As a self-proclaimed responsible procrastinator, and often just downright lazy person, I am all for spending on convenience. If something makes my life easier in a noticeable way, I do not think it’s a waste. I believe in taking a Lyft to the airport at 4:30 in the morning instead of a bus, and that a bi-weekly or so Seamless order provides a much-needed break in routine when you’re used to cooking every night.
Sometimes, though, spending on convenience can get out of hand. It’s often because of that little thing we call lifestyle inflation — when we start to make more money, expenses we used to consider frivolous begin to seem rather inconsequential. First it’s Who cares if this cab ride to the gym costs $15? I got an 8% raise at work! Yolo, baby! And then, before you know it, it’s Wait, how is my credit card bill $200 higher than last month?
Of course, we all have different thresholds for what we think is “worth it.” If you genuinely don’t mind doing laundry, dropping a few dozen bucks a week on a cleaning service probably doesn’t sound like a good use of your money. But if it’s the bane of your existence, that cleaning service means you have more time to do something you actually enjoy. As your resident convenience spending apologist, here are the times spending on convenience has been totally worth it for me — and many of the times it hasn’t.
1. TSA Pre-Check ($85): I’ve had pre-check for two years now and have probably flown a dozen or so times in that time (mostly because my parents live several states away) — and even when the line isn’t much shorter, it’s still worth it to me to not have to remove my shoes or take my computer out of my backpack. Unlike a lot of convenience spending, this was well thought-out. As someone who flies a lot out of necessity, it felt more like an investment in making my life a bit easier than simply being lazy.
2. Unlimited yoga studio pass ($95/month): There are a few gyms near-ish where I live that are only about $45-50 a month, which includes group exercise classes. But if I know myself at all, I know one thing: I will only exercise if I barely have to go out of my way to do it. Proximity is even more important to me than the type of exercise I’m doing (though thankfully I enjoy yoga). The yoga studio I go to is a block from the TFD office, where I already am at least three times a week. Being able to plan exercise around my non-negotiable commitments makes it super worth the monthly fee, even if it is twice as much as I could be paying elsewhere.
3. Laundry delivery & pickup (~$25 each time): I don’t do this anymore now that I live in a complex with laundry on-site. But back when the nearest laundromat was three blocks away from my apartment (and I’m talking a long three blocks), I gladly spent $25 or more every few weeks to have a service come pick it up, likely send it to a giant facility of hundreds of too-hot machines, and bring it back to me the very next day. I didn’t care that I was spending easily three times as much on laundry as I would have if I’d just done it myself. Hell, I didn’t really even care the one time they accidentally dried the clothes in my hang-dry hamper (okay…I cared a little). Not having to worry about it meant more time to work or do fun things, and I never regretted seeing the expense on my credit card bill.
4. Wine delivery subscription (~$56/month): I’ve written a fair amount about how Peter and I subscribe to Blue Apron, which for us is very worth it. We also get a monthly wine delivery through a service called Winc. The wines are good, and I typically spend about $13 per bottle on four bottles. It’s not by any means any better than the wine I could get in the nearby liquor store, but here’s the thing: the selection is geared towards my tastes, so I don’t have to think about what I’m picking, and we end up drinking less. I used to stop by the wine store pretty frequently to grab a bottle to have with dinner, and now I do so very rarely. Getting the delivery feels like “this is our wine for the month!” and I don’t find myself wanting much more (at least at home).
5. A copy of The Expatriates that I got at an airport ($13): This is pretty straightforward: I once had a long flight delay and needed some entertainment, so I bought this book at the Hudson News because I liked the cover. It ended up being great, and the time went by way faster reading than it would have if I’d just passed the hours playing Two Dots. Airports are notorious convenience spending traps, but this was well worth it.
Not Worth It
1. Three (3) Seamless lunches I had last week ($37): As you are reading this, I am on vacation, so I had to prepare for this week away ahead of time. My work-related plate over the week or so leading up to leaving was full, which I used as an excuse to simply not go grocery shopping. I am looking at my spending for the week and already flinching at how much higher my food spending was than usual. (Granted, one of these orders was my favorite sushi lunch special, which I never regret — I’m just annoyed at myself for ordering three delivery lunches in one week, when I’m usually so good about making my own.)
2. Taking a cab home from Newark airport instead of the train ($65): Ugh, I still regret this, and it was about a year ago. I flew into Newark when I was living in Midtown Manhattan, and I literally thought, I can see New Jersey from my desk window, this will cost nothing! Reader, Newark is not right across the river from Manhattan. Because New Jersey has different parts. I spent almost $50 more on this cab ride, which included being stuck under the Lincoln Tunnel for 20 minutes, than I would have by just taking the damn train home.
3. Years of grabbing a Starbucks drink when I just needed a bathroom ($who even knows): I love coffee! Spending on coffee is great! But if you’ve already had your one and a half daily cups of coffee and you just need a bathroom, and getting another cup just so you can get the code to relieve yourself has become a regular purchase, you need to start planning better. (Pro tip: if you live in NYC and are for some reason in Midtown and need to use a restroom, the Bryant Park public facilities were renovated a year or two ago and are actually stunning.)
4. A blue fuzzy sweater I bought online and never returned ($35): I much prefer online shopping to going into stores to try things on. For one thing, I can monitor the sales better, and I honestly feel like I end up spending less overall. And, of course, I don’t have to go anywhere to do so. But sometimes I’ll order something without actually considering what it’s going to look like on my body. Case in point: I ordered a blue fuzzy sweater that looked super cute on the online shop’s model. I’m a cute person, I thought, it shall look cute on me too! But I looked like the Cookie Monster. I have since seen and even purchased the occasional fuzzy sweater that does flatter body types that aren’t 5’10 and super thin, but I have also learned that you really need to be able to see those things in person. But I was determined to will myself into liking this sweater on me (and also too lazy to stick it in the mail), to the point where I kept it well past the point of No Returns. It eventually ended up being mailed in a bag with other clothes that got rejected by ThredUp.
Holly is the Managing Editor of The Financial Diet. Follow her on Twitter here, or send her your ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org!
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