I have recently been a lot picky about the stuff I buy. Or the subscriptions I sign up for. Or the projects I undertake. I was never good at it. And I don’t claim that I have mastered the skill now. I still struggle to recognise the price that I would eventually have to pay. First look, the listed cost looks cheap. But I have started asking now, “can I pay the second price?”

The answer is usually a big no. David Cain succinctly words the reasons behind this problem of mine (the above linked essay is a must-read).

I believe this is one reason our modern lifestyles can feel a little self-defeating sometimes. In our search for fulfillment, we keep paying first prices, creating a correspondingly enormous debt of unpaid second prices. Yet the rewards of any purchase – the reason we buy it at all — stay locked up until both prices are paid.

I could also closely associate with the side effects of this problem, as David lists them. This made me acutely aware of the gravity of this pilling debt.

This scarcity feeling creates one of the major side-effects of our insurmountable second-price debt: we reflexively overindulge in entertainment and other low-second-price pleasures –- phone apps, streaming services, and processed food — even though their rewards are often only marginally better than doing nothing. This stuff is attractive because it takes little effort (and we’re tired from working to pay for so many first prices) but it can eat up a ton of time, depleting the second-price budget even further.