Here's How Much More You're Paying for These 6 Convenience Buys

By Dr Penny Pincher on 3 January 2017 2 comments

Sometimes it makes sense to trade money in exchange for saving time. I could buy wheat, mill it into flour myself, and make my own bread for less than the price of a loaf of bread at the store. This would save me a little money, but it would could cost me a lot of time. Convenience is sometimes worth paying the extra money.

Most of the things we buy could be considered "convenience items" to some extent. Why buy jelly when you could buy fruit and make your own for less? Because buying jelly is a lot more convenient than the hard work and time it would take to make it yourself.

But at some point, the value obtained from buying convenience items diminishes. One grocery store actually sold pre-peeled oranges at $5.99 per pound, which works out to about $3 per orange. Would you pay around $2.50 extra to buy an orange that is already peeled? You'll need to decide for yourself how much you are willing to pay for convenience.

Here are some convenience buys that may not be worth the extra money.

1. Bottled Water

You can fill your own bottle with water at home for less than one cent, but buying a bottle of water costs over $1 — 100 times more! Most bottled water is sourced from city drinking water supplies, so it is often no better than your own tap water from home.

The cost of convenience: 10,000% extra

2. Vending Machine Items

You can get all kinds of convenient single serving items at a vending machine: candy bars, granola bars, cookies, packs of gum. Most of these items could be obtained for half the price at a grocery store or discount store. Instead of feeding your money to the vending machine, buy snack items in bulk on sale at the grocery or discount store and pocket the savings. Just be sure to pace yourself so you don't consume your snack supply too fast!

The cost of convenience: 100% extra

3. Prepared Fruits and Vegetables

Grocery stores offer convenient containers of prepared fruit and vegetables starting at about $5 per pound. These item are washed, peeled, sliced, and ready-to-eat. But how much is this convenience costing you?

Let's take a container of pre-sliced carrots and celery as an example. This prepared item costs $5 per pound, while whole carrots and celery stalks cost about $1 per pound. Paying $4 extra for something I could do myself in a few minutes does not seem like a good value to me. I have started keeping a bowl of carrots and celery in the refrigerator that I prepare myself for healthy and economical snacks.

The cost of convenience: 400% extra

4. Convenient Coffee

Lots of people pick up their morning coffee at a coffee shop, fast food place, or convenience store. I used to do this too until I realized I could make better coffee at home for less than half the cost. Now, I grind whole coffee beans just before brewing, and use a thermal travel mug to take coffee on my commute. The total cost is about 60 cents for a 16 oz mug. I find that making my own coffee takes only a few minutes and is more convenient than driving somewhere and waiting in line to pick it up anyway.

Some people use single-serve pods in convenient coffee brewing machines instead of handling coffee grounds or beans, but these pods cost at least twice as much to brew the same amount of coffee.

The cost of convenience: 230% extra

5. Single Serve Beverages

It is shocking how much more expensive it is to buy milk and soda in smaller bottles. At my grocery store, milk costs $3.49 per gallon. The same milk costs $1.39 for a 16 oz. bottle. The cost per gallon for the milk in the smaller bottle works out to $11.12 gallon!

A two liter bottle of soda often sells for about $2, while a 20 oz. bottle of the exact same soda sells for $1.89. You would have to buy $6.29 of soda in 20 oz. bottles to get two liters of soda.

The best way to avoid paying a lot more for the convenience of a smaller serving size is to buy the large size and use your own cups or containers to make individual servings.

The cost of convenience: 220% extra

6. Hot Sandwiches

When you are tired and hungry, it is almost impossible to resist immediate access to a hot sandwich. That is why ready-to-eat hot food items are so popular at convenience stores and fast food drive through windows. But as usual, convenience comes at a cost. At around $4, a ready-to-eat hot sandwich costs about twice as much as homemade.

Try to bring some transportable snacks such as apples, bananas, or a granola bar with you to help you make it home without picking up a hot sandwich on the way.

The cost of convenience: 100% extra

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Guest's picture
Jonathan Dyer

These are some eye-opening break downs. If vending machines are 100%, items in hotel minibars must be closer to 1000% in my estimation. And bottled water in a minibar must be like a million percent! Interesting article — thanks.

Guest's picture
Gary H.

$ 4 Sandwiches?

Use the dollar menu or opt for $1-2 sandwiches at fast food places.

Ex: BK's, MacD's or Wendy's smaller chicken sandwiches are still substantial and filling - much moreso than the small burgers for similar prices.