Stop Searching and Buy it Already

July 15 2017, 2:15pm

Like many of my peers, I have fond memories of going to the nearby mall to go shopping with my Mom. We would spend hours at a time perusing shop after shop, seemingly searching for the right thing. No less was it a time to get out of the house than it was a time for me to play hide and seek with my siblings in between clothing racks. Today, much is different, including the hide and seek aspect. I mostly shop online, for starters, and I try to spend as little time as possible searching. At the end of the day, this change comes mostly as a consideration of the cost of my time. Here, I take a dive into these concepts and some considerations to make buying a more efficient and effective process.

coffee on a table

How much is your time worth per minute? Multiply that rate times the number of minutes you last spent searching and comparing costs for a type of item.

This is the search cost. That's how much it cost for you to search and do comparison shopping. With long enough time and effort, this cost can easily go past the stated price of the item.

Search cost is minimized when the amount of one's time invested is reduced. This is why it is good to stop searching and just buy that thing you're eyeing. Especially when comparing two relatively similar items, considering search cost can improve the overall economics of the transaction.

This brings up another issue when it comes to shopping—opportunity cost. Opportunity cost, as defined by Collins Dictionary, is "the benefit that could have been gained from an alternative use of the same resource". In the moment, it's relatively easy to compare a $10 peeler with a $5 one, but consider that all you have in your bank is $10. If you went with the $10 vegetable peeler, yes, it might be nicer—perhaps more ergonomic even—but you wouldn't have any more cash to buy vegetables. Essentially, you would be buying a vegetable peeler only to not be able to use it. With the $5 option, the other $5 not spent on the peeler could be used towards purchasing vegetables that can then be peeled.

Oftentimes we are attracted to the latest and greatest, the bigger and better. Considering the ways in which money can best be spent can further help decrease costs overall.

There are those that say they have all the time in the world and that all this doesn't really matter. Consider that we have 688536 total hours in our lives (based on an average lifespan in 2014 of 78.6 years) and that 1/3 of it is spent sleeping. We have 229512 productive hours.

Event if you don't own a business or make an income, there is a cost in developing relationships, friendships, health, etc. one more hour spent searching for a better printer is one less hour that a friends can potentially have or one less less hour of gym time. Although quantifying costs, in this manner, can become difficult, the notion still rings true that one should at least consider time as a function of the overall cost of an item.

What is your process for buying things?