Have you ever stopped and thought about the kind of spending you do? No, I’m not talking about necessary costs that are associated with surviving in a relatively comfortable state. To me, we can file things like housing (and related utilities), food, and items like toiletries and medicines under “needs.”
I’m talking about the spending that falls firmly into the “wants” category. Let’s look at a typical date night as an example. Spending time with your significant other and enjoying dates together is important to maintain your relationship. But when you go out, it’s not necessary to pay for valet parking when you could take some extra time, park further away for free and hoof it to your destination. You don’t have to go out to eat at all when you could go to the grocery store to prepare your own meal for far less.
Stop for a moment and think about some of the recent spending you’ve done, and then ask yourself: could I have taken care of this myself in some way, and spent less money for doing so?
The answer is probably yes. But we still spend money on these types of things because we believe it saves us in other ways. Going out to eat saves energy; you don’t have to cook your dinner and then clean up the kitchen. Utilizing valet parking saves you time; you don’t have to plan ahead and account for an extra 20 minutes of walking.
We spend money when it saves us time, effort, energy, hassle, and stress. In other words, we are almost always willing to pay for convenience.
There’s nothing wrong with this – unless you’re trying to save more money for a worthier cause. If you’re trying to get out of debt, build your emergency fund, save up for a big event like your wedding or your first home, or add more to your retirement and investment accounts, then you have to break this habit. When you’re trying to save more money, you need to stop paying for convenience every chance you get.
Cut back or eliminate the expenses that cost more because you’re having someone else do something for you, and start doing more things yourself. If you’re working toward a big, important financial goal – like getting out of debt – there are some convenient costs that you can cut entirely. To give you an idea, you should never..
- Pay a service to clean your house
- Pay someone else to wash your car
- Hire a landscaping or lawn care service
Those are big no-nos if you’re dealing with debt, or you have yet to start saving for retirement. Whatever you would have spent to have someone take care of these things for you, turn around and contribute that amount to something far more valuable than the ability to kick up your feet and watch someone else work.
Of course, there are a lot of other things, little things, that you can handle on your own instead of spending extra money by paying for convenience. You can easily take care of:
- Working out on your own (ditch the gym membership and workout at home, without equipment, and with zero cost thanks to bodyweight exercises)
- Spa-type treatments, like pedicures
- Minor home repairs (you can Google how to do just about any small task if you’re not sure how)
- Small clothing fixes, like resewing buttons or mending holes and tears
- Tuning your bike
Once you start making a habit of taking care of these sorts of tasks, you’ll realize just how capable you really are – and how always paying for convenience is totally not worth the cost. If you already stick to the above guidelines for things you can DIY, and you’re interested in how you can take your handiness (and savings) to the next level, here are some ideas for you:
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- Plant a fruit and vegetable garden. Bonus points: get into canning and preserve what you don’t eat.
- Do some of your car maintenance yourself (like rotating your tires and changing your oil).
- Brew your own beer or make your own cheese.
- Create toys and handmade gifts for children and loved ones.
- Make all-natural laundry detergent.
- Tackle bigger home repairs and improvement projects yourself – make a basic table, lay down new flooring, put in board and batten.. you get the idea! Let your imagination run wild.
There’s really no limit to what you can do yourself instead of paying for convenience and having someone else do for you. So stop paying for convenience – at least, stop paying for it all the time – and save yourself some money.