Besides the actual construction, a big part of building a house is making decisions – especially decisions where you have very little knowledge about what you’re doing! The next biggest parts are a) hoping the decisions you made were good, and b) fixing the consequences of decisions that were bad. It’s often 1 step forward, 2 steps back.
For every project we have to decide between good, fast, or cheap results. For instance:
- Hire out help or do it by ourselves?
- Try and acquire reclaimed materials or buy new?
- If buying new, get the best product or a mediocre product?
- The relative importance of our values — aesthetics, functionality, price, longevity, environmental considerations, time, etc.
We realized our decisions boiled down to whether we prioritized a maximizing vs. satisficing strategy in a given situation.
Maximizing is getting the best possible outcome, often at the expense of time, effort, or money. A maximizer, for example, would buy an expensive, high-quality ice cream at the grocery store because it’s their favorite (totally me). Satisficing, on the other hand, is getting the most benefit or happiness you can for the least cost. Nate’s a satisficer when it comes to ice cream – he’ll settle for a brand that is on sale that tastes good enough.
Differences in goals and expectations influence whether a person chooses one strategy or the other. To me, ice cream is a special treat so I expect it to be super delicious and therefore don’t mind spending a little more for that outcome (my philosophy is, “why indulge in ice cream at all if it isn’t amazing?”) But for Nate, ice cream just needs to satisfy his sweet tooth after dinner so a moderately-tasty ice cream meets his goal. Note that satisficing is not the same as frugality: it’s not about choosing the cheapest option, but rather the best value option.
Maximizing and satisficing approaches are not mutually exclusive. You might maximize on some aspects of a purchase while satisficing on others. We maximized on our roofing, gas fireplace, and trailer. Our window purchase illustrates a mixed strategy: we chose windows from a mid-high end line, but compromised on color (basic no-charge white), style (gliders or non-opening, the cheapest), and interior finish (fiberglass instead of a wood upgrade).
Maximizing tries to get the best possible outcome from a decision but takes more up-front work and risks regret if no ideal option exists. Satisficing is easier and quicker, but risks making a worse decision.
A house is an investment so it’s tempting to splurge on everything and unintentionally go over budget. My advice is to choose a decision making strategy and set expectations well in advance! Research shows that satisficers tend to be happier with their decisions, so we’ll keep that in mind when shopping.
See the links below to learn more about how you can improve your decision-making: