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How to Avoid the Sunk Cost Fallacy in Your Crafting Projects

A collage of craft supplies such as yarn, glue, scissors, and paper, arranged to form the words ‘sunken cost fallacy’. The collage has a messy and chaotic look, with some parts unfinished or falling apart. The background is a dark and gloomy color, contrasting with the bright and colorful craft supplies

Have you ever bought a bunch of craft supplies that you never used, but felt guilty about getting rid of them because you spent a lot of money? If so, you might have fallen victim to the sunk cost fallacy, a common thought pattern (better known as cognitive bias) that affects many crafters.

What is the Sunk Cost Fallacy?

In very simple terms, sunk (or sunken) cost is money which has been spent. It’s gone.

The sunk cost fallacy is the tendency to continue basing future decisions, endeavours or actions on past sunk cost (which isn’t always only money, it could be time or energy too) even though changing course or giving up may be more beneficial to us. It’s the fancy term for throwing good money after bad.

The sunk cost fallacy can make us feel trapped in situations that are no longer satisfying or rewarding, and prevent us from pursuing new opportunities or alternatives that could bring us more happiness or value.

Examples of the Sunk Cost Fallacy in Crafting

The sunk cost fallacy can be a tricky obstacle for crafters, as we often invest a lot of money, time, and energy into our projects and supplies. Here are some examples of how the sunk cost fallacy can affect our crafting choices:

  • You attended a mosaic class and spent R1000 on supplies, only to realise that you dislike the mess and the art form clashes with your design style. BUT, you spent the R1000 so when you re-arrange your craft space you make sure to make a space to store the mosaic stuff, just in case, rather than using the space to create a nook for reading, something you actually like doing;

  • You bought a lot of alcohol inks because the videos made it look very easy. You tried it, didn’t like that it stained your hands and found the look too irregular for your aesthetic. BUT, you spent all the money, so you spend some more money on a class, special paper and a glass work surface in order to make it work;

A  picture of a person using alcohol inks on a glass surface, creating a colorful and abstract pattern. The person is wearing gloves and a mask to protect themselves from the stains and fumes

  • You bought a set of markers, but once you started using them you realised quite a few of them were dried out. They are a boxed set in a tin. You don’t throw the dried ones out as you can’t stand to look at the half full set as it reminds you that you made a bad purchase. Every time you use the markers you forget which ones are dried out and open and test all of them again wasting valuable craft time;

  • You make a junk journal spending a whole weekend on it. You try a new binding method but mess it up. You strongly dislike how the journal looks, BUT because you spent all the time already you decide to re-do everything, even though it involves having to make massive changes to the existing papers and it really affects your initial intended look, bringing you no closer to something you like.

 A photo of a junk journal with a messy and crooked binding, torn and wrinkled pages, and mismatched colors and patterns

How to Overcome the Sunk Cost Fallacy and Enjoy Your Crafting Hobby

The sunk cost fallacy can be hard to overcome, as it involves admitting that we made a mistake or wasted our resources. However, by recognizing and avoiding this thought pattern, we can make better decisions for our future projects and free ourselves from the guilt and clutter of our past investments.

Here are some tips to help you overcome the sunk cost fallacy and enjoy your crafting hobby:

  • Remember that the past is the past, and you can’t change it. What matters is the present and the future, and how you can make the most of them. Don’t let your past choices dictate your current or future ones, especially if they are not aligned with your goals, preferences, or values.

  • Think of the opportunity cost of your decisions. Opportunity cost is the value of the next best alternative that you give up when you make a choice. For example, if you keep the mosaic supplies that you don’t like, you are giving up the opportunity to use the space for something else that you do like, such as a reading nook. If you spend more money on alcohol inks that you don’t enjoy, you are giving up the opportunity to buy something else that you do enjoy, such as a new book or a nice meal. If you waste time on testing the dried out markers, you are giving up the opportunity to use that time for something else that you enjoy, such as reading or relaxing. If you re-do the junk journal that you hate, you are giving up the opportunity to start a new project that you love, such as a scrapbook or a card.

  • Be realistic about the value of your investments. Sometimes we tend to overestimate the value of our investments, especially if they are emotional or sentimental. For example, we might think that the mosaic supplies are worth more than they actually are, because we spent a lot of money on them, or because they remind us of a fun class we took. However, the true value of something is not what we paid for it, but what we can get from it. If the mosaic supplies are not bringing you any joy, satisfaction, or utility, then they are not worth keeping. The same goes for any other craft supplies or projects that you don’t like or use.

  • Don’t be afraid to let go of what doesn’t serve you. Sometimes the best thing we can do with our unwanted or unused craft supplies or projects is to get rid of them. This can be done in various ways, such as donating, selling, recycling, or throwing away. By doing this, we can free up our space, time, money, and energy for things that we truly love and enjoy. We can also help others who might appreciate or benefit from our craft supplies or projects more than we do.

  • Learn from your mistakes and move on. Making mistakes is inevitable and natural, and we can use them as opportunities to learn and grow. Instead of dwelling on our past mistakes or regrets, we can focus on what we can do differently or better in the future. For example, we can do more research before buying new craft supplies, try out samples or testers before committing to a large purchase, read reviews or watch tutorials before starting a new project, or ask for feedback or advice from other crafters. We can also experiment with different techniques, styles, or mediums, and discover what we like and don’t like.

What are some of the ways you have overcome the sunk cost fallacy in your crafting? Let me know in the comments below, and don’t forget to share this post with your fellow crafters!


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