The Cost of Convenience

I remember having the thought, “Who would ever buy something over the internet? That doesn’t seem safe.”

That was, of course, when I was living largely in cash. Before college. Before my first credit card (Discover: the Cadillac of cards <insert laugh track>).

Then I figured out that I’d have to fly from University back to my parent’s house a few times a year, and online ticket engines were more convenient for a busy (translation: lazy) college kid like me.

Fast forward these twenty years since, and cash has largely disappeared from my pockets (which, in all honesty, is severely affecting the homeless population and everyone should carry just a little bit on them to help out there…seriously). I swipe a card for most everything.

Well, I used to.

But in the pandemic that swipe has been replaced by the click of a “buy now” button at the end of a long list of items available for me to purchase without leaving my couch.

I know many who used online grocery sites during the pandemic, which truly saved lives. But for those of us who still went to the physical store, albeit with less frequency, online purchasing became the entertainment portal it always thought it would become in this pandemic. It was just too easy to order a movie, a new puzzle, a new Lego set (for me, not the kids), a new…anything.

Or used. Doesn’t matter. What matters is that in the boredom of the pandemic in between yardwork and work-work, the online wormhole became an escape for itchy fingers and imaginations.

I mean, we didn’t go overboard or anything. But I noticed how quickly certain problems, like, “Hmmm…would be nice to repair the deck. Which power tool could I get to help with the project?” were easily resolved.

Actually, that’s a lie. That’s not how that inner-monologue went. It went more like this:

“Oooh…that’s a nice saw. I could repair the deck with that.”

See?

Online sales went up about 50% in the pandemic over 2019‘s spending. This undoubtedly helped, maybe even saved, many businesses (and lined Bezo’s pockets). But it also eased many into a powerful pattern of purchasing that is hard to break.

We’re not minimalists (though I do have a capsule wardrobe because, who needs another choice in the morning?), but I think we try to be mindful about our buying habits.

Well, we did…and then we didn’t for a while. It’s time to right that relationship.

But, honestly, even in non-pandemic days the escape to the coffee shop for single-origin pour-over, or the post-work-but-before-kids-come beer at the local bottle shop was just a little too regular. It was part social, yes, but also just part playing the part. It was also just part spending culture.

And that’s as much a spiritual issue as it is a financial issue.

So this week’s discipline of not buying anything (except essential groceries) is all about trying to analyze that relationship and move forward with a model that doesn’t use online click-buying as a solution for boredom, but takes seriously the “needs vs. wants” conversation we should all be having in our brains before a purchase.

Sometime we indulge wants, Beloved. And we should.

But just this morning, waiting for physical therapy to begin, I found myself browsing Kelly-green Cubs caps because, well, St. Patrick’s Day, and mine is worn and faded, and…

I didn’t hit “buy” despite the “amazing deal.”

And you know what? I got the amazing deal of saving myself $39.99 and cultivating a moment of self-awareness that I’ve missed these last 12 months.

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