Weighing the High Cost of Convenience
by Joel Fink
We are all busy and looking for shortcuts, but how much is that convenience costing us? We compare prices and weigh the cost of convenience.
It’s nice to just toss that detergent pod into the washing machine. It’s much easier than using the cup to measure out the liquid detergent. But you might want to ask yourself, “How much am I paying for that convenience?”
Let’s take a closer look.
Here are some recent prices from Walmart.com. (Note: Of course, prices change, but this will give you a sample of the pricing relationship between products).
The cost of convenience in the laundry room
A bottle of Tide® Simply Clean and Fresh Refreshing Breeze liquid laundry detergent, 138 fl. oz., at Walmart.com costs $9.93 and washes 89 loads. That equates to 11.2 cents per load. A package of Tide® Pods laundry detergent, 81 count, at Walmart.com costs $19.97 and washes 81 loads. That equates to 24.7 cents per load.
In this case, the cost per load for the pods are over two times the cost of the liquid detergent per load!
The cost of convenience doesn’t just impact laundry.
Start living better for less.
Subscribe to get money-saving content by email that can help you stretch your dollars further.
Twice each week you'll receive articles and tips that can help you free up and keep more of your hard-earned money, even on the tightest of budgets.
Subscribers receive a free copy of our eBook Little Luxuries: 130 Ways to Live Better for Less.
We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at any time.
The cost of coffee convenience
A package of Folgers® Classic Roast® medium ground coffee, 30.5 oz., at Walmart.com costs $8.47. At roughly half an ounce per cup of coffee in a drip coffee maker, that comes to about 13.8 cents per cup. A package of Great Value® Donut Shop Blend Medium Roast Coffee K-Cup Packs, 0.38 oz. for 48 count, at Walmart.com costs $14.98. That comes to about 31.2 cents per cup.
Once again, the cost per cup of coffee for the K-Cup maker in this example costs over two times the cost per cup compared to the drip maker.
Granted, most people don’t make one cup of coffee in a drip coffee maker. However, if you are going to drink a couple of cups or are making coffee for more than one person, the cost per cup for the drip coffee is much cheaper.
The cost of convenience in the kitchen
Probably the most familiar “convenience choice” that people face is food.
Diana Sagers from Utah State University Extension has written an article on the topic of convenience regarding food preparation.
In her article, she shows the relative cost per serving of several common dinner entrees (e.g., tuna noodle casserole, lasagna, chili macaroni helper, fried chicken, tacos, etc.) between scratch and various other convenience options. As you might expect, the scratch options usually come out cheaper per serving (and are often more nutritious).
Of course, there is a trade off in the time and effort that it takes to prepare a meal from scratch versus grabbing a heat and serve alternative or driving through the local fast food restaurant. You can also lose some of the cost advantage of scratch if you end up throwing out food because it didn’t get eaten quickly enough. (See 5 Ways to Reduce Food Waste by 20%.)
Also, be careful of those “already prepared meals” that you find in your grocery store.
Consumer Reports did a study of the healthiness and cost of convenient “ready to eat” meals.
- Freshly prepared items don’t always mean fresh ingredients.
- They often contain a lot of salt.
- Grocery stores are not required to provide nutritional information for these products.
- The portions offered can be larger than what is healthy for you.
- The cost can be high, often twice as high, as homemade.
Granted, people today live busy lives. They work long hours, tend to child care and household chores, and keep up with family commitments. Time-saving conveniences often seem more like necessities than conveniences. However, the cost can be high.
Your budget can benefit if you take steps to reduce a few of the more expensive conveniences.
- Include your child, or partner, in meal preparation to turn cooking time into quality time.
- Put portions of that lasagna into small containers after dinner to encourage leftovers to go into school or work lunches tomorrow.
- Buy one, reasonably priced, ready to eat item like a rotisserie chicken. Prepare the side items yourself and use the chicken for more than one meal.
Reviewed April 2020
About the Author
Joel Fink is a retired CPA and financial services executive living in Dallas, Texas.
Subscribe to The Dollar Stretcher, our free twice-weekly newsletter aimed at helping you live better for less on the money you already have!
Subscribers get a copy of our ebook Little Luxuries: 130 Ways to Live Better...For Less for FREE!
- 7 Habits of Highly Frugal People
- 5 Simple Budget Cuts That Can Save $200 a Month
- How to Track Down Unclaimed Funds Owed You
- 32 Ways to Save Money on Your Utility Bills
- Do You Need Credit Life Insurance When Buying a New Car?
- How to Maximize Profits When Selling Online
- Staying Motivated to Continue Digging Yourself Out of Debt
- 9 Things You Need to Do Before You Retire
- You Didn’t Save Enough for Retirement and You’re 55+
- When Empty Nesters Reorganize and Declutter Their Home
- Reinventing Your Career in Your 50s or 60s
- What Mature Homeowners Should Know about Reverse Mortgages
- 2 Reasons to Collect Social Security Benefits As Soon As Possible