How Much Does Opportunity Cost Actually Cost?

Sara Sebastian ’18

Do you ever wonder what would have happened if you got a vanilla latte this morning instead of a caramel latte? Would you not feel so sick? What would have happened if you took Walnut Hill this morning instead of Royal? Would you have avoided an accident? What would have happened if you voted for Person A instead of Person B? What would our government look like then? Maybe you would have avoided an accident if you took Walnut Hill on the way to school that morning or maybe your stomach wouldn’t have hurt if you got that vanilla latte, but will anyone ever know for sure? Life is all about making choices. Every day, each of us makes an array of decisions ranging from what flavor latte to get at White Rock Coffee to who we should vote for in the presidential election, and every one of those decisions we make has a cost.

The price of making decisions is called an opportunity cost, which would be the next best alternative, foregone when any economic decision is made.  In this, some have a large cost and some have a seemingly nonexistent cost. The opportunity cost of choosing the caramel latte was the vanilla latte, the opportunity cost of taking Royal was taking Walnut Hill, the opportunity cost of voting for Person B was voting for Person A, and so on so forth. When making an economic decision, not many people will stop and think to themselves, “What will the opportunity cost of this decision be and how much will it actually cost?” Because in reality, no one really knows. No one could tell you for a fact that your stomach wouldn’t hurt if you chose the vanilla latte instead, which is the whole point of an opportunity cost. A stomach ache isn’t that extreme of a result of an opportunity cost because it is nothing a good nap and some Pepto-Bismol couldn’t fix. But in regards to more important decisions about the future of our government or our economy, opportunity costs are extremely important to consider.

In the poem “The Road Not Taken,” by Robert Frost, Frost emphasizes the fact that we always have to make choices, even if both choices seem about the same. He takes us with him as he decides what road to travel down as he comes upon two separate roads. He describes his situation when he says, “TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood, / And sorry I could not travel both,” (Frost). He then realizes that he has to make a choice, so he analyzes both paths until he makes a decision. In the end, he describes how his decision no matter how seemingly small has made an impact in his life, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – / I took the one less traveled by, / And that has made all the difference.” (Frost). This demonstrates how the choices we make always have an impact on us and the next best alternative that was passed up has a cost as well.

So to conclude, how much does opportunity cost actually cost? And in reality, no one can truly answer that, it just depends on the situation. Some difficult choices may have a huge cost, while others may not have as severe of a cost.

  1. Frost, Robert. “The Road Not Taken.” Poetry Foundation. Accessed June 19, 2017.
  2. Staff, Investopedia. “Opportunity Cost.” Investopedia. November 15, 2016. Accessed June 19, 2017.

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