How much savings vs how much convenience?

Inspired by this thread.

Discussing dishwasher soap, the issues of cost and convenience came up. During the discussion, it became apparent that different people had very different ideas of what constituted a significant cost savings/expenditure for what level of perceived convenience.

I guess I was raised in the school of “watch the pennies and the dollars will follow.” I have no problem spending money when I want to, but when presented with very similar options, I will generally choose the option that saves me even a few pennies. In that discussion, I chose powder - not only because dishwasher salespersons and repairpersons recommended it, but also because pods cost something like 6 cents/60% more each load.

I’m not saying any one approach is better/worse than any other. Just thought it might be interesting to discuss the extent to which you go through this sort of calculations.

A couple of examples for me:

A few years back, when gas prices were rising, I started using Gas Buddy to find the cheapest station. Eventually I realized I was driving out of my way spending gas/time to save pennies per tank. So I stopped looking for the CHEAPEST gas and instead paid attention to avoiding the consistently HIGHEST priced station.

I’ve never understood people who pay for bottled water and expensive coffee. At least in an area like Chicago where you have good water out of the tap. Not to mention the added environmental cost of plastic bottles. And I like coffee and drink quite a bit of it daily. But drip coffee of a decent brand of ground beans is sufficient to outweigh the added cost (and inconvenience of going to coffee shop/waiting in line…). Of course, someone situated differently might find making coffee inconvenient…

In fact, I’ve pretty much stopped drinking anything other than coffee and water. Especially when eating out.

And for a long time I just put up with the high costs of cable TV, mainly because I could afford it, and I perceived convenience from what I was familiar with. But eventually, I just started thinking the cost too high, and cut the cable TV cord.

A large part of my thinking is that we are constantly being bombarded by corporations that are trying to squeeze a few additional pennies from us every time we conduct any transaction, or by setting up even minor hurdles. Or corporations charging a higher price for something they present as “new and more convenient”, when I do not perceive an added benefit.

Maybe I’m oversensitive to such things.

So how about you guys? Any comments on my choices? Any examples where you decided, “Oh, it is only a few pennies. What the heck!” Or, “Damn the cost, THAT’S what I WANT!”

That’s me and my wife. We’re fortunate that we can have that attitude. Wasn’t always that way. To be clear, we don’t always want expensive stuff (or a lot of stuff), but when we find something we want, we get it. In the grocery store, for example, we don’t watch the pennies. I don’t care what the lettuce costs, or even a steak or salmon filet. I figure anything I get to prepare at home will be cheaper than going to a restaurant. If there’s a cheaper soap or toothpaste, I don’t care. I’ll get what I always get.

For me at least, if there’s a performance difference or convenience difference that’s meaningful to me, I’ll happily pay a little bit more for the better version. If not, then I go for the cheaper option.

To me, there’s a difference between frugal and cheap. Cheap is when you go for the least expensive option, even when there IS a significant performance difference, and just make do with the results, because you are unwilling to spend money. Frugal is not spending more than is reasonable, but not necessarily always opting for the cheapest option. This would include going mid-range brands instead of high end or low end. Or maybe getting last year’s model of a good item at a discount.

The goal isn’t necessarily to save money, it’s to get the best bang for your buck within your budget. Which may mean buying the best you can afford in some situations, and it may mean buying the very cheapest thing you can in others. For example, my wife does jewelrymaking and metalsmithing. Some of the tweezers and pliers she uses get heated with acetylene torches frequently, and they get unusably messed up pretty quickly. Does she buy Channel-Lock or Snap-On for that? Of course not. Those are Harbor Freight. But as a home handyman, it’s worth my money to get something better than Harbor Freight for most of my tools because they last longer, work better, and are more precise (if there’s an element of precision).

My purchasing habits seem almost exactly like yours. We use relatively cheap detergent, dish soap, and hand soap. No cable TV. My car is good enough for its purpose. I try to avoid expensive gas stations but I won’t go out of my way to get marginally cheaper gas. (It irked me that before departing on a 400 mile trip back to my house, my Dad would insist that I drive 10 miles in the wrong direction to save 15 cents on the 13 gallons of gas I would use). I have a prepaid phone plan and I upgrade my phone on my schedule usually with something serviceable but inexpensive.

I would still like to order a glass of wine with dinner when I eat out but since the pandemic has pretty much ended dining out, that’s not a real point of profligacy at the moment.

Yup. Exemplified by the trend of putting everything on a subscription. A dollar a shave is actually a lot. No, I don’t want Microsoft Office to be a service; I’ll upgrade when the new product is worth sufficiently more to me than the old one. Soon, carmakers are going to make features that are built into the car only available with a subscription (which is already happening with Onstar, satellite radio, and whatever thing Tesla wants to charge more for this week).

It was very inconvenient retrieving the 80 cents in change after we paid the toll on the Skyway, had to practically get out of the vehicle to do so. Yet we saved the cost of the toll when we realized there was a couple bucks change in the dish that was apparently too inconvenient for previous toll payers to retrieve. They saved time and we saved a toll charge.

Over the years, never paying anything in credit card interest has saved me a lot of money.

This is my position as well. For the specific example of the dishwasher powder, I use the pre-wrapped tabs, because it’s a lot more convenient. However, I also bought the huge box of them at Costco, which saved a lot of money compared to a regular store. It also has enough in the box to last more than a year, so I essentially almost never have to think about buying it.

But things like toothpaste, I’ve never really noticed any difference between brands, so when I need that, I just buy what ever is on sale that week. I also tend to buy enough that it’s a once-a-year kind of purchase as well.

Where I really save money is buying used vehicles. A brand new truck is just stupidly expensive these days, but a few years old used truck is almost as good, and usually about half the price, although the pandemic has messed that up this year.

Even in cases where I have a brand preference, like peanut butter, I’ll usually wait until it’s on sale, and then buy two or three jars. A half-price sale seems to happen every 3 months or so, which seems to meet my consumption schedule pretty well.

I guess at age 60, I’m still adapting my purchasing decisions.

When I grew up, my parents were comfortable upper middle class, but frugal. We lived in a modest home, my dad drove a company car, and we attended public schools, but they took us on vacations, to theater, etc. My parents were of the, “No, I won’t buy you a soda. There’s bound to be a water fountain around somewhere!” school. And I personally had very little money as a kid.

I got married and started having kids right after school. While we were comfortable, we had no “extra” money. So we RARELY ate out in restaurants, etc. I got into the well-ingrained habit of saying “No” to just about ANY discretionary expenditure.

Over the years, as we became more comfortable, it was a gradual process of loosening up. Back when I still drank, I remember my wife telling me I made enough money that I didn’t have to buy cheap beer. :). When the the kids moved out, I almost felt guilty spending money on myself on something I didn’t really HAVE to have.

Now, I spend money pretty readily. But I REALLY want it to be MY choice, as opposed to someone else wheedling it out of me.

I find the concept of the value of my time and effort curious. For example, something like pouring dishwasher soap in the machine is so quick and easy, I have a hard time imagining how ANY increase in convenience is worth ANY cost. The pods sit in the same cabinet as the powder - maybe 1 step from the washer. All I save w/ pods is the time it takes to put the box of powder back into the cabinet. What’s that - 1 second? 2?

I remember thinking car options such as keyless entry or power lift gates were silly. How lazy could people be? How could a key be improved upon? But after buying vehicles with both, I have to admit I like them.

I’ve long disfavored paying for services such as maids, or lawn care. I guess I feel that a part of owning stuff is taking care of it - so long as I have the time, required fitness, and technical know-how. I am VERY fortunate that my lifestyle is such that I am rich in time. I have the time to do pretty much whatever I want, and spend WAY too much of it reading or watching TV. So the idea that something will save me a few seconds/minutes ain’t all that appealing to me.

That’s funny… peanut butter is one of those things that’s basically fungible at our house. Our children don’t seem to care as long as it’s creamy, so we get house brand. Meanwhile, something like mayonnaise is very brand-specific- we like Duke’s. Strangely we’re not so picky about mustard or ketchup- whatever is fine.

I would have said the same thing about lawn care, until just before we had our first child, and my wife said “Just pay for someone to do it for a few months. You probably won’t feel like mowing for a while.” So I hired a lawn service 10 years ago, and haven’t looked back. It’s worth every penny to not have to deal with lawn equipment, or go out and sweat every single week in the summer. Same thing for maids- it’s something I can do, but it’s so much easier to pay someone else.

It’s not so much the time savings, as it is the lack of mess, and no problem figuring out the correct amount. Back when I used powder, every once in a while, it would pour poorly, and I’d end up dumping two or three loads’ worth in the machine. I’ll pay a bit extra to avoid that mess and waste.

Yeah. Here, my choices likely reflect my personal (and debatable) principles. Like I said, I feel some obligation to personally take care of the things I own, and to some respect, that dovetails with me leading a “simpler” lifestyle. Such as having a somewhat modest home that is easy to maintain.

And I LIKE gardening. I sure missed it when my kids went to college and I had to start mowing again! But the new rechargeable electric is so easy, it makes it not much of a chore.

I respect that those factors make sense to you and have no desire to persuade you otherwise. Myself, I can’t recall ever experiencing a dishwasher powder-related mess. And since my wife persuaded me that the container didn’t need to be filled to the top, I just fill it about 1/2 way and don’t put any effort into figuring the correct amount.

Well, it’s like the peanut butter vs. mayonnaise discussion above. Some people have preferences and others don’t. We’d probably have to drill down into the fine details of everyone’s lives to figure out why we have the preferences we have.

One place I likely save A LOT of $, is food. First, I derive no real enjoyment from eating out, and I don’t mind cooking/cleaning up. Day in and day out, my wife and I are very content with a limited number of inexpensive, nutritious, and easily prepared dishes. It just is not worth it to me to have to go somewhere, and wait around to have someone serve me and clean up after me.

The majority of our meals cost less than $5 apiece. I just don’t get sufficient enjoyment out of eating out to pay 4x as much in a restaurant. Plus, while I like tasty food, I pretty much just view it as fuel. If there were inexpensive and tasty people kibble, I’d eat it 3x every day. :smiley:

It took me a long time to finally pay a contractor to do work. I designed and built a 2 story addition to my house. I’m very used to doing things myself. I really hate hiring someone.

But those days are gone. I’m 61 years old.

The winter that I had my hip replaced, I paid someone to plow our drive. He was in WAY over his head and I had to pull HIM out a number of times. He never did call to renew the contract :slight_smile: . I plow my own drive. Easier now since I can work from home.

How’s the snow out there? My kid sent pics from someplace just W of you. We’re thinking about heading out that away this winter instead of Utah.

I did not understand this either, until I met my wife, who has much more sensitive taste than I do. She bought reverse osmosis water to drink and said she hated drinking water as a kid because it tasted so bad. I kind of didn’t believe her, and we had a friend set up a double blind test with a bunch of different filters and tap water. I could tell the difference between the tap water and the others, but that was about it. She could tell the difference between all the different filters!

So now we buy expensive coffee and expensive water filters, and while we usually bring water in bottles, if we end up somewhere and are out I will refill mine from a sink somewhere and she will buy bottled.

Reading the rest of your posts, I have a very similar monetary philosophy to you.

And I agree with everyone that people are absolutely bonkers about gas prices.

Hey Dinsdale, At my house, about 15 miles south of Breckenridge, the snow has been very light. I haven’t had to plow yet this year which is VERY unusual. We’ve only had about 3 feet total, but it comes in 3" snowfalls. It’s just not worth plowing.

I don’t ski, but I think the ski areas are doing OK.

Yeah - my kid sent me snaps from Breck 11/28.

I can’t IMAGINE what it would be like to live where you do. Slightly uphill from Golden or Boulder is about all I could imagine.

Now that my kids are grown and me being single, I tend not to pay attention to anything I’m paying for.

I tell myself this is okay as long as I’m meeting my savings goal every month. Which I have been. Actually I’ve been going over my savings goal for a while now. So it may be time for me to re-evaluate my finances. Maybe put more into my 401k.

Yeah. Thirty years at 11,200 feet in elevation has been quite the ride. I’m on my second plow truck and second loader/tractor. With the sail of retirement on the horizon, we know we are moving downhill (no real choice there). Not sure where at all. My Wife and I are tossing it around. But 20-30 feet of snow a year is getting to be more than I want to deal with.