What something is worth is often subjective. So you need to determine what something is worth TO YOU.
My husband is a big fan of buying on eBay. He likes buying action figures, trading cards, and Peanuts ornaments. Every so often, he turns the laptop toward me and asks, “What do you think this is worth?”
I try to be somewhat helpful, but I have a hard time. Because, honestly, I wouldn’t pay what he does for some of that stuff — much less consider paying what sellers are asking. “Worth” is a rather subjective concept. In many cases, something’s worth (whether it’s the price of gold, or a sale item you purchase at the store) is whatever we agree that it is.
If you are trying to figure out what something is worth to you, it’s a good idea to ask yourself the following questions:
1. What are Others Paying For It?
While you don’t want to base all of your financial decisions on what others are doing, you can still use a “market” price as a reference point. Find out what others are paying for the item. My husband does a little research on eBay to find out what the item, or similar items, have sold for in the past. He likes to get a good reference for what to expect to pay.
When setting my freelance writing rates, I consider what others are getting for similar services. I recently had someone’s eyes pop at my rate for writing press releases. He thought it was a “crazy” rate, considering what he had paid for other ghostwriting in the past. However, he had never had a press release written before. I sent him some information on what others charge for writing press releases, and suddenly my rate seemed quite reasonable, considering my experience. (He hired me.)
Take a look at what others are paying for the product or service, and then consider whether you agree that it should be in that ballpark. You can always negotiate down if you think that what others are paying is still too high.
2. How Much Do You Need/Want It?
Another consideration is how much you need or want something. If you really need it, and if you really need it right now, it’s suddenly going to be “worth” more, and you are probably going to have pay more for it. If you need someone to pump the water out of your flooded basement right now and install a sump pump immediately so you don’t have the same problem tomorrow, you’re going to pay for it. And maybe pay for it overtime. But when it happened to us, we thought the cost was totally worth it. Because the problem was taken care of right then, and we didn’t have to worry while everyone else had recurring problems.
You should also consider how much you want something. Sometimes I think that a nice, fancy desk would be awesome to have in my home office, but then I think about the cost, and realize that the cheap table I have set up works just fine. I don’t want the desk bad enough to pay for it. Sometimes, my husband decides not to buy an item on eBay because he realizes that he doesn’t really want it bad enough to pay the cost. Really think about whether you truly want something, and whether you want it badly enough to pay for it. Consider a waiting period as part of your financial plan of attack. Do you still want it after putting it off for two weeks?
3. How Much Will It Enhance Your Life?
Finally, ask yourself how much the purchase will actually enhance your life. My problem with helping my husband figure out how much trinkets are “worth” is that I don’t really see them as enhancements to my lifestyle. The new flooring we’re putting in? I see that as a big improvement to our comfort level and it also makes the house seem bigger and nicer, so we’re happier with it.
I like going new places and meeting new people, so travel enhances my life because it lets me enjoy things I find fulfilling. My husband would rather stay at home and sleep in his own bed, and he doesn’t care much for meeting new people. So travel to him isn’t worth that much — certainly not worth as much as buying things that he can place around him.
Really think about how much your purchase will enhance your life, and what you hope to get out of it. This requires that you look at the intangibles, and decide whether you really want it, as well as whether it will enhance your life in a meaningful way. Only you can determine what something is worth to you, and whether it’s worth it to pay the money.
What do you think? How do you determine what something is worth?