How are you experiencing the change of the seasons? Everyone seems to be going down with something – I hope you are staying well and enjoying the best that the seasonal shift has to offer.
Over here November has, as always, brought thoughts of clearing out the old and planning for the new. I spent most of Sunday setting up and running a stall at a nearly new baby stuff sale. It wasn’t quite what I expected.
Well the event itself was pretty much as I expected – lots of new parents and pregnant women jostling for bargains, and lots of other parents standing behind piles of clothes and toys.
But what I took away from the event was not what I expected at all. I expected to come away with a fair bit of cash, feeling good about passing on my children’s outgrown items to others, and inspired by all the mothers (and a few fathers) being enterprising with their Sunday afternoon. But actually I came away with about £50 (around $60) after expenses, and a niggling feeling that we too often misjudge (or don’t consider) the opportunity cost of the things we commit to, and I had done just that.
Let me rewind…
I love a good enterprise scheme. As a child I used to sell cakes out the front of my house to passing football supporters. One time I even dressed up as a little match girl, and walked around in Victorian costume selling matches to grown ups. So I was actually looking forward to having my own little shop at the baby fair. I did my research, and found out that people seemed to have the most success when small items when babygros etc were packaged up and labelled by size, and the stall had good signage. So, you guessed it, I spent few hours sorting all the bags of clothes in our attic, going through every drawer and cupboard in the house, followed by a couple of evenings surrounded by tiny clothes, sandwich bags, sticky labels and coloured pens.
Part of me loved doing this. But it was a slow process, because Mr K and I would keep holding up favourite cute outfits and reminisce about where our girls were, or what they were doing, when we last saw them wearing each one.
Then the day of the sale came, and I spent most of the day packing everything up, taking it to the sale, running the stall and then packing up again. My strategy worked – my ‘3 for 2’ on packaged items went like a dream and clothes were flying off my sale table.
I actually had one of the busiest stalls there, but even so, after expenses I only made a total of £50, not counting the cost of the table I bought to put the stuff on, my mum’s time ironing all the dresses, or fuel for my dad’s van to get us there. Not to mention the fact that by the time I got home I was absolutely shattered.
And guess what? While I was selling my wares, Mr K was in town with the girls and picked up a parking ticket. So actually, after about three days’ work, I had earned just about enough to pay for the coffee I’m drinking as I type this, and reflect on the real lesson.
The sale was not a good use of my time. In an attempt to pull back some of the ‘sunk cost‘ of money spent on all those baby clothes in times gone by, and to generate some ‘free money’ to go towards Christmas, what I actually did was knacker myself out and sacrifice precious family time.
It struck me how often we do this, especially when starting out with a creative venture. I think with most passions, there comes a point when we feel obliged to make some money out of it, in order to justify the time we are spending. And so we create a micro-venture, don’t really do the numbers, and end up investing a huge amount of time and energy into something that doesn’t really reap the reward we were expecting.
Of course, if it works, it’s wonderful, and this ‘trial’ micro-venture can become the seed of a valid long term business. But too often we deny the real ‘cost‘ of the ‘opportunity‘ at hand, and keep on pushing when actually we would be better of earning money elsewhere, and just relaxing into our passions without a concern for the financial return.
In my case, because the baby sale was outside of work and childcare and I did it mostly alone, it seemed to count as ‘me time’ when actually it felt very far from ‘me time’, and instead of being rejuvenating, was actually exhausting. I would have been better off spending an hour going through my bank account to find somewhere I could save £50, then spend a lovely weekend with my family, or doing something else I love, purely for fun. Please note: This is not me disapproving of second hand sales – if they work for you then go for it! Just be sure you are being honest about the real cost.
This week I challenge you to look at how you are spending your precious time and ask yourself whether you are being honest with yourself about the opportunity cost.
With each project, ask yourself what else you could be doing if you weren’t doing that. And map out the real time and money it is costing you, to see if that really is the best use of your resources. You might be surprised by the result!
When I did this, the decision was a no-brainer. All the leftover clothes went straight to charity and I’m planning to spend the whole of next weekend with my little family. What might you end up doing differently?
Have a good week!