Most of my job is working with clients who buy-- and manufacturers, tradesmen and artisans who sell their products and their services.
When any client or "friend/family" person asks for my input, the better someone knows me, the more unnecessary the "should I do this to save money?" question is. My answer? "It's up to you, but I'll give you my opinion!"
Cost is what you (or I, or anyone) pays. "Cost" is Objective. Sometimes the prices are high or low enough that we all can pretty much agree on whether something is expensive or not. I don't get "sticker shocked" too often, but someone who has never carpeted a whole house before might freak out at what is, technically, a mid-range price. Once in a while a better price or cost can be negotiated. Sometimes I will press vendors to re-evaluate their bids or tell them that what they have proposed might just not work for my client. But usually, since I have a history with many of them, I know that they have presented their best price.
What I, as a Design Professional, consider to be a fair cost is sometimes looked at as a high price by client, including "family and friend" clients. Merchandise and labor that are involved with homes, inside and out (more on the gardening thing in a blog soon) don't tend to shock me.
"Value" is the Subjective part of a financial transaction. Free work is often considered valuable. We tend not to think of "you get what you pay for" frequently enough. And, if you are giving the free advice, you likely don't discuss what the paid rate could be--the Value of the "freebee". If you're scoping the Design World perhaps you have a sofa that is hugely out of scale and totally uncomfortable. You might meet a store decorator (I am differentiating in this way because this person is not trained in design, rather is selling furniture) who will replace the bad sofa, give your room a new layout, and also suggest replacing the rest of the furniture, plus repaint the walls to match the new scheme. The new sofa is much better suited for you, and you love the color he/she recommended, even though nothing you have now blends in anymore. This person works for a store and if you buy the new items from them, design services are free
Another different Designer is recommended by a friend and this Designer is independent with more of a service-oriented business. This Designer has worked out a plan that changes the layout of the room but keeps your two chairs to sit opposite a comfy new sofa. With this Designer, you've decided to repaint the room but keep the chairs as they are. You'll find a fabric for a new sofa that works with the new color scheme. Unfortunately, you'll be ordering custom-made, so it will take a while longer, but someday you can reupholster this sofa because it's very well made. It will only cost a few hundred less than all the new items from the store, so your budget won't buy as many items.
This is when you decide what is of more Value to you. Is it more valuable to buy more items for less or just replace a couple of items with those that can last "forever"? Maybe the real value is in building a relationship with the Designer that can be wonderful and "ongoing", or maybe the value to you is for it to be done quickly. You can do the "Designer thing" when you want to do a bigger project. Maybe value to you is all about the output of the cash and you're OK with replacing every five years. Ponder the options before you make a decision.
My story is about Furnishings/Design/Decorating. This can also be about clothes or jewelry or anything you buy. I would say it's even about vacations – maybe a bunch of weekend getaways or a fabulous "trip of a lifetime". For me, car prices are only reasonably familiar to me if I am looking to buy one. Otherwise, I only note prices rarely -- like when glancing at a car's sticker at a showroom or lot while my own car is being serviced. All of the rest of the data will be available to me when I need it!