A few years ago, I found I was very grumpy and sometimes a bit frustrated with spending money that we just did not NEED to spend. I’m much less concerned – actually totally unconcerned about $100 expenditures – now that I understand our annual Safe Spending Amount and pay it out monthly. The point of this post: you can Enjoy from spending a relatively small amount of money, especially if you look at what the incremental spending buys.
Patti and I try to spend two weeks in England every year. Patti marshalls the frequent flyer miles, and in some years we’ve flown at $0 for the airline tickets. So it’s affordable travel for us. We’ve missed a few years, but not that many recently. We just got back from the Lake District, our fourth visit in five years. It’s just terrific. Every year we meet someone from England who volunteers, “This is the best part of England.” Our entertainment and almost daily activity is walking or hiking. The bus and cab transport in England is very good, and we have not rented a car for many years.
The really good $100 Expenditure #1. (Actually less than $100.) Our target was to get to Philadelphia for a 9 PM flight that would arrive in Manchester at 9 AM the next morning. Our Pittsburgh to Philadelphia flight was first delayed because of bad weather in Philly. Then when that cleared, a storm hit us as we sat on the runway waiting to take off. We landed just a few minutes before 9 PM and missed our scheduled flight. We had to fly to Dublin and then wait to catch an afternoon flight that arrived in Manchester at 3:30 PM.
I had purchased an Advanced fare rail ticket that would leave the Manchester airport at 10 AM and arrive at 1:30 PM at Maryport, a short cab ride from our first stay, Cockermouth. The Advanced fare was $105 for the two of us (£78). Less than half price. The rub is to get that fare you must make that 10 AM departure (with a little leeway for delayed arrivals to Manchester; the leeway does not extend to five or six hours, though). So, that $105 was gone.
Option 1. Sitting in the Dublin airport, I first looked at the National Rail App on my phone for trains leaving near 4:30 PM. There was one, but Advanced fare did not apply. The same-day fare for the two of us was $215 (£162). We’d get to Maryport at 7:45 PM.
Option 2. Patti looked at the cost of a one-day car rental on her rental car apps. We’d pick up the car near the Manchester airport (That’s not nearly as simple of a process as in the US.) and drop it off the next morning close to Cockermouth (30 minutes away; bus ride back). Cost would be $217 all in. (Collision coverage is outta sight; roughly $70 for the one way drop off fee.) And the thought of driving as tired as we were was definitely unappealing. The process of turning it in the next day would also be a hassle.
Option 3. I thought: would our reliable taxi in Cockermouth be willing to drive to Manchester, meet us at the departure exit, and drive us to Cockermouth? This is about the last option I would have normally considered: a 142-mile cab fare! I texted, and the answer was “Yes” for a cost of $266 (£200). Fantastic. I said, “Great,” and we were on. Tracy met us at the departure exit, and she got us to Cockermouth at 6:30 PM. We had a terrific dinner at a great vegetarian restaurant at 7:30, strolled back along the river’s edge, slept like logs, and were off on our first hike the next morning.
Some thoughts ran through my mind in the Dublin airport. I could have thought of all this as a $371 problem (the $105 that was burned plus the extra $266). But I viewed it differently. The $105 I had already spent on Advanced fare was a sunk cost, and I’d saved far more than that in all the past years. Forget it.
I was going to at least have to spend $215 to get to where we wanted at to. The incremental cost for the 142-mile cab ride was just $50. That was $50 to have someone meet us at the departure exit, figure out all the driving and traffic, and drive us 142 miles away (and Patti was able to nap).
I also knew two paychecks were hitting our checking account: my Social Security paycheck arrived that day, and our bigger paycheck – the monthly portion of our Safe Spending Amount – would arrive in two days. I also knew that we spend almost $1,000 per month LESS on Investing Cost relative to others I know. (And, in my view, they get no value for this.) This $50 was absolutely an ENJOY NOW bargain.
The Really Good $100 Expenditure #2. Several years ago Patti went into the National Trust shop in Grasmere, a fun village to walk around. One of our loop hikes started there. Patti wanted to buy a throw – a cover we’d use if we took a nap on the couch. It was probably $75. But we already had one or two. I sneered, “We don’t need another throw. The one we have is just fine.” She didn’t buy it. I thought about that after I had figured our Safe Spending Amount, and realized that I was denying her a little ENJOY MORE, NOW over a $75 purchase. Not a good move.
Sure enough, this time she went in the shop, looked at the throws, and picked out one that she liked. This time I said, “That looks great. Do you like it?” “Yes. And I like supporting the National Trust.” “Then get it, and I think I have room to carry it back for you.” A smile and a little enjoyment for Patti for $100. Priceless.
Conclusion: You can find Enjoyment from small expenditures. It helps me to think of the added benefit from the incremental amount that I am spending, not the total. It also helps to have a dollar amount that you do not worry about spending if it gives you or your spouse/partner a little joy.