What You are Actually Paying For

payingDave has a dishwasher on the fritz.  It won’t run and although there are some blinking lights, the stickers saying what each light stands for has long ago worn off.

He does the usual dad/guy stuff.  He unplugs it (not easy to get to).  He trips the breaker.   He kicks it, swears at it and cusses the entire mother company as if Whirlpool itself is at fault. Then embarrassed- as his wife and kids heard him in a tantrum mirroring his 5 year old, he begins to sweet talk the dishwasher. He apologizes and shuts the door so very slightly and soft a few times.  He reminds the dishwasher about all the time they’ve spent together and how he’s grown attached to having it in the kitchen, you know, good times.   Still – Nothing.  Not working.

Dave’s lost and knows he’s defeated.  Now it’s time to call in the hard hitters.  He’s not sure if he should call in an electrician or a plumber but 4 friends from Facebook tell him to call this guy they’ve heard about (but never used) so he does it.  3 days later, and seriously, a miserable but impressive precariously balanced stack of dirty dishes later, AL’s’ AAA1-ACME plumber comes in.    He seems like a nice guy. Al opens the dishwasher, rolls it out, cleans up some cruddy lint underneath the unit and proceeds to flip the “Gazonee switch” that is cleverly hidden on the back end of the unit and is on no diagrams but is often secretly discussed at plumbers’ conventions.  Al then pushes the dishwasher back in, screws on the bottom cover plate and ABRACADABRA – the dishwasher magically works again.

Dave is Happy.  For a minute…The bill is for $135 and instantly Dave is pissed.   He repeats the bill in a loud slow voice, similar to my mom speaking slow loud English to someone from a foreign country that doesn’t speak our language.

“ONE. HUNDRED. THIRTY. FIVE. DOLLARS????   American?”   Dave continues, “Seriously, Al – that seemed pretty easy.  It wasn’t a lot of work.   Can you cut me a deal – I mean I could have done that.”

 

Really?

 

This seems to happen in one form or another all the time.  We get charged an amount that just doesn’t seem fair as the actual skill involved wasn’t worth the price.  We all know innately what a burger should cost or what a TV should sell for and how much we personally make to the penny per quarter hour but something somewhere suddenly jumps off the radar and we feel ripped off.

I had the exact same experience as Dave last week as I took my daughter to the Minor ER clinic after a fall from a tree.   I needed an X-ray to see if she broke her arm.  “Sure sir”, is what I met in the waiting room, “our initial cost is just $199 and there may be a few other expenses but we’ll see you and your (bawling in distress and extremely scared) daughter right this second.    And I paused.

That’s a half truth. I paused and then tried to bargain.  “199 huh? –  I really just need x-rays, I mean I’m a chiropractor, I can read it myself…I have buddies I could call that could probably just see her for free and I uh, it umm,…It seems steep.”   Ok full disclosure.  My daughter was bawling.  I was stressed and nearly panicked, I am certain I actually mumbled, “That’s ridiculous, c’mon lady.”   I DID IT!  I’LL ADMIT it now, OH GOD! It feels good to get this off my chest.  I did.  I’m that guy!

 

And then I whipped out my credit card and promptly paid $200 for the best damn set of x-rays I’ve ever had an honestly some pretty kick ass doctoring and nursing.

You see, just like Dave, I had the wrong perspective.

The $199 is not the point, nor is the $135 Dave paid the plumber.

Most of the time, but especially true for SERVICE, it’s NOT the actual service you’re paying for.  It’s not the education the serviceman had to obtain; it’s not the travel time, the cost of the tools, or the convenience. –  It’s the knowledge.   It’s the skill.  It’s the know-how, the convenienceof not sitting in a waiting room for 6 hours, the practicality – the ability to simply flip a switch, trip a breaker or in my case, set a joint the right way that has a cost to it.  Guess what, it’s damn worth it too.

Get this right in your head and your life just got way less complicated and better.  Yes, I get it, money is important. I have many articles on this and I have a strong opinion on the subject but money stresses us out and often holds a higher value than it should.   I’m much happier to pay for a skill and/or knowledge and angrier paying for some jackass to flip a switch though.   It’s the perspective shift that makes me feel better about life and organizes what just happened into a better place in my brain.  Add to that that it’s “Real-life” as well and I’m winning all the time…

Yay!  I just saved Time!  Example:  from my field as a sports doc… yes, you can work out your own hamstring pull over the course of 4-6 weeks and be somewhat sure you might be on the right path OR…Let me and my staff work you over and have you back in the game in a week or 2.

Yay!  I just saved a lot of money – Example:   changing my fuel pump – I suck at this kind of stuff, this simple task for a mechanic costs me 3 days, tools, headache, 5 drives back to the Car parts place and tons of stress from everything ranging from stress about the time I could be doing something more productive

  • like work or family stuff
  • to a sharp chest pain or “spell” like Red Foxx on Sanford and Son because it doesn’t fit just right
  • to the embarrassment in front of the car parts guys and a feeling of being a lesser man because car stuff just doesn’t make sense to me.    OK, Phew I got worked up there for a minute – see, I save money and stress level and justify these expenses as a better quality of life.

Yay, I just saved myself a boat load of stress!   (see above – stress and money are intricately weaved)

Yay!  I have employees!   I just paid someone to do work for me – I feel like such a BOSS!

Ok, so that all fits.   You’re happier and better off if you just aren’t sure what to do or where the mystery switch is located.   What about if you love to learn new skills or are OK at tinkering or even if you can do it yourself?

 

My advice, again it’s my article, my advice – this may not fit for you but this is how I do it.

Figure out your hourly worth…and then you can decide.

This is based on what you make at your job + what you’re actually worth + the loss of the shit you hate to do.   It’s not (and should be significantly more than) what you make but is based on this.  Factors such as:  what could I be doing instead, what do I love to do that I would miss out on, What’s the range of importance associated with worth are all and each included in this “hourly worth” number.

Example:   Let’s say in a normal day an accountant would bill out $100/hr. for her services.  She doesn’t bring in the $100, it goes to her firm and even if she’s self-employed, it’s not like she pockets a Benjamin.  She has overhead, water, electric and maintenance bills.   There are maybe employees etc.

Anyway, Lets’ just say she starts out saying she’s worth $100/hr. because that’s what she bills and it’s a round number.

Now, she has a lawn guy tell her that he’ll cut the grass and trim for $85 (per appointment).  “Outrageous!” she thinks. “This guy has a crew of 7 and he’s only here 12 minutes” That’s about  $400/hour – atrocious.

So she slams the door in his face and starts up the lawnmower herself.   Aside from the Hour it takes her mowing, oh yeah, and another hour for the trimming, and crap! a few branches need trimming and she ran out of gas and then oil and then the pull string broke and then the line to the trimmer keeps getting jammed and it’s like we live on Venus here in the summer so she’s miserable and while she’s at it the garage might as well be cleaned out.

You get the idea.    Now add to this.   She could be at her office during that miserable 3 hour lawn mowing extravaganza – billing her clients 3X$100.  Heck, in the three to 4 hours she spent on the lawn, drives to the gas station and garage cleaning, maybe she takes on 6-7 clients – so her hourly worth may be even more.    See what I’m working towards here everyone?   That doesn’t even include her kids looking at her like she’s a terrible mom because they’ve been waiting for 3 hours to play while she was busting her chops outside OR the extra $30 she spent on snacks at the gas station.  What?  Well yeah, because she can’t leave the kids at home when she had to go get gas and those 4 kids love themselves some slushies…

You see?  The Lawn service, if looked at in a new perspective, may not be a rip-off but a deal.  It is indeed a SERVICE, or as I’ll properly rename it – a SPECIALTY and By-God we are all specialists at something.

Now look, if you love mowing the lawn – if it’s your relaxation and therapy and gets you outside and breathing the smell of fresh air with the aromatics of lawn clipping, then use a different example.  That’s not the point.    The Point is, the entire point of this article in fact is, to make you not guilty, indeed even happy to shell out some coin for specialist because NOW YOUR LIFE IS BETTER.

BEAWESOME365 is my attempt to make your life better by changing perspectives.   Look man, it took a lot of experience and time to get myself to the point of not feeling guilty when I mowed the lawn (as I missed time with family) AND not feeling guilty when I paid someone to do a “man’s job” for me, as I actually don’t mind it.

One of the tools I used to feel better about all of this money that keeps coming out, especially monthly recurrent bills or when crap breaks or goes wrong is I evaluated my “Hourly worth” and what I was OK giving up and then made it right in my head.  Nay, not just right, but beneficial in my life.    I don’t sweat the money as I know I’m ahead – even if I’m not actually bringing in anything that day.    I can’t put a price on having fun with my kids, or a little down time, or sitting watching a game with a beer and my friends.  That stuff has REAL value.   My actual epiphany was indeed my lawn and the pool  – “oh yeah, I can do the pool myself and save money!”… until it’s green and gunky when you want to use it and it takes 3 hours to clean it and you have to wait a day to let the “shock and chlorine” dissipate.  It was ruining my weekends even though I thought I enjoyed doing some of my own work around the house.

I’ve also noticed my personal “hourly worth” has become higher as this tool and as my perspective changed.  Not only does it make me feel valuable but it’s a great benefit in my life as it lets me say, “No” to a lot of stuff I don’t want to do or don’t have time to do.  It’s just not worth it for me.

 

Hence – “what you are actually paying for” article…at least 2 or 3 good reasons to just let it be, get it right in your head and get you back into what you enjoy… Your Life!

Oh yeah, I also went back to the minor ER and apologized to the receptionist, doctor and nurses and applauded them for the work they provided me and my family in a time of crisis.  I then told them an article about my new perspective was in the works!

4 Comments

  1. I find this article to be very true. Might I add that not only is money (pay for service) an issue with stress, anxiety, time, and fear but so is our thinking. The mind thinking about the past or the future does the same thing in the body (causes stress). I believe in addition to your advise and underlining in your message is the point of living in the now, the present moment and enjoy life. Thanks for the article.

  2. Thank you. I’ve known that there are many things others can do as well as or better than myself. I need to give myself permission to not feel guilty spending money to make my life easier. It must be the “work hard and do it yourself” upbringing of mine. I’m sliding into my sixties, and I’m wanting to enjoy myself and my family more. Thank you.

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