The Real Cost of What We Buy
“The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.” —Henry David Thoreau
If you want to become more intentional with your spending, here’s a truth that is helpful to keep in mind:
Whenever we buy something, we’re deciding that it’s worth more than anything else we could have used that money for.
You see, we only get to spend our money once. And every time we make a purchase, we have less money for something else.
Sure, we can always make more money, but that doesn’t change the reality that we can never re-spend the dollars we just spent.
So it would be wise for us to make sure the items we purchase are more valuable than the things we are turning down.
Now, before I continue, I should mention that this isn’t a post about thrift or frugality. I am not about to argue that we should stop spending money altogether. Just the contrary.
This post is about recognizing the choices we make with our money and re-examining the values we’re living by every time we make a purchase—whether it be $10, $100, or $10,000.
We’re not just buying things with our money; we’re making decisions about what we value most.
This simple realization can change how we approach our finances and, in turn, our life.
As Henry David Thoreau once said, “The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.”
And this truth applies to not just the dollars spent or the time that we gave up to earn the money in the first place. It also applies to the “other thing” we could have spent our money on. Because every time we make a purchase, we have less money for something else.
Every unplanned clothing purchase and every non-essential kitchen gadget eats into our financial capacity to explore, learn, and give.
Every new tech gadget or bathroom upgrade means less money for family trips that create lifelong memories, less money for tackling debts, or less money for supporting causes we care about.
Every small little purchase on Amazon that we “click to ship” means fewer dollars left over for that girl’s trip, spontaneously planned by our friends, that we hadn’t saved enough money to afford.
This is not an article to guilt anybody into changing their habits. Instead, it’s an invitation to be mindful about where our money goes, to make sure our purchases reflect our true selves and values.
Turning the tide of spending can ripple into an ocean of change, and with increased intentionality, we can be the initiators of that change.
What if we chose not to buy an unnecessary item and instead used that money to contribute to a cause, invest in an experience, or assist someone in need?
The joy from a new purchase always fades, but the fulfillment from these other choices can last a lifetime. Rarely is an unneeded item, added to our already-full homes, worth more than the opportunity we let slip by.
So, before your next purchase, ask yourself:
Is this item really worth more than the something else I am passing up?
When we start to consider all the possible better purchases, we’re doing more than managing our finances. We’re saying ‘yes’ to the potential of our money to bring us closer to the life we desire—not one filled with possessions, but with experiences, growth, and impact.