It’s a Balancing Act… Time versus Money

Sometimes I find myself focusing way too much on money. I stand in the grocery store aisle staring at shelves and shelves of items, trying to figure out whether I should buy the larger can or the smaller one; the name brand or the generic.

I waste time staring at a wad of flimsy newspaper clippings, trying to match sale items with coupons. I once spent three minutes riffling through my binder in search of a coupon for butter. I catch myself running to the grocery store in the middle of the week in order to use a coupon for $5 off a $40 purchase or kicking myself for noticing that a high value coupon has expired.

While spending some time comparing items, clipping coupons and searching for sales is certainly worthwhile, I wonder if my overall savings goals are too extreme. Do I really need to aim for a minimum of 20 to 30% off the bill every time I shop for things?

Last weekend I planned to drive to the grocery store to pick up items for three days worth of breakfasts and brunches. When I rattled off the typical list of eggs, bacon, bread, coffee, cereal and donuts my husband suggested I pick up food from the local, but highly overpriced market in town.

He pointed out the beautiful weather and suggested that it was more important to enjoy the day then to save the money. Rather than driving fifteen to twenty minutes out of my way, I could travel just five and have every thing I needed, but in order to save time I would certainly spend a lot more money.

After thinking it over for a minute longer than I should have, I opted to drive to the local market where I spent $55 for food that would have otherwise cost $25 to $30 after sales and coupons. My husband came along for the ride. We drove to the store, shopped, loaded the car with groceries, drove back home, unloaded everything into the fridge and cupboard and were back outside enjoying the weather within a matter of minutes.

As we sat on our back deck enjoying the weather I had to admit that the time saved was definitely worth the higher prices. Yet, somehow, despite that recognition I still struggled with the idea that a slightly longer drive would have saved us $25.

6 thoughts on “It’s a Balancing Act… Time versus Money”

  1. Sometimes we just have to sit back and smell the Roses and this weekend was one of those days for you. Don,t beat yourself up about it you got to spend quality time with your Hubby.

  2. oh mannn…i can completely relate. I don't think I would have gone to the local store. I probably would have made my husband tag along to the store further away and make it into an excursion itself. $25 is a lot of money. BUT–at the same time, there are other things more important. I tried to do the couponing thing, but it just got to be too hard when I realized my grocery trips were taking me twice as long. I don't even have that much storage space so it's not like I can stock up on items when they're on sale…Somet hitngs are worth it, others are not. You have to decide what works for you.

  3. I think in this case, it was definitely worth it! Don't forget that it would also cost more gas to take the longer trip, which takes a little edge off the savings. Sounds like a great weekend.

  4. Thank you for your comments. I definitely want to balance out my philosophy of time and money, so that I save under most circumstances and value time all the others.

  5. I can relate too! I recently found a book that really helped me understand my whole issue with too many choices. It was exactly what I needed to read — and I'm sure you and your readers can find it at the library (free!). "The Paradox of Choice: Why Less Is More." As a result of thinking the same things you describe in this post(!!) and this book I've decided to put some things on autopilot. Instead of worrying about $ I am experimenting with limiting how much coupons and savings and cost comparison and all that jazz. It call all get to be too much and then I dwell, like you, on the opportunity costs. So I am doing 2 months at the neighborhood store (one store?!) I know. And accepting limitations has been helpful for me — cutting out stress, celebrating the familiar, less gas all over town, only focussing on one store's system of discounts and markdowns. And I've switched to mostly fruits and veggies and only a few splurges of processed food. I am happy to report I'm happier with less choices of stores & less hoopla with coupon chasing (it was a weekly part time job). The result, I am happier, I am still sticking to budget and finding that I can spend more time doing other important things. I enjoy your blog and your writings. Often I read but don't write — but this time I thought I'd just chime in. For me less choices, less hassle has brought me more time, more focus and more gratitude.

  6. @BeeARawFoodie – I'm totally with you on limiting coupons and stores! I really want to lessen my focus on coupons and discount deals. I need to turn the switch in my brain that says it's okay to spend less time bargain hunting and more time doing the things I love. Thanks for commenting.


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