids on a road trip, a morning walk with your wife.
The more stuff we have the more time we invest in cleaning it, maintaining, repairing not to mention the other stuff we don’t think of – the time we spend unpacking and setting it up, the time we spend reconciling our accounts each month, filing our receipts, finding a place for the item, washing it, moving it to dust or vacuum. The list goes on.
When buying something new ask yourself what is the true cost of this item? Are you prepared to spend the extra time to look after this item, dust it regularly, iron it weekly, pay for maintenance costs, take it for repairs when necessary and so on.
This goes for buying a house. A house is one of the biggest drains on your time. Consider whether you really need a two story mansion for you family of three or if you would rather spend the time you would have spent cleaning each weekend with your family not to mention the extra work hours needed to cover the larger mortgage.
If you like this article you may also be interested in reading “10 Benefits of a Minimalist Inspired Life“.
- The Cost to Our Health.
The more we spend, the more money we need to bring in to stay ahead and on top of our debt. Maybe you are working 80 hours a week to bring in the big bucks to keep up with your spending. As a result of overworking you get home too tired to spend time with your family or do anything for yourself like exercise or read a book. You begin to live for the weekend with Monday to Friday just being a blur of alarm clocks and falling asleep on the couch.
Not only is your health suffering from lack of time to exercise, cook a nutritional meal and relax after work but you will be carrying around a lot more stress if you are living pay-cheque to pay-cheque. This can soon escalate if you are constantly worrying how you will meet your bills and debt repayments each month. Many people are reaching retirement age saddled with large consumer and mortgage debts without considering the consequences if they suddenly have to retire due to health concerns.
- Anxiety and Stress Caused by Excess Clutter
Having lots of stuff adds stress and anxiety into our lives even if we are not aware of it. Clutter makes it difficult to relax physically and mentally and can make it an embarrassing time if unexpected guests rock up. Not to mention the added stress of not being able to find things, having to step over things constantly, pick up things endlessly to tidy up, or seeing cluttered spaces every time you open your drawers or wardrobe. The clutter is always there to remind us. This stress can be reduced by minimising your possessions and limiting what new items you bring into your home. Having space in your home, a sanctuary that you love can do wonders to alleviate stress and anxiety.
- Missing Out On Valuable Experiences
When we become so obsessed with buying more and more stuff we often miss out on the important things in life like experiences. How many people do you know that have never been on a holiday but easily spend money on other things without much thought – their nails, a daily coffee, an expensive car, new jewellery or outfit for a party. They constantly say I can’t afford to travel and yet don’t realise that if they were just a bit more intentional with their spending that they too could go on an occasional holiday. Whether it be a local one, interstate or overseas.
It doesn’t even have to be a holiday. Maybe they want to go to a fancy restaurant for their anniversary but can’t afford it. Sometimes we place more value in things that we can see and hold and keep and hold onto for years and years and we forget the importance of creating memories with loved ones. If you just saved $20 a week – just 2.5% of a $50000 annual after tax salary, you would have over $1000 saved with interest to invest in an experience that is important to you. It could be a weekend away, spa day and nice dinner and only takes a very small sacrifice each week.
Have you identified the true cost of stuff in your life? What changes have you made since to your purchasing choices? Share you comments below 🙂
Check out How I Discovered Financial Freedom Through Minimalism for more benefits on focusing less on our stuff and more on what is truly important to us.