Frugal Advice from Patrick J. Beaird

Getting the Value out of Convenience!

Convenience here, convenience there, convenience is everywhere!! I'm amazed at the conveniences available to us everywhere we look. I can get the handy snack size of just about anything, pick up eggs and milk at the gas station, and I hear I may soon be able to rent a movie at my local fast food joint! So, what does all this convenience mean for you and me?! It sure sounds good and if it helps make our lives easier it's worth it, right? Here is some food for thought to consider before drinking the kool-aid.

  • Convenience stores. I think we've all been in one or two, given that they are attached to almost every gas station in America. These places are great for the snack on the go, the quick lunch or a gallon of milk on the way home from work. Just keep in mind that the nutritional value of most things available will not win any health awards and the price may be double or more to boot. Make an effort to shop at these establishments only when necessary, and only for the basics, like milk, that is often actually cheaper in gas station convenience stores.
  • Convenient servings. These range from single serving fruit cocktail and prepackaged lunch meals to crackers, cheese, juice and on and on. Every type of food or drink I can think of is available in a prepackaged convenient size. While this seems great for packing the kids' or your lunch, make sure to be discerning about both the price and the nutritional value. Many convenience foods that are widely marketed contain high amounts of salt for instance. Also, think about the foods or other items you might normally buy in the traditional size or quantity and compare prices per unit, ounce or pound. The extra money spent may be well worth it to avoid the trouble of packaging a single serving yourself or you may find that you are paying through the nose! An investment in zip lock bags or other resealable containers can pay off big!
  • Convenience fees. These types of fees have become more commonplace in recent years, especially within government for such items as license renewals made on the web or via the phone. Though I would like to see these fees removed, given that the use of the internet and/or phone interaction often means greater efficiency and cost savings to government, my opinion is that in many cases the service is definitely worth the fee in many cases! To determine if it's worth it to you, think about how long it would likely take if you were to conduct your business with the entity using no fee methods such as via the mail. Consider all available options including how much gas and time it will take if you travel to a facility/office. At $2.75 to $3.25 per gallon it can add up fast.

Bottom line, convenient options can provide opportunity for us to gain valuable time to do more important things but not at any price so consider them carefully. Keep a frugal eye on your health and your treasures while using convenience to your advantage and you'll achieve real value!

I answer select questions and share experiences and tips through my articles. Feel free to write me at: or Patrick Beaird, P.O. Box 9203, Springfield, IL, 62791

Copyright 2007 Patrick Beaird