Every decision has a cost, which is usually more than just the published cost of an item or service. Sometimes, while trying to save money in the short run, we actually spend more in the long run. Sometimes, “free” things cost a lot. And sometimes inaction has a cost, spiritually and emotionally as well as financially.
While we are accustomed to thinking about expenditures only as spending money, there are also such costs and potential benefits as impact on time, health, relationships, and ability to live purposefully. Thus, the wise choice considers more than just money in calculating ROI (return on investment).
To keep a sense of balance in our lives, we need to look at the many costs of any decision.
Costs are not always obvious. Sometimes, little decisions about money cost dearly in terms of relationships and health. I’ve known friends who argued over a simple dinner bill, where each paid a few more dollars than they thought fair. But what was the cost to their relationship in letting this little thing get in their way?
On the other hand, I’ve purchased an item that I really wanted that cost more than I was planning to spend, and it has brought tremendous joy to me over the years every time I see it in my home. So cost is relative. My enjoyment is worth something.
It’s easy to forget the value of time. The other night my husband and I were invited to a “free” Shakespeare performance. Though we spent two hours waiting in line, the tickets ran out before we got to the front of the line. Our priceless learning: our time is worth more than what it would have cost to buy tickets at the regular price.
Sometimes, inaction is terribly expensive.
Right now, many people are obsessed with saving money, but not spending has its own costs, beyond the fact that we don’t get a service or product we need or really want.
Putting off getting an important repair on our car because we’re trying to save money might mean a bigger bill and more repairs later on. Waiting to go to the doctor to check out a concern might compromise our health. Putting off taking a vacation to take on extra work may add to our stress level and hurt our relationships.
I know many people who are caught in a vicious circle of staying in a job they hate because they have a high mortgage and lots of expenses. By feeling stuck we can get depressed, which can hurt our health and relationships. Our quality of life suffers, and keeps us from feeling fully alive and on purpose.
Yet if we step back, re-evaluate what is important to us, we can re-prioritize and make adjustments. Maybe it’s even time to sell the house and downsize to something smaller, or take in roommates, or move out and rent out the house so that you can enjoy your life until the economy picks up.
Even when we’re strapped for funds, we can create the life map of our choosing.
Can you imagine driving somewhere for the first time but having no idea where it is and no map? Yet this is often how we live our lives.
It’s important that we at least feel in charge, know what we want, and plan for it, knowing that it may take awhile to achieve. If we hate the job, why not be honest with ourselves, write down what our ideal job would look like, and start looking for it in our spare time? Or take a second look at our current job and figure out what is not serving us – sometimes we are resisting an opportunity that can help us grow (e.g., perhaps we are angry at a boss that reminds us of a parent, or we feel undervalued). Perhaps our frustration has less to do with the job and more to do with our own feelings or projections.
We don’t need to feel stuck when in fact we always have many options. Be open to them! Mediate or pray about it – or use any number of spiritual practices that might offer insight. Ask a friend to help you brainstorm and think out of the box.
Here are some guidelines for considering costs and potential return:
- Is this product or service important at this time?
- What potential benefits does it offer?
- What impact might it have either way on my health, spiritual life, family, relationships, etc.?
- How much time will it take?
- What is the actual cost?
- What is the possible cost of inaction?
In sum, what’s my true return on investment — positive or negative?
Kimberly Weichel is a social pioneer, educator, author and specialist in global communications, leadership and peacebuilding. She is co-author of “Healing the Heart of the World” and director of the Institute for Peacebuilding.www.kimweichel.org.