Do you calculate the per unit cost of fun activities or services?

Asked by tom_g (16635) July 30th, 2012

We joined a pool this summer for the kids. It was really expensive, but it made sense when we signed up because the neighbors/friends belong to the pool and would be a chance for the kids to see their friends, among other reasons.

Anyway, my wife has logged the number of times we have gone (or the babysitter has brought them), and she’s calculated the cost per visit. Of course, it’s absurdly-expensive right now. So, she’s made a promise to herself to drag the kids there as much as possible before the end of the summer to bring the per-visit cost down.

I suppose I just don’t think this way. The x \$ we spent for the season on the pool was purchased and that’s it. Done. We purchased the opportunity to go to the pool – not some number of visits.

But it did get me thinking of things that we own or services we pay for and how much we are really paying per visit/use/time, etc. For example, if I pay x\$/month for smart phone, is there a way to calculate a per-day cost? How about a per-minute used cost? What about my home FIOS internet?

Anyway, i’m curious – does anyone else make these calculations (either formally in a spreadsheet, or informally in their head)?

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

I calculate the savings in buying a Cineworld Unlimited card for the cinema. Over the summer I haven’t been going much so it hasn’t been cost effective but overall in the year it is a good buy for me. If I started going less often I might cancel it. In the winter I will go and see some films because I have the card whereas if I had to pay I would give them a miss.

flutherother (31918)

I do. It helps answer questions and justify a course of action.. Should I buy that RV or is it better to rent one? Maybe it is cheaper in the long run to stay in hotels. Fly or drive?
I also use a number for my time. How much is my time worth? Well, let’s say someone told me they left a \$20 bill under a rock in the city about ½ hour drive away. Would I be willing to drive there to get it. No. Would I do it for 50? Maybe. 100? Sure. So I value my time between 50 and 100/ hr. If I can get a \$50 cheaper flight by driving an hour to another airport would I do it? I need to figure it out.
By figuring it out and making the calculations you are being responsible. Good for you!
I have no trouble enjoying the activity once I understand the cost.

LuckyGuy (40160)

That way lies madness. If you are constantly calcul;atins the cost of things in your head. how can you enjoy them?

marinelife (62470)

I agree with your wife’s sensibilities in doing the calculations. For example, we have annual priority passes to Disney World. It just makes sense that we calculate the use along with the cost to see if it is something that is worth buying next year. If we only use the passes once, we would be better off buying a one day pass. The way it stands, compared to the price of any of the offers, we’ve come out ahead by purchasing the annual priority pass.

I realize that you are saying the money is already spent, but she is determining the cost and usage to see if it was worth the purchase price for future reference.

bkcunningham (18461)

We do this casually. My husband is a bit more like your wife, as he occassionally does do actual calculations.

Prior to buying a membership for a museum, zoo or a place to hike, we figure out how many visits it’ll take before we break even. By doing so, we realized that two of our memberships were not worth re-purchasing.

We do the same for tools. So far all tools have been cheaper to buy than rent. Ex: We only had to use our lawn mower 8 times before it paid for itself (vs. having a service mow).

SpatzieLover (24569)

Just to be clear: This pool is a country club membership (pool-only). And the membership is not tiered in anyway, and there is no paying per visit option. The cost of going once is the cost of going every day. So, there is no real calculation required to figure out if the level of membership is paying for itself or anything.

I definitely have made calculations when purchasing memberships whether or not it would be worth it for us rather than paying a per-visit cost. But the pool seems different. That’s what got me thinking about other services that we have that also are without a pay-per-time option. For example: smartphone monthly cost, FIOS home internet, cable TV (which we don’t have, but others pay a ton of money for this), etc.

tom_g (16635)

On the whole yes, we calculate the “per unit” cost of most things both formally and informally. That’s how we ended up canceling several memberships/services including our TV service (which was our first big step in this direction many’a year ago). We just looked at the cost versus how much we were getting out of it and realized it wasn’t even about affordability but about feeling as though our money was well spent. It was a little scary how much we were spending on some things more out of habit and “security blanket” thinking than out of genuine reward. It also works well in “reverse” if we’re not sure if something will be worth it (like when we first got smart phones) we did a little loose math and said try it out and see if we spend X for Y > Z how we feel about the cost then. We tend to draw the line at unique experiences though, unless they’re a few competing against each other at the time or the cost is staggeringly high, when it comes to those it’s about the experience and the opportunity not its monetary worth.

wonderingwhy (10785)

I understand what you are saying. This isn’t about keeping track of whether it is worth it to renew the membership next year. In her mind, it is about rationalizing that the total cost will be worth it if the the children go there a lot. So, the more that they go, it can look like money well spent on the front end.

I probably do this, but it is always prior to buying. Before purchasing an item, I think, how often will I use it? This is why the few CDs and DVDs that I owned (now given away) were mainly gifts from others. I just never listened to or watched most of them enough to make it worth the expense.

Pied_Pfeffer (27965)

Do you calculate the per unit cost when you are playing with your wife? (Hmm, her budget was \$500 this month and we only had sex 4 times. I’m not getting my money’s worth)

No, I think that calculating unit costs for fun activities takes all the fun out of that.

(I want my dollar per laugh threshhold to be 50 cents/laugh when I go to a 2 hour movie, or I will ask for my money back!)

No. Silly idea.

elbanditoroso (30673)

I figure it out sometimes, but sometimes the calculation is more complicated. I joined two museums here in San Francisco because I can go to certain shows as a member and usually don’t have to wait in line and can go when I want instead of buying tickets that lock me into a certain time.

When I stopped using the gym and the average cost for each day I did use it went above \$50 I realized I needed to go or quit.

I do make the calculation for season tickets. My kids used to get an annual pass to “Water World’, and it only took 3 or 4 uses to make money on the deal. But the summer they only went twice I said never again.

zenvelo (36882)

@elbanditoroso The costs should always be weighted against the benefits – even if it is a roll in the hay. I find virtually all activities to be more enjoyable and pleasurable when the costs are clear and I know I can afford it.
Maybe that’s why I can afford it.

LuckyGuy (40160)

Yes I do, mostly to feel better about the purchases.

Neizvestnaya (22647)