There is no doubt that credit cards are convenient. As we move toward a cashless society where cards or chips or phones are used to conduct business, it is getting increasingly hard to limit credit card use. Just try making telephone or online purchase without some type of credit card. A ConsumerCredit.com study shows that cash payment is down to about 14% of everyday purchases. Overall consumer spending is now 80% cashless, because about 80% prefer to use a card, either credit or debit, than pay with cash.
There is also no doubt that people, myself included, spend more when using a credit card than if cash money had to be turned over. Psychology Today agrees, finding that because cards are more convenient, people spend more and they also buy less healthy foods. Another result of the same study was finding that people who paid cash had a higher level of emotional attachment to the purchased item. They actually value the purchased item higher! Other studies have reached similar results.
In other words, convenience has a cost. That has almost always been the case, but now it is more subtle. If you go back far enough in time, catalog shopping was popular. However, it had major inconveniences because returns were expensive and difficult. Amazon has conquered those inconveniences. If you buy on Amazon, the online equivalent of a massive catalog, returns are as easy as print a label and they are typically cost-free. Amazon has actually made shopping online more convenient than driving to the mall and walking from shop to shop. Just click away!
And all you have to do is add Amazon Prime for a “low” annual fee and shipping is free. Now you are hooked. At a price.
There are many other examples which use convenience and economies of scale to become an icon in modern American society.
Gym memberships are another great example. There’s one near you that will give you a special deal this month. It might be Anytime Fitness, Gold’s Gym, LA Fitness, Orange Theory Fitness, Crossfit, the YMCA, 20 Minutes to Fitness, or local gym or fitness center, but it will still cost money. Over a year that monthly fee adds up – a lot. The harsh truth about gym and fitness memberships is that most make a lot of money from people who don’t use their membership often, if at all. Cost varies and waiting until there is a special is often a great money-saver. Most have a membership fee and/or a monthly fee (often as high at $30 to $50 per month) although some allow pay-to-play (a fee for each use). Until you are certain that a gym membership is right for you, look for a gym or fitness center that allows pay-to-play. Alternatively, walking and jogging are free and biking is a one-time investment in a bike and helmet.
Another example is the now iconic Netflix. Netflix has created a pricing structure that works, has low enough numbers to make it seem cheap and affordable and, most of all, is convenient! For only $7.99 you can be on Netflix’s basic plan, but for only a little more each month, $10.99 or, even better, $13.99, you can have standard or premium service.
If you add up all those convenient services, you will find that your budget is being hit hard. Here’s the tip that makes this article a winner – when you see some place in your budget to cut an expense, save the money, don’t spend it on something else. The alternative savings “accounts” include:
Your emergency savings fund
A retirement account such as an IRA
Saving in a 529 college savings plan for your children’s educations
Payment towards one or more debts
Save for a vacation
The options are almost endless and as the amount rises, you can see the reward building.
There is one word that really fits what you have just read; “intentional.” You need to have a plan and be intentional about working toward the goal. If the goal is chosen well, you will have a solid foundation to fall back on when you are tempted to spend. Stick with it and it will work.
About the Author
John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus. He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016. He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.