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Subject:  Re: Ten Mental Exercises Leading To Freedom Date:  4/10/2000  1:30 PM
Author:  hocus Number:  7726 of 876372

I know a lot of people in the industry who I think work far too hard and save and budget way too much.

Thank you for challenging some of the ideas in the original post. By adding your more moderate perspective to my own rather extreme one, you may render parts of the original post more palatable to some board participants.

My own view is that there are many people who work too hard at corporate and government jobs, but few who spend too little. I agree that in theory it could happen, but it takes an unusually strong-willed individual to spend less than is appropriate in a culture so dominated by consumerism.

My experience is that life is freqeuntly made fuller by spending less. For example, I have not paid to go a movie theater in three years now. I know that there are many who view this as "going too far." My analysis is that the activity I took up to replace movie nights--talking two-hour walks with my wife--is more enriching. So I both spend less and enjoy life more.

If there were no limits on time, at some point I would break down and pay for a movie ticket again. But it's way, way down on my list of fun things to do. Once I stopped going to movies as part of a routine, I came to appreciate how much less enjoyable the experience had become than it had been years ago.

My wife and I received free movie tickets as part of a promotion, so we returned to the theater that one time. I was annoyed by having to wait in line, and by the pushing and shoving when we were let in. I was irritated by the noise all around us as we watched. I was less than thrilled with the quality of the film.

I gritted my teeth like a captive while sitting through the long stream of advertisements for both other movies and completely unrelated products. And I felt like a chump for having used up some of the time that I am always complaining I do not have enough of to have this "experience."

I have no problem if one takes from the original post some tools for reducing spending, while continuing to spend substantial amounts on "basics" like movies. Don't ask me to join you, though. There are no lines to take a walk in the park, no pushing, no advertisements, and no admission fee (let's not give them any ideas, though!).

If that means I had to spend $3000 of my savings to take a 2 week vacation with my wife when I was only 25, well that's probably worth it.

You picked a good example for making your point. On the one hand, vacations can be very expensive. For most of us, vacations are one of the highest discretionary items in our budget. Perhaps someone who speaks Spreadsheet can tell you the lifetime value of putting $3,000 in a mutual fund at age 25. My guess is that the number would be high enough to make many of us think twice.

That said, though, the expense vs. return ratio is not that bad for vacations if you do careful planning. There's a big difference between going on a vacation and going to a movie. The movie experience is a passive one. For that reason, it rarely is a life-changing experience (there are exceptions--thank you, Alfred Hitchcock!).

But vacations can fill one with a sense of wonder, if done right. The planning leading to a vacation is a learning experience and the vacation takes you out of the normal routine. The best vacations deliver one of the treasures of childhood, where each time you open your eyes you see something you never saw before.

Here's a test I use to determine whether an expense is "worth it" or not: Do I remember the experience a year later? There are some movies being made today that I can't recall 45 minutes after seeing them (I know from watching videos at home). Vacations, though, stay in my mind for long stretches. I can remember exactly what I did each day on vacations I took four and five years ago. I don't worry too much about the cost when I get memories in return.

Still, there are a lot of vacations that are a waste of money. The worst are the trips which people feel "forced" to take. For example, if you are taking a vacation only because you will otherwise lose vacation days at work, you stand good odds of taking a vacation you will not enjoy. You may find yourself wishing you were home, but unwilling to return because of the money "lost" by returning.

I've also heard stories of just-married couples who did not enjoy their honeymoon trips. They felt that they had to spend a lot of money to make the event "special." But, with the wedding planning to handle, they did not have time to plan their getaway. The result is what I call the "New Year's Eve Syndrome." Joy does not often come to those trying to force it to conform to expectations set by the calendar.
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