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Understanding the Cost of Convenience


Our society moves at a fast pace. Most any purchase is available at the push of a button, making delayed gratification a concept of the past. Do you want groceries or merchandise now? No problem. Are you hungry, but don’t have time to get takeout? Don’t worry, it can be conveniently delivered. The question is… what does all this convenience really cost?


Spending leaks are small, seemingly innocent purchases that add up over time. These spending habits have the potential to drain our budgets if gone unchecked. Often, we can spend money without realizing how quickly “a little bit here” and “a little bit there” add up. Spending leaks can be part of our normal routines. That makes them difficult to spot.

For service members, especially those ages 18–24 who are learning to manage their finances, identifying spending leaks can be a valuable budgeting tool. Examples of common spending leaks include specialty coffees, takeout food, delivery services, impulse and “one-click” buys, digital downloads, streaming services, alcohol, or even hobbies. It can be surprising to see how much money one could save by making different choices — especially purchases with added fees for delivery and tips.


Examples of spending leaks common to many individuals and families are food and grocery deliveries. Using these “convenient” services significantly increases the final bill when you consider additional charges such as service and delivery fees, and driver tips. If these deliveries are common for the service members or families with whom you work, encourage them to review email/app receipts for past orders. Together, determine how much extra they paid in service and delivery charges over months or years. What could they have done with this money instead? Read more about avoiding unexpected food delivery costs and how these fees can eat into a service member’s finances.


Additional “convenient” spending leaks common to many households include unused auto-drafted memberships and subscriptions (like streaming or cable services). When an individual or family has multiple subscriptions, often at least one goes largely unused. The cost per year can add up; a family could save $150-200 a year by cutting one rarely used streaming service with an average cost of $15/month. Maybe you are working with a service member who joined a gym but never goes. If their monthly membership is $55, that’s $660 automatically being deducted from their bank account each year.

Help service members take account of their auto-draft payments. List each monthly or annual subscription they have and have them assess how frequently they use the service. Also, be weary of sneaky online subscriptions. These may “hide” in other accounts, such as through PayPal, Apple Settings, or Amazon Prime. Or they may include “free” trials they forgot to cancel. Encourage service members to review their monthly bank, credit card, and/or money transfer app statements to help identify any unused auto-draft service, subscription, or membership that should be canceled. Visit FINRED for additional tips on managing subscription services.


As you work with service members and service-connected families, encourage them to keep a spending diary to help them become more mindful of their financial habits. This can be as simple as writing all purchases in a notebook for a month or tracking purchases on an app. Be sure every purchase is recorded regardless of size, including recurring bills, and that the method of payment is noted (e.g., cash, debit card, credit card, app, online payment check). Look for possible spending leaks among frequent purchases.

Finally, encourage service members to disable one-click purchase options and auto-pay or money transfer apps that save their financial information. The less convenient it is for them to make an online purchase, the less likely they are to make impulse buys. When service members plan out purchases in advance, they can consider ways to keep their money from going down the drain!

For more information on this topic, view the OneOp webinar, Helping Military Families Understand the True Cost of Convenience.


Huff, N. (2024, January). Understanding the Cost of Convenience. In MONEYWI$E: Valuing People. Valuing Money. University of Kentucky: Family & Consumer Sciences Extension.

Written by: Nichole Huff, Ph.D., CFLE
Cover photo by Feodora/Adobe Stock

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