photo of discount sign

Did you get a screamin’ deal?

This thing you want to buy costs $100. More than you’re comfortable spending, but it’s on sale! It’s half price! It’s such a good deal, you’d be crazy not to buy it.

You know you’ll end up buying it eventually, why not pay less by buying it now it’s on sale?

You eagerly pay $100 and now you have the thing.

How much did it really cost?

If you could see the true price tag when you shop, it might give you pause.

Readers of Your Money or Your Life will recall that when you figure out your true hourly wage, it takes longer than you think to earn that $100.

You might think you earn $20 an hour, but that’s before you take out the cost of working to earn it.

The clothes you wear just for work, and the gas you use to drive to and from work.

The expensive extras you buy to reward yourself for a hard day’s work. The conveniences you pay for because working takes up too much of your time to do it all yourself.

If you read that book, they’ll walk you through how to understand how what your true take home hourly pay is.

But in the face of the screamin’ deal, you’re still excited to score such a deal.

The second price you’ll pay

So excited you forget the second price you’re going to pay for anything you buy. That price isn’t paid in money, it’s paid in time, your most valuable resource.

David Cain thinks that Everything must be paid for twice.

The argument is, we pay cash, but everything has a time cost too.

The online course on Motivational Interviewing is on sale today. Such a great addition to my toolbox as an organizer! Just have to find 10 hours to watch it.

It’s easier to jump at the reduced price than remember I haven’t paid the time cost yet. If I want to benefit from my screamin’ deal, I’ll have to find 10 hours to take the course.

What does this have to do with clutter?

Maybe we’re holding onto so much of our clutter because we’re stuck in between payments.

Letting go of something we’ve paid for but haven’t used seems wasteful.

You paid good money for that complete set of annotated Jane Austen novels. But until you invest the time in reading them all, you might as well have ripped up your money. All they are is clutter until you’ve paid the second installment of the true cost, and read them. Until you do, they’re nothing more than a bill for their second, time-based cost.

Just for fun, take a look at howlongtoread.com. It’ll tell you how long the average reader will take to read a specific book.

You paid for them, and now you’re overwhelmed because their true price can’t be paid.

Time is finite. To spend it on the second price for these books means you don’t have that time for anything else.

How many other the things in your house are waiting for you to pay the rest of their price tag?

All these things are waiting for your time and energy

The unplayed tapes and cassettes and LPs and CDs.

The streaming service you pay for but haven’t got time to fully explore.

The magazines you keep for recipes.

The specialty kitchenware that sits in the back of the cupboard, paid for but still in the box.

The clothes you haven’t worn yet – the ones with the tags on.

Until you pay their time cost, the cash you paid for them is wasted.

Read David Cain’s article, Everything must be paid for twice, then come back here and tell me what you’re still holding onto because you paid the first price (cash) but don’t want to pay the second charge (time).

Solution: Schedule time to use these things

Look at your schedule and decide exactly when you’re going to take each course. How will you break up the ten hours? When will you read each book and listen to each podcast?

Plan out when you’ll methodically try each recipe you’ve saved.

Bigger solution: Stop buying new things

Stop buying course and books and saving podcasts until you’ve caught up on everything you already have. No more books until you’ve finished the ‘read’ pile. Ignore offers for online courses until you’ve completed the ones you already have. Don’t tear out another recipe until you’ve tried all the ones you already have.

Even bigger solution: Figure out your ROI

Evaluate your ROI (return on investment) on all courses, books, podcasts and magazines.

What have you learned that you didn’t already know before you took the course or read the book? Were any of the recipes keepers? Will you ever make them again?

What have you done with that learning? Does it change anything you think or do on a regular basis?

Has anything changed because you paid the first and second price for this item?

Biggest solution: Dig deeper

What need does buying the online course or the book or saving the recipes or keeping all the tools fill?

It’s an identity thing

When I buy and keep books and magazines, I feel smart, competent, engaged – a learner.

When I have countless drill bits, and drawers full of screwdrivers and wood glue, I feel like someone who makes and fixes things. Whether or not I use them, they’re the props that reinforce that identity for me.

Are you holding onto the clutter you don’t want to pay the second price (time) for because it helps you feel like a certain kind of person?

Is it worth dealing with the clutter to maintain that identity?

It’s a feel good thing

Or are you hooked on the jolt of chemicals you get when you buy something? We get two for one with online shopping. The first excitement hits when we order the thing, the second when we get the delivery.

You’d think we’d get a third dopamine fix when we use the thing too. Turns out reading, watching and using the things we buy aren’t as immediately exciting as the acquiring of them.

Sure, you’ll have the satisfaction of having read a good book or used the tool set to create something you enjoy or need, but that’s not the spiky kind of excitement our brains love.

Find a therapist you like and then come back to the clutter. As long as clutter is reinforcing your identity or getting you high, your brain is not going to let you declutter.

by Lucy Kelly


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9 comments

  1. You covered so many important financial and psychological issues. (But of course I’ve read all the Jane Austen, every bit, from every angle.) I love that you’ve examined this from so many different perspectives and offered so many solutions.

    And, I just finished reading The Afrominimalist’s Guide to Living With Less, and in addition to these issues, she talks about the costs beyond ourselves. Wth “fast fashion” and so many plastic things (or other possessions that get packaged in plastics), there are environmental concerns, and then we need to take into account what the manufacturing of some of these things costs in terms of the lives and livelihoods of subsistence workers (domestically, but especially abroad) to make our stuff at “such a good deal.” There’s a lot here to consider regarding what, why, when, and how we buy, and how we can be more intentional. You’ve given us a great start!

  2. A few thoughts came up. Just the other day I listened to an awesome podcast. At the end was an offer for a ‘something’ if you click on the link. I was so intrigued that I clicked on the link. It wasn’t a freebie, but a $49 investment. That’s not a lot of money. However, as I read through to learn more, the information was so overwhelming along with the amount of “freebies” that would come with my purchase, I KNEW I’d never have time to use any of it. So all of the sudden, that $49 felt like TOO much money because it would basically be throwing it away. I didn’t buy it.

    The other thought is the desire to buy more books even when you have a pile of books waiting to be read. Guilty as charged. I do get through my pile, but when I discover a book I want to read NOW, I tend to get it. I have slowed the process slightly be instead of buying it, adding it to my “to read” list. That helps me take a pause before I put it in the virtual cart.

  3. Everybody loves a great deal, right? I love this post. I found as I age, I am now asking myself, do I really need this item even if it is on sale? This question stopped me from buying things just because of the ;low price. I also stopped going to the dollar stores and discount stores frequently because they were a trigger for my shopping. Now I very rarely go shopping for things I don’t need.

    1. That’s a great point, Sabrina. I’ve found that too, as I get older, my impulse control has gotten better. I can recall what happened and sometimes I can use that experience to help change my behavior. And yes to staying out of stores that trigger!

  4. I think I’m pretty good at recognizing when I won’t have time to use something. I’ve basically stopped signing up for any courses that allow me to work on my own pace – without deadlines or scheduled class time, they’re just not going to get done. And so far I’ve resisted investing in a better camera, at least until I’ve learned all I can with what I have now!

      1. Did you write that for meeee? I’m terrible at finishing courses (or watching all available materials after a conference) on my own. But getting better (I think) at not signing up for them in the first place. And if I’ve signed up for something live, I reserve the time for it, and don’t count on “finding” time to watch the replay.

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