Saturday, June 20, 2015

What’s It Worth To You?

Several years ago, I read a book about personal finances. One of its main ideas was that we should figure the cost of an item not in dollars, but in the number of hours we work to acquire that item. In other words, if something costs $50, and you make $5 an hour, it costs you 10 hours of work to purchase that item. Of course, if you make $25 an hour, it only costs you two hours. It puts things on a rather personal and ACCURATE cost basis. I’ve tended to look at things from that angle ever since.

A case in point was our lunch today. We went to a well-known and popular restaurant that we go to on occasion. The cost there is more than a fast-food joint, so we don’t go there frequently, but ever so often, we like to splurge. Normally, it has cost me about three hours of labor for my wife and I to dine there, and that included the tip. Today, the cost was four hours (again, with the tip), despite getting the same meals that we usually get. I hadn’t looked at the prices when we ordered, so I was a bit surprised, though not shocked.

I realize that prices are going up on EVERYTHING these days, and that the restaurant may have simply adjusted their prices as needed to stay in business. I also realize that their own greed could have played in the higher price to some degree, as well, though it wouldn’t be provable. I know, too, that the rise in poultry prices, due to current disease problems, will cause a rise in other the cost of other meats as consumers switch to those other sources of protein.  However, there are other restaurants that haven’t yet raised their prices to that degree.

All in all, I felt that the cost of our meals had exceeded my willingness to pay. I had to pay for today’s meal, of course, but I have a choice to make the next time I feel like dining there. Will we go to a less expensive restaurant, or will we simply choose to eat at home. Since my wife likes a break in the kitchen on weekends, I suspect that I already know the answer, but it’s a decision, nonetheless.

So what would YOU do? Is there a “test” that you use to decide when your willingness to pay has been misused or abused, or that something is simply beyond your means? © 2015


Chickenmom said...

We don't dine out very often - it's just too expensive. But when the urge does hit, I think about how much meat that outing would buy. Most of the time my freezer wins.

JaneofVirginia said...


Yes, I have always thought of things I bought in terms of how long I have had to work to acquire them. Years ago, when I made a fairly high hourly rate as a critical care RN, a house flag seemed a good buy using this method. These days when my income is much more trickly, it wouldn't. I also find that eating out most places just isn't worth how long I have to work to acquire the money ! Besides, the food is better at home !
Thanks for a great and thoughtful post.

Kathy Felsted Usher said...

That's a tough one. We have a Mexican restaurant here that is family run and has been very inexpensive and good; however, the last three visits have been less than adequate. The prices are still good, maybe they have gone up but if so, very little but the quality has fallen. I don't think it is a new cook because the time between visits was not short. I think they are managing costs by reducing quality. You can see how many cereal boxes have shrunk while the price goes up, fast food servings are smaller and for a big corporation, a very small drop in size equals big money across millions of sales. We would base it on cash availability (no credit cards) and the amount of enjoyment we receive if it were more than a $1 taco.

Wade Herod said...

I like Cheezits. Last year they cost around $2.50 a box for the crackers. Now this is strictly a luxury item for me. ie I only got occasionally. They went up to $2.86. So I quit buying them period. I've searched around for an alternate; Cheese-nips are edible but not worth the cost in my estimation. So I've gone without.

Then Walmart brought out their own brand of Cheezits, called cheddar crackers or some such. Has the exact same taste. And they're around the old price. They are flying off the shelves around here. Now Walmart doesn't devote as much shelf space to them as the Cheezits that may be why there are never any boxes of them. But I'm hoping they will increase their shelf space.

In other things, I never buy produce or meat At Walmart but instead go to a Piggly Wiggly of exceptional quality here for those things. They are, in many cases 40% cheaper and no availability problems. And because it's a local store they are very friendly.

You will never see a "People of Piggly Wiggly" video on YouTube. :) So let the great unwashed use Walmart I say and I'll go to the

Wade in NW Florida

M. Silvius said...

Portland, Maine the next town over from us is rated nation wide as one of the premiere "foodie" destinations. And they have some outstanding restaurants staffed (usually owned)by some of the top chefs in the country. Yet we very rarely go out to eat. Our weekly food budget for two is less than 100$. For one third the money I'd spend on a nice meal for two in a restaurant I can buy top notch ingredients from the same vendors that supply the restaurants and produce a meal twice as good. Eating well is one of the few luxuries we allow ourselves, but in the end going out to eat just does not make monetary sense. Nor can I stand the aggravation of the cattle car mentality one must endure to obtain it.

Pumice said...

I still have 93% lean ground beef in my freezer that I paid $2.99 for on sale. Now the sale price in $4.99. Add to that the government interference in the economy in such things as minimum wage and benefits. I heard of one restaurant out here that kept their prices the same but added a surcharge for the increases caused by outside forces.

I only eat at places that don't have dollar specials when I am with my wife. When forced to go that route, I just get soup, a baked potato or a side of broccoli. Of course one place we went charged as much for a bowl of soup for a meal on special.

The really expensive places I only go to with my children, when they are paying.

Grace and peace.

Vicki said...

I usually look at the price of something and decide whether or not I am willing to pay it. Most times the answer is "No." Thing is, after time passes and we forget the lower prices of yesterday, we pay without thinking about it. I guess that's what they mean by the "New Normal."

Gorges Smythe said...

You're a wise lady, Cm.

I'm glad you considered the subject of value, Jane. I think we do a LOT of things without considering all the costs.

Indeed, it IS happening everywhere, Kathy. I guess we all just have to adjust in our own way.

Makes sense to me, MH!

I would rarely go out, were it just up to me, Michael. However, even as a little child, my wife was forced to do the tasks that should have been done mostly by her mother, including cooking for a large family. Eating out means more to her than it does to us.

Sounds like a good system, Pumice.

It does tend to sneak up on us, Vicki.

Lady Locust said...

If we dine out, it's usually a treat - probably no more than once a month or every other month. It's also usually a planned event (traveling or attending an event of some sort.) The other part we consider is what will we be eating as in CAFO meat, veggie oils, and processed grains and chemicals of questionable sorts. This said, we usually opt for a steak house which is something we have to plan for $.
You are wise to think of $ in hours of your life (in my meager opinion.) In the end, that's what we are really trading.

Gorges Smythe said...

We eat a nice meal out on weeks when my paycheck is decent, LL. That works out to about three times a month through the summer, and barely at all through the winter.