THE OPPORTUNITY COST OF A LIFETIME

INTRODUCTION

Opportunity CostIn order to buy a movie, you need to give up a certain amount of gum and soda. If you buy ten pieces of gum, you give up going to the movie or buying soda. Decisions involve trade offs. When you make a choice, you give up an opportunity to do something else. The highest-valued alternative you give up is the opportunity cost of your decision. Opportunity cost is the highest-valued forgone activity. It is not all the possible things you have given up.

For example, if you go to the movies you have to give up a certain amount of gum and soda. If you are a sodaholic, you have to give up five sodas. If you are gum fanatic, you surrender ten packs of gum. But, the opportunity cost of a movie is not five sodas and ten packs of gum. It is five sodas or ten packs of gum.

All kinds of decisions involve opportunity costs, not just ones about how to spend your money. For example, if you have soccer practice when your favorite television show is on, part of the opportunity cost of soccer practice is missing that television show. When you made the choice to join a soccer team, you had to tradeoff missing that television show for becoming a better player.

ASSESSMENT ACTIVITY

All economic questions and problems arise from scarcity. Economics assumes people do not have the resources do satisfy all of their wants. Therefore, we must make choices about how to allocate those resources. We make decisions about how to spend our money and use our time. ThisEconomicsMinute will focus on the central idea of economics- every choice involves a cost.

Let’s say you have five dollars. What would you like to spend it on? There are a million things you would love to spend five bucks on, but let’s imagine there are only three things out there you really want to buy: gum, soda, and movie tickets. Look at the price chart below and answer the questions.

Good Price
Gum $ .50
Soda $1.00
Movie Ticket $5.00

 

EXTENSION ACTIVITY

You won a radio station contest and you are now $300 dollars richer. You can finally start looking for a new stereo. Determine what criteria you think are important for choosing a stereo and identify the tradeoffs made when selecting one stereo over another.

 

 

 

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