We've all either done it or seen it: the less money someone has, the more likely they are to buy inferior products or smaller packages of products - each of which ultimately end up costing them more. This kind of false economy ensures that the climb out of the gutter remains as tough as possible.
It is also evident in much more than someone's decision over which jar of peanut butter to buy.
Take housing, for example. There are nearly a billion people living in slums around the world, and this number is rising rapidly. If there's one word that defines slum housing almost everywhere, it would be makeshift. This creates a lot of potential problems: susceptibility to disease, the uncertainty of impermanence, and exposure to the elements - all of which impose unnecessary mental and physical burdens on already-stressed slum dwellers.
And then there are the costs to society: slums can breed crime and violence, and can be disease incubators, among other things.
Slum dwellers are also often preyed upon by unscrupulous operators that charge a premium to provide basic services to the poorest of the poor.
So, dealing with inadequate housing is something that could potentially benefit every element of society. Vijay Govindarajan and Christian Sarkar certainly believe so. Govindarajan - who is Professor of International Business at Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth - and online-marketing consultant, Sarkar, proposed the idea of The $300 House late last year, and it is catching on fast.
So, what is the idea? It's really very simple: "Funded by relief organizations, we will utilize new technologies and sustainable materials to design a $300 house for developing countries." And in designing it, they want to take the following things into account: materials, adaptability, energy sources, community environment, meal preparation, lighting, clean water access, waste disposal, food sources, local commerce, play, and sleep.
Which could keep you very busy, because right now they want your ideas. 'The $300 House' Challenge is offering a total prize value of $25,000 for the best "concepts and designs for a house that can be built for under $300." Get to it - the challenge ends later this month!
The rewards extend far further than the prizes. Like Govindarajan says, "It's not opening a door to a house, it's opening a door of opportunities." Here he is explaining the rationale behind this project: