The Funny thing About Convenience

With almost every single purchase we answer a question (consciously or subliminally):

“What is the most convenient option?”

It has become second nature.

If our purchasing power doesn’t afford us the luxury of modern conveniences, then what good is it?

“Why am I working f’ing 60 hours a week to buy a less convenient option?!”

Most of the time, the question itself is what prompted the pursuit of the purchase in the first place.

cost of convenience

Why wouldn’t we opt for convenience?

  • Why ride a bike 2 miles to work and deal with sweat when you could drive in a nice air-conditioned vehicle?
  • Why hard boil an egg when you can buy a fancy egg cooker for $30 that will do it in one less minute?
  • Why use a hand crank can opener when you can buy an electric that does it without you having to move your fingers?
  • Why learn how to cook when you can buy pre-made food from others?
  • Why add razor blades to your grocery list when you can get them mailed to you monthly?
  • Why refill an ink cartridge when you could just buy a new one?
  • Why teach yourself how to drive a manual transmission car when there is automatic version?
  • Why look up a recipe on how to unclog a sink with baking soda and vinegar when you could buy a jug of toxic chemicals and just dump it down the drain and be done with it?
  • Why patch or sew up the article of clothing when you can buy a new one?
  • Why use a push-reel mower that may require you to go over some spots twice when you could buy a gas-powered monster to take care of it in one pass?
  • Why car-pool to work when you have your own car and no patience to wait for others?
  • Why borrow a tool from a neighbor when you could add it to your buy list?
  • Why think or learn of a clever way to solve a problem when you can simply buy something that solves it for you?
  • Why make the trip to borrow free cd’s, books, and dvd’s from the library when you could have it shipped directly from Amazon to your doorstep?
  • Why learn how to homebrew when you could buy your own beer?
  • Why wait for your desired item to show up on Craigslist when you could get it NOW.
  • Why learn how to do something on your own when you could have someone else come in and do it for you?
  • Why turn off the lights or unplug the vampire appliance, when you could just sit on your ass instead?

… you get the idea.

Is Convenience Really all that Convenient?

A funny thing occurred to me as I was creating the above list of modern “conveniences”. I realized that many were not all that convenient in the first place. Is it really more convenient if we:

  • Drive a car to work instead of biking? We have to find a parking spot, pay for that spot, pay for the gas to drive me there, and in many cases, pay for the car itself.
  • Get the high-powered gas mower vs. a push reel (or riding mower vs. a push)? We have to pay more again, maintain it more regularly, go out to buy fuel, and find or buy more space to store it.
  • Go out to a restaurant vs. cook at home? That requires transportation to and from, the parking space problem again, multiple times the cost, and then the wait for the food.
  • Borrow a tool from a neighbor? We simply have to admit, through our act of borrowing, that we don’t like pissing our money away. Isn’t that a redeeming quality?

We’ve been conditioned to think newer, more complex gadgets are more convenient.

But an egg boiler? An electric can opener? You have to go out and buy these items, they often break down, they take up more space, they use up more energy, and they save virtually no time at all. How is that the least bit convenient?

Oh, and the modern “convenience store”? They sell nothing but high margin, overpriced, unhealthy, pre-packaged sugar in liquid and solid forms.

In other cases, the effort (“inconvenience”?) to go the cheaper route will result in fitter health, greater self-reliance, and a cool new skill that you can share with your friends. And every time you make that effort, it becomes a little bit simpler.

So how did we get to this point?

Part clever marketing/advertising, part cognitive overload, part laziness, part herd mentality, part boredom, part approval-seeking.

The Lifetime Cost of Purchasing Convenience

Unfortunately, 99% of the time, the most convenient option is also the most expensive.

Whether it is monthly recurring costs, payment for specialized services, or the thousands of purchases you will make in your lifetime, the cost of going with the perceived most convenient alternative is SIGNIFICANT.

I am willing to bet that for many, that cost, when distributed over the life of the product or service, is easily in the upper hundreds, possibly thousands per month, per person, especially when you add in finance charges for the more convenience homes, vehicles, and credit card purchases.

The REAL expense to pay for all of these conveniences?

  1. years, possibly decades of your life given to jobs that you probably don’t like
  2. less free time for your family/friends/self
  3. general unhappiness when you realize those purchases aren’t actually making you happier

Just remember that the next time you swipe or enter your card.

In fact, maybe we should all tape the question “Convenient?” to the front of our cards as a firm reminder. To build wealth, you must defy status quo. And convenience is status quo.

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