Happy Valentine’s Day from Club Thrifty! The following is a guest post from our friend Harry at Your Personal Finance Pro. If you are interested in guest posting at Club Thrifty, please see our guest posting guidelines.
I was on my way to a wine/cheese party the other night and my assignment was to bring meat and cheese. I wasn’t in a rush when I got to the store but I had just gotten off work and my brain was already shutting down. I had an hour before the party and all I wanted to do was relax on the couch before heading off to the party.
When I was at the grocery store, I literally stood there for five minutes trying to decide between two options. The most convenient option was a nice package of pre-cut meat and cheeses (also the most expensive). My other option was to buy a hunk of salami, a block of cheese, and cut it up myself for around the same price (but feed more people). In the time I spent thinking about which option to get, I probably could have cut up the cheese and salami but it made me wonder about how to put a price on convenience.
If there’s a small convenience store right down the street from your house and a large grocery chain about 5 mins. further, what convenience rate are you willing to pay? Let’s say a gallon of milk costs $3 at the grocery store: $3 x your convenience rate = Price you’re willing to pay. If a gallon of milk is the same price, I’ll definitely choose the closer option but the convenience premium will often make the price more.
Time is Only Valuable if You Make it Valuable
If I sat around all day on a Saturday and then went to the store and bought prepackaged food, that would be a waste of my money. By wasting the day, I’ve forced myself to spend more since I didn’t effectively utilize my time. On the other hand, if you’ve been working all day and you head to the grocery store to pick up dinner supplies, it’s a lot easier to grab the pre-made shish kabobs instead of dicing up everything yourself, right?
I love to cook, so I’m faced with this dilemma all the time. Generally though the convenience factor is pretty high on these types of products. When I shop for groceries, I always compare the cost per weight($/oz). Most grocery stores actually list this cost per weight on the labels anyways so it makes comparing products very easy. If the convenience rate is ever 2 or higher, I almost always go with the less convenient option. I haven’t got to the point where my time is too valuable to chop up a couple veggies but maybe someday I will be there.
If you’re comparing the exact same product, then all you have to worry about is your time and money. But when you start comparing products of different quality it gets a little more complicated. I know they don’t call it convenience food but that’s what fast food really is. Buying a hamburger at McDonald’s is a lot more convenient (and cheaper) than making one yourself, but you could not pay me enough to eat a McDonald’s hamburger. I would much rather go to the store and buy ground beef and buns and make the burgers myself.
In fact, I’ll usually make a couple extra and freeze them (along with a couple buns). That way, the next time I need burgers I can add a little cheese and I’m done. Like Emeril would say, “BAM,” you’ve got a great meal in almost no time.
Readers, do you constantly find yourself going with the more convenient option? If so, what do you with the time you save? Do you spend it wisely or just watch TV like I do (sometimes)?
About the author: Harry writes for Your Personal Finance Pro where he discusses everything from upgrading the RAM on your Apple laptop to investing in I bonds. Harry works full time as an aerospace engineer in San Diego and started his blog in January of 2012.