Hidden Costs

Bill Abbate

Most of us in first-world countries want more of many things and the latest, greatest of practically everything.

What is a physical object worth to you? Whether it’s a car, home, boat, or anything else, it costs far more than its monetary value alone.

Let’s look at the hidden costs of ownership and, more importantly, those things you can’t purchase at any price!

Understanding the cost

Buying a new car, home, boat, etc., is exciting for most of us! Over time, however, each will become dated, obsolete, devalued, and return to the dust from whence they came. Any physical object we possess is temporary and has costs beyond the price paid for it.

Then there are the nonphysical things we acquire, which also have a hidden cost. The difference between the tangible (physical) and the intangible (nonphysical) is how long they may last. Some intangibles are so invaluable they are eternal!

What is it worth?

Have you ever considered the hidden cost of the “things” exceeds the price you pay in dollars? When you pay for something monetarily, in part, you exchange a financial asset for it. To determine the true cost, you must look at what created the financial asset and what it takes beyond these costs.

Most of us expend time, effort, and energy in exchange for money. That means you are trading what it costs you to obtain the money.

While most intangibles do not cost money, they cost time, effort, and energy. There is a lot of truth to that old saying, “Nothing is free in life.”

“Nothing is free. Everything has to be paid for. “ Ted Hughes (1930–1998)

Everything we obtain has a cost, whether tangible or not. At the very least, you trade a part of your life for every possession.

What is worth having?

“Anything in lifeworth havingisworth working for.” Andrew Carnegie” (1835–1919)

What do you consider worth having besides the physical? How about something of value that, while intangible, will last a lifetime and may outlive you?

You’ve heard it said many times that the material things we spend so much of our lives and earnings on are temporary. Have you noticed this is true for anything our five senses interact with?

While a home may last hundreds of years, most of our purchases will not survive for long. Despite the cost of a car today, most are disposable in due time, which is true for anything you purchase. Even that home you buy will one day be sold or torn down.

You can buy all the homes, cars, boats, planes, food, and experiences you want if you have enough money. Still, you cannot buy the most valuable things with any amount of money. Some things are just too valuable to be purchased.

Look at the words of a literary naturalist and nature essayist who was active in the early conservation movement in the United States:

“For anythingworth havingone must pay the price; and the price is alwayswork, patience, love, self-sacrifice— no paper currency, no promises to pay, but the goal of real service.” John Burroughs (1837–1921)

His words contain much wisdom. Each of us must pay a price for anything worth having. The only way to obtain these things is by working with patience, love, and self-sacrifice. No amount of money or indebtedness can ever pay for it. Only your efforts, who you are, and how you serve can help you obtain these things of immeasurable value.

Taking a different perspective

We can argue some things money buys are necessary and worth having, but that misses the point. Most of us need a vehicle for transportation, a roof over our heads, food on the table, and other necessities. Yet the day will come when even some of these things are no longer important.

To understand this perspective, imagine getting to the end of life and looking back. Ask yourself, “What was truly worth having?”

What had so much value and meaning no amount of money could have purchased it? Some things that come to mind include:

  • The love of a spouse and your love for them
  • The love of a child, a friend, every meaningful relationship, and your love for them
  • Belonging to a community and the identity it provides
  • Your home, but more importantly, the homelife and lifestyle you built that passes on through your children
  • The examples set by your faith and all that you did to follow God
  • Memories future generations will value
  • Your health and the health of others
  • What you did with your life
  • The way you served and those things that create your legacy

The important thing to note about each of these things worth having is they make you who you are. They show what you value, and you are who you are because of that value. What you value shapes your life.

For example, being married to Jane, my wife, makes me a husband, companion, friend, and brother-in-law to her sisters. Being connected to Jane and her family is part of my identity. I am who I am in part because they make my life worth living. They are invaluable to me.

One of the most valuable things I still treasure is photography, a lifelong hobby. I love cameras, lenses, every technical spec, and taking photos. Yet, in the end, I could not add the hobby to the list as meaningful as it is to me. But the images I create, some hanging on our walls, others in photo books, and the many memories they allow us to relive are priceless. I hope these memories will remain a part of my legacy for future generations.

Speaking about legacy, little is more rewarding than knowing you will leave a mark on this earth after you are gone. My book, hundreds of articles, numerous photographs, and the many people I have impacted as a coach and mentor will undoubtedly be part of my legacy. I gladly paid the price for these things because they enriched my life tremendously.

Along these lines, I wonder if part of our legacy will be on social media. I know at least two people who have passed on, yet their Facebook pages remain intact. People who loved them have taken them over to keep their memory alive. Who knows what other innovations the future will bring that may be worth having?

Final thoughts

The actual cost of anything in life, material or otherwise, includes:

  • Time, energy, and effort spent thinking, strategizing, and planning
  • Time, energy, and effort expended to acquire it
  • Time, energy, and effort spent to maintain it
  • Patience, love, self-sacrifice, and service
  • A piece of your invaluable life

In the end, the things worth having most always involve other people. Without them, life would be empty. With them, life is full. Without them, little value exists in life. With them, life becomes invaluable.

How do you see this subject? Do you have a similar perspective or take a different view? I would love to hear your thoughts!

I leave you with some wisdom from one of the most successful and famous architects in history:

“You have to go wholeheartedly into anything in order to achieve anything worth having.” Frank Lloyd Wright (1867–1959)

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Semi-Retired-Leadership/Executive Coach -Personal & Career Growth Expert -Editor and Leadership Writer at Illumination -Author

Richmond, VA

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