Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Cost of Convenience

Today I decided to wash my curtains. They had an accumulation of cat hair and were getting wrinkled, so I pulled them down and looked at the tag. "Dry Clean Only". Well, poo. I don't dry clean anything unless it's absolutely necessary, so I turned the tag over.

100% Cotton.


Dry cleaning used to be reserved for fabrics that didn't handle water or drying well. The only reasons I can think to not wash 100% cotton are shrinking and wrinkling. And if you wash in cold, use the no-heat dryer cycle to suck most of the moisture out, and iron them, there isn't a problem. Of course, dry cleaning is convenient, doing them by hand takes time.

Ah, time. There's the trade off for convenience, time versus money.

Once upon a time we were a two-income household with no kids. We had disposable income, but not a lot of time. Then came Kiddo, and for a while we were two-income, one kid household with absolutely no time at all. Now we're a one-income, two-kid household. I have time - well, as much time as anyone with a baby and a pre-schooler - but money's tight.

One of the tricks to saving money when you take an income cut is to do away with convenience, or at least convenience that costs money. I grew up in a convenience generation. Everything is drive-through, microwave, gimmee now, I got things to do. Shoot, most folks can't even wait to stop their car to talk on the phone. It's really hard to give up the convenience habit.

I saw a news article the other day about how families are eating out about 60% of the time. Many of them seemed to think they were saving money (okay, maybe where they live), but most cited it was easier than having to deal with cooking and clean up. Convenience. Taking my family out can cost $20-$30, but I can feed us at home for $5-$10. I save money, but it costs me time. Or does it? Now that I think about it... get the family in the car, drive somewhere, wait for service, wait for food, eat, drive home... maybe it's not costing me much more time than eating out would.

Even preparing food at home is a trade-off. Pre-fab meals are probably quicker, but I can spend some time and make it from scratch cheaper.

Yesterday high winds and a freak landslide about 15 miles south of here took pretty much the entire State of Alaska offline for a while. I was working on another site when all of a sudden, bam, no internet. So I start to do other stuff. What's on TV? Dunno, the TV Guide is online. I need a new chicken recipe - whups, the 'net is down. Wonder if my deposit went through? Bzzzt, no online banking. I should send pictures to Nana and Auntie. Argh.

Every now and then we need something like that to remind us about the days of reading the newspaper, going to the library, using the mail, and actually going into a bank and *gasp* speaking to a teller face to face. Things that all take... time.

While I miss the conveniences I used to be able to afford, I have to say I enjoy having time. Time to spend with my kids, cook a good meal, make jam, take care of my family's needs, and yes, even iron curtains. I often miss my old job, but so much of that income was spent on convenience: daycare so it was convenient to work, fast food 'cause it was inconvenient to cook, new clothes because it was inconvenient to mend, dry cleaning because there was no time to wash. And I missed about 10 months of kiddo's babyhood, because I was working. Kiddo just about became inconvenient.

So we made sure we could keep our heads above water financially, and I quit. It took some work to get our finances to where one income covered it, but we did it. Now I have time.

And I do all the laundry, cooking, cleaning, kid-chasing and shopping. And I get to make cookies with my son, make baby food for baby, iron my husband's shirts, and we all sit down together and have family dinners that I cook.

Convenient? No. Less expensive? Sure. Spending time with my family? Absolutely priceless.



In the State of Alaska, to quality for WIC a family of four cannot earn more than $46,250 a year.

Daycare for one pre-schooler in Alaska costs at least $600 a month.



Someone asked me today if we got our monitors. Yep! We found the Samsung SyncMaster 940bw at Sam's Club for $210.

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