Affordability, priorities and a scratched head

When we consider whether to make a purchase, how do we determine our priorities?

For example, how do we determine what is and what is not affordable?

In many respects, it must be highly subjective and, I’m going venture, somewhat contextual.

If something is considered too expensive, is that too expensive, period? Or too expensive right now, but maybe not next week?

If something is deemed to be too much money, is that in isolation, or in comparison to spending a similar amount of something else entirely?

Lots of questions!

The reason I ask these questions is because I have frequent conversations regarding tuition and associated fees. Naturally, there’s the perennial topic of bargain basement versus premium. You don’t expect to acquire an old Lada for the same price as a new BMW, do you?

This type of conversation is par for the course in many industries and sectors.

The type of back and forth I’m more perplexed by is when someone baulks at the perceived cost of what can be a life-changing investment, versus another flat screen TV. Or a new three-piece suite, or holiday.

As a tutor, I often see amazing educational opportunities missed or passed up in favour of instant gratification. Nobody wants life to be all work and no play, and yet some things really do need to be grabbed with both hands, for they can make such a vital and long-lasting difference.

Of course, it is a case of each to their own. Money is to be used at its holder’s discretion. It is not my place to tell people what to do with their ‘hard earned’. I know that. There are simply times I’m left scratching my head.

I must admit, I do rather take umbrage at talk of too expensive in certain situations, as I’d like to ask, compared to what? I want to understand the rationale and comparisons mentally made, for surely all expenditure is not truly equal?

One of the keys to a successful and happy life is the ability to earn enough money to live to the standard that one desires. Education is at the foundation of having the choice of careers, whether it’s to sweep roads or to be a brain surgeon.

It is possible that one could complete a doctorate and medical school and still choose to sweep roads if that it one’s choice. Whereas it’s bordering on impossible for someone to leave school with few meaningful qualifications to become a brain surgeon. And I can’t help but think that’s a good thing!

My point is that education gives one immense personal and professional choices for life. Options offer freedom to select various avenues to explore, with very few dead-ends.

Therefore, one could argue that tuition and education is one of the best investments to be made for ourselves and of course, our children.

A child that achieves top GCSE grades will likely get the pick of their A Level choices. The best and top performing A Level students have the best chance of gaining entry to their desired university, if that is indeed their plan.

What value is to be put on that? In ten, twenty or more years’ time, what is the value in terms of quality of life (and probably income)?

And how does that compare to a holiday to Disney at a cost of £7000 for a family trip? Fascinatingly, many people who take their children while they’re ‘young enough to enjoy it’, subsequently find their children can barely remember it by the time they leave school.

That bargain TV purchased at GCSE time, may well be on the scrapheap before completion of A Levels, for bargain electronics are now built as consumables, not with a lifetime of service in mind.

Maybe it’s all a rinse and repeat of something akin to the Marshmallow Test?

For the most part though, and with head scratching concluded, for the moment at least, I remain convinced it simply boils down to another category of choice known as priorities.