Thursday, January 27, 2011

What Are You Willing To Pay For Convenience?

This week, I have had to pay for two things that got me thinking about this question.  I ordered cheques, and I bought a quicken program.  And since I planned neither of these things in the first place, both kinda irked me.

My banking plan does not include free cheques.  I knew this when we opened this account.  I have never sat down, however, and figured out what it costs me to have cheques.  Let’s face it, I don’t need cheques, they are just to make life a bit more convenient for me.  At one time, they were almost a necessity, I think.  I don’t need them to pay bills, I use online banking.  I don’t need them to order things from a catalogue, or online, I can use my credit card for that.  I don’t need them to inform someone of what my account number is for direct deposit or direct withdrawal reasons, I can just tell them, or have the bank fill out a quick form.  But that would be less convenient!   would have to go to the bank! 

I have only just now used the 50 cheques I originally ordered when we opened this account two and a half years ago.  When I sit and think about who I have written them to, I realize that they were all times I could have used cash instead.  I can pay my hairdresser in cash.  I can send cash for school book orders.  I can pay cash to sign my kids up at gymnastics or swimming lessons.  I have written cheques for such dumb amounts as $3.50 for a hot lunch at the school.  The reason I use cheques is because it’s more convenient for me than carrying cash. 

I don’t usually carry cash anymore, it’s just easier to use my debit card wisely.  To pay for the things I have been using cheques for, I would have to keep different denominations on hand.  It’s one thing to say I’ll have a $20 bill for when I sign up the first week of mom’s morning out, but it’s a lot more to plan on having $13.52 for a book order.

All this to say, I realize that I have been using cheques because it’s easier.  But what is that costing me?  I just ordered 50 of the most basic cheques.  No extra sayings or cute pictures.  They cost $35 including shipping, that’s 70 cents per cheque!  Ok, that’s not a ton, but it adds up.  It seems even sillier to pay that for the cheque if it’s only $3.50!  In the future, I think I will plan ahead on my way to the hairdresser’s and stop at the ATM.  I may even try to keep a bit of cash on hand for those things that always seem to come up at school like lunches, book orders, or fundraisers.  Every time i consider writing a cheque, I’m sure I’ll be thinking “ is this worth the extra 70 cents?”.

After I bought, installed and set up quicken’s “Money Manager” program, I regretted it.  Oh, it’s a great program, I have always loved the quicken line-up of software, and every year I buy their tax program for the easiest taxes ever. ( I highly recommend this!)  Since my previous quicken expired, I have created a spreadsheet which basically does the same thing for me.  I use it like a cheque register to plan and record what is going into and out of our account in a given month.  It does the math for me.  I can track what category a given purchase falls into, and create a budget planning what we will spend in each area for that month.  Yup, I’m a nerd, and I spent a lot of time on this.  Then, I got an even better spread sheet from the budgeting presentation we had at Mom’s Morning Out.  But, I wanted it to re-organize transactions by date as I put new stuff in.  Ok, I probably could have figured out how to continue tweaking my spreadsheet, or I could have asked some of my friends who are even bigger spreadsheet addicts than me.  I also like the convenience of downloading transactions straight from my on-line banking instead of flipping from window to window.  Ok, I could have done that too, I suppose, if I’d tried a little harder to figure it out.  The program has a couple of quirks that annoy me, like you can’t post transfers between accounts, so it shows up as an uncategorized transaction and keeps going back to it, asking you to put it in a category.  I don’t really like their budgeting system, I still prefer my own.  The program is worth about $40.

Even the spread sheet was the first step in “convenience”.  I used to use a paper check register, and track all of our transactions.  I can do that.

The quicken comes with a money back satisfaction guarantee, apparently, so I may still see if I can return it.  Though, since it was a program that is downloaded, I’m not sure how a return would work?  I may have to check in with some of my spreadsheet loving friends this week about the couple of things I would like to tweak…

So, that was two things this week I paid for because they were “more convenient”.  Which is just a polite way of saying I paid for them because I am too lazy to do something another way.  Have you ever paid for something and then realized you bought it only to make it “easier” or “more convenient”?  Would the alternate route have been that hard? Was it worth it?


  1. I figured the cheque thing out last summer. Couldn't believe how much cheques cost now. Now I am very weary of when I write a cheque and keep way more cash on me. I have one of those big wallets and have one section for money from different budgets, like kids, grocery, and babysitting. I am forever trying to break 20's for 5's and 10's though. I also sometimes send more than I need to for the school stuff, and they just send the change home later.

    As for the computer programs, I have never stopped using the spreadsheet and old fashioned bank books for all my transactions but have wondered if I would like an all in one program.


  2. Thank you so much Lori-lou! It never occurred to me that the school would send change home!
    I have tried all cash, even for groceries, but I hated carrying that much. I may still have to keep some cash on hand for those little things, but I find that I forget just how much I spent on what, and then I am not able to track it as well as when I use debit. I'm still trying to find a mixture of both that works well for our family.


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