Jim and I just got back from a combination work, camping, and volunteer excursion out west. During the camping phase I confirmed the truism that it takes time to save money. We were not camping to save money since we enjoy tent camping and the awesome and unique beauty of Bryce Canyon in Utah was a priceless experience; BUT we did have to buy groceries.

We went to the grocery store in the last town before the national park, but alas, it was Sunday and many stores in Utah close on Sundays. The next available place we found to buy groceries was at the park entrance. We knew this would be more expensive but what choice did we have? We looked at the prices and realized it would be at least twice as expensive as a standard grocery store. We could drive another ½ hour to the next town and hope it had an open grocery store, but we opted to pay the higher prices for the convenience and time we would save. My ultra-frugal side fretted for a while but then I realized that the price of gas alone might have eliminated any savings. Oh well… This reminded me of a number of other “save money vs. save time” dilemmas.

Dilemma #1: The time vs. money ratio
For example it takes time to:

  • Clip coupons or redeem a rebate.
  • Search the internet for the best deal.
  • Repair a piece of clothing or broken dish vs. buying a new one.

-For those who have more money than time, the decision is relatively easy – pay for it.
-For those who have more time than money, it’s a necessity.
-For those who have little of both, it’s a frustrating challenge.
But then there are people like me who have enough money, but not any to waste; some time, but many things we want to do with it. One of our kids keeps reminding me that time IS money, but I have to admit that I also take great satisfaction in the thrill of the hunt for a bargain – even if it took more time. (This is probably where I meet my nemesis, but I also find some pretty good deals.)

Dilemma #2: Saving money vs. buying quality and morally
Yes, I get some pretty good deals but at what cost? A conscientious person might remind me that:

  • A great deal might be at the cost of exploiting human labor in the US or other countries.
  • A carbon intensive product, or one that requires shipping, can shorten our planet’s lifespan. Sure, my one purchase may not impact the ozone layer but what if everybody bought like this? The few pennies saved would be cancelled out by the irretrievable cost to the environment.
  • A flimsy garment that soon comes apart at the seams may offset any savings.

It’s complicated. In your ongoing quest for living lightly and simply, where do you draw the line? Do you sacrifice your time or pay a higher price for convenience? Do you buy the bargain, no matter where it came from? Why?