Let's say, you are going to buy a computer. The fast ones with good hardware are expensive. When you lower your budget, the hardware quality is worse, so you will end up with a slower one. You need to find a balance which is best for you in terms of both "speed of the computer" and "money you will spend".

Is there a phrase which describes this decision-making process? I don't mean the decision making based on a list of pros and cons. Here there is only two parameters and you need to find the best combination. I "feel" that there is a phrase, but I forgot -both in English and in Turkish (which is my mother tongue).

  • Thank you for the suggestion. I think 'binary decision' only implies that there are two options. It does not tell that these two options have a relationship where one affects the other. Deciding whether to buy a laptop or pc is a binary decision as well, but not in a sense that I'm looking for. Commented Jan 8, 2016 at 8:59
  • Maybe you are right, since it's just a feeling that I have. If nobody comes up with a phrase in a few days, I'll use it like 'considering the pros and cons...' or 'considering the upside and downside...'. Commented Jan 8, 2016 at 9:09
  • 2
    If you're looking for an idiom, maybe: "I'm trying to find the middle ground between fast and cheap"
    – Yay
    Commented Jan 8, 2016 at 9:12
  • Maybe "dilemma" (a situation requiring a choice between two alternatives with both pros and specially cons).
    – Graffito
    Commented Jan 8, 2016 at 9:12
  • "Dilemma" refers to the situation itself, I'm mostly interested in the action in the decision-making process. I guess I was unable to state that clearly. The idiom, "to find the middle ground" is by far the closest suggestion to what I have in mind. yay! :) Commented Jan 8, 2016 at 9:21

4 Answers 4


I reckon "trade-off" might be the term you are looking for.

  • That's it. Thank you very much! I'm ignorant about both the usage of the tags in questions and the differences between 'phrase', 'term' etc. Since it was my first day on site and I was excited to ask my question, I couldn't read about tag usage and tag descriptions yet. But I will. Commented Jan 8, 2016 at 9:38
  • Please add an explanation why "trade-off" is suitable in this instance. Commented Jan 10, 2016 at 13:23


Using a corporate term then you're considering the 'cost/benefit' of your choices, in your decision making process.

of, relating to, or being economic analysis that assigns a numerical value to the cost-effectiveness of an operation, procedure, or program

While it is a business term, it's very usable in all aspects, because you take the cost of an investment/choice into account and compare to how much benefit you get from it.

So if your benefit of a faster computer is higher than the saving of money (which could be used elsewhere), buying the expensive computer will provide the greater benefit.

  • 1
    Cost-benefit ratio or Benefit-Cost Ratio is probably a more precise term.
    – BiscuitBoy
    Commented Jan 8, 2016 at 9:38
  • Trade-off was the term I was looking for. However I wasn't able to ask the question saliently. 'cost/benefit (ratio)' works as well for this case, thanks for the explanation. Your last paragraph exactly expresses what I was desperately trying to state. Commented Jan 8, 2016 at 9:46

The precise term is "optimization". You are describing an optimization decision.


"Run a cost-benefit analysis" or "consider the cost-benefits". That would be how to use the expression mentioned by Allan, which is exactly what you're looking for.

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