How Much Does Your Stuff Cost?

Recently, minimalism has become all the rage around the PF blogosphere. Lots of PF bloggers have discovered how minimalism and being frugal can go hand-in-hand to help you save money and balance your budget.

What your “stuff” is truly costing you, beyond just the sticker price, may shock you.

Cost of the Space it Takes Up

One way to calculate the true cost of your stuff is to figure out how much it costs you for the space it is taking up.

For example, if your home costs $100k and it has 2 bedrooms, 1 kitchen, 1 living room/dining room, and 1 bathroom, you are spending about $20k per room. If there’s anything stopping you from using and enjoying those rooms, is it worth $20k to store? If not, maybe you should re-consider what you are keeping and why.

Yes, this is a simplified way of looking at things, after all your bathroom is probably much smaller than all the other rooms and has fewer places to store things, making is less than $20k of the home’s value, but you get the idea.

Cost per Purchase

A simple example of cost per purchase is your lunch. You eat lunch everyday (at least I do) and you know that eating out costs way more than bringing your lunch to work with you. But how much is eating out costing you exactly?

If you eat out 5x/week (M-F) at a cost of $6/meal, which is on the cheap side anymore, you are spending $30/week on lunch.

4 weeks @ $30/week = $120/month just on lunch. That is my entire grocery budget for the month!

12 months @ $120/month = $1,440 just on lunch for the year!

Cost of Your Time

This one was a big eye opener for me. The cost of your time is easy to figure. If you get paid $40k/year (take home pay) you make approximately $20.83/hour ($40k/12 months/40 weeks/40 hours). If you’re like me, you do not want to put in anymore time at your job than necessary. I do not find it fun to be doing this at my desk job for 40+ hours each week:

For example, let’s say you went on a shopping trip and spent $100 on new clothes you don’t truly need. That $100 worth of clothes is going to take you almost 5 hours of work at your job to pay for. Is it worth spending 5 hours working to pay for those new things that you didn’t really need in the first place? Even if you enjoy your job, wouldn’t you rather be using the money from those 5 hours of work to pay for other things you need, or better yet take those 5 hours off from work and spend time with your family or friends? I know I would!

There are many, many other ways to calculate the cost of your stuff too. But these are just a couple quick examples to get you started thinking about the true cost of things before you buy them. Who knows, maybe you too will hop on the minimalism train!

How do you calculate the value of your stuff?

About Kayla

Kayla is a mid-20s single girl living in the Midwest, USA. She is focused on paying off her consumer and student loans, while simplifying her life and closet. You can join her on her journey at ShoeaholicNoMore or follow her on Twitter.


  1. I do sometimes think of time value of the things I buy, which makes me want to buy the item less. If it’s a bag and I can think about it in terms of how many hours I would need to work to afford it, that’s just depressing. Travel, however, is always a “yes!” in my books.

    • Daisy, I’m so glad you think of the time value of things! That was a totally new way of thinking for me when I learned about it a few months ago. I haven’t done much travelling in my life, but I’d sure like to when I can afford it. 🙂

  2. I use the cost per purchase technique with almost everything. Like you said, nothing is more eye-opening (and wallet-closing) than realizing the annual expense of small, daily expenditures (like lunch out, coffee, etc). I like to ask myself “would you write a check upfront for the full amount at the beginning of every year for that?” and usually the answer is no! Thanks for this post!

  3. I can relate most to the “cost of your time” section. I recently spent $50 at my side job. Granted, it is a resale store so I did get a lot of items. However, when I sat back and thought about it, $50 = a little over 6 hours of my time at my second job. It’s really an eye-opening way of looking at purchases!

  4. I really like the trick of figuring out how many hours I have to work to pay for something, It truly has stopped me from making purchases in the past.

  5. Good point – the cost of ownership does not end at the time or purchase, but it is easy to forget. – Insurance can be a big one. Interest if you bought on credit., maintenance (upgrades), supplies….. I do try and figure out how much of my life a purchase is going to ultimately cost.

  6. So true! I almost always think about the cost per hour worked. That’s a great way to gauge how much you really want something, if it isn’t a necessity.

    • That’s exactly right! It can really put me off buying something if I have to work too many hours to afford it, especially if it’s something I don’t really NEED anyhow.

  7. I used to think nothing of spending a few dollars here and there. Now my whole perspective has changed because I know how much it adds up without realizing. And you are absolutely right, I work hard for my money to not want to fritter it away on stuff that I do not attach much value to.

    • Thanks Debs! Glad you’ve been able to change your perspective 🙂 Changing your mindset is one the hardest things to do IMO and if you’ve been able to do that you can do anything!

  8. I love the minimalist life view and looking at the external costs of having “stuff”.

    One of the hidden costs certain types of stuff is time, time you need to spend on the upkeep of your stuff. For example you want a big immaculate lawn, you better get mowing. You want a huge rack of CDs and DVDs (what are you from 2005 or something?) Then this will need dusting every so often… Etc…

    Less stuff you have the more free time you have to spend doing what you really want to do!

    • That is another great way to look at the “cost” of owning “stuff”. Great point! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  9. Interesting post! I really hate stuff. Mainly because it drags me down emotionally. Stuff distracts a person from what’s really important. But financially speaking, I usually think about how much money I’ll lose overtime. It’s not that I don’t want to burn $1k on a new laptop, The initial cost isn’t scary. It’s the fact that I could invest that $1k now at age 24 and by the time I’m 50, I could instead have $7,396.42 (yearly compounding @ 10%).

    Money tends to lose its power when spent…

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