Marvs, Doggydoors, and Conveniences Worth Paying For

One morning earlier this week I was outside with Olly waiting on him to do his, ahem, “business.” I was running up against the time the kids and I leave for school. Nervous, I glanced down at my watch while thinking to myself, “There’s got to be a more convenient way to do this….” Turns out, there is: a doggydoor.

Look at that dog! He’s so happy! He loves his doggydoor! Rather than rousting me from my slumber or causing Jack and Gwen to be late for school, Olly could go in and out at his pleasure, handling his business confidently and conveniently. I had visions of staying comfortably tucked in bed, warm under the covers, dreaming of the perfect financial plan. When it comes time to take the kids to school, I could leisurely load them in the car, stop on the way for a delicious cup of coffee (a pour-over, obviously, because I’m in no rush), and arrive at school with time to spare. Of course, my initial feelings of joy quickly evaporated as I realized there’s a downside to this kind of convenience: a doggydoor is literally a hole in your door. Literally. A. Hole. What else might find itself enjoying access to my house? Drafts? Of course. Bugs? Certainly.

Then my mind went to a dark place as I remembered maybe the most famous doggydoor in history: The one belonging to the McCallister family. Surely you remember the tale of Kevin McCallister and his less-than-attentive parents. In fact, many of you, like me, might consider Home Alone the formative movie of your youth.

As the movie makes clear, the most obvious downside to the doggydoor, the most threatening, isn’t the draft. It’s not even the bugs. No. It’s the Marvs of the world.

All this went through my mind in about 90 seconds and by the time Olly and I got back inside I was certain only a true psychopath would feel comfortable with a doggydoor. Convenient? Maybe. But there are downsides, proving not all conveniences are created equal.

A few months back, Jared wrote about Fidelity offering brokerage accounts to kids as young as 13. Traditionally, an account for a legal minor needed to be a custodial account, but Fidelity’s announcement changed that. Convenient? Maybe. But I don’t believe what was missing in the financial education of a boy or girl was unfettered access to trade. Along those same lines, trading fees across the industry have been slashed. In many instances, it’s now “free” to trade. Is this convenient? Absolutely, especially for smaller investors. Getting dinged $5-$25 per trade isn’t too bad if you’re buying $10,000 at a time, but can be punitive when you’re purchasing $100 worth of a stock. The benefits of convenience are eroded, however, as trading activity increases: a research paper titled “Trading is Hazardous to Your Wealth” found that, on average, households that traded the most had the worst net returns.

Finally, Amazon Prime. The Smith household subscribes. It’s incredibly convenient. The selection of goods is unparalleled (beaucoup doggydoors), everything arrives quickly and returns are easy. But, I am certain we spend more than we would if getting stuff was harder. Growing up, I would occasionally buy shoes or basketball shorts from Eastbay, a sporting goods magazine that arrived each month. To do this, my mom would have to call them on a phone that was attached to the wall by a cord, provide them with a product number, give them her credit card info, and then we’d wait a week or two for it to arrive. Shipping was something like $15 each way. Or we’d drive to the mall, which was 30 minutes away. It’s too easy now.

So, what conveniences are actually worth spending money on? Here are a few Emily and I are thinking of right now.

First, someone to clean our house. We’ve waffled on this for years but have finally come to the conclusion that having someone come on a regular basis to vacuum, mop, clean the showers, dust the blinds, etc., is something worth paying for.

Second, someone to fold our laundry. This sounds ridiculous and actually feels ridiculous to type. Honestly, I didn’t even know this existed until Michael Batnick mentioned it in one of his recent posts. Curious, I googled it and there are plenty of people in the Triangle willing to stop in and fold our laundry. We aren’t moving ahead with this one but I won’t lie that I was initially very excited by the idea.

Third, leasing instead of buying our next car, though we hopefully won’t be in the market for a new vehicle for another 3-4 years. Purely from a financial perspective, leasing doesn’t make sense. (I wrote about this a few years ago.) But an article from Ben Carlson changed my perspective and has opened my mind to the possibility of leasing at some point in the future.

There are other examples–lawn service, grocery delivery–but the common thread that runs through my three examples is: time. What, within reason, can we outsource or simplify to give us more time? Time for work, time with the kids, time with each other. And, how do we balance that with teaching Jack and Gwen about the importance of work?

In closing, a doggydoor is not a good convenience and nothing will change my mind on this. But there are great conveniences out there.

I’m curious: what conveniences do you spend money on and why?

Ryan Smith
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Born and raised on the North Shore of Massachusetts, I moved to Raleigh in 2011 to marry my wife, Emily. We have two kids, Jack and Gwen, and are members of Church of the Apostles in North Raleigh. I have been a Financial Advisor since 2005 and earned a Master’s of Science in Financial Planning from Bentley University. Soon thereafter I became a CFP® professional and received my Retirement Income Certified Professional® designation in 2015.