Count the Cost of Convenience

Restaurant food delivery. Delis. Prepackaged grocery store meals. It’s easy to choose options that save time or reduce effort, especially when you’re in a rush or exhausted at the end of a long workday. But relying too much on conveniences may hurt your budget.

Here are three ways choosing convenience can affect your finances.

  1. You select delivery options that tack on extra fees. Many service providers charge delivery, service or minimum order fees — and you have to include a tip for the delivery driver. Charges can be higher for the same services depending on the day or time you use them, so spontaneity can be more costly.

What to do instead: Reduce your usage or eliminate services altogether. If you can’t live without the convenience, see if the company you use offers a low monthly subscription option for loyal customers. Compare your options and look for hidden fees. Learn about the best apps1 to cut costs.

  1. You’re relying more on credit cards to pay for unbudgeted expenses. As interest rates continue to rise, so do your credit card balances if you don’t pay them off each month.

What to do instead: Stop using credit until you’ve paid off existing balances, then only incur new charges if you’re able to pay the full balance by the due date.

  1. Buying prepared beverages and meals when at-home options are available. Cruising through the drive-through for your morning latte or dashing into your neighborhood deli to grab a breakfast sandwich can save time during a busy workweek. But these purchases can quickly add up over the course of a month. For instance, the price of a cup of coffee is now nearly $5. 1

 What to do instead: Cut down the times you grab to-go items. Commit to making your favorite beverage and breakfast bite at home at least three days a week.

Other Ways to Reduce the Cost of Convenience

You can experience the freedom of convenience without adding costs by:

  • Batch cooking meals so you’ll have grab-and-go meals when you need them.
  • Use coupons to lower your restaurant tab.
  • Join rewards programs to make every dime count. This could earn you at least one free beverage or meal a month at your favorite eatery or coffee shop.
  • Plan so you’re not forced to fill your gas tank at higher-priced service stations and group your errands to avoid unnecessary driving.

Revisit Your Spending Plan

If you are spending more and saving less, or relying on credit cards more often, it may be time to build a better budget.

There are plenty of budgeting systems and apps to help you track where you money goes each month. When you begin working out your budget, record your take-home pay and any other sources of income, your fixed expenses such as a mortgage, insurance and car payments, and what you spend on food, entertainment, clothing, etc. Write down everything you can think of. When you’ve done this, spend some time at the end of the week to see if your budget is accurately aligning with how you manage your money.

After a few weeks, you’ll probably see some patterns emerge:

  • Are you spending too much on eating out or coffee runs?
  • Do you routinely rely on credit cards if the unexpected arises?
  • Are you able to add to an emergency fund or retirement savings?

Once you know where you stand, look for ways to cut back. Along with spending less on convenience runs, see if you can reduce your phone and cable bills by eliminating services you don’t use. You can take similar actions with essential spending, such as insurance and utilities. Visit your utility company’s website for suggestions on how to reduce your energy costs. Freeing up spending and putting it toward an emergency fund will keep you in good stead.

Get Help When You Need It

An occasional financial splurge is OK, but if you find your choices have created a financial strain or added debt, GreenPath Financial Wellness1offers complimentary one-on-one coaching.

 

 

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Extra Credit provides general information to help improve our Member’s financial lives. Every situation is different, so please contact us for guidance on your specific needs. The advice provided in Extra Credit is not intended to serve as a substitute for speaking to a loan representative, financial advisor, or GreenPath Financial advisor who can help tailor a solution for you.

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