Good and Bad Value

One of my friends remarked that I’m really obsessed with value. It’s true. I love spending money on things that are great value and I hate spending money on things that are a bad value. I thought I’d share a few examples of ways I’ve spent money that feel like good and bad values.

Island — Good

The island may be the best money I’ve ever spent. I’m here now, bugbitten, sunburned, and happy. It’s a pretty untamed forest that my friends and I constantly hack away at and build in, and that opportunity is what makes it a great value. Maybe some day we’ll come here a relaxing getaway, but for now it’s just work and connection with nature.

Fancy Meals — Bad

Just about any time I spend over $30 for a meal, it feels like a colossal waste to me. Chipotle costs me about $13 and is a perfect meal, so I hate spending more than that. I really appreciate the craft of cooking and high quality ingredients, just not enough to pay more than $30 (and even that much is very rare).

Art — Good

I bought my first painting thinking while simultaneously thinking that I was an idiot for buying it. But I was surprised at how good it made me feel to look at the painting and how it deepened my appreciation for art. I also like that other people can come over and see my little museum and hopefully also benefit from it, like I do when I see other peoples’ art.

Bentley — Bad to Neutral

I bought the Bentley knowing that it was in some ways an incredible value (lots of extremely high quality engineering and materials at way below cost), but in others a terrible value. I bring this one up because it provides a ton of value that doesn’t mean all that much to me. If I cared more about projecting a powerful image, maybe because I had clients of some sort, it could be an incredible value. All that said, I’m glad I bought it because it gives me perspective and is really fun, so I think it’s probably neutral for me. Good in some ways, bad in others.

Tea — Good

I’ve found that money spent on high quality tea is a good value for me. It’s an interesting one because it provides many types of subtle value rather than one main thrust. It makes me a little healthier, gives me a little time to think, allows me to nerd out about something, and promotes social activity. The one to four bucks per pot to make it at home or ten to twenty at a teahouse always feels worth it to me, even if I find out I’ve spent hundreds on tea in a month.

Travel — Neutral to Good

I love travel and have gained tremendously from it in my life, but have noticed that not all travel is the same. At first I got a lot of value out of any travel, simply because I was somewhere other than home and was experiencing the world. Now I’ve found that it’s only a really good value if it’s to visit a friend or travel with a friend.

Learning — Bad to Good

Learning is one of my favorite things in life, but it’s only a good value if the cost makes sense. The couple years I spent in college were primarily worth it because of a few friends that I made. The learning was worth a pitiful fraction of what was paid. On the other hand, I just signed up for pottery lessons and I think it’s a great deal. Same with one-on-one instruction like I’ve had for violin and Chinese. Books are also an incredible value (which is part of why I write them to).

Value is an interesting concept and is entirely subjective, which is why you need to think about what’s a good and bad value for you, and determine how much of your money is being spent in each category. I find that most people don’t do that, and end up spending a lot of their money on really bad values. The tragedy of that isn’t the lost money, it’s the lost potentially good values they could have spent on.


Photo is the marshy area of the island. I’m currently here building my own little cabin! It’s going to mostly be a tearoom and an office and have a bed.

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