Posted by Robert on December 17, 2012
This is a guest post by Robert, who lives in Calgary and worked as a financial adviser before retiring at age 35. He is married, has three kids and has returned to school with the goal of eventually living and working overseas.
I have a friend who just decided to go on a diet. To be frank, I noticed that he’s quite a bit heavier than when we were teens, but I wouldn’t have said anything. It turns out that his wife wouldn’t say anything either, and it wasn’t until they had a family portrait that he noticed his size. I was curious how he felt it happened and what he’s going to do about it.
I was surprised to learn that he buys his lunch every day. In his mind, none of the cool people at work bring a bag lunch. Instead, they buy their lunch and eat together. In order to fit in, my friend also buys his lunch. I assume that the portions are very large (and of questionable nutrition). I expect it also costs a fair amount to buy lunch every work day. It all adds up. But it’s normal in most offices for workers to buy their lunch.
And that’s the trouble. My friend’s wife explained that she had noticed him putting on weight, but wouldn’t say anything until he noticed it himself. When they talked about it, she suggested that he pack a lunch from home. In his perspective, only losers bring brown bag lunches. All the cool people eat out. I guess it gives him an opportunity to spend more time with people that he enjoys and admires.
What’s the cost of being cool? For him, it’s costing him money and health. But the real question, in my mind, is whether or not there’s another way to get the same benefit at a lower cost. As an example, if I need to buy a DVD player, I can choose between buying a good quality one, a lower quality one, or a second-hand one. Each has a certain cost, and the decision I make will depend on how much I value quality and newness. But I personally find that buying second-hand usually results in better quality for the money spent.
In the same way, my friend might be able to find a way to still get the benefits he wants: spending time with people he likes and eating good food, by finding other solutions. He might suggest they all get take out and eat together at the office instead of in a restaurant. Or they might eat at a food court, where they have the choice between buying or packing their lunch. He might buy the coolest retro lunchbox ever, so he can bring his lunch and still be cool. Or he might eat out, but only buy appetizers to reduce the cost and his consumption. Or he might decide to only eat out 2 or 3 times a week instead of five.
There are any number of valid reasons that people spend money. But sometimes something happens that makes the cost seem unacceptable. For my friend, it was realizing the cost to his health. When have you decided that something was no longer worth the cost? What changes did you decide to make? Was it easy to change, or was it a struggle?