If you were a runner, you should stop reading this and just accept my apology for having planted the thought in your head. It’s a terrible thought to have on your mind while you’re running, and even if you were not, so please try to get it out as soon as you can. However, it’s an interesting way to look at one aspect of one’s running, the cost of running shoes per km or per mile ran from what you paid for them, and what you got out of them if you tracked it (or have something like a Garmin and Strava app track it for you). You can get the final answer in the end, but probably an estimate from experience and/or history if you’ve been running for long. It’s an interesting thought, but not a pleasant one if every time your Garmin or fitness watch buzzes or beeps for a km or mile, you’re basically putting money in a toll machine based on your calculation!
Each time I to to enter a competition with a fee, I wonder if that fee couldn’t be put to better use in another “competition”, as in the lottery. That is, what might I be losing out on, or what economists call opportunity costs, in not having spent that money on lottery tickets that could really change my life if I won a jackpot or even secondary prize? After all, few competitions I enter would either change my life as much as a decent lottery prize. Nor would I have better odds of winning or placing well in those competitions, in many but not most cases, like the Boston Marathon. In some small races or other competitions, like writing, I have done well enough to merit some recognition. However, the prizes have always been essentially negligible. That is, there were some value to them, just not much value to me. Well, at least not material value. Moral value like confidence and social value like perception in the eyes of others, also known as bragging rights without the bragging, are another matter, though. Still, as “priceless” as they may be, I can’t help thinking what chances at winning a jackpot I would deprive myself of in putting money towards these competitions rather than to a lottery, for which I don’t often buy tickets. So what to do?
It’s also a zinsta. If you didn’t know what that is, like WordPress’ spellcheck didn’t, and everybody else didn’t, it’s an Instagram account with zero followers, and is following nobody. Zilch. And still zilch after 100 posts as of today.
We basically consume things as we live. As one simple way of assessing value when deciding whether or not to buy something, I calculate the price I’ll pay for it by the hour and put it in context of some other things to see how it stacks up. It’s a simple assessment of what the price is, divided by much time it could take up in my life, and compare to something else.
A new tablet. $300, use, on average, over half an hour per day for two years. That’s $300 for at least 365 hours. For simple math, I go for 400 hours so $0.75 per hour. Compare that to a movie without extras that’s about $5 to $7 per hour (Canadian prices). High speed Internet at home that is about $0.50 per hour for me. A full sized piano keyboard that’s currently at $2 per hour. Current four years old desktop that is going under $0.50 per hour.
The call to buy or not is arbitrary pending other factors I’ll go over below, but this gives me a lot of context. I go for it but I commit to keeping that tablet for at least 2 years (and I recall this if I get a new one sooner than 2 years).
Of course, other considerations must be taken into account for the calculation:
- Use with other things. I may not use my tablet at all times without other things like app purchases. That’s fine. Calculate the other things for what they’re worth. Nobody ever only consumes one thing at all times in their lives.
- What else can you get for the same or better value that you might want to get instead? This often stops me as I opt for some other thing.
- Compare similar things. This is valuable for new, rare and/or unique things, especially the costly ones like those on vacation. For such things, compare what you can imagine in looking forward to the thing or experience, and compare it to something similar in theme (not necessarily same sort of thing because unique stuff is hard to find similarities for comparison). For considering things or experiences you were purchasing again, ask if that was worth the money at that rate.
- Stuff you can’t calculate. There is a lot of things you can’t calculate, like the social value to make new friends, or see some person you’re interested in getting to know better among a group of friends at a movie, that can overrule, or be worth the value of the something more costly, or novelty of a new experience that could lead to more things, a fun memory, etc. That’s great! Go for it! Just keep the total in check for what you can afford in your life. That’s a bigger calculation that’s not actually hard to estimate, but you’d need to know some details about how much you spend, save, want to save, etc. Keeping enough financial data about yourself is the hard part there, but I have that to help me.
- Other things still. Whatever you can dream up to consider, whether to overrule or help make the decision more systematic and rational. Sure, add it in! It is your calculation!
- Go with your guts if all else fails. As stated.
It’s far from a perfect system or model for deciding whether or not to buy things, but for starters, I think it’s a damn good one!
Vu Tung Lam, a mechanic from the tiny village of Lang Son recently introduced himself to the world by building working prototype of the Batpod, Batman’s motorbike from The Dark Knight trilogy! See my extended video of it below and read more about this cool machine made from an old $125 Suzuki motorcycle!
Vodpod videos no longer available.