The cost of a handphone doesn’t just include the price tag and service contract.
(Photo by Luke Wroblewski.)

When you see an item for sale, you usually think of it as a one-off purchase. When somebody asks you how much, say, your microwave costs, you usually will respond with whatever you paid to buy it. You typically don’t think that items, such as your microwave, have “ongoing overhead expenses”, but they do – all items do!

In my last post, we discussed how to get stuff (in particular, furniture) for free. This week, let’s talk about how stuff, even so-called free things that were #OOTD (Out Of the Dumpster), are not really free. The microwave, for example, if left on standby, will consume more electricity than when in actual use (i.e, heating food), according to the Economist. Many other devices are also this way. All your stuff has an ongoing expense tab.

The first time the thought ever crossed my mind was when I was a child and I would go with my mother to the dry cleaners. Within just a handful of uses, the cleaning cost of her clothes would exceed their original purchase cost. And for someone who grew up needing some Public Assistance, I wondered if it was wise to buy such high maintenance clothing. But at the time, my mother, like many single ladies in their 30s, desired to appear rich, and budgeting was not her forte.

Now that I’m in my 30s, although I’ve achieved a certain level of financial security, I still keep a somewhat minimalist lifestyle because I’ve come to realise that the ongoing expenses (and additional resources) stuff requires are just not worth it. Here are some of the ways stuff spends our money, without us knowing it:

Ongoing Overhead

1. Power

A lot of devices now need power, and this is one of the highest ongoing expenses needed to maintain and use them. Computers need to be plugged in, and mobiles need to be charged. When you consider the cost of your mobile, don’t forget the additional cost of having to buy accessories like a spare battery, powerbank, and charging cables/adapters.
2. Cleaning

Clothes need to be laundered, cars need to be washed, and other items have to be cleaned, wiped or dusted every now and then. Your stuff, therefore, will constantly require water, cleaning solutions, and other supplies.
3. Storage

This can include the cost of buying additional storage (the self-storage industry in Singapore has greatly expanded in the last decade, according to the Business Times), but also the cost of simply placing the item in your home. Items take up counter space and fill closets and cabinets. Perhaps with less stuff, you might need a smaller place, or be able to rent a room out which could generate rental income. Instead your stuff stays in your home rent-free. In addition, having more stuff means it’s harder to find things amidst the clutter.
4. Repairing & Upgrading

Stuff breaks or needs overhauling or upgrading every now and then, especially because most things are manufactured with planned obsolescence at its core. This means that things become disposable, unusable, or obsolete in just a few months or years.
5. Servicing

Items like aircons, televisions, and mobiles will need service contracts in order for them to operate.
6. Moving

As mentioned in my last post, I just recently shifted to another home. All that “free” #OOTD furniture I accumulated ended up costing me money to move. Fortunately, most moving companies charge by the lorry load and all my stuff didn’t even fill one 10ft lorry so the cost would have been the same with or without the #OOTD furniture.
7. Time

Simply enjoying or using our stuff will at the very least cost us time. I know a guy who has a liquor bottle collection (he collects just the bottle itself) and an anime figurine collection. Besides meticulously cleaning the items every few months, he also spends several hours admiring his collection. While that may add some benefit to his wellbeing, I feel that he might be better off using that time (and space) in more effective ways.
8. Thoughts, Worries
& Distractions

When you ask people what they worry about, they might say their family members or their job; rarely, if ever, would they mention inanimate objects, but that is what people spend the most time worrying about. They worry about their homes, their car, their devices, and their clothes. They use precious mental or emotional real estate thinking about and being occupied with their belongings. One way to destress that’s never mentioned in articles concerning stress reduction is to simply have less stuff.
9. Insurance & Liabilities

Some possessions require insurance to cover for damage, theft, or delinquency such as your home and car. Additionally, you can be liable for what your stuff does, like if your car hits person or object.

Bottom Line: There are so many other things for which your time, thoughts, and money might be better spent, such as your health, relationships, and self-worth. Who knows? You might just be happier with less stuff in your life.

2 Comments on Your Stuff Spends Money Without You Knowing It

  1. really great post! BTW. my mother did the same ie. it happened to her to buy stuff requiring dry cleaning. She washed it normally and was disappointed that it was not the same as at the beginning;-)

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