MONEY TALK: No such thing as expensive


Yesterday, I talked to an interesting club about the notion of expensive and some interesting principles came out.

What if I told you to spend Sh150, 000 on a holiday? For some people, it may be something they can do easily, but for others it’s a tad expensive.

What if we multiplied that amount and took it to Sh1, 500, 000. Now that would be really expensive, right? Almost on the verge of criminal.

Expensive. Expensive. That’s the word I want to explore today. We use it a lot. We say, that’s an expensive book, an expensive car, an expensive house, an expensive school, expensive property, expensive clothes, etc. But who wrote the law on what is expensive and what is not? Expensive can be extremely relative.

What is expensive to one person may not be expensive to another. It can also be expensive to someone but they still make the choice to buy it.

Some of us run away from doing anything that is deemed expensive, then others do expensive things, but the wrong set of things. Let’s go back to the holiday worth Sh150, 000. That’s about Sh400 a day for a year.

This is money you have in your wallet at the beginning of the day, but by the end of the day it is gone. You may have spent it on lunch, airtime, transport, etc.

So is that holiday really expensive? I wouldn’t say it is. In fact it is the lunch that is expensive. It’s an expensive habit, one that can buy you a fairly decent holiday. I have spoken to many people who think that those who go on holiday are rich and have a money pot hidden somewhere. Is it possible they make different choices with the same resources that are available to you?

They have decided to form a habit of going on debt-free holidays as opposed to buying lunch daily. This is more logical than expensive.

When we are defining what is expensive we have to put it into context. How else are you spending that money when you break it down into days, weeks and months?

So this amount is not expensive because it could easily be money you are wasting on less important things.

Now let’s look at the holiday worth Sh1, 500, 000. You may have been on the same page with me on the previous example of Sh150, 000, but you are now on the verge of telling me off because Sh1, 500, 000 is definitely expensive.


Firstly, using the same logic, there are people who easily spend Sh4, 000 a day. Yes, they exist. This is about Sh30, 000 a week. In case you doubt me, talk to some bar owners in town on what some of their patrons blow on alcohol in one weekend.

True, some people are ignorantly spending money they cannot afford to spend, but others (keeping all issues of consuming alcohol worth that much money aside) see that Sh4, 000 a day the same way we looked at Sh400 a day.

However, for many of us this kind of money is not readily available. It may be the equivalent of an entire salary (or double, triple, quadruple your salary). It could be worth your rent or school fees or that new machine you need.

It may be money you really work hard to make in your business or the salary of one of your employees. This now looks expensive because it is something you use on necessary expenditure. It’s no longer just lunch money. It’s your rent or school fees so you are allowed to choke at the thought of going on holiday with an equivalent sum of money.

Making sure you have a decent roof over your head and the school fees has value to you so you’d rather not use that million on a holiday.

But what if I told you to use the Sh1, 500,000 for a deposit on a home or to start a business or to buy a car? You would find that money and what you are using it for would no longer seem expensive. I have seen people pull out their hair to find money to pursue various ventures or to upgrade their car.

Suddenly moneymaking ideas come to light or they figure out how to borrow and pay back. But just because you borrow money and pay in installments does not make it less expensive.

So before you call someone’s holiday expensive, remember that at that point in time they may just consider it valuable and worth the price. They may have been doing the rational things like investing all along and that year they have decided to go on holiday.


So here’s the thing: There really is nothing expensive; you will spend on what you value. Take a look at your current spending patterns; what are they revealing about what you value? Have you been holding yourself back from doing “expensive” things yet spending this same amount of money on things that have no real value to you?

In our Centonomy classes we tell people that our job is not to dictate where to spend or not to spend money. That’s up to you. Just understand the (spending) choices you are making and let them align with your values.

Let’s not look at “expensive” as a negative or scary concept. Don’t use expensive to keep you from doing things, but don’t do them if they are not important to you, even if they are “cheap”. My message is not that you should go on expensive holidays.

That was just an example. Maybe you don’t care for a holiday, but it is really important to you that your child goes to a particular university that you always thought was too expensive. Could your 5000-shilling indulgence on alcohol every weekend pay for your child’s dream university? So what if it is expensive?

If it is valuable to you, you will figure out how to make it happen.