Two different things that are easily confused because of the way we use them.

First the definitions.

Cost: (Of an object or action) require the payment of (a specified sum of money) before it can be acquired or done

Value: The regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something

We often say that something costs too much. The reality is that is that we don’t value it to that amount or to put it more simply it costs too much for us. For example, a 5-star hotel room may cost £300 per night. The cost is absolute, it is the price the hotel has set (barring deals and discounts). How we value it might be entirely different.

Let’s say, two people can earn the same amount of money but can see £300 per night as good value or bad value to them. The hotel could be incredible, the staff are attentive, the room is huge, there is free use of a gym and spa. But the priorities and different perspectives of our two potential customers can be polar opposites. Person A has been travelling for 10 hours, has to work the next day and needs a place to stay that will be relaxing and comfortable. The amenities are perfect. Person B is on holiday and knows they are going exploring the city for a few days and needs somewhere where they can sleep. They aren’t really interested in amenities, they need a bed. Person A may see £300 as great value. For their purposes, Person B may see it as too expensive or poor value. Again, the cost is the same for both parties.

I started thinking about this after hearing Tim Ferriss talk about how he experiments with how he can ‘waste’ money to improve his life. He touches on the cost of first-class air travel and the real value it has to him.

It’s easy to forget the real value something can have. It can be expensive but if you value it then the cost is worth it. For example, almond milk is expensive as fuck when compared to regular milk. But for someone who is lactose intolerant, the cost is worth it, it is valued more highly. Another example, Vetements is an expensive brand, their garments are not cheap. To most people they cost too much (again they don’t value the brand enough) and they don’t align to their tastes. Fans of the brand get it. Value and taste are pretty closely related in this instance.

The point is that cost is absolute and value is relative to the person buying. We value things differently even if we can buy it for the same price. This is something that should be remembered when creating art or building a business. Some people won’t value what you are offering, this doesn’t mean that the cost isn’t right, it just means you need to find the right people.