I’m not exactly a big spender. In fact, it’s fair to say I pride myself on being relatively frugal. I try not to be smug about it, but I have to admit it’s freeing to know that our family gets along very well and lives quite happily on a five-figure annual spend.
Still, there are times when frugal habits need to be set aside. When you enjoy the salary of a high-income professional, there’s nothing wrong with an occasional splurge. How you splurge is up to you, but it shouldn’t be a broad concept of throwing caution to the wind and your dollars down the drain. Splurge on the one you love.
I Love to Travel
I consider travel to be my first love, and I splurge on travel. “Splurge” may not be the best word — when traveling, we find ways not to break the bank — but I don’t know that I’ve ever turned down an opportunity to travel due to the cost alone. Traveling costs money, but for my family and me, it’s money well spent.
Flowers on the other hand… I would receive cross looks from my other true love if I spent our money on some plants that were destined to die in a matter of days. I know better than to buy a bouquet of thirsty greenery, a “chore in a vase” if you will, to commemorate this Hallmark holiday.
Falling in Love
As a boy growing up in the upper Midwest, I was fortunate to have relatives in sunny California. I was in first grade the first time we traveled there. We saw towering palm trees, the expansive but cold Pacific Ocean, and a honey bear at the San Diego zoo. I wrote a blog post about it. I wrote the blog post on a piece of notebook paper because we didn’t have blogs or anything resembling a personal computer back then.
Later on, some of my California relatives moved to Idaho. In junior high, my brother and I visited them in Sun Valley. We had a blast learning to ski, watching the Olympics, and enjoying the hot tub at the home my relatives were house-sitting. I wrote a blog post about that, too.
Around that same time, my Grandparents decided to treat their four kids and the two grandkids to a trip to one of his favorite spots — Mazatlán, Mexico. It was a wonderful trip, and we splurged for the parasailing. It was my first foray outside our nation’s borders, unless you count Canada. When you live so close to Canada, you don’t count Canada. Sorry, Canada.
As a freshman in high school, our parents finally took us to Disney World. This was definitely a splurge, as many of our previous family vacations were relatively frugal. We did manage to save some money, though, by doing a fly / drive vacation. We flew to Orlando, then did the rental car company a favor by driving one of their cars Up North where it would be needed over the summer.
The lesson I learned from this trip is not to over-prepare. I memorized two guidebooks cover to cover and couldn’t wait to experience those rides and slides firsthand. But I had taken away any hint of an element of surprise. I had a blast, but the thoroughness of my research made much of it almost anti-climactic. After this trip, I wrote my first self-published book.
As a college student, I looked seriously into studying abroad. I was absorbed with the idea, but frankly I was having too much fun where I was and didn’t want to miss out on what little I had left of the college experience, so I never left #FOMO.
I finally rectified the situation as a medical student, spending my final rotation in Stockholm, Sweden. Now, I get e-mails that sound hilarious when you read them in the voice of the Muppets’ Swedish Chef.
Traveling: Past, Present, and Future
I was recently chatting with a fellow blogger who is known to splurge on occasion. Compared to me, he’s got a nicer vehicle, bigger home, and better boat. Whenever the conversation turned to travel, though, we were suddenly on the same level.
Alaska came up. We’ve been there. Hawaii? Twice in the last four years. Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean? Check, check, and check. Japan? Of course. Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands, and Europe? We’ve been, and we’re just getting started.
Next month, I’ll see Iceland for the third time; it will be my wife’s second visit, and my boys’ first. It’s a great place to spend a couple days on the way home from Paris, which is where we’re spending our family’s spring break. I couldn’t say no to $417 round trip tickets.
I realized that travel is one thing that we refuse to skimp on. Now that doesn’t mean we don’t find ways to travel affordably. I’ve been rightfully accused of wanting to walk everywhere and not adequately providing three square meals at appropriate times of the day. I’m working on being better about all that (right, dear?) and my travel companion has gotten better about stashing food in pockets and backpacks and wearing only the most comfortable sneakers.
There are lots of ways to travel affordably that don’t rely on withholding food and motorized transportation, and I will expand on some of those in future posts. I should have a lot to talk about, as travel factors bigtime into our early retirement plans.
Before I fully retire, I may work a schedule that will be decidedly slow-travel friendly. If we can figure out the schooling aspect, we could have an incredible opportunity to show our boys the world. After retirement, an RV or motorhome tour of this great nation is high on the priority list.
Financially, I could have retired a couple years ago while maintaining our current spending. I’m just not sure our current budget involves enough travel, so I soldier on, one more year after one more year, earning money to have financial freedom and a substantial travel allowance.
To me, travel is worth the splurge.
This post was inspired by an e-mail from a representative at Empower. I was asked to consider writing a post one thing that makes me feel like I’m “ballin’ on a budget“. Since I don’t necessarily use language like that unless I’m belting out some Lil’ Troy, which is something I don’t do nearly enough, I needed a little clarification.
“What’s the one thing you have to splurge on?” I was asked. Oh! That’s easy. Travel it is.