My father-in-law was born and raised in Scotland where the virtue of thrift was developed. Today the Scottish people are known as some of the thriftiest people in the world. My father-in-law practices thrift better than anyone I know. He recently said, “Money is hard to come by but easy to get rid of.”
For some reason, this quote entered my mind yesterday morning while shopping for groceries. I was busy trying to find bargains on the items I needed. As I walked up and down the aisles, I came across a product that I wanted which was not on my list. As I debated whether to buy the item, I remembered the quote. Instantly, I made the decision to not purchase the item. What was it about the quote that encouraged me to put the item back?
I had just finished a very tough and difficult week of work. That week was perhaps the most stressful and emotional week of the year. At the moment I recalled the quote; two things quickly went through my mind. First, money is hard to come by. I thought about the work I had performed that week and it dawned on me that I had to work very hard to get the money I was about to spend. That conclusion, however, was not the final connection I needed.
The second idea that instantly zipped through my mind was a sermon I heard a few years ago at church. The pastor preached on sin and how even one sin committed by just one person was enough to send Jesus to the cross. Before knowingly committing a sin, the preacher encouraged us to ask ourselves whether the sin we were about to perform was worth asking someone to die for that sin. He was encouraging us to consider the cost of that decision before we acted.
Don’t ask me how I made this connection but I did. I took that same principle and applied it to this scenario. I asked myself if purchasing the item was worth the hard work I performed to get the money I was about to spend. In this context, I substituted purchasing something for sinning and working hard for death. I know that is a stretch but it did help me come to the conclusion that purchasing the item was not worth the hard work. I had a new appreciation for Ben Franklin’s quote “A penny saved is a penny earned.”
Economists use the concept of ‘opportunity cost’ to explain the decision I had to make. The opportunity cost of making one decision is the value of the next best alternative that was not chosen. For me, the opportunity cost of buying the item was not just the amount of money I would have to give up but the amount of work I had performed to get that money. Before making a purchase, we all should get in the habit of examining the opportunity cost of making the purchase. For you it could be taking longer to get something you are saving up for or not being able to get out of debt as fast. Either way, when making a purchasing decision remember that money is hard to come by and easy to get rid of.