I was thinking the other day about how some items have completely different prices based on the context in which they are sold. Soda is one of the most poignant examples of this in every day life.
Let’s just start with the grocery store. Depending on the packaging (small bottles, cans, or 2-liter bottles), soda has a completely different price per ounce. Of course, when making a purchase, you often ask yourself if you want to pay for the convenience of the small bottles vs. the price savings of the 2-liter. Oh the prices we pay for being caffeinated/sugared…
But that dilemma should be tiny compared to the other ways we buy soda! For instance, when buying Cola on netgrocer, you pay $0.04/fl oz for a 2-liter, $0.05/fl oz for a 6-pack of bottles, or $0.07/fl oz for a 12-pack of cans. You’re either buying 2-liters for $2.49 each, bottles for $4.99 each, or cans for $9.99 each. Now this may not be the best example, because prices are generally cheaper than this in the grocery store. But let’s just go with this for now.
Let’s say you get a craving for a Diet Cola while you’re out running errands? You stop in at your local gas station and head over to the fridge for a nice cold one. The prices there are shockingly different. A 20-oz Cola will likely cost you $1.69, if not more! That’s $0.085/fl oz – more expensive than any of the previous methods! Well, you go ahead and justify that to yourself for the convenience and the refrigeration factors. I’ll buy it. Sort of.
Now let’s fast forward to your next feature film at the local cinema. You decide to dig deep into your wallet and stop at the concession stand. Whatever else you buy, a soda there is going to cost you at least $4, if not $6. Just to get an idea, I’ll say that a $5 soda will be about 40 oz (they’re pretty big, after all). That may be a little high on the price and low on the actual soda quantity (given the ice), but I think it’ll be a pretty good estimation. Now, you’re paying $0.12/fl oz – FOUR TIMES the price you pay for a 2-liter in my example (with a larger discrepancy given grocery store prices).
So I ask myself, how does the value of soda change so drastically given the situation? It consists of exactly the same acidic, caffeinated, sugary chemicals no matter how you serve it.
There are so many examples of buying where the value of an item depends on the situation… Clothing: full-price vs sale-price vs thrift store. Furniture: designer price vs outlet price vs used price (practically a give-away on craigslist sometimes). Of course, the value of something is controlled by what you are willing to pay for it. If everyone boycotted sodas at movies until they lowered prices, the value would decrease.
I’m not sure why I spent so much of this entry talking about soda. I’m sort of cutting soda out of my life, in that I don’t drink it regularly anymore or stock it in my fridge. Maybe that’s why soda has my wrath, because I’m trying to convince myself it’s a bad deal, both health and price-wise?
I’ve also been thinking about the value of a dollar a lot recently. Money is so funny, because you can turn it into things (collectible or consumable), travel, experiences, or you can reinvest it. Eventually, the point of money is to turn it into something else. And yet, unless you reinvest some of it, you won’t have it for the future. But is there a point at which you should look at your life and just spend for fun?
You need money to live, pay for services, and just generally survive. However, how much time is too much time spent worrying about money? How much time should you spend cutting coupons, comparing prices, and chasing refunds? How much time should you spend working vs playing? What is the value of a human life; is it just the money you bring home, or is it the sum of all your experiences? But there are just some experiences you can’t have without having a certain amount of disposable income. After all, bills and expenses are the reality. But what’s the REAL cost?