Did you ever ask yourself what is the true cost of owning things?
The one above the price tag?
The actual cost of things is so high that one has to wonder if he can afford it.
Of course, we’re not monks, and we all need some things to live. And not just to survive (because we don’t want that), but to thrive. It is important to distinct that for thriving we need far less than we think we do.
All those things we possess, carry with them a high cost of ownership.
Imagine buying new shoes. We already have 10 pairs at home, but now there is a discount at our favorite store. And the color… oh the color… “I don’t have shoes in this color at home.” And just today those shoes are at a 40% discount. That is a good deal. We review the price tag, calculate if we can afford it, and start imagining ourselves wearing them. We assume that we’re frugal or budget savvy by buying them at a 40% discount. “Hey, I save money if I buy at a discount. And I’ve worked so hard over the past month I deserve it. Anyway, you can’t ever have enough shoes, right?” People will tell themselves a lot of lies just to justify the purchase.
20 minutes later, the cash register makes a sound and we’re happy with our prized possession. As we walk out of the mall, with a glimpse of the eye, we notice a beautiful leather belt in the same color as the shoes we just bought. First thought, I don’t need it. I just bought new shoes. But then, we start walking slower, and slower, until we turn and go check the belt in the shop window one last time. A few minutes later, and we’re going through the same process as with shoes. Even if the price of the belt is full, we don’t care, because now we need a matching pair – shoes, and a belt. And it is only $15. “I saved more than that on shoes purchase. I should get it.”
By the time we got home, we have two new unnecessary things in our possession. We try both, and satisfaction rises with what we see in the mirror. But then, when it’s time to store them next to the other similar items and realize that the color of the new shoes is almost identical to one pair at home, and the belt drawer is overflowed with belts, we start to feel buyer’s remorse. Maybe we didn’t need those shoes and this belt at all. But the price was so good. Our mind tries to justify the purchase to us. The scary thing is that monetary cost is not the only one included in those purchases. The real costs are lurking their ugly head around the corner, and we’re not even aware of their presence.
Our things cost us more than we are aware of.
The cost of producing the item. If it’s our shoes and belt, we need to mine metal to produce the belt buckle. Then we need to kill some animals to produce leather (choose your victim). After that, many people need to spend countless hours shaping metal and making belt buckles in various shapes and preparing leather for shoes and belts. They then dye leather to make it available in many colors. When our things are finally produced, someone needs to transport them from the production center to warehouses and stores around the world. That’s pollution of the air, land, and water depending on the vehicle used. Sometimes all combined. After that, countless hours and dollars are spent on advertising items, storing them in warehouses and retail stores, training people to sell them, etc.
And those costs don’t even include our involvement.
We spend our most precious resource on buying things – our time. Joshua Becker from Becoming Minimalist said the best:
Or, as Henry David Thoreau put it:
First, we spend time working so we can afford a thing, and then we spend money to buy a thing. We spend countless hours researching the best option on the internet, to go to the store, and to choose among the various options in the store (even when we have already decided what to buy at home in front of the computer). When we return home with our new thing, we spend time finding the perfect place for it.
Next, we need to take care of it. If it requires electrical energy, we need to work even more to pay for electric bills. We have to turn it on and off. Clean it, oil it, be careful with it. More precious seconds spent on our thing. As if the initial costs weren’t too high already. We might buy special cleaning products for our new thing, because hey if you use water or a harsh soap you may damage the item. And then you will need to spend more time looking for a warranty and going back to the store with some stupid story to change it or to buy the new one.
And yet, we still didn’t count all the costs. Our things are like roommates, except we pay their rent. Would you allow someone you don’t know to live in your house or apartment without paying for the privilege? I think most of us wouldn’t, yet we allow our things to live quietly and comfortably among us, taking our time, our money, our space, and our attention.
And what do we get in return? Nothing. Our things aren’t going to pitch in with the rent, and they aren’t going to help us take care of the household chores. Instead, they will create more work for us. And what is even worse, they will invite their friends to make them company, and then at a certain point, we will need to find a way to take care of them too, either by renting a storage unit or by buying a bigger house – forcing us to go into more debt. As a result, we will need to work even more than we do now.
Even when our things fulfill their designated purpose, or become obsolete or unusable to us, they won’t leave us alone. One last task they will expect from us. To take care of them by spending our precious time to sell them or find someone to give them to. Then we will need to pack them and spend time taking them to the post office or to meet with the new ‘slave’ to hand them over to them. And if they are no longer usable, we will need to find a safe way to dispose of them.
The story of things is an interesting and never-ending one. It seems like they have a life of their own. Next time when you see some interesting knick-knack in the store, just remember what it will expect from you, and decide if you want that responsibility upon you. More often than not, the best possible thing is to leave it on the shelf.
Why pay so much to take care of our things? Instead, we could do so much more. We could learn a new language or some cool skill, travel the world, spend time with our loved ones, take better care of our health (by not working 80 hours per week just to afford new shiny thing), contribute to our retirement fund, pay off the mortgage or other debt, etc. These things have the potential to greatly improve our lives, so we need to stop our things from robbing us of future opportunities.
If you can get out of the cycle of buying and owning things, get out ASAP.
Stop working just to buy new shit you don’t need.
Nobody cares about what you own. People who do care about your possessions only care about them so they can compare what they have compared to you, thereby measuring their own self-worth by the number of things they own compared to your things. Don’t be a yardstick for losers.
And for all the things you already have but don’t need – kick them out of your home immediately.
You’re not stupid to pay their rent, maintain them, and store them in special boxes if they don’t bring you some extra value and they don’t deserve to stay. Let them find a new home with someone who is willing to do it.
Do you know of any hidden costs that I forgot? Let me know in the comments down below.
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