Three years ago Ramit Sethi wrote a post that made me laugh and think of my parents (it also looks like it might have subconsciously been influencing my post last week). In it he talks about how his parents are very generous with him, but they (and, according to Ramit, all Indians) HATE to pay for dry cleaning or shipping. He claims that reluctance to spend on dry cleaning somewhat makes sense to him (same clothes, just cleaner), but he can’t understand the shipping reluctance. To me it’s very similar (it’s the same object, it’s just in a different location).
It made me laugh because my parents live in fear of long distance phone calls and taxicabs. When I was a kid a couple of times I wanted to order something or call somewhere long distance, and my mother made a *HUGE* deal of it saying I could make the call, but when the bill came in, I was responsible for the charges!!! I made the call and ended up paying $0.63 or something. Whee. The only way I can make sense of their fear is that long distance cost FAR more when they were growing up (and maybe they haven’t internalized that it’s actually pretty cheap now). I’m not sure what the problem is with taxis (sure public transit is cheaper and should be taken if possible, but it isn’t the end of the world to take a cab a few times a year).
My mother was once going to visit my brother when he was in England, and it happened that it was quite tough to get where he was living. He gave her directions which involved flying to Heathrow, taking mass transit into the city, then taking a taxi to avoid a 50 minute walk to get to his place. My mom said she’d just walk the last leg. With her luggage. After having just been traveling for well over 10 hours.
I suspect we all have a couple of things that it really bugs us to pay for. There are a number of things that it kills me to pay for, but the biggest are probably:
Easily Prepared Foods at Restaurants
I find it VERY hard to order steak or lobster at a restaurant. Not because of the price (I’ll have expensive meals out on occasion), but just because you pay such a premium and they’re *SO* easy to make at home! It doesn’t take much to grill a steak to perfection, and the hardest part of cooking a lobster is not feeling guilty when you pop him in the boiling water.
It kills me to buy booze in a restaurant too: I can open a bottle of beer at home for half the price, thanks.
I *LOVE* getting Pad Thai, eggs Benedict, butter chicken and other, more difficult to make, dishes at restaurants. If I can easily make it for myself at home, I’ll do so.
The flip side of this is, if a steak is what you feel like, get it. If you’ll enjoy having a beer with your meal, who cares if it costs more than at home (your goal when enjoying a nice meal out should be to enjoy it, dammit!)
In many ways renting a DVD is an incredibly cheap way to spend a night with friends: for $5 you sit around in someone’s living room and watch a movie (compared to $12 per person to go out to the theater). When you can BUY DVDs for less than $20, it kills me to give Blockbuster 1/4 of the price to borrow it for a day (as crazy as it is, I’d almost rather buy it and just watch it once, then give it to a friend). I keep waiting for the $1 / day DVD rental kiosks to take off.
It’s bizarre, since almost any way I’d make money involves intellectual property or selling information (programming, publishing, teaching, etc) but I find it really hard to place a value on non-tangible goods. What I’ve read suggests I’m not alone. From music to television to movies to books to software it really kills me to pay for content when there’s an alternative way (such as lending libraries or black markets) to get it free (or so cheap that it’s next to free).
What do you find it (irrationally) hard to spend money on?
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