Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Cost of Being

There is something that I don't think a lot of people get.  I see it every day at work and I see it in the way people behave when it comes to their finances.  There is a cost of being.

What do I mean by that?  Let me give you an example.  We have a core piece of technology.  On top of that core piece of technology, we have added many small features.  At the time of inception, and without giving it full thought, these features may have made sense.  They were easy to implement and brought in incremental revenue.  This is revenue that is rather insignificant but nevertheless is revenue.  Since this is web based, the "cost" of running these features and services isn't very much, it just means keeping a web server up and running.

However, there comes a time in any feature that something doesn't work.  It may be the feature itself, or the feature may have some side effect that was unintended.  When that something doesn't work, the impetus is always to fix it because you don't want to have broken parts of your product.  So there is a cost that must be born to fix this almost pointless feature.  There is even additional cost when you factor in that you will now spend time worrying about if this feature will break again.   This feature can even go so far as to holding other features up because you can't launch new product while the current product is broken.

The same goes with people in their everyday lives.  Just look around at the things you own that you probably never use.  I've complained before how, during my move, I found boxes of things I moved up to Seattle that I never even opened, and was now shipping right back to L.A.  This has a cost both in terms of the move and in terms of me storing it for years.  People have extra cars they don't drive or gadgets that just sit on the shelf, only ever used once.  All these things have some cost associated with just "being".  If we just got rid of all these small, incremental cost, the total sum of the savings would probably be quite significant.

What do you have like this?  What insignificant things do you just keep around that, if you think about it, really have a cost?


  1. I have a friend who has moved her piano around three times. Her father had bought her a piano, which she never learned how to play, but felt obligated to take it with her wherever she went. She paid for the shipping cost when she moved from Hawaii to Florida. Then a couple of years later, she paid to move the piano to her husband's apartment. Then one year later, she paid to move it to her new house. She said the cost of the piano is much less than all the shipping/ moving costs she's paid.

  2. I have a snowboard and skis that I haven't used since 2002. I'm glad I didn't spring for the top notch stuff. It would have been an even bigger waste. I know what you're going to say... "Why don't you sell them?" I would, but I have this nagging internal voice that tells me "...but you might need them later and then what would you do? Go out and buy new ones? That's just stupid!"

  3. I have two boxes of clothes that are either three sizes too small or are from the 80's (neon pants, homemade midriffs, etc). These boxes have been sitting in my one-car garage for over ten years. I should get rid of them, but I keep thinking (hoping) that style will come back and I'll able to fit into that size again.

  4. Yeah, I've been there too. I buy things, and just hold on in case I might need it some day. Inevitably, someday never comes.

  5. I have way too many old clothes I should just get rid of. I have no idea why I keep them. I have no delusions of them ever coming back into style.