When Is the Cost of Convenience Worth It? We Do the Math
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In today’s world, convenience is king. You can Blue Apron dinner ingredients, TaskRabbit Ikea furniture assembly and Shyp packages—all in mere minutes, with the click of a button. But it’ll cost you.

How much? Probably more than you think. Is it worth it? Well, that depends.

“Our society is moving in the direction of using apps to make nearly every task easier—many of which can legitimately save time and money,” says Certified Financial Planner Shannah Compton Game. “But people also run the risk of relying on them too much. It’s a balancing act.”

Now, we’re not suggesting you should never opt for delivery or hit up an out-of-network ATM in a pinch—or that doing either one will derail your savings goals. But if you’re going to make smart judgment calls, you’ve got to know what these short cuts might cost you in the long run.

So we’re laying it out for you.

1. Using out-of-network ATMs

Yeah, we know. You’ve probably heard this one before. But while shelling out an extra $4.52 every time you swipe your card in a machine that’s not from your bank may not sound like a big deal, it adds up. A weekly withdrawal habit will cost you $235 a year. And over five years, you’ll have wasted $1,175—the equivalent of a flight to Europe, romantic beach getaway or a few dozen restaurant meals.

If it’s a real pain to make that 15-minute detour to your bank, download an app like ATM Hunter, which tells you which affiliated machines are closest to you.

Still hard to find an ATM near you? “If you’re using out-of-network ATMs on a regular basis—more than twice a month—think about switching to a bank that has a wider network in your area,” Game suggests. Online banks, like Ally or Bank of Internet USA, might be an even better option. Since they don’t have the overhead of brick-and-mortar banks, some refund your ATM fees as part of their service.

2. Filling Up at a Gas Station Off the Highway

Always fueling up just off the ramp can really put a dent in your checking account. “I’ve seen gas priced at 30 cents more per gallon right on the highway, compared to other stations,” says consumer savings expert Andrea Woroch, who makes it a point to fill up the evening before a long drive.

If you do find your tank running low while en route, try GasBuddy, an app that lets you search for nearby stations by price. “Driving just a mile off the highway might make a significant difference,” Woroch says.

3. Not Comparison Shopping

Whether you simply assume Amazon has the best prices or your local CVS is your automatic go-to, it’s time to reassess your one-stop-shopping strategy. “Online retailers use dynamic pricing, meaning the cost of items constantly fluctuate, depending on the time of day, demand and what competitors are offering,” Woroch says. “If you’re not comparing, you could be missing out on deals.”

Taking just a few minutes to investigate alternatives can seriously fatten your wallet. For example, a quick search showed an identical tube of Benefit mascara for $32.98 on Amazon, $24.00 on Sephora (plus $5.95 shipping) and a mere $14.49 with free shipping on Rakuten—meaning you’d save more than 50 percent.

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And don’t forget to consider coupon codes. “With Coupon Sherpa, you can search by category to see prices across different competitors,” Woroch says. So even though those sandals are cheapest at Zappos, ShoeBuy might have a coupon code that would knock the price even lower.

When you’re in an actual store, take a few seconds to run the price of your purchase through ShopSavvy. “Enter the item name or use your phone to scan the barcode, and the app lets you know if it’s sold elsewhere for less,” Woroch says. “Show the results to customer service and ask them to price match.”

July 12, 2016

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