The Cost of Doing or Not Doing

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Lately I have been thinking a lot about opportunity costs. Whenever we choose to do something, we are – by default – choosing NOT to do something else. We all start out with “open minds” and “wanting to keep our options open,” but over time, we see what doesn’t work for us, and we pare down our options accordingly.

For me the classic example is the mom of preschoolers who would love a night out with her partner, sans kids. But in real life, the mom (a.) has a quick meal out and gets back in time for the kids’ bath time, (b.) talks about the kids all evening (c.) stops by the mall and buys kids’ clothes and toys on the way to the evening’s event, or (d.) cancels, because one of the kids is whiny and might be coming down with a cold.

The mom will swear up and down that she really wanted a date night, but her actions show otherwise.

I was certainly that person. It’s one thing to look forward to an evening away from the kids, and another to deal with the feelings of actually doing it. There were times when my intentions and my actions didn’t match at all, regardless of what I said!

What we actually do is a weird combination of “must do,” “should do,” “want to do,” what we do automatically without thinking, responses to our feelings, and dealing with real or imagined emergencies. And every person in our household goes through the same process. It’s amazing that we get anything done at all!

I think it’s a good thing that I have some routines, and don’t have to think about them. For example, when my alarm clock goes off in the morning, I get up and get ready for work. Any given day, I could choose not to, but that would be against my self-interest. But if I dreaded work every single day, I would hope that growing voice would get through to me so I could take action. (Luckily I am not in that situation).

I bet I’m not supposing too much to think that many of my readers are quite dutiful, and will do a great many of the things we say we’ll do. Particularly since, as bloggers, we are making ourselves publicly accountable!

But if you told us you were going to spend all day today painting the bathroom, and in fact, you spent the afternoon eating brownies and napping, we’re OK with that – to a point! It’s only if you establish yourself as entirely contradictory that we’ll start wondering about you. For example, if you are a personal finance blogger, you post your spending weekly, and you try to be as frugal as possible; it seems you “owe” your readers an explanation if you go completely off the rails! Either that, or your blog will change direction!

As you might guess, one thing I’m very aware of is how my “tracking” activities affect Rom and other people close to me. I actually think of my ongoing projects as a hobby, and, believe it or not, they don’t overtake my life. If I have a choice between inventorying my pantry, or watching cute corgi videos on YouTube (one of Rom’s hobbies!), I always make time for Lance the Corgi!

On that note, this will be a short post because I am having, ahem, an early night 🙂


  1. Enjoy that, ahem, early night. It’ll make waking up to the alarm that much easier! (PS I think the only RL person who knows about my blog is my BF… keeps me accountable to him too!)

  2. Fiona

    It’s a great relief that many decisions are either routines or “unconscious” up to a point (like the mom & date night example). And it’s true that our actions often betray our real values, whether we want them to or not!

    An interesting point about the pf blogging…I’ll admit that as a reader, I do feel like the ‘story-line’ has to continue and can’t be on again, off again. It makes me feel a bit bad that I’ve turned my figures off temporarily… though not from having a secret blow-out! There are a few privacy issues I am still sorting out, but I hope to be back on it soon (perhaps with slightly modified reporting style.)

    • Hi Fiona, In your case, you explained to your readers that you were taking a break, and why. It made sense to me. I think the balance between sharing and privacy on blogs is a big issue when it comes to outing information about our own families. They probably don’t like being blog fodder 🙂

  3. I’ve been thinking a great deal about this concept lately too. Like, for example, if one spend 6 hours a day perfecting one’s skills at playing Mahjong on one’s new tablet, one is not going to have a great deal of time for things like, say, doing one’s taxes! 🙂 Oh, but I really DO want to get those taxes done…

  4. My parents used to tell me that even if I wasn’t making a choice, I was still choosing. It would be easy to fall into the thinking that life is unfair, and I should’ve gotten a better deal. But the truth is, I choose everyday which direction my life will take me. I try to be mindful of that and (most weeks) just keep moving in a direction that I have chosen. I believe that you wind up living a richer, fuller life if you are deliberate in your choices.

    I think it’s interesting how many bloggers keep the blogging part of their lives a secret. We do reveal a lot about ourselves, and maybe we don’t want our close friends and family to share in ALL the details. And I have found that in a lot of cases, friends and family are just not that interested. For my case, I mentioned it to my brother, once, and he never responded in any way, shape or form. I told a couple of close friends, one reads regularly, the other feels she ought to read, but doesn’t share the interest. My husband outed my blog to his family early on, not giving me a choice with that. But actually, they have little interest as well. And the rest of my family (sister, aunts, step-mom), well, it’s just easier not to tell them, but sometimes it feels like I’m keeping some secret.

    And now, I am choosing to go pay the bills. The alternative ( a late fee if not paid on time) is less appealing than just getting the work done.

    • My family and Facebook friends know about my blog too, but most choose not to read it. I think part of it is a generational thing – most people around 50 years old are not in the habit of reading blogs!

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