Sometimes I try to save money by buying things that I think that I “really” need and will use every day. It’s innocent enough and smart, right? But you and I may sometimes need a reminder or even more, a kick in the butt, about the whole spending routine that we all do each week.
Gary, what kick are you referring to here? It’s our obsession with “convenience”. You know it’s true. Here’s a reminder that I have to slap myself in the face with each time I wander down the path to worship the idol at the convenience altar; a false idol is a false idol every time.
You Hear About Convenience All Day Long
I have to admit, it’s pretty easy to fall in love with convenience. If it wasn’t, you wouldn’t hear about it in almost every advertisement all the time. Even the biggest things you can buy, like a new auto for example, has a “convenience package” that sells like proverbial hotcakes at every new car retailer’s showroom. Besides the opulence factor, I think it’s because we are today convinced that “our time” is so valuable and time is actually money as that old saying goes.
Yes, it’s true that we need to value our time because after all it too, like your money, is limited. But in most cases, you aren’t doing what your great, great grandparents did and that was spending all their time just to put a roof over their heads and find food to eat to survive. That consumed almost all of the waking hours.
Convenience to us is wayyyy different than to them and advertisers have figured that out bigtime in the modern world.
It’s the Little Things in Life, Isn’t It?
I mean little as in tiny. You now those little tiny salt and pepper shakers you see at the supermarket? The ones you think you really need for that next picnic lunch you’ll be doing in the park a week from Saturday? I used to buy those like every other week when I was younger and foolish. Hey, it only cost me a buck even though I could buy a year’s supply of salt for half the price. It was so damned convenient to have them. In fact, if I look around the kitchen, I probably still have those same ones!
That’s why you love things like tiny half size Coke cans (the ones that cost twice the price of the regular 12 oz. cans). They are so convenient to have. They will give you a shot of soda and also fit in your jacket pocket.
Or how about those paper towels that can absorb 200% of what another brand’s product can, despite the fact that it may cost you 300% more when you buy it! It’s the convenient picker upper, isn’t it?
It’s amazing what you can get by without if you really try. Things like all of the different sizes of “zip lock” bags that you stock up on and wind up using just the bigger or medium sized ones anyway even when the smaller ones are just sitting in a drawer next to them. We get spoiled with convenience very easily. Because of it, we tend to buy things we don’t use or even need way too often. Even though those are little things, it’s really a huge expense and is often a waste of your hard-earned, limited money.
Food, One of the Biggest Conveniences
I can’t talk about convenience without mentioning the food category. How often has laziness driven us to take-out for dinner? Or even worse: delivery? Or even those beautiful pre-cut veggies and fruits in the supermarket?
And now you don’t even need to buy your ingredients there when you use one of the many meal kit subscriptions. They either send you prepared meals to your home, or all the ingredients, pre-measured, so that you can cook it yourself. Sounds good, but for a price! Convenience isn’t free.
Isn’t There a Flip Side to This Story?
Yes, there is. Sometimes I tell myself I don’t need something these days even though it may wind up being needed. It may even be “on sale” and I still walk away from it and won’t buy it. And then it happens.
I end up somehow actually needing the little bugger and then paying full price for it afterwards. So while restraint is good, so is buying when the price is low, sometimes. Confused?
There’s a sensible balance in there somewhere, and as soon as I get it figured out, I will pass it on to you! But back to my main point here.
Sometimes NOT Spending Means Real Savings
Remember what I have said over and over here in the blog? Let me remind you.
There are just two ways to have more money in your world. You can earn more of it to have more, or you can spend less and save and you can have more. Saving money adds to your potential buying power and is just as important as earning more and may actually be easier to do!
It’s the reason that knowing the issues about your money and taking the actions to be a smarter shopper matter. You can increase your buying power every day when you do that and not have to wait until next year to see any increase in your paycheck—if it ever comes next year.
Size May Not Matter, But Not Always
We are trained somehow to respond to the big, giant box that will save you money. We have learned after that brainwashing that sometimes the smaller sizes (when on sale and with a coupon too) can be less costly. But we still fall into the trap way too easily. Here’s an example of it.
Last week, I was in need of some oil here at the condo and went looking for it. The brand I hear about and know of (I actually know nothing about this stuff) is WD-40 and there it was right on a huge display as I wandered down the aisle.
The big can was $6.49 and prominently displayed. It has a special fancy straw attached to apply it, for convenience of course! Most people would grab this one and go. I myself, put it into my cart, but then just as I was turning the corner, in a much more hidden location, I saw a smaller can of WD-40. It was only $3.49 and of course comparing the per ounce cost to the bigger can it was not as good of a deal. So I walked away with a proud sense of accomplishment, knowing I had just saved myself a few cents per ounce by buying the larger can.
But then it hit me. Was I really saving more money by buying the larger can? Okay, yes, it’s a better deal and saves me a few cents over the smaller can, but here’s the thing:
How often would I really use this can? I’ve gotten through almost every day of my 70+ years in life mostly without ever using it. And I’m not picking on WD-40, it’s just I either haven’t had any need for it or I ignored those squeaky doors and windows in the past. So if I buy that bigger can and save a few cents, I’m not really saving money. I’m actually spending more money then I really need to do.
If you think about it, then you will realize you see it all the time on many items. Target has little packages of Goo Gone in their dollar price section. Like your WD-40, it’s probably not the best per ounce price, but who really uses a ton of it anyway? It’s just another example of little being bigger for you and your wallet.
Nobody ever said it was easy to manage your money and always be smart about it. Years ago, I learned a very practical rule that I try to always live by (despite picking up the big can of WD-40 without using that rule) and that was this:
You have to think about what you do and that includes the little things too.
If you think about it, and then continue on your merry way anyway, so be it. That is still doing something as opposed to just ignoring your options and doing nothing. That’s definitely an attempt to be smarter and to have better outcomes in life and in money matters.
So before you give in to convenience, and pay its price, think again and decide whether it is worth the cost.
Are you a spender, one who is guilty of buying without thinking? Do items sit in a drawer or on a shelf forever? Are you concerned about thoughtless spending ? Can you earn more by saving money and not spending as much? Have you tried it as a way to increase your buying power?