Seth Godin wrote a blog post that’s really stuck with me. You can read the complete post here. It will take you just a minute. Here’s the gist of it: “I know what the price tag says. But what does it cost?”

When we make a purchase, we need to evaluate what it really costs. And that cost goes beyond the price tag.


  • A new coat needs to be dry cleaned.
  • Your car needs regular oil changes and gas, plus periodic maintenance.
  • A puppy needs food, a leash, a place to stay when you’re traveling, and trips to the vet.
  • A new phone needs a case and charger. Maybe you buy an extended warranty.
  • A house needs to be furnished, cleaned, insured, taxed, and repaired.
  • Electronics need to be updated. There may be a learning curve to knowing how to use them.
  • New kitchen appliances and dishes need shelf space in your kitchen.
  • Outdoor gear for camping and snowboarding needs to be stored.
  • A yard needs to be mowed, raked, and landscaped.
  • Tennis rackets need new strings and grips.
  • New games need to be played and new streaming services need to be watched.

Questions to Consider

  • Will this purchase require other purchases?
  • Is it expensive to repair?
  • Do I need to buy a warranty?
  • How much space will it take?
  • Will I use it enough to justify owning it?
  • Could I rent it or borrow it instead?
  • Does it need to be cleaned?
  • How much time will it take?
  • Do I want it because it’s on sale?
    • Remember: If you don’t buy something at all, it’s 100% off.
  • Do I own the right tools?
  • Can I afford to outsource the maintenance?
  • Does it need to be built or installed?
  • Can I afford to lose it?


As you make your buying decisions, I encourage you to ask yourself:

  • If you can afford to buy it today
  • If you can also afford the ongoing costs for as long as you own the thing
  • If you even want to (own it, maintain it, learn it, use it, etc.)

This is not to say we shouldn’t buy things. We should certainly buy what we value and can afford, but when you think about the costs you have to look beyond the price tag. There is the upfront cost when buying the thing, plus ongoing costs to owning the thing (in the form of dollars, time, resources etc.) and eventually the cost to dispose of the thing.

Thinking these things through should improve your purchasing decisions. You may decide not to buy it. You may consider a less expensive alternative. You may decide to pay more now to buy something you think will last longer and be of higher quality. So remind yourself, “I know what the price tag says. But what does it cost?”

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