Convenience Versus Cost – A Financial Mindset

file3641269351154 (480x640)We all view the world through our own particular perspective, and an observation that I’ve made over the years is how people are willing to trade more of their money for something that’s more convenient. It leads me to believe that many people have more money than time, and others have more money than the good sense to handle it wisely. For me, it’s easy to trade off convenience to save money, and often it’s the right choice, but not always.

I am reminded of the classic comparison of how a woman takes her car to the local oil change outfit and is on her way back home in 90 minutes and it cost her $30. Meanwhile, the guy spends half the day with a couple of his buddies and $75 by the time all the materials, supplies, trips to the auto parts store and a case of beer are taken into consideration.

Well, that might not be exactly representative of men and women make decisions when it comes to time and money, but I still think it’s a good one.

To determine which alternative is of most value, we need to stop and think about how much we’re spending in time versus how much we’re spending in money, and then make a decision that reflects the value we see in both. Here are some real life examples of such decision-making:

I once was approached by a car salesman who tried to push me into buying a very expensive model car with the idea that he could have me on the road very quickly in my new wheels. He said, “I can save you a lot of time.” From my perspective, that wasn’t a selling point at all. It was more important to find the right vehicle at a reasonable price. When I’m looking at a potential purchase of $28,000, it’s easy for me to see that taking time to think about it is the best course of action.

An associate of mine stopped at a rest stop along the highway and bought a soft drink out of a vending machine for $2. Admittedly, it’s not a major purchase, but when a can of soda is selling for 35 cents, a price of six times that much just didn’t seem right, at least not for me. It’s my mindset of frugality. He explained to me that it was convenient, so he paid the much higher price. Call me crazy, but it seems that when we stop for gas, we could buy whatever beverage we wanted and pay much less, and not have to make another stop along the way. In my mind, it’s less time spent stopping and less money spent on beverages.

I’ve always been a big fan of eating at home, but many eat out as a convenience. It makes sense if you think about time spent preparing meals, doing dishes and grocery shopping. It makes more sense if you’re the type of person who gets to work early and comes home late. Your time is probably better spent earning money than preparing yourself a meal. Nevertheless, for most of us, there is no way meals prepared by others will cost less than meals we prepare for ourselves.

I live in the country, and I plan my trips to town. A round trip might cost me $4 to $5 in fuel for my car, so I don’t go into town unless it’s absolutely necessary or I have multiple stops that I can make during the same trip. If I need to pick up a $5 item at the store, it doesn’t make sense for me to run to town to get it unless it’s urgently needed. Instead, I wait until I have several things to do and then go. Again, it’s a judgment about time versus money, and I factor in the cost of fuel with the cost of the items I’m fetching. In this example, my time encompasses the delay associated with waiting until I can make one run to town and make it a payload.

Sometimes a little extra cost is worthwhile to enjoy some convenience, and sometimes it’s just too costly. My suggestion is to lower the cost of things by expending more time and effort planning instead of forking over more dough because you might enjoy a bit of convenience. When you consider the above examples, one could:

  • do more research (a type of planning) before buying a car
  • plan for beverages and snacks necessary for a long drive as part of route planning activities
  • engage in meal planning at home
  • coordinate errands as part of your route planning

From my perspective, the whole idea of trading money for convenience is a mindset. In some cases it’s worthwhile, in most cases it isn’t. Oh, how it would be nice to say with confidence, “I have much more money than time.” What a position of luxury that would be, indeed.

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About Clair Schwan

6 Responses to “Convenience Versus Cost – A Financial Mindset”

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  1. I try to stay away from convenience purchases as much as possible. Instead, I try to plan ahead to avoid being stuck in a spot where I have to make a convenience purchase. There are some of these types of purchases I plan for, such as dining out every once in a while, but most of them I try to avoid.

    • Clair Schwan says:

      Pure convenience purchases are generally not a good idea, especially when a little planning can address the issue. When I think of planning, I am reminded of an interview with a woman who was on empty right after Sandie hit the New York area. She said that she would pay anything for some gas. That was more of a desperate need than a convenience, but I couldn’t help but think, “Why didn’t you fill up before the storm hit? Even out here in Wyoming we knew that trouble was coming.” A little planning and deliberate action can go a long way towards reducing our cost of living.

  2. dojo says:

    I have no problems paying to save time and for convenience, but, as you said, a bit of planning and thinking more about the costs won’t hurt. We do let others handle our car (we’d waste too much time), but we are cooking at home (since it’s healthier and the meals are really way better than what others would cook for us.

    • Clair Schwan says:

      We’re in agreement, sometimes vehicle service is best left to those with proper knowledge, tools and resources (like vehicle lifts.) I am reminded of an associate of mine who used to tune up his own car. He told me, “Generally I tune it up right to the point of needing to have it towed away for service by others.”

      With respect to cooking, it’s one of the most basic self-reliance skills, and it’s generally a good portion of a household budget. And, as you point out, it’s a focal point of good health as you then have control of preparation techniques and ingredients. And, the leftovers are so much easier to deal with when you’re right at the house.

  3. I agree. I think it’s so easy to say “Oh, I’ll just pay for the convenience” than it is to actually think and plan for each situation. Of course, each situation is different, but the convenience vs. cost thinking should be an active debate, not an automatic response.

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