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3 Mental Pitfalls to Watch Out For

I just finished helping a friend install smart blinds. A day before, I helped her with the kitchen pipes issue. A week before that, I’ve done the garden. A few weeks before that, I cleared out the house.

This is what I encountered:

  1. When we spend resources on something and it still isn’t working, we double down - aka sunk cost bias
  2. We don’t value time as much as we value money even though money can buy us time
  3. Emotional regulation when shit hits the fan is everything

Sunk cost bias

A cognitive bias that occurs when individuals continue a behaviour or endeavour due to previously invested resources, such as time, money, or effort even if that doesn’t make sense.

Let’s take the kitchen pipes example. The drain was clogged so my friend thought we could do some DIY plumbing instead of paying £80 to a professional. She ordered a tool to help us with drainage. It arrived the next day but didn’t work. So she ordered something else but that didn’t work either. We’re currently waiting for another tool to arrive via Amazon.

Now what’s the result?

  • close to £70 has already been spent ordering tools
  • haven’t been able to use the sink for the last 4 days
  • hours of our own time have been wasted to no avail

The most likely thing to happen is that we’re going to have to call a plumber because something is stuck in the main pipe under the house.

Is my friend irrational?

In short, no. We’re not rational beings even though we like to think so. She feels she has to figure this one out herself because the pain of having invested time, money and effort instead of calling a professional in the first place is too unbearable. We want to make an investment worth our while, avoid looking foolish and forget there’s more than one way to reach the outcome.

When I encounter someone acting “irrationally”, I always make the point of reflecting on my own life: where am I being irrational? Where am I wasting my resources (time, energy, money) due to sunk cost fallacy?

Money > time OR money < time?

I couldn’t find a name for this bias but I’m sure it’s a thing somewhere in a psychology textbook. I’m sure when asked, most of us would say that we value time more than money. But upon deeper inspection, we probably don’t.

My friend’s reasoning for not calling the plumber was that “I’ll bet it’s a small thing they can do in 10 minutes and they charge so damn much for a short amount of time, it’s unfair and I don’t want to pay them for it.”

The mindset is that time spent correlates with money. The more time someone spends, the more money she’s willing to pay.

But what if it’s your son in a private hospital for an emergency, would you want the doctor to spend as much time as possible to justify the cost OR would you want them to do the fastest possible thing for the same fee? I know it’s an extreme example, but the logic applies to everyday decision-making too.

The plumber has invested their time to be able to detect and fix the issue in 10 minutes, hence the £80. When we buy a service (or anything), we pay someone for having spent their time figuring this out in order to save OUR time.

It’s true that if I spend long enough on Youtube, I could probably figure out pretty much anything. But I’d be burning my most precious resource - TIME. From this perspective, it’s cheaper to pay someone who has already invested their time to accumulate knowledge and expertise in the field than it is for me to save money.

To beat a dead horse - buying someone else’s time buys back ours.

Emotional regulation

It took me 2 hours to install the smart thingies on 3 blinds (me calling them thingies probably tells you my expertise level 😂).

For the first hour of doing so, I was annoyed. One of the blinds wasn’t working properly and I had to take the blind off, dismantle it, fix the problem and put it back on again.

Meanwhile in my mind: “Why couldn’t she just hire someone to do this?” “Ugh, I could be writing instead of doing this shit” “Why couldn’t she pay someone else to do this?” “I’m wasting my morning when I’m most productive at writing ugh.”… was playing these thoughts on repeat.

I caught myself looping and realised that I was resisting what was already happening. I had started helping with the blinds and knew I would finish, so what was the point of moaning about it? So I said to myself: “Rima, the train has left the station, get on board” every time I noticed the voice in my head complaining. I only repeated this a few times before my annoyance completely subsided.

I was frustrated doing other household things too and it made me realise how important self-regulation is. If I choose to do something (my friend didn’t force me to), I can’t play the victim and whine in my head because I CHOSE TO DO THIS.

Questions to reflect

  • Where are you wasting your resources (time, energy, money) due to sunk cost fallacy?
  • Where in your life are you saving money at the expense of your time?
  • Where in your life you’re resisting something that is already happening?



P.S. If you made it all the way to the end, here’s a kitchen sink update. It’s day 7 and she finally called a plumber having spent over £120 on tools and flooding the kitchen twice. The plumber spent 2 hours fixing the issue because apparently, the limescale created a blockage.