Most people view the “cost” of things we buy in terms of dollars and cents. This is understandable because this is how products are marketed and of course, you do actually have to hand over money in exchange for the goods and services we want to buy.
However, this is a flawed way of looking at what we are giving up in exchange for the things we buy. When we think of the cost of things in terms of dollars, it’s easy to talk ourselves into the idea that spending money is harmless. After all, “We can always make more money”.
While it’s true, many of us can make more money if we need to.
However, unless you are retired, won the lottery, or just got a big inheritance from your rich uncle, odds are that you have to go to work to get more money.
If your primary source of income is from your job, the trust cost of the things we buy is not measured in dollars and cents but in the minutes, hours, days, months and even years of our life, we must sacrifice to buy things.
When you consider the cost of buying something, don’t think about it in terms of dollars, think of it in terms of time. Specifically, think of the cost of something as the number of hours you had to work to get the money to buy it.
Let’s say you were considering buying the newest SmartWatch. It has all the bells and whistles.
  • It can track your heart rate
  • Measure your workouts
  • Tell you how good you’ve been sleeping
  • Track your steps
  • Play your music
  • It can even process payments to help you spend more of your money without thinking about it.

It can do all the cool things you want to do, and it only costs $1,000.

If you made $20 per hour, you would need to work 50 hours to have enough money to pay for that phone.
If instead of being able to swipe your credit card and pay $1,000 for that SmartWatch, you had to spend an extra 50 hours at work before they would give you the watch, would you still want it?
But wait, it gets much worse.
If you make $20 per hour that is your pre-tax income. We don’t buy things with our pre-tax income, only with our post-tax income or our “Take-home pay”, the amount of money that’s left over after all the taxes and deductions are taken off your paycheck.
If your pre-tax income is $20 per hour, your take-home pay is likely closer to $15 per hour.
That means the cost of that SmartWatch just jumped up to 67 hours of your life.
But wait, there’s more!
We have not even included sales tax and the extended warranty for the SmartWatch. That brings the cost up to about $1,150 which translates into 77 hours of your life.
If the cost of buying that SmartWatch was an extra 2 weeks of work, would you still buy it?
If after a lot of thought you decide “yes”, I would trade two weeks of my life for this watch, then it means you must truly value that SmartWatch.
Odds are that you would say “no”, I would NOT trade two weeks of my life for a watch.
This how you need to start thinking about money. Not in terms of dollars but in terms of the chunks of your life you trade-in for the things you buy.
Thinking in this way can help us tell the difference between meaningless “Stuff” and the things we truly “value” and help us live a fulfilling life.

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Have you ever stopped to think about how much of your time you are trading for the things you buy? Do you think if you did, it would change your spending patterns? Let me know in the comments below.