Convenience vs. Cost

There was a time – not so long ago – when I’d do anything to save a buck. Drive to the far side of town to pump the cheapest gas into my SUV’s tank? Absolutely. Choose to shop at the grocery store that was a few miles farther down the road to take advantage of their deeper discounts? Of course! If there was a penny to be made – or savedrather – I was on top of it.

All that changed when my family and I moved to a new house last summer. In the scope of a few weeks, our lives, as the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air would say, “got flip-turned upside down.” My daughter started kindergarten; my son started preschool; my husband started a new job with substantially different hours than he’d worked in his last position; and, most immediate to my daily schedule, I found myself in charge of cleaning and managing the house, getting the kids to and from their daily activities, and helping to take care of my ailing grandmother – all while navigating the corporate ladder in a job I’d only had for three months.

That was the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back. No longer did my schedule afford me the luxury of time: time to make the longer trip, time to spend clipping coupons, time to scour the web for the store with the best prices. For the first time in a long time, time became a luxury, while money was simply a commodity; my priorities were wholly, completely reversed.

For most of my adult, married life, I’d prioritized cost over convenience. Suddenly, I realized that, in my new life, time was money – and that it was in some ways “cheaper” for me to go to the slightly more expensive grocery store in the center of town (the one I passed on the way to and from my daughter’s elementary school) than make a trip 15-minutes out of my way to shop at Walmart. Instead of joining the discount health club – the one without any bells and whistles, including childcare – I opted for the pricier gym just down the road: the one that would watch my kids while I spent 60-minutes in downward dog. But I didn’t notice just how different my lifestyle had become until I tallied our Christmas expenses, and realized I hadn’t bought a single gift in an actual store; that’s right – convenience once again trumped cost as I opted to buy presents for my family online, expedited shipping fees be damned.

I don’t expect convenience to always trump cost. After all, it wasn’t all that long ago when I was more than willing to make a superfluous trip to save a measly 3-cents a gallon on gas. In a few years (all right, in another 15 years, but who’s counting?) both my kids will be in college and – with any luck – my days of chauffeuring them to swim lessons, school, and play dates will mercifully come to an end. Maybe then, I’ll have a chance to once again clip coupons from the Sunday paper (heck, maybe I’ll have time to read the Sunday paper, that is, if newspapers haven’t all gone under by then!) and search for a supermarket that will triple them.

Then again, maybe not.

What do you value more: convenience or cost? Has your answer changed over the years? Why?

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