There's nothing wrong with spending some money to make life more convenient, whether it's ordering takeout when you're too tired or busy to cook, or hiring a lawn service so you don't have to spend your weekends cutting the grass. But there comes a point when too many shortcuts can catch up with you.
An estimated 74% of U.S. adults spend $4,073 a year on conveniences, according to a new survey from comparison platform site Finder.com. The most popular items in this category include rideshares, home maintenance services, food delivery, pet care services, and subscription boxes.
But while most Americans claim they use convenience services like these to save time and money, in most cases, they're really only benefiting from the former. And in many cases, they're in fact wasting money they should be reserving for more important purposes.
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What would $4,073 a year do for your finances?
There's nothing wrong with spending $4,073 to make your life easier, provided your finances are in a state that supports that kind of outlay. But most Americans aren't in a position to be parting with that amount of money.
An estimated 60% of U.S. adults don't have enough money in a savings account to cover a $1,000 emergency. But at a minimum, we should have enough cash in the bank to pay for three months of essential living expenses, like housing, transportation, food, utilities, and healthcare, so it's safe to say that those with less than $1,000 in savings aren't even close.
In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average American spends $19,884 a year on housing alone. This means that those with less than $1,000 in savings couldn't even cover that category for a month, let alone come up with three months of living expenses. And it's those very people who can't afford to be spending anywhere in the ballpark of $4,073 on services that lend to convenience but technically aren't absolutely essential.
Choose your conveniences
If your finances aren't strong enough to warrant spending money on all of the conveniences you enjoy, pick one or two that are most important to you, but cut back on the rest. For example, if you work long hours and can't bear to spend half your weekend cleaning your home, then go ahead and pay for a service to come in and do that for you. But then don't spend money on food delivery or rideshares. Rather, prepare meals in your own kitchen for a fraction of the cost, and walk or take public transportation when you need to get around town.
Better yet, create a budget for yourself so that you're able to see just how much you can afford to spend on conveniences, and also to give you a sense of how much money you've been allocating to services that are nice to have but that you can technically live without. Ideally, you should be in a position to set aside 15% or more of each paycheck you collect for savings purposes (first emergency savings, and then retirement savings), and cutting back on conveniences could be your ticket.
That said, if you change your ways and really improve on the savings front, you can reward yourself by slowly integrating some luxuries back into your life. For example, you might tell yourself that once your emergency fund is complete, you can renew your favorite subscription box or treat yourself to dinner delivery every weekend. It's OK to spend money on things that make life more manageable and pleasant, but make sure your finances aren't taking a hard hit in the process.
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This article was originally published on Fool.com