|Source: Anne Parker|
As I engaged in simple living, I started considering my material purchases more closely before handing over my carte bleue. I also started questioning my culling choices, as you may have read, and one of the elements I started pondering lately is the real cost of objects on our daily outcome, beyond their purchase price.
I believe one of the key elements of simple living is to spend less time, energy and money on material items. The time and energy part can be reduced by limiting shopping trips, wishlist creation and other similar activities, but the money part appears more tricky, as the stereotypical "buy less but better" reduces the amount of items purchased but doesn't change the overall budget much.
In that case, how can we reduce the outcome linked to material objects? I think one of the answers to this question is to consider the overall daily cost of maintaining our collection of objects. Let me explain.
When I started working in the video game industry, I remember being surprised by one fact: storing the games that haven't been sold costs an insane amount of money - in transport, storage etc. There was even a story, decades ago, of a publisher who buried tens of thousands of game cartridges in the desert, because discarding them was cheaper than owning them.
This little story made me think: is it possible that in our life too, it would cost us more to keep owning objects than it would to discard them? In that case, wouldn't the rationale "I don't need it but it cost me a lot when I purchased it" be moot?
Let's take a car: when you buy it, the cost of owning it goes beyond the purchase price; you have to pay for insurance, gas, reparations. Owning a car weighs on your budget, even if you don't use it. The car example is obvious, but this is also true for many other types of items - the regular dry cleaner fees for all the dry-clean only clothes, the extra storage (bookshelves etc) you have to buy for your collections of items like books or DVD, or even the higher rent or morgage you have to pay for this extra room that stores all of your stuff.
The business world even has a concept for it: the Total Cost of Ownership, which helps businesses determining the real costs of their purchases, to see if they can afford it, or the real value of an investment.
How can we apply this concept to our approach to material objects as individuals? I will probably give it more thought and write a post about reducing the overall weight of material items on your budget, but in the meantime, here are a few simple suggestions:
- When you buy a new item: When you plan for a new acquision, think about what additional costs it may bring beyond the purchase price. Will you need to buy new furniture or boxes because of it? Will you need to buy regular "ammo" for your item? (for example, Nespresso capsules). How much will it cost to maintain it? (for example, dry cleaning).
- When you edit your collection of items: Think about how much it costs you to keep owning them. How much does the storage space cost? Did you buy extra boxes to organize them? Could you live in a smaller home if you freed the space they are taking up? Could you repurpose some furniture or boxes, hence avoiding a new purchase for other items you are actually using? Do you still need to pay for regular maintenance?
- Additional tip: In order to avoid extra cost, I define a space for a certain collection of items, and stop buying any once it's filled. For example: one shelf for books, one shelf for video games. No extra storage cost. Once the space is full, it also forces me to carefully curate my collection, think of which ones I really want to keep.
What do you think? Have you already taken into consideration the "total cost of ownership" of an object before making a purchase? Do you take it into consideration when you sort your stuff? Any additional tips on the subject?