In the financial world, we often talk about ‘the time value of money’. We trade our time for money but most often we trade our money for time. This is more commonly known as ‘convenience’. Psychology tells us that humans value time over money. But it’s quite the conundrum, as a lack of money leads to a lack of time. You will be forced to work forever if your passive income does not exceed your monthly needs.
By nature, human beings hate being inconvenienced, and we are willing to overpay significantly for this luxury because it buys us time at that moment. But have you considered the compounding effect of those decisions on your long-term finances?
Convenience can be a sly thing. It catches us when we’re running late, when we’re tired from a long day at work or when the kids need attention. It’s during those moments when the small, palatable costs seem worth it. But as conveniences become embedded in our daily habits, the costs start adding up quickly.
That’s why, as we start the new year and most of us are vowing to control our spending this year, we’re sharing some areas that can really make a difference by being slightly inconvenienced.
The age-old coffee debate
Making your own coffee at home versus getting a takeaway coffee en route to the office. There is nothing wrong with the latter, but the problem is when it’s a daily occurrence. The costs do become excessive. You can save about R450-R500 per month if you make your morning cuppa at home as part of your morning ritual. R500 per month is not going to make you rich, but the cost savings do add up. We’re talking about small habits here, but treat yourself every now and then.
Last night’s leftovers versus takeaways
This is where we most often overpay for convenience. Healthy lunches take planning and preparation, but we’re often exhausted after work and/or rushing in the mornings so it makes sense to buy lunch daily. 20 lunches per month at an average of R80 per lunch is an alarming R1600 per month. You can counter this cost by simply increasing the amount of ingredients at dinner and dishing extra portions for the following day’s lunch.
Food delivery versus cooking
You pick up the kids, sit through traffic after a long day at work and are completely exhausted by the time you get home. You haven’t thought about dinner and now you have a hungry family staring at you. Delivery is the first thing that springs to mind, because you can’t deal with even thinking about what to make.
Food delivery is expensive, no matter which way you look at it. Delivery apps mark up the prices sometimes by as much as 30%. The delivery fees, even as a flat fee for Uber Eats Pass users, add up. And if you’re like me, I feel compelled to tip drivers decently because they earn so little – and I am grateful and relieved for the service they provide.
Many years ago, I learnt the skill of meal planning (not meal prepping). I have an Excel spreadsheet with all my family’s favourite meals listed. The list is only split by protein type, so I know what needs to be defrosted before I leave for work. I know exactly what we are going to eat the upcoming week, and I buy the vegetables as per the list each Saturday, so no wasting. We currently have over 60 meals on the list, so we don’t eat the same meals more than once a month, unless we really love it. A bit of planning saves us thousands of Rands – and dinner becomes lunch the next day. Bonus.
Business class versus Economy
This is a fight I lost many moons ago with my family. I used to believe that my vacation starts the moment I set foot on a plane, and I was willing to pay for that. My family however believes their holiday starts when they arrive at their destination. So they demanded the price difference between business and economy class in cash for their personal spending, which I politely refused. This, of course, brought about a mind shift on my end. A few hours in economy class with the people you love is a small price to pay for that glass of Moët in business class.
These are just a few examples of how the price of convenience takes a toll on our finances. But this doesn’t mean we should give them all up. By understanding the true cost of convenience, we can make smarter choices about how we spend our time – and our money.
Rochelle Warries is a qualified chartered accountant with 16 years of experience and a seasoned stock market investor. Her passion is helping novice investors build healthy investment portfolios through financial education.