I recently read about super-cheap fares to Hawaii from my home airport of Portland. I’m a travel enthusiast, and love going places any opportunity I can, but Hawaii holds a special appeal for me, as it is the only state I haven’t visited yet. So, being able to tick that box off, and maybe do a little hiking, volcano sight-seeing, stargazing, and all the other amazing things one can do in that little island state, seemed hard to resist.
Easy, right? Just make the purchase and go? Well, not so fast. I asked my usual questions. Did I have the money? Yes. Would fit in my budget? Yes. Would it interfere with my work or other things going on in my life? No. There wasn’t any glaring reason why I shouldn’t. The fare was a great deal, and I could do it, so why was I hesitating?
Being frugal is tough. It requires you to say no to things that your insides are screaming out “yes!” to. We all want toys and experiences, and we all want to feel wealthy and capable, and so the pull to make something happen is strong. Believe me, I know that, having spent the better part of a decade living in New York and virtually never going out during that time. Frugality is also satisfying, though, especially when you realize how you’re opting out of the consumerist treadmill and not supporting companies you dislike.
But frugality is a habit as much as a skill, and it’s possible to overdo. It’s also possible to lose sight of the idea that some experiences (and things) are worth paying for. The trick is to figure out what is worthwhile and what is not.
For me, though, the most important “non-essential” expense is travel. Going places changes you. It doesn’t matter whether it’s domestic or international, these are the experiences you remember and hold on to. Think about it, how many days do you remember from a few years ago? If you’re like me, not many. But you still remember that trip you took, and the places you went to on that trip. There are many ways to not spend a ton while traveling but either way, you should go if you have the opportunity. (And if you don’t have the opportunity, I recommend working to make the opportunity. I can help you with that, but, again, future post.)
After a time, I realized my hesitation with my Hawaii trip was because I was on “frugality auto-pilot”. I had let the pursuit of spending as little as possible become a bit of an end in itself. But I was missing the point, and that is to have a life filled with experiences, love, and adventures. This is why, contrarily, I recommend saying no to so many things, at least at first. If you say no to Stuff, you can have more adventures. And if you say no to spending money on adventures now, you can have more money to spend on even greater adventures later.
There isn’t a general rule on whether to make something happen or not. In many cases, it may be worth putting off something awesome until a later date. That’s the trouble with life: there aren’t many easy rules of thumb once you get past the basics: spend as much time as possible on what you love (and find a way to get paid for it), find your own financial and spiritual freedom, surround yourself with people you love and admire, and challenge yourself while still being gentle to yourself.
So I realized that by going on this trip, I would be challenging myself in a few ways. To spend money when I didn’t “have to”. To go to a new place alone where I didn’t know anyone. To go on an adventure. To get out of my routine.
And with that in mind, I booked it.
But enough about me. Do you think travel is worth paying extra for? What are the other non-essentials you feel are worth spending on?
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