When Searching for More Savings Costs You Time + Money
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Saving more money means reaching your money goals faster. The good news is, there are thousands of money-saving ideas to help you save on everything!
Indeed, cutting expenses and saving on purchases is a great way to build savings faster. Yet there are times when finding more ways to spend less just isn’t worth it.
When your search for additional savings opportunities costs you time and money, take a closer look to see if it really makes sense.
What’s the value of your time?
There’s often a trade-off between having more money or more time. And it can be hard to determine which is more valuable.
According to the Wall Street Journal, “People search for ways to “save money” on Google more than three times as much as they search for ways to “save time.” Yet, one study showed that 80% of people valued their free time more than their pay rate.
It's natural to want to cut costs. But sometimes, it takes more effort than it's worth.
To decide if the search for more savings is practical, think about what your time is worth. For the financial value of your time, you could use your rate of pay or a calculator.
Still, time is more than monetary value. So, it’s wise to remember that time spent saving more money comes with an opportunity cost.
Valuing time vs. savings is highly individual, and life circumstances make a difference.
For example, if you’re strapped for cash or between jobs, you might want to focus more time on saving money. But if you work long hours, trying to shave another $20 off your budget might not be worth the additional time spent.
It’s helpful to ask yourself what you could have been doing if you weren’t searching for more ways to lower costs.
Could you have worked an extra hour, advanced your side business, or experienced quality time with family?
Of course, you can put a number to the extra hour worked, but don’t forget opportunity cost. Once your time is gone, you can’t get it back.
Ways your search for savings costs you time.
Many money-saving habits compound to help you save a ton of money. But that doesn’t mean all money-saving activities are worthwhile. Below are a few common strategies that cost you time.
Sales and coupons
Sales. Online comparison shopping can be quick. Yet visiting several stores to save a few dollars takes time. Instead, save both by shopping at the store with the majority of your most-purchased items at the best price.
Sure, you might pay a little more for some things. But when most of your items are at the lowest price, you save time without giving up much savings. (And with curbside pick-up, you can spend even less time!)
Coupons. Paper coupons aren't common anymore. And coupon websites require some effort to sort through and aren't always worth it. Plus, coupons can encourage you to buy more than you need.
That said, some shopping apps, i.e., Ibotta and BeFrugal, make coupons convenient by attaching them to products. So, if spending less is only a click away, and you planned to buy it anyway, coupons are helpful!
Driving further for a deal
Driving to save money can pay off on big-ticket items, like cars or furniture. But if you drive across town to save $0.05/gallon on gas or $3 on toilet paper, you’re likely wasting time.
After accounting for the drive there and back home again, you could use lots of time for minimal savings.
DIYing projects, repairs, and services, instead of hiring a pro, can save heaps of money. And you hone new skills too.
However, sometimes, the time (and money) put into a DIY project isn’t worth it.
If it costs you a ton of effort on a DIY project, you might be better off hiring a pro.
Plus, if it’s a job requiring specific know-how, making mistakes can slow you down (and cost you even more money).
Housing outside of a city center usually sells for less. But consider if the lower rent or mortgage payment is worth any additional time it takes you to get to and from work.
Is your commute worth the monthly savings?
Ways your search for spending less money, costs you
You've heard the phrase, “Penny wise, pound foolish.” By trying to save everywhere, it's easy to miss the big picture and end up spending more money. Below are some of the ways it's easy to spend more money than you save.
Buying everything “on-sale”
Sales are great. But if you don’t need what you buy on sale, it costs you more than if you hadn’t bought it at all.
Also, decide if the sale is truly a sale. Some stores offer faux discounts to lure customers into buying. Comparison shopping can help you avoid the trap of a fake deal.
Buying the cheapest product
The lowest-priced products can serve their purpose. But sometimes, they cost more time and money than if you sprung for the better quality item in the first place.
For example, let’s say you pay $10 for a shirt that gets a hole in it after the fifth wash, that’s $2 a wash. Alternatively, the $30 shirt would last for 50 washes or just $.06 per wash. Of course, quality and price don't always go hand-in-hand. Still, you get the idea.
Using only a savings account
Savings accounts are a good place to put emergency savings. But if you've fully funded your emergency account, consider putting non-emergency savings elsewhere.
Most savings accounts don’t pay enough interest to keep up with inflation. So, if you have enough in your emergency savings account, think about investing your additional money.
Spending more to get credit card rewards
Store cards are great for discounts, and travel cards give you free miles. They can cost you though if you don’t pay attention.
You might spend more than you usually would for a discount or points. And if you don’t pay off the card each month, you’ll pay the high-interest charges.
Then there’s the potential impact on your credit score.
Sometimes rewards cards cost more than they’re worth.
Getting “free” shipping
Free shipping is a good thing. But if you’re spending more to get free shipping, ensure it makes financial sense. Adding a $10 item (you don’t need) to get free shipping might not be worth it.
Before you order more, calculate the savings.
Throwing good after bad
Delaying the replacement of older items can save money. Still, if the thing is in constant need of repairs, it might be worth spending money to replace it.
A good example of this is a car in the repair shop often. It might cost you more time and money than buying a different vehicle.
Skipping preventative measures
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” If you skimp on maintenance and prevention, you could end up spending more later.
For example, it might be tempting to skip the $50 oil change. But when your vehicle breaks down, your repair could cost even more.
Likewise, the same can apply to your health. Preventative health screenings may cost upfront yet can save you on medical costs later.
Final thoughts: Focus on the big things
Spending less on housing, transportation, food, insurance, and travel often yields the best payoff. So, they're usually worth the effort spent searching for ways to spend less on them.
Plus, increasing your income is often more worthwhile too!
The combination of both increased savings and higher income is what will propel you faster towards building a solid financial house and achieving financial independence.
Focus on the big wins and savings with the best payoff, and you could have more time and money!
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Article written by Amanda
Amanda is a team member of Women Who Money and the founder and blogger behind Why We Money. She enjoys writing about happiness, values, money, and real estate.