The True Cost of Our Stuff

posted by Andrea | 03/10/2014

cost of our stuff

I think many of you know that I’m generally quite frugal… and that I love to keep things neat and organized. Both of these factors work in my favor when it comes to accumulating more stuff.

My in-store thought process usually goes something like this:

That’s cute, and it’s on sale, I should buy it.

Well, I technically don’t need it… and I’m not sure where I would put it.

I guess it’s not that great of a deal… I’m sure I could come up with a better use for my money.

OK, I won’t buy it!

Not that I think this is necessarily the right way to handle the situation, but I can pretty much talk myself out of buying ANYTHING — even if it’s a super good deal!

Unless it’s on my list as a specific need, I can almost guarantee that I won’t buy it. In fact, if it’s not something I need (or really want) I can almost guarantee that I won’t even accept a freebie offer!

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I’m sure some of you might be thinking how boring, or un-fun, or super cheap I sound right now — but the fact of the matter is that even inexpensive (or free) items usually come with hidden costs that might end up being a burden later on.

For example, when you bring something into your home, you’ll eventually need to:

  • Find a spot to put it
  • Clean it (or around it)
  • Organize it (or around it)
  • Maintain it
  • Feed it (think of those “free pets” you see on Craigslist)
  • Water it (plants)
  • Put batteries in it or pay for electricity to run it
  • Buy accessories to go with it
  • Fix it if/when it breaks
  • Move it (if you move or change locations)
  • etc. etc.

So even getting a fabulous deal or an awesome freebie almost always ends up using many MANY resources over it’s lifetime in your home.

Not only does it use physical resources like space and money, it also uses resources like time and energy — both of which I have a short supply of these days!

For these reasons, it’s very likely that I’ll pass by even the best deal unless it’s truly something I need AND something where the benefits of owning the item will outweigh the extra money, space, time, and energy it could potentially require.

I realize this might sound like I over-think simple purchases — but this thought process only takes a few seconds, and I’m sure those few seconds have saved me LOTS of time, money, space, and energy over my lifetime.

So How Do I Decide to Bring Something into Our Home?

Obviously, there are plenty of items I DO bring into our home on a regular basis — but those are things I feel we actually do need.

For example, I’m a HUGE Craigslist shopper and usually have a running list of things I’d like to buy if the price is right. If there’s nothing on my list, I don’t even bother looking on Craigslist; however, if I have a few things on my list, I’ll log onto Craigslist for 5-10 minutes every night and do a quick search for the items I’m looking for.

Once I find a good deal (in a decently close location) I’ll jump on it — knowing it’s something I actually need and that it will be worth the extra resources it might require.

I use this same philosophy when shopping for new items. I keep a list of items we need and then order them on Amazon.com or go to a store I know will carry that item, buy that item, and then leave again. I’m not big on window shopping so I just get what I need and then leave again :)

Basically, I try to only bring things we NEED into our home.

And if you think about it, I’m really not THAT crazy!

By taking a few seconds to question any purchase (or even freebie offers) I’m able to avoid wasting time, space, money, and energy — and that sounds pretty good to me!

Have you ever thought about the TRUE cost of your stuff?

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24 comments

  1. Patti

    03/10/2014

    Great post Andrea….thanks!

    [Reply]

  2. Michaela

    03/10/2014

    I so needed to read this, this morning! I have been getting rid of stuff but had decided to really start going through clothes today. By the time I got home this morning I had talked myself out of it because they’re so cute, they haven’t out grown them etc. but reading this I realized they take up space, time, money (doing laundry), and frustration for me when my kids leave them everywhere because they have too much, so it’s time to downsize. Thank you!

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  3. mary willis

    03/10/2014

    My husband entered some sweepstakes and he keeps getting free books he will never read and junk mail. ugh

    [Reply]

    Catherine Reply:

    Mary,
    You could try and sneak some of those books out to your local hospital… they usually have carts of books for patients to read.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Mary,
    You could also donate them to a Blue Star Mom’s location or any other location that sends boxes to soldiers. Our military personnel love getting ‘goody boxes’ with books, crosswords, snacks, toiletries, etc. Just an idea! :)

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  4. Maria

    03/10/2014

    Great ideas, Andrea. If I see something that I really like, but not actually need, I’ll wait for a couple of days, and if I feel that I still want to buy it, I will, but usually the novelty has worn off and I forget the reason I wanted the item in the first place. lt saves a lot of time in returning stuff I regret buying.

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    Vivian Reply:

    I too have done that lots. I keep a running list of the items I need clothing wise in my head too. If it’s not on the list I’m not buying for my son or husband. I still like second hand for that reason. It’s the thrill of the hunt getting what you need for a deal not what you want.

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  5. Vivian

    03/10/2014

    My thoughts exactly except when it comes to little vintage tables. I always find a use for them or resale. My husband is in the cabinet door business and he does a great job of refinishing and repair. I have enough storage containers to last a life time. However I am finding sheets and towels to be wearing out after 14 years together.

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  6. Rochelle

    03/10/2014

    I totally ask myself the same questions :). We have 7 (soon to be 8) people living in our house, so I have to keep the “stuff” to a minimum! The only thing I have a hard time with is gifts from others for my kids birthdays/Christmas. I can’t say no to that & the kids do love them, so I try to find toy ideas that don’t take up much space & that they really love.

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    Holly Reply:

    When my family asks for gift ideas for my daughter, I suggest experiences. For Christmas just been, my parents paid for a zoo pass for us. Was a fantastic day out.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Great idea Holly — this is exactly what we do too… and will continue to do as our kids get older and will appreciate experience gifts much more than another toy!

    [Reply]

  7. CJ

    03/10/2014

    I love this post because I feel like I am always having the same conversation with my husband – “if you don’t really need it or are not really going to use it, even if it’s some really awesome sale, then it is not really a good deal”. I wish my husband would have a conversation with himself like you before making a random purchase (typically done online).

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  8. Katherine

    03/10/2014

    Will someone please send this post to my mother-in-law??? :)

    This is why I don’t want the rubbermaid bin full of stuff that she brings every visit. It was free or next-to-free for her; mostly from yard sales or what she had tucked away in her closets. But it doesn’t feel free to me! Ugh.

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  9. Gina, a book dragon

    03/10/2014

    We won a raffle at our county fair – cool a $1 bunny! Too bad the cage needed was $60. We did enjoy the bunny and the next three (one at a time) for years, but still.

    [Reply]

  10. Gina, a book dragon

    03/10/2014

    Katherine: Could you just smile and say thank you then stop by the local thrift store and drop it off?

    [Reply]

  11. Sherry L

    03/10/2014

    This is such a great post. Often, the amount of time it takes to manage and maintain “stuff” isn’t worth it, even if it’s free. Stuff Management can be a full-time job!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha — I like that phrase… “Stuff Management can be a full-time job!” I definitely agree!

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  12. Krysta

    03/10/2014

    Love this post! My husband thinks I’m crazy because I look at something that costs $3, and is totally cute, and say, “Nah, I don’t really NEED it…” and walk away. Thanks for showing me I’m not alone! :)

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  13. Kathy

    03/10/2014

    One of my “self talks” when I am shopping and there is a “bargain” to be had. I ask myself the question “If it was full price, would I want to buy it”. That usually answers the question. Often because it’s on sale or cheap we jump to the conclusion because it’s cheap we could find a place for it, or what does it matter it’s only $10 if I don’t like it later I can get rid of it. So a good question is “If this was full price would I still buy it and if it is, then it’s a good chance you like it for the product itself and don’t get caught up in the sale/cheapness of the product. Regards Kathy A, Brisbane, Australia

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  14. Cori

    03/10/2014

    What are some “things” you have decided you don’t “need” lately…Would love examples to fuel my brain…

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  15. Teresa

    03/10/2014

    I love this post! Today I began binging and purging of “stuff”……oh happy day, what a sense of accomplishment!

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  16. Ann

    03/10/2014

    I will book mark this page, as it’s something I need to read every once in a while!! I have been
    purging & I hope I “get rid of more” than I “carry IN” during 2014!!!
    SIMPLIFY, SIMPLIFY!! GREAT POST!

    [Reply]

  17. Anita Treacy

    03/10/2014

    Andrea, love this one!!! I am working on taking control back from all the “stuff” I our home. This is great advice!

    [Reply]

  18. Debbie

    03/11/2014

    This is exactly what I needed to read this morning! Thanks!

    [Reply]