A feature is a thing an item can do. And a price is a number on a sticker that tells you how much you will have to pay before considering the item your property. Those seem like important pieces of information that one needs to make a purchasing decision. But they are a lot less important than they seem. Both can be very misleading. And in the hands of the unscrupulous, they usually are. A feature is a theoretical capability that makes a list longer than it needs to be for the purposes of marketing.

How many features does your calculator really need? Most of the features go unused for the majority of people. So for those people, a long list of surplus features does nothing for them but create a product that is likely more difficult to use than it has to be.

When it comes to benefits, think of services like AAA. The AAA Plus membership cost can be justified by the many benefits included with the program. When considering price vs benefits, consider:

  • How much is it worth to you to never have to try to change a tire on the side of a busy road at night?
  • How much value do you get from never having to worry about locking your key in the car?
  • How much confidence do you gain from never having to pay for the price of towing?

There is a reason it is called a cost/benefit analysis rather than a price/feature analysis. Here are other examples of why benefits and costs are more helpful than features and price:

Home Improvement

Will you really save money by doing outdoor home improvement projects that will boost curb appeal? You might. It all depends on the project. You also might take a huge loss depending on the true cost of the project. Price is a one-time assessment of initial cost. But that is not the true measure of overall cost. Something can be less expensive than something else with regard to price, but end up costing a lot more. How much will that home improvement cost to maintain over the years? Once You are done with that cost, did you really save money? Even if you do, was it worth it? That is the difference between evaluating cost over price.

Cheap Printers

When you are purchasing a budget printer, you have to consider the cheapest printer for ink cost. The reason is that while inexpensive to purchase up front, a cheap printer is often the most expensive printer you can buy. That is because you don’t buy a printer for the initial use. You buy it for long-term use. It doesn’t take very long for the cost of the ink to exceed the cost of the printer. Sometimes that cost can be reached with a single ink cartridge refill.

Budget printers often have proprietary cartridges. That means you are locked into the cartridge you can buy. It is always more expensive than alternatives would have been. You also generally have to replace all colors at once which ensures you have to replace cartridges more frequently. In some cases, it is literally more affordable to just toss out the cheap printer and buy a new one that comes with a partially full cartridge rather than replace the cartridge. That is a terrible option. But it is also the cost of price shopping.

Free Services

When the price is free, you are the product. But that is not the whole story. You might deem your personal information to be a fair price for a free service you can’t live without. Companies like Google will gladly gather every piece of personal information about you they can get, and then use that information for their own profits. But if you rely on Google search, Docs, and an Android phone, you might gladly hand over that data for the benefits you get in return.

Just remember, it is not about the immediate price but about the long-term cost. It is not about the list of theoretical features, but the actual benefits you derive. Use the lessons you learn from home improvement, cheap printers, and free services to make you a smarter shopper and a happier, more satisfied customer.