Do You Have to Give Up Convenience in Order to Save Money?

Making the initial decision to start saving money can be scary. After all, in order to save, you have to cut back on spending. It’s fairly easy to not go on vacation or buy that 73″ TV (I didn’t even know they made them that big until I saw one in the Best Buy circular this week), but what about cutting back on current expenses?
This is where you may have to make sacrifices: drop the cleaning service, give up your car, stop the weekly manicure. That means you’ll have to clean your home yourself, be at the mercy of the bus or train schedule, and do your own nailcare. But in the long run, you’ll be saving the $100/week it cost to have the cleaning lady, the $500 in monthly lease, insurance costs and gasoline associated with owning a car, and the $50/week for the manicure. Right there? $1,100 back in your pocket, off the bat.
Foods can be convenient — prepackaged foods tend to be cheaper than fresh, raw foods like vegetables and meats. But just because they’re cheaper doesn’t mean they’re good for you. Fast food, something I swore off a few years ago, is a perfect example of cheap food with poor nutritional value. Sure, you can get a small cheeseburger and fries off the dollar menu, but you’re also getting a lot of calories and fat. Instead, buy your own ingredients (cheaply and using coupons, where possible), and prepare your own meals from scratch. They’re sure to be healthier and cheaper than convenience foods, and you may find you enjoy cooking, as I do.
You could take it one step further and give up the convenient location of your housing. Are you living IN a big city? I know around here, the expense of living in New York is insane. Rents are double or triple what they are in North Jersey (an already-expensive area), food and toiletries cost more. But those in  NYC are likely there because they’re close to work. If they’d move to the suburbs and accept a longer commute, I’m willing to bet the monthly savings would be nearly $1,000-plus, despite the cost of taking mass transit into the city,
Do you have to give up convenience in order to save money? Yes, to a point. But if you’re resilient, you’ll quickly adapt to the changes and be thrilled with the cash you’re saving.
Readers: Have you make any extreme sacrifices in order to save money? Do you miss the conveniences? Or have you cut expenses but only found it makes you miserable or causes you stress to do everything yourself?

18 comments to Do You Have to Give Up Convenience in Order to Save Money?

  • Anonymous

    What a great resource!

  • eemusings

    I've never really done anything 'extreme', barring maybe my $30/week grocery budget when I first moved out of home. But that wasn't out of choice…

    I don't have a car, which meant living near a bus route has always been a priority for me. That definitely narrows down the areas I can live in in our dear city.

  • RainyDaySaver

    @Youngandthrifty: I also think of pedicures as 'treats' (once I get past the weird feeling of other people touching my feet). As for microwaving plastic, I'm not a fan. I like soup as a comfort food, and I like leftovers, but I will heat them up in a microwave-safe bowl or plate, rather than in the Tupperware or plasic containers.

  • youngandthrifty

    I'm definitely a "do it myself" person when it comes to maintenance for certain things. Spending $50 a month on a pedicure is certainly not for me. I think I go once a year, as a treat for myself, and other times I do it myself at home.

    I think doing it yourself preparing food-wise is healthier and cheaper. Though time is always an issue. They have those microwavable Campbell's soups now that they didn't have back in th good ol' days. Microwaving plastic in a cup CAN'T be good for your body…

  • RainyDaySaver

    @Financial Samurai: That's the point for some; for me, making money isn't so it can make my life easier NOW; I hope that saving makes my life easier LATER. Perhaps not retirement-age later, but for now, I'm content spending it on home improvements rather than conveniences.

  • Financial Samurai

    time is money as they say. i gladly pay more to have more convenience. that's the point of making some money.

  • RainyDaySaver

    @Revanche: I know what you mean. I wouldn't dare cut my hair, either, and I have a hard time actually spending money on myself. Sometimes, I really need that professional pedicure — I try to go once a month in the warmer months, then maintain the polish myself.

    @Aaron: You're right — if it's going to take up a lot of time and/or just as much money, sometimes you have to just give in!

  • Aaron Reiley @ ACE Financial Services

    Really depend sometimes on my situation. Just like you said, I also learned that there are times that the outcome of my efforts to save is not worth it. Although, as much as possible, I try to save if given the chance.

  • Revanche

    I've been on the frugal side of the spectrum for so long that sometimes I find I have to give up money for more convenience and to accommodate my needs. But in doing so, I hunt out the best prices for the best value (sliding scale, there, sometimes).

    If I did my own eyebrows, I'd never be taken seriously again, so I pay about $12 every six weeks to look professional.

    Same with my hair, I'll give up time to save money, but I won't try to cut it myself. As it happens, my best haircuts are the cheapest they've ever been.

    In terms of household stuff, I try to find the same balance- I rarely cook Mexican food from scratch because I'm the only one who will eat it so I'll buy it frozen from TJ's. Cheap and easy. Not terribly healthy.

    I may have some really big life changes coming up that will suck up any financial leeway I've had thus far, that'll be another interesting time to balance money and convenience.

  • RainyDaySaver

    @Early Retirement Extreme: Retiring early is an excellent benefit of having made sacrifices early on in life. Congrats!

    @Jessie: I would ditch my car if I could, but biking 23 miles to work doesn't sound like much fun. Do it if you can! If it were up to me, I'd drop us down to basic TV, but my husband might leave me! 😉

    @Little House: You offer a perfect example that there's always something in particular someone can't live without. For you, you want your Starbucks. It makes you happy. So you'll trade your convenience elsewhere, such as by moving to another county. Living in NJ, I know it's the same in Cali for you — it's hard to move anywhere to realize enough of a cost savings to justify it. For us, we'd have to move to the Poconos (Pennsylvania, over the NJ boarder) to even attempt a savings. Then we'd blow it all on gas to commute back to NJ for the jobs!

    @Patricia: I'd also rather go without cable than many other things — but I don't have much of a beauty regimen. I pluck eyebrows at home, and give myself manicures.

    @Red: Good points.

    @Leslie: I also do my toes while watching TV. I enjoy it much more than having strangers touch my feet (but that might be my OCD showing).

    @Financial Samurai: Convenience does mean freedom — of time, but not of money, just as you point out. It really *is* the price of freedom. "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose," right?

  • Financial Samurai

    I'm at a stage where I will GLADLY pay extra if I can save some time and have more convenience.

    The last minute Hawaii trip was an example. I spent $1,780 for two roundtrip tickets b/c we were both able to take off a week last minute last week. If I had planned better, I probably could have saved around $400.

    So, the $400 is the cost of convenience for me and the wife to decide last minute, we're off to Hawaii, hooray!

    Some say it's foolish, I say it's the price of freedom.

  • leslie

    This is interesting because sometimes it's not so much the convenience, but the quality.

    I gave up all non-hair-related beauty expenses and instead do my own manicures, pedicures & eyebrows. I love the savings and since I'll paint my toes during a movie, it doesn't take much more time. Honestly though, the salon does a much better job painting my nails than I do (damn you left hand). It's not quite worth the $20 but it does look better.

    This is contrary to the cheese argument brought up above. Shredded cheese is flavorless and certainly not worth the "convenience" to me.

    I always thought the same about living in a city until I spoke with a friend who lives in Manhattan. We figured out that the difference between my rent and hers, was countered by all of my monthly car expenses. Granted, that's not taking other factors into consideration. But that is a common one mentioned.

  • Red

    Most people don't live in or near cities with mass transit systems, which makes the best tip of all – moving out of an expensive city to cut costs – non-applicable to them.

    For instance, we have a bus system in our city, but it only runs in the city. If we moved to any of the cheaper counties surrounding us, our housing would be cheaper, but we'd immediately lose those savings to higher fuel costs.

    The convenience factor is so difficult because it's all around us. It's not only, "It's more convenient to have my nails done than to do them myself," but also, "It's more convenient to buy cheese that is already shredded than buy blocks and shred them myself."

  • Patricia

    I was thinking about something similar last week as I was getting my eyebrows done: How much $$ is spent on beauty (waxing, hair, nails, products, etc). How much can I go without? Honestly, I guess it's all in perception – I'd rather have no cable than bushy eyebrows. But how far should we go? My coworker who is saving for her wedding made the comment "I'm TIRED of being so frugal" because she feels that she cannot do ANYTHING w/out feeling guilty about spending the $.

    I tried to live in moderation – but I love LIVING – enjoying life with my sig other/friends/family – that doesn't cost too much.

  • Little House

    An extreme sacrifice for me would be giving…up….my….Starbucks. I can't! Now, I am thinking of moving to another, slightly less expensive, county this summer. However, when I did a cost analysis, I will only be saving about 4% on overall costs (housing, utilities, groceries, etc.). Or about 11 points less expensive on the website.

    I want to comment on Jessie's comment – if they purchase an inexpensive bike, say around $100, that would help them give up the car for the summer. Bike riding is really fun and great exercise!

  • Jessie

    I'm thinking about dumping my car for the summer… but as far as 'extreme' goes – I haven't made those really super hard changes.

    ie… i haven't given up on TV/phone/internet/cell phone services

  • Early Retirement Extreme

    By most people's measures I have made extreme sacrifices to save money. The feeling of sacrifice is soon replaced with satisfaction from the ability to beat the system and no longer having to rely on the (super)market or the mall for my happiness. Being able to retire early made it all worth it. Believe me that not having to go to work every day to pay the bills is highly convenient.

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