How is it rational that I cook on weekdays, even though my hourly wage is higher than my wife’s (and I am a truly lousy cook)? The answer is that, as an academic, my time during the day is flexible, so the opportunity cost of my time can be viewed as low just before suppertime. As an attorney, my wife’s time is much less flexible, so her opportunity cost is higher.
Opportunity cost is what you give up to get something else. There was the Friday night, for example, I opted to have dinner with a friend, costing me the opportunity to have dinner with my husband. (I knew I’d see him the next day for Avatar in 3-D, and every day after for the rest of my life so I decided it was a cost I could afford to pay.)
Everything comes with an opportunity cost. The opportunity cost of getting married was all the random people you’re not having sex with now. The opportunity cost of having sex with your spouse is watching TV. The opportunity cost of watching TV is spending with your kids.
Every opportunity is a lost opportunity. Sounds pretty grim when you put it that way. But that’s economics for you–and that’s life. The good news is, if you pay attention to opportunity costs you can make smarter decisions about what you do every minute and every year. My husband enjoyed having Friday night to himself. And just as I expected, I’ve seen him every day since.