Matt Hern – Spending money on convenience

Recently our very own Matt Hern was interviewed on ABC Radio Perth. He chatted with Christine Layton about the things we spend money on out of convenience. It was a very interesting conversation that covered the ‘why’ of spending money on things for convenience, as well as some emerging research on the topic.

You can click to listen here. Or you can read the transcript below.

Christine Layton: So we are spending money on things we never really thought of before. During COVID 19, many of us started getting our groceries delivered to our homes as a necessity. Now we keep doing it out of convenience, and a company over east has taken this to a whole new level. They are offering to come and supply you with new sheets every two weeks so that you don’t have to worry about washing them yourself. So are we getting lazier or is our time truly more valuable than doing these tasks ourselves? Or are we just doing it because we need to? Joining us is Matt Hern, who is a money coach at HPH Solutions. And he sees where people are spending that extra money for the sake of convenience. Good afternoon Matt.

Matt Hern: Good afternoon, Christine.

Christine: Now I’ve been asking the audience to finish the sentence:  My time is more valuable than… How would you complete that sentence? I did say earlier in the afternoon, my time is more valuable than … detailing the car. I found someone who does it really well. Good little local business. How about you, Matt?

Matt: Yeah, certainly, I agree with all the people who have said ‘cleaning my house’. Absolutely.

Christine: Definitely, pay someone who is professional. So look, it’s hard to even say this, but are we getting lazier or are we getting smarter?

Matt: A bit of both Christine. We’re all getting busier. There are more demands on our time so in that sense, we are getting smarter by trying to look for ways to be more productive. But I guess in some ways we’re getting a little bit lazier. And so there’s a double-edged thought to this whole conversation. And certainly, the emerging social science research tells us that story as well.

Christine: Does it? So where are people spending their money when it comes to convenience?

Matt: Oh well, your listeners have come up with some of the best lists I’ve ever seen actually. A dog walker, has that come up yet?

Christine: Yeah, dog walker, yeah. I’ve also got, let me see, watching the Fremantle Dockers’ pathetic effort on the weekend, cleaning my windows … a lot around public transport, a lot around cleaning. In fact, this one says, my time is more valuable than cleaning my room – says literally every teenager ever. So that’s on behalf of someone, but yeah, where are we spending our money?

Matt: It’s interesting. A lot of the examples have been the big things that what we call ‘dreaded tasks’. So outsourcing them makes a lot of sense. But it’s the little ones – the little conveniences – that have crept into our life that I think we need to be really careful of. I noticed walking around the supermarket, so much is pre-prepared. Like the chopped veggies in the frozen vouch section. Someone on the weekend was buying chopped carrots and I’m like, what? Really? That’s going to cost more, it’s wrapped in plastic. One of my colleagues last week said, “my kids never knew there was such a thing as un-grated cheese”. They’ve never seen an un-grated block of cheese.  So it’s those little things that we’re paying more for that are creeping into our lives. It’s those little conveniences that cost us more.

Christine: Yes, I have a text here saying, “my time is more valuable than standing around, waiting for rice to cook, so I just buy microwave rice”. Yep, I would second that because I’d probably mess it up. So yeah, you’re right. There are the dreaded tasks, and then the little tasks. So why do we spend on convenience? Is it about freeing ourselves up?

Matt: We believe it is. And also, the other reason that I’ve noticed is that we are doing it is because we are more exhausted. So Friday night has been takeaway night for as long as I can remember for a lot of people. But in the good old days, Christine, we used to drive to pick it up. But now, getting in the car is too inconvenient or we’re too tired for it. So we get it delivered to us. The tiredness might be one thing that is drawing us to it. Feeling a little bit more stressed leads us to spend more money on conveniences like that.

Christine: What else does the research tell us, Matt? I’m curious.

Matt: Yeah, well it’s more emerging research – it’s still quite an early field, right? But it’s telling us that outsourcing and buying time is really, really important, but we have to be very careful with how we are using it. Just like your colleague that you just quoted in the Guardian article was asking, “where are they spending their time?” Now, the research is saying, if you’re spending that time scrolling through social media or working longer and harder, which is leading to more stress, when actually it can be counterproductive because the extra stress or the lack of happiness that social media doom scrolling does for us can actually counteract the joy that we might get from the convenience that we’ve just bought. So that’s what the research is telling us: be very careful how you spend that time you just bought.

Christine: Right, so as a money coach, what do you tell people, Matt?

Matt: Right, well actually the interesting thing is what we said before, is I would suggest to people that you outsource those dreaded tasks. Because that genuinely gives you a happiness boost. But it’s important to also ensure that you are spending the time you bought on social connection or other things that are truly important. Rather than just doom scrolling or working longer. The other thing I suggest to people to consider from a ‘buying time’ point of view is taking a job that’s closer to home. Why? Because commuting is actually one of the big killers of happiness. So if you can buy time by shortening your commute, that’s actually really good use of money and time. The other thing is taking a more flexible job or one that is perhaps less stressful because the more stress, the more you feel like you need to spend on little conveniences because you’re too tired to get off the couch and go and pick up the takeaway.

In short, you can look at your time and money equation a little bit differently by asking: how do I buy more free time to spend on social connection and to do the things that light me up? That’s what the social science is telling us and that’s what I tell my clients.

Christine: My guest is Matt Hern, money coach. We’re talking about things we spend money on for convenience. I want you to complete this sentence. My time is more valuable than… I’ll read you this text, Matt. I outsource some of my housekeeping because I work an extremely stressful job as a lawyer for the government, and my husband also works an extremely stressful job as a doctor. We aren’t going to the opera or having fun. We are doing many, many hours of unpaid work to benefit the community.  For that, listener, I thank you. And for this listener it sounds like they wouldn’t change a thing with regard to how they’re spending money on convenience. Even though it sounds like they’re buying time to work harder.

Matt: Well, benefiting the community can light people up. Certainly that community contribution, the happiness research tells us that can be very, very important or pro-social spending is another category where we spend on other people. So yeah, certainly that particular example is really interesting because if the stress is something that is not lighting them up, then yeah. I think we need to contemplate where we’re spending that time. But for them, it sounds like it might be.

Christine: So how much should we be spending on convenience? What do you think, Matt? Yeah, that’s a knowing laugh. That is a man who’s had this discussion, tell me.

Matt: Well see, that question itself ties into this because we are always constantly looking for a shortcut answer because we’re so busy. It’s like, hey just give me a rule of thumb for everything. So we’re looking for shortcuts in everything, aren’t we, Christine? Yeah, I would actually say very little. You’re better off from a happiness perspective, that’s my lens there. My happiness perspective: you’re better off working less to perhaps earn less and have more time for the things that light you up, which are social connection, nutrition, health, and your wellbeing.

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