THE BLOG
09/09/2014 06:15 pm ET Updated Nov 09, 2014

The Luxury of Inconvenience: Consumerism in the Age of "Time is Money"

City-dwelling is many things: inspiring, vibrant, anxiety-inducing and -- sometimes most importantly -- convenient. You want groceries delivered to your door? There's an app for that. You need a car to pick you up in the very near future and take you where you want to go? Laundry? Finding that perfect restaurant in your neighborhood? House cleaning? Done. There are endless apps for every need or burning desire we could ever have to save us time, but now we're starting to take that time back.

So what are we doing with all the time we've saved? We're indulging in the luxury of inconvenience -- saving time on the tasks we care less about and spending added time on what fulfills us and ultimately makes us happier -- and that's impacting our consumption habits as well.

Taking the Long Road

While we still conveniently take care of more mundane chores like laundry, we're increasingly choosing inconvenience and partaking in time-consuming tasks. Startups like Plated and BlueApron have seen quick and incredible success by making cooking accessible by providing exact ingredients, measurements and easy-to-follow recipes for those looking to spend the time making dinner. This more labor-intensive yet communal and fun activity has become preferential to the quick fix of a group Seamless order.

Another, perhaps counterintuitive way, that we are eschewing convenience is by letting go of efficiency. With a plethora of navigation tools at our disposal, we have become so focused on getting where we're going that we forget to experience the journey itself. And, as it always does, technology found a solution for the accidental problem it created. A recent Fast Company article highlighted four apps that "get you lost so you can have actual experiences," to take efficiency out of technology and allow for the randomness and experience of the everyday that we've lost.

Choosing Experiences

The old adage, money can't buy happiness -- has now found scientific support and has shifted our interaction with brands. A study by San Francisco State University revealed that money spent on life experiences makes people happier than consuming materials goods, and life experiences take time. Companies have jumped on the happiness bandwagon by helping to provide these experiences. Groupon and LivingSocial help identify and access affordable activities, Airbnb helps Millennials make that dream vacation happen, and SeatGeek helps you score tickets to see your favorite band/team/show. As I wrote earlier this year, the wildly successful SoulCycle has built its fitness and retail empire on the experience of exercise as a community.

But now, global consumer brands are directly integrating experiences into their fiber. Last summer, Heineken's Departure Roulette challenged air travelers to ditch their plans and instead travel to a random, more exotic location to bring spontaneity back into their lives. Some of the most successful and longstanding corporate campaigns, such as P&G's Everyday Effect, highlight the value of the little things -- like the everyday. As consumers value interactions with brands as much as the products themselves, it will become increasingly important for companies to harness this integration.

Collecting Stories Instead of Objects

The brands you wore or owned used to be a demonstration of status, style and trendiness. You had to have that Tiffany's bracelet, that Juicy Couture sweatshirt (you know the one I'm talking about) and those Ugg boots. That Longchamp tote didn't just carry your MacBook, but also your material self-worth. While we still turn to established megabrands for some goods, we're also disrupting consumption patterns by collecting stories over objects.

We seek out unique, personal items with their own stories. That bracelet is from a local craftsman at Artists and Fleas, and the photograph hanging in your room was taken by a friend when you were exploring a new place together. We buy from companies like TOMS and Warby Parker because we want there to be more to our shoes and glasses than the physical products themselves. Through companies like Etsy, we don't just get an article of clothing or a handmade decorative pillow, but also the story of an entrepreneur and artisan who is passionate about their craft.

Rather than running around as efficiency-driven machines, we're cultivating experiences, relationships and stories through our connections and consumption. As technology continues to make our life more convenient, we can all take a step back and indulge in the luxury of the slightly less convenient, but exponentially more fulfilling.