The economists among you will enjoy this. I’ve run into an opportunity cost trade-off that has me stumped. The fact it has me stumped has me frustrated. That is distracting me from more important things. What is my problem? Carpet. Carpet is my problem.
I’ve mentioned before that I’m a big fan of nicer carpet, mostly because I spent a good portion of my day sprawled out on the floor reading, even if a perfectly good chair is nearby. Nice carpet feels great, and allows me to focus on my work; bad carpet hurts and causes me to spend most of the time adjusting or jostling for a less painful position.
Now that the sitting room is nearing completion (though there is still work to be done), I am turning my attention to the master bedroom suite and the music room. I’m trying to decide upon the carpet to put in both and I’ve hit a bit of a snag. I’m looking at two competing wall-to-wall carpeting options, both made by the same parent company under two different subsidiary brands. One is Masland, the other Fabrica. One is nylon, the other is wool.
The first, the Masland Seurat, retails for $130 per square yard, not including installation or padding, and is made of a high quality nylon fiber. It has a Berber-like look to it, but it is actually a deep, plush-feeling carpeting. I took the large sample and laid down against it to test whether it was suitable for reading annual reports all times of day and night. It passed with flying colors.
The next alternative is the Fabrica Corvo, which retails for $210 per square yard, not including installation or padding, and is made of genuine New Zealand wool. The sitting room now has a wool rug and I’m thrilled with the properties, to the point that I am looking for the perfect wool rug to go in the dining room, as well. Given how satisfied I am with it, I imagine that the same would hold true for wall-to-wall wool carpeting. Fabrica is supposedly a fantastic brand; the same people who carpet the White House.
The question: On a retail basis, is the wool carpet fiber construction worth an additional 61.5% premium over the equally-as-nice nylon fiber? Do I get 61.5% more utility out of it than I do the Masland carpet? I don’t know. Therein lies the problem. Most of these economic trade-off decisions are easy for me. This one has me stumped.
To put it in economic terms, the premium of wool carpeting over nylon carpeting would cost an additional $20,000 or so. I am 29 years old. If I were to be perfectly average and earn the same return on long-term asset classes as most investors in the 20th century (10% pre-tax and pre-inflation), going with wool over nylon would cost me $2,840,868 by the time I am Warren Buffett’s age. This is not a $20,000 decision. It is a $2,840,868 decision. That is real money that would have gone to the Kennon & Green Foundation or been given away to my heirs.
But the thing is, life is uncertain. God willing, I’ll live that long but the Earth could be destroyed by astronaut dinosaurs from a planet made of diamonds tomorrow afternoon. Who knows? That changes the hyperbolic discounting variables. This is the economist in me. Trade-off decisions are normally very easy. If I were 45, I’d buy the wool carpeting. If I were 55, I’d buy the wool carpeting. If I were 65, I’d buy the wool carpeting. But I’m not. I’m 29 years old. The opportunity cost is very high. I don’t know what I want to do. Like I said: Stumped. It’s the only word.
In the next few days, I have an appointment with a carpet specialist to help me go through all of the options. I feel like I’m taking a crash course in carpeting. My trepidation comes from my ever-present desire to have an escape hatch and, unlike an expensive area rug, wall-to-wall carpeting has almost no utility if you make a mistake and need to have it removed. It would just be lost money.
I need to get a lot of work done before Friday and all I can think about is style, cut, and material for residential carpeting. This is ridiculous. I need to snap out of it and focus on my job. I’m supposed to be reviewing budgets for a special print job we require and signing off on the final accounting before sending it to the firm that handles our tax filings.
I’ll probably end up bowing to Kathryn Hepburn’s philosophy on buying furniture (watch short clip for explanation):