Want or Need? How Cutting Out Conveniences Can Save Money

Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images
Money | Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images

It’s called convenient for a reason: Services that save you time are helpful, but they can also cost you big over time. Many of us fall for the usual conveniences (such as purchasing coffee on the go rather than making it at home, or ordering fast food instead of bringing our lunch to work). There are also some less common big conveniences, like adding a bathroom to make your basement more convenient, that many people spend time considering before they spend money on.

However, there are several regular conveniences that you might not factor in when you are considering how to cut costs, and reducing the amount of convenient services and products you use can really help your budget. While saving time is important, if you need to save money, you may prefer to cut costs over saving time. Here are a few conveniences to consider getting rid of.

1. Dry cleaning

Some items need to be dry cleaned because they specifically are dry-clean-only items. In order to avoid shrinking your clothes, or prematurely wearing them out, you should dry clean items that instruct you to do so on the tag. However, if an item says dry clean but doesn’t say “only” this may be only a recommendation; usually silk, acetate, velvet, wool, and taffeta items need to go to the dry cleaner, but cotton, linen, cashmere, polyester, acrylic, and nylon can generally be washed at home (just be sure to check the label); watch out for decorations as well. If you use the dry cleaner’s simply because you don’t want to have to sort or do your own laundry, you can save money by only using this service for items that truly need it.

2. Maid services

Who doesn’t love a clean house? Especially if you work a lot, hiring a maid or home cleaning service can be a convenient way to save time. Many services will come and clean your home while you are at work, and it certainly feels great to come home to a clean house. Of course, the cost of cleaning services vary considerably based on where you live and which services you want, but according to Angie’s List, the hourly cost is typically $25 to $35. Many companies give a discount if you request regular cleanings; however, the more cleanings you request, the more money you are spending.

If possible, try to only hire professionals to clean your home when you really must, perhaps for important guests coming. Also, consider hiring a college student or high school student who you trust. Although professionals sometimes have special tools, you can always teach someone else to clean your home the way you like it, and if you must hire someone, you will save by choosing someone who is doing it for the extra cash and not as their regular job.

3. Individually wrapped items

Individually wrapped foods can be expensive; you pay extra to purchase snacks and other foods that come in separate packages (like snacks that have a specific amount of calories in each individually wrapped pack). You can cut costs on your grocery bill by investing in quality tupperware, or even buying sandwich bags. Although it will take more time, you can pack snacks yourself to save money. Making your own lunch will also save you money, and tupperware is a great way to store food without having to continually buy new containers.

According to Nielsen, salty snacks are biggest snack category in North America (with $28 billion retail annual dollars spent in 2014); so start bringing those chips and pretzels in a container, and save on individually wrapped bags or chips at the vending machine.

4. Impulse buys

Stores count on the fact that impulse buys are convenient. When you’re at the movie theatre, it seems like the perfect choice to pick up an overpriced chocolate bar to go with your movie; you could go to the grocery store and buy one at normal price, but that might mean extra driving for you, which is inconvenient.

Of course, grocery stores have many impulse items as well, and they usually take up most of the space around the checkout lines. Eliminating impulse buys from your spending will help your budget. If you are prone to purchasing impulse items, make the decision to stick to your list when you go to a store, and stop and ask yourself if you really need the item, or if it is simply fulfilling a momentary want rather than a need.

Companies count on our desire to have things be as convenient as possible; we live busy lives, and convenience can help us feel like we are saving time. However, in the end, you will have to decide if you would rather save time, or save money.