Everything Has a Cost

“So, concerning the things we pursue, and for which we vigorously exert ourselves, we owe this consideration — either there is nothing useful in them, or most aren’t useful. Some of them are superfluous, while others aren’t worth that much. But we don’t discern this and see them as free, when they cost us dearly.”


We chase after a lot of things in life. The usual suspects, of course: nice cars, big homes, flashy clothes, the latest tech, the finer things. We know those things aren’t free — they certainly have big price tags.

But then some other things seem to be low cost or even free, and we think that has no impact on our lives, so “why not, right?” We accumulate a ton of ‘stuff’ over the years, some of it seemingly free, but the truth is that everything has a cost. That’s what The Daily Stoic book is teaching us in the quote above.

There’s a cost in the space it takes up in our houses, in the extra storage we need — and sometimes rent — to hold all our stuff. There’s also a cost in terms of the mental space it takes up; the guilty feelings every time we see it (“oh gosh I should really throw that out”) or the obligation to keep things (“I can’t throw that ugly sweater away, my grandma gave it to me!”)

Many of us work at jobs where we exchange time for money. That is to say, you are paid depending on the amount of time and energy you put into your job. If you work less hours, you get paid less. And if you put all your energy and time into a job, you could reasonably expect to be paid more.

So what’s the cost of keeping all these things around, or acquiring new things that you don’t really need? What’s the cost of chasing after situations and outcomes that you don’t really require for your happiness? Everything has a cost — in this example it’s your time. You are trading your time and your energy (and your peace of mind, if I’m honest) in order to constantly acquire ‘things’. Think about that for a second.

Very quickly we see that desire itself is the problem; the never-ending search for more stuff and more things — because we think it will make us happy. Ironically, it’s the removal of that desire that would bring actual happiness.

Consider what it would be like if you flipped everything on its head. What if you found a way to want less? Here’s what would happen: by reducing your want, you would increase your happiness. What a concept!

If you remain a greedy monkey, you’ll end up with nothing. But if you realize that you don’t truly need everything that you think you do, and are willing to make do with less and curb your desire a bit, you’ll find that happiness seeks you out.

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