Money Moment: The Price of Convenience

Dr. Jennifer Hunter

By Dr. Jennifer Hunter

Welcome back to Money Moment, episode number 23, with your host Dr. Jennifer Hunter.

Have you ever thought that there are just not enough hours in the day to get your entire To Do List accomplished? We are all probably guilty of occasionally grabbing dinner at a drive through in a mad dash after work to pick up the kids and get them to their extracurricular activities. The demands of everyday life, including work, after school activities, and managing a household often leave people searching for ways to complete tasks more quickly and easily to gain more time.

Today’s marketplace of goods and services recognizes the high value that individuals place on time, understanding that consumers will often pay more for convenience. Have you ever stopped to think about what you may be sacrificing in terms of cost, quality, or taste to save a few extra minutes?

Be a mindful convenience food consumer

There is no doubt that convenient products are most prevalent at the grocery stores. Products are typically available in a variety of forms such as scratch, semi-convenient, convenient, and ready to eat. Most often an item made from scratch is perceived to be the most time consuming and the least expensive.

However, this may not always be true. There are several examples of items that may cost more when made from scratch, such as a pizza. The ingredients to make a pizza from scratch may be expensive and there are alternatives such as box pizza mixes, store-made pizzas in the deli or frozen pizzas from the freezer aisle. All of these options are normally cheaper and quicker than making a pizza from scratch. But you also lose the ability to control all of your ingredients. Of course there’s also always the pickup and delivery, which represents the most convenient form of pizza, but oftentimes the most expensive.

Auremar/Photospin

Pizza aside, it’s important to be mindful consumers and to think about not only the type of products that we are purchasing but also how we’re purchasing them, why we’re purchasing them, how much they’re truly costing us and whether we are really recognizing any time saving benefits by purchasing them.

Be aware of the cost of non-food-related conveniences

Although most people associate convenience items and food preparation we are bombarded with convenience products in our everyday life. For example have you ever noticed an ATM at a sporting event or the mall? These machines are strategically placed in locations so that people can access cash quickly and easily. You should be aware that machines not in your banking network normally charge a significant fee compared to other locations. If you know you have a big shopping trip or event coming up, determine the amount of cash that you will need the week before and stop by the bank or ATM as part of your weekly errands.

Plan to avoid late or last-minute convenience fees

Have you ever forgotten to pay a bill and charged it to your credit card to avoid a late fee? Depending on the biller you may be charged a fee for paying by phone and/or by credit card. To be certain that you avoid late bills and associated fees, mark a calendar with the dates when all of your bills are due. Review the calendar once per week to make certain all payments have been made. Online banking can also be a fast and easy way to keep your payments organized and timely.

Evaluate the tradeoffs

All of our daily decisions have tradeoffs. The choice of convenience is no different. We are surrounded by convenience choices every day and there are more and more coming on the marketplace. For example, selecting your groceries online and just dropping by the store to pick them up at a pre-determined time. This can be a great convenience but at some stores may come at a cost or with a minimum amount that you need to purchase. However, you could also argue that by shopping online you’re more likely to stick to a list than when browsing the store and adding a few extra items to the cart. So as an individual, it is important to explore the convenience products that are of interest to you and your family and determine which ones best fit your needs.

Be certain that you are truly gaining value by choosing a convenience product and not just a perceived value created by marketers. If there are certain convenience products or foods that you use often take a few minutes to evaluate the different forms of the product and find the method that offers you the best balance of cost, quality, and time.

Thank-you for listening, and tune in for the next podcast episode covering cyber shopping saving strategies.

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