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Cost does not equal worth

Featured on the Hong Kong Economic Journal (October 18, 2014)

I remember a class I taught when I asked my 9 year old students to put 10 items in the order of cost. These 10 items were: a computer, a bed, a pencil, a bottle of water, a bag of potato chips, a book, a TV, a pair of shoes, a loaf of bread and a bouquet of flowers. It wasn’t too challenging for them and they all decided that a TV and computer cost the most and a pencil and a bottle of water were the least expensive. The other items were slotted in between according to their views. Then I asked them to reshuffle the items according to worth and then all the items shifted around. Even though they had all be discussing how much they wanted to have their own computer and TV, they realized that a bottle of water and a loaf of bread was worth more because they needed them to survive. As much as they knew the cost of a coveted computer, it was really the item that cost the least that made it to the top of the ‘worth list’.

Then we asked them where they would be on the list. They were confused because they knew they couldn’t put a price tag on themselves. When asked where they would be on the ‘worth list’, they put themselves off the charts because they knew that their worth wasn’t based on a price tag but that they were valuable, loved and full of worth, just by being a person. And that was exactly what we wanted them to understand – that cost does not equal worth.

In our society nowadays, we put so much focus on the cost of things. We’re always at new items that hit the shelves, the best bargains we can get, and often, trying to acquire something that is bigger and better than the last. And in the midst of making money, saving money, investing money, spending money (and perhaps, even wasting money), we can sometimes lose track of the fact that the best things in life are free.

Smiles & Laughter

“Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.” ― Mother Teresa

Smiles don’t cost a thing but they could be worth a lot to the person receiving it. Some studies even show that by smiling, it makes the person happier. Laughing together also creates happy memories. So, say cheese and have a laugh!

Hugs & Kisses

Physical touch is one of the 5 love languages according to Dr. Gary Chapman and they have the ability to make people feel loved. Give a pat on the back or a hug to someone. Smother your child with kisses. Once again, these won’t cost a thing but could mean a lot to the person being hugged and kissed.

Friends, Family & Time

Money can’t buy relationships and it’s something we should take the time to be thankful for. Spending time with friends and family is priceless. I think we sometimes think that it takes expensive things to make people happy but it’s usually quality time that makes them feel loved. For children, spending time at home, playing the in the park, strolling down the road, window shopping in malls are all ‘free’ activities that can create priceless memories.

Words and Actions

A kind word speaks volumes. As the Bible says, “Pleasant words are honey from a honeycomb— sweet to the soul and healing for the body.” Words have the power to build up or destroy and when given in kindness and love, words can be worth a lot to a person. In the same way, a kind and helpful action may not cost anyone anything, but we all know how much they can mean when someone extends a kind gesture to us.

Let’s all take the time to appreciate and enjoy the things that money cannot buy. Afterall, money can’t buy things that are priceless.


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