Everything has a cost. First, there’s the upfront cost – what you initially pay for something. Then there are the ongoing costs – maintenance, upkeep, storage, and opportunity costs (what your money could have done if invested, saved, etc.).
The reason why understand costs is so important is that we are great at determining the upfront costs. We generally know how much it costs to buy a gallon of gas or a house. Stores have price tags, and we can see when something’s on sale.
For many things, we fail to take into account ALL the costs, and this gets us into trouble. Applying the idea of the total cost of living, that new shirt doesn’t just cost what’s on the price tag – it also has to be washed and needs room to be stored. Now, the costs of a new shirt are pretty minor. But when we apply this to everything we buy, the ongoing costs start to add up. And fast.
With other products and especially services, we weigh convenience vs. cost. Often we fail to see the hidden costs of convenience – my favorite example is with food.
We all need food, so it’s a necessary expense. But how much you can spend on food (and what type of food) has such a wide range that I could go on and on about it. But let’s keep it simple. Remember, what’s good for your wallet is usually good for you, too.
Going through the drive through has the highest cost, and is usually pretty lopsided on the perceived/real scale of convenience. The food might only cost a few dollars, but you’re also paying for the emissions your car is pumping out and the health you could have gained by walking instead of sitting. It might only be a couple hundred steps, but in a lifestyle that goes from bed-car-desk-car-couch, every step counts.
A sit down restaurant, while still not ideal, at least has the potential to be a social experience or meaningful event. It can serve other purposes than just satisfying hunger.
And then there’s the grocery store. But it’s not the ideal level yet. There’s still plenty of convenience – and it’s not just in the TV dinner aisle. Nearly everything in there is processed to some degree, packed with preservatives, colorings, and artificial ingredients, and designed to be tossed in the microwave. While cheaper than eating out, this food is still fairly expensive (both in terms of upfront cost and ongoing costs from eating stuff without thinking about what’s in it). Not sure about this one? Next time you’re at the grocery store, look at a bag of unbreaded frozen chicken strips, and compare the price per pound to the boneless breasts a couple aisles over.
Which leads me to, finally, whole foods. No, not the store (that’s so lovingly referred to as “Whole Paycheck”). I’m simply talking about as close to the source ingredients as you can get. You don’t have to buy organic everything – simply cutting out the preservatives, added/artificial sugar, dyes and color and oils and flavorings will be miles better than the food your $7 just bought you in the drive through.
And the ingredients are cheaper. And the process of walking around the grocery store is free exercise. And it takes the same amount of time or less to cook at home than it does to go to a restaurant. And did I mention the ingredients are cheaper, not just up front but over years and years of better health from staying away from putting crap into your body?
TL/DR – Grocery shopping – getting some exercise walking around the store and buying food with more whole ingredients is going to be less expensive (especially in terms of health compared to the alternatives) and better for you because you’re putting higher quality fuel into your body.
Need more examples?
- Buying less stuff is good for your wallet, as is needing less room to store it and having less to maintain. I also believe that having a few things you really love is much better mentally, emotionally, and spiritually than having a bunch of stuff you just sorta like.
- Learning how to DIY (within reason) is almost always cheaper, and you’re learning something new, and learning is good. Learning begets learning, and if you fixed something once, you can fix it again the next time it breaks.
- Entertainment is another one that has a huge range of expenses and costs/possible benefits. Whether it’s being more decisive about what you watch by using Netflix as opposed to channel surfing on cable, vacationing like a local instead of buying the most expensive resort package, or you and your friends entertaining yourselves instead of paying someone else to do it, the less expensive option usually makes for the best experience.
What are the keys to having a rich life? I think most people would say things like health, happiness, purpose, belonging, love, adventure…
Your lifestyle is what you do to make your life rich. And you don’t have to go broke trying to afford it.
Image by Sira Anamwong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net