What do you value?

Last night I breathed a huge sigh of relief: The semester was finally over! Whew! This semester has been a tough one for me. The school requires three courses, Marketing, Operations and Finance, be taken together. Taking three classes on top of working full-time is not easy. But on top of that, the three classes required a semester long group project, with 5 reports due throughout the semester, and ending with a presentation.

Each group was required to find an existing business, and add a completely new product or service to their existing operation. The addition had to involve a sizable capital investment. Our group opted to add a dog photography studio to an existing grooming shop.

The entire process was eye-opening. We had to research to identify our Target Market. Conduct surveys to identify their wants and needs. Project 5 years worth of Sales Forecasts. Lay out the day-to-day operations. Develop a Marketing plan. Break down the costs, project the rate of return, and decide whether or not the idea was profitable enough to pursue. Many businesses don’t go through the processes we did before deciding whether to pursue an idea, especially small businesses. They probably should.

We gave our presentation last night to a small group of fellow students and 4 Professors. The 4th Professor teaches part of the daytime sessions, and was therefore unfamiliar with any of our ideas. The idea of having a dog photography studio flabbergasted him, especially when he learned that a session would cost $149 (this included a photo DVD). The other professors pointed out that our research was solid, and fully supported the pricing structure. “Are you kidding me?!? We’re talking about a dog!”

It was actually entertaining. The Marketing Professor pointed out that the other professor was obviously NOT our Target Market, and therefore would not understand the value that some people would see in the service. Which brings up a good point: We all value different things to different degrees. Honestly, I kind of agree with the shocked professor: I love my dog, but I wouldn’t spend $149 on photographs of her. To me, it’s not worth it.

At the end of class our group was discussing this idea. Most of the group agreed. One member shocked us all though. “Please, I spend more than that on hair extensions for my dog.” What?!? I’m really hoping she was kidding. Do they do hair extensions on dogs? I was too shocked to even ask questions.

I’m not advocating frivolous spending. Where I’m at right now, I’m cutting out as much extra spending as possible, and trying to make sure my money is going towards things that I value. But if you’ve reached financial independence, and have no debt, I don’t see a problem with spending money on what you value. Even if it is professional portraits and hair extensions for your dog. I may not see the value in it. But that’s kind of the great thing about the country that we live in: We have the freedom to live according to our own values.

So, maybe you value luxury cars, or fancy food. If you can afford it, and it’s in line with what you value, you should feel free to spend money on it. The problem is when you can’t afford it, or are spending money on things for status, or image, even when you don’t really value the thing itself. We shouldn’t be buying stuff for the sake of owning stuff. But if something truly makes you happy, and adds to your life?

What are your thoughts? Are their things you value that others would find ridiculous? Would you ever spend money to have your dog professionally photographed?

– Ms. W

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