I’ve spent a lot of time and effort over the years trying to reduce costs. Sometimes, for good reasons. Other times, just to save $3-4. Over the past year, I’ve thought more about the true cost of these types of decisions in the past and now the present. Were (are) the savings worth the time and effort?
This short article will set up this idea and offer a different way to think about cost savings as they relate to your time and effort.
I had to update my passport recently and was considering my options. Walgreens charges $15 dollars which I believe to be overpriced and something I’m skeptical of. This is because I’m a recovering cheapskate and somewhat of a DIY person.
As a recovering cheapskate, I’m confident I could do it for cheaper (ego) despite the number of steps and extra work it may take to get there. Just for kicks, I decided to go down this path.
Of course, I found a free passport app that helps you format your photo in a printable form. Good start. However, when I look into it further, I become aware of the things that need to happen to receive the savings. From the top, this includes:
- Find an app or google search for a better price
- Download the app
- Create an account for the app
- Take the picture making sure it’s clear, the background is right etc.
- Edit/format using the app
- Email this to yourself from the app
- Make sure you have a printer and ink to print it
- Buy glossy paper at a store or order on Amazon to print it on
- Make sure your printer is still connected to your phone or computer and that it still actually works
- Cut out the photo at the 2’x2’ required size
Past Kyle probably wouldn’t have squawked at this too much. But #woke Kyle realizes that all he needs to do instead is the following:
- Stop being cheap
- Drive 5 minutes to Walgreens during my lunch break
- Have them take the picture
- Wait 5 minutes that it takes to process
- Pay the $15.
See the total time spent difference between the two?
I’ve been in stores before and saw something I wanted/needed. Instead of buying it there, I immediately price checked it vs. Amazon on my phone in the aisle. Since it’s cheaper online, I chose not to buy it at the store telling myself I would buy it later online. Keep in mind, this item is often something that would be useful now.
When I do go to buy it on Amazon, I pay closer attention to the reviews to make sure I get the right one. I determine that I’m not comfortable with the reviews of the initial item I saw on Amazon. So I look at 3-5 other options because Amazon.
I’ve now spent a considerable amount of time and brainpower thinking about what the perfect purchase would be. Worse yet, I’ve delayed this decision even further so I can do a more in-depth review process later! Don’t I have better ways to spend my time? All to save what, $5-10?
The price of cutting costs
I’m not suggesting that $5-10 in savings is not worth it or that we shouldn’t be responsible with our purchases. These examples are purely demonstrative and are meant to put the time, cost, savings, and effort into perspective.
When we take cutting costs to an extreme, it adds unnecessary stress or decision fatigue to our lives. If time is our most valuable asset, shouldn’t we value it more than the small amount of money you might save?
How many times in our lives have we jumped through hoops just to save $5-10 bucks? Hell, even $1-2? How many of those times did we think afterward how much more hassle it was?
time vs. money
You might think about it in terms of your salary or hourly pay rate. If an hour of my time spent deliberating a decision is valued at more than meager savings, did I really win? Although it’s always a good idea to think about how to be more money-conscious, I’ve been thinking more about the ways to spend money to earn time since my time is nonrenewable.
The same goes for non-monetary things in life. Like rushing and speeding trying to catch the next red light – on a route you take often – all for what, 2-3 minutes of time savings? Please also read one of my favorite articles written by Derek Sivers where he talks about 45-minute bike ride vs. a 43-minute bike ride.
A possible solution
Let’s say you determine that $20 (or another predetermined number) is your cutoff number as it relates to cost savings. This means in all scenarios where the savings are more than $20, you should take the extra time and effort to receive them. This also means in all other scenarios where the savings are below this number, you will suck it up and pay for the higher cost option.
This helps prevents you from stressing and debating and spending too much time jumping through hoops trying to find a solution. The reward of this higher-cost option is time and lower stress which helps you focus on more important things in life.
We could all use the extra brainpower and spare moments in life to be present and live joyously. We can do this by not sacrificing our time and resources nickel and diming on things that don’t have a lasting impact.
Let’s all start to give our time and effort the respect it deserves.
Your turn. I want you to take a minute to think of all of the ways you’ve tried to cut costs which resulted in a complicated decision making process, total time spent, and distracted you from other things. Are the savings worth it?