When I was in college, my academic advisor used to say something fairly often that didn’t really resonate with me at the time, but now strikes me as very wise.
The gist of it was this: When you are a child, you have energy and time but no money; when you are a young adult, you have energy and money but no time; when you are an older adult, you have money and time but no energy.
The whole “energy and time but no money” thing was true for me for the first 22 years of my life. I had no money during childhood and no money during my college years, but looking back, I had so much free time and so much energy. It really saddens me that I didn’t use it more productively.
Today, that equation has shifted. I have money. I have energy. But I seem to have no time.
The demands of my career, of married life, of parenthood, of being involved in the community, of trying to maintain at least a few friendships… it all adds up to feeling like there is very, very little time available to me.
Because of that, it’s tempting to use the resources I have – especially money – to buy the resource I want the most, which is time. In other words, convenience has an enormous amount of appeal to me.
Related: ‘Money Cannot Buy What Time Delivers’
I understand the appeal of hiring someone to clear the sidewalk in the winter. I understand the appeal of hiring a housecleaner. I understand the appeal of hiring someone to mow the lawn in the summer. I understand the appeal of stopping for fast food in a pinch.
All of those things equate to convenience. I’m trading my money for the ability to use my time on other things. The $20 (or whatever the price might be) spent on hiring someone to mow the lawn gives me an hour to do other things. The same goes with clearing snow. Paying a housecleaner gives me a few hours a week to do other things at a high price.
The problem with that, though, is that paying for convenience in that way takes money directly away from savings. We could be using the money spent on those kinds of conveniences to build toward financial independence. While we might be buying some time right now, we’re losing time later on in our lives. We’ll be working when we could have been retired.
That’s why, for me, I love convenience strategies that don’t cost much of anything – or, sometimes, save us money. They enable us to find more free time today without sacrificing that time down the road.
Here are nine such strategies that I like to use.
Strategy #1: Keep Some Reasonably Healthy Snacks in the Car
On the passenger floorboard of our Honda Pilot, you’ll almost always find a box of granola bars of some kind or another. I usually pick up a variety pack as long as they include some oatmeal raisin bars, which are my favorite (and, incidentally, the favorite of my youngest son, too).
I usually just pick up a box of them whenever I’m in the store. It’s a constant item on my grocery list. Then, when I’m loading the car, I look for that box in the bags that I’m loading, grab it, and put it on the passenger floorboard.
How is this convenient? Whenever I’m rushing about on errands, it’s inevitable that I get a little bit hungry. A few hours of errands often overlaps with meal times and that means that my body is ready to eat. In that situation, I have a few choices. I could just suck it up until I get home, of course. However, I’m usually driving by a few fast food restaurants and they’re awfully tempting. I’m hungry, some of the items on sale are tasty, and I can get it without even getting out of the car in just a few minutes? That’s pretty convenient.
The granola bars offer a similar convenience. They’re just sitting there right on the floorboard of the car. At a stoplight, I shift into park and grab one out of the box. Thus, the granola bars actually become even more convenient than a stop at a fast food joint – and healthier, too. This is even more true if I’m out and about with my children and/or my wife.
How does this save money? A box of granola bars offers several quick snacks for anyone riding in the car. A single box is far cheaper than two or three stops at fast food places, thus saving us quite a bit of money while offering the same time convenience.
Keep some granola bars or other snacks — bought in bulk, not at a convenience store — in your glove compartment or office drawer. Photo: Alex Gorzen