We have become a nation of “more is better.” We want more of everything — more toys for our kids, more cars in the driveway, more shoes in the closet, and more bathrooms in the house. Our houses, garages, dumpsters and lives are filled with Stuff. With a toddler around, I’m very tempted to fill the house will cute clothes and fun toys. Sometimes I stop for half a second to consider the cost of buying something, but I often don’t consider the true and total cost of “more.”
Purchase price cost
First, of course, there is the actual cost of buying the item I want. Sure, I shop around to compare prices, but I often forget the sales tax. For some objects, such as cars, this can be significant. Then there may be additional insurance costs as well — replacement value for that new piece of jewelry, for example. Of course, we pay off our credit card every month; but if you don’t, there will be some interest charges and late fees for that new item as well.
Even if I get the best deal in town, pay cash and don’t have other charges on the purchase price, I lose the opportunity to use that money for something else. Even the filthy rich can’t afford ALL of the things they want ALL of the time and have to make choices. My choices would be to delay using that money, saving it or investing it, so that it would earn interest or dividends for us in the future.
Once I have that item, I need to take care of it. Some things require more maintenance than others but all require some. Maybe it is an art object that has to be displayed and dusted once a week. Maybe it is a motor vehicle that requires oil, gasoline, tuning and service occasionally. Whatever the item, there will be some kind of cost to maintain it.
If you are a smart shopper, you spend time comparison shopping to get the best price. For items less than $20, I don’t spend a lot of time. If it is more than that, I spend quite a bit of time comparison shopping; sometimes I even obsess about it until I buy. If I am buying used, I have to spend time to locate the item, negotiate and go pick it up.
I also spend time dealing with the results of “more” – picking up all those toys my daughter spreads out every day. The more choices she has, the messier the house becomes; doing the maintenance mentioned above; figuring out how to discard the items when you no longer want them, etc.
The more I have, the more space I need for storage. We moved into our current 2,400 square foot home a year ago. When we moved in, it was practically empty — large open spaces, lots of closet space, only cars in the garage with lots of space to move around even after storing the things used once a year.
Now, after just one year, we have so much Stuff, we could never go back to our 700 square foot apartment without getting rid of a significant amount of it. At least I am not wasting money renting storage. I used to rent a storage space paying $70 a month. When I was cleaning it out after having it for one year, I calculated the value of the items in there. It was less than $1,000. I pretty much wasted a thousand dollars to store Stuff worth a thousand dollars. When we get storage, it is with good intentions. I told myself that I would only be temporarily storing it for a month, until I had a chance to sort through the Stuff. One month became one year. For some people, it goes on for years.
Stuff bogs you down. You can’t leave your home without worrying that someone will break in and steal all your good Stuff. You get attached to it and can’t part with it, especially if the Stuff happens to have precious memories attached to it.
Stuff gets in your way. Your home becomes so jam-packed that you can’t move around freely. You have trouble getting to (or even finding!) that certain thing that you know you have and need to use. One of the reasons we go out so much to eat is because I don’t find my dining room relaxing with so much Stuff lying around. Needless to say, restaurant spending is one of our major budget busters.
Have you considered what the Stuff you buy is actually costing you?