Just Because I Can Afford It, It Doesn’t Mean I Should Buy It

Like most readers pursuing financial independence, I work hard.

Fifty to sixty hours in the office each week, in a demanding and oftentimes stressful career, plus additional time working from home at night and over the weekend.

More than five hours spent commuting to and from work every week.

In addition to the time I am now devoting to writing for and building Retiring On My Terms.

Life is very busy, and I make a good living.

So I should reward myself, right?

After all, I deserve it!

I’m not so sure.

Clearly, as someone focused on achieving financial independence and early retirement, I have at a high level bought into the concept of delayed gratification.

But we all can fall into the trap of spending our hard-earned money today on something we don’t really need, simply because we have worked hard and believe we have earned a reward.

Interestingly, I think this can happen to just about anyone, from a member of Generation Z earning her first paycheck while in high school, to a Millennial getting his first big promotion at work, to a member of Generation X moving into the corner office, to a Baby Boomer rewarding herself now that the children are out of college and the mortgage is paid off.

It certainly has happened with us.

Even an overcast day at the beach is better than most days at the office!

In the summer, we like to go on a family vacation, usually somewhere close to the ocean.

Last year was a stressful year for the ROMT family, both at work and in our personal lives, so when it came time for vacation, we decided to go all out.

After all, we deserved it!

We ended up in a two bedroom suite at a luxury resort hotel on the beach, with fine dining options on site, plenty of planned events, and a full service spa.

All of which came with a hefty price tag, of course!

It was a great family vacation, with plenty of fun and relaxation for all. Being able to walk to the beach first thing in the morning for a jog, or last thing in the evening to watch the sunset with the kids, was awesome.

When we thought about planning this year’s vacation, we knew we wanted to head back to the coast. But as we thought about where we should stay this year, we made sure to more explicitly weigh the pros and cons of our vacation decision, even though we all still “deserved” a great vacation.

The resort we stayed at last year included “free” breakfast for our family every morning at its sit down restaurant. While the food was great, the service pace was quite relaxed, to let people enjoy dining on the terrace overlooking the ocean. For us, with two young children, up to an hour and a half for a sit down breakfast just didn’t work very well. The kids wanted to get going and play on the beach, not gaze at it longingly from a quarter-mile away!

We’re also not spa people. Neither I nor Mrs. ROMT have ever used the services of a spa, and we didn’t start on our vacation last year. The spa at the resort offered a multitude of services, with large price tags, but having those amenities available on site didn’t really move the needle for us. Maybe Mrs. ROMT or I will finally partake once we are early retired, but that’s still several years away!

A big hole and a tower, courtesy of the ROMT children!

Moreover, we didn’t take advantage of too many of the resort’s planned activities either. We missed a few events we wanted to attend while we were trapped at enjoying our leisurely breakfasts, and the kids preferred exploring tidal pools, catching hermit crabs, playing in the sand, and swimming in the ocean or heated pool to many of the other scheduled events. We’re generally low-key people, and don’t need constant stimulation to enjoy ourselves, so once again, I questioned whether we were really getting the best bang for our buck at the luxury resort.

That said, it was still the first place we looked when we started planning this year’s vacation, since we all did have a great time. But thinking about the big picture, and factoring in that the resort’s rates were even higher this year, we seriously began to consider some other options.

We ultimately decided to stay at an inn that was about half an hour up the coast from where we vacationed last year.

It was not right on the water, so we’d have to get into the car to drive to the beach, which was definitely not as convenient. Positively, this meant we would be able to explore multiple beaches this year, rather than feeling tied to the one we were paying for right outside our door.

The inn we stayed at this year offered a “free” buffet breakfast each morning. The food was high quality and tasty, and provided tons of options for our family every day, from bacon and eggs, to sausage and French toast, to organic fruit salad and homemade hash, to berry pancakes and scratch baked pastries, in addition to the usual suspects like cereal, yogurt, toast, and bagels. We found we could eat a hearty, relaxed, and enjoyable breakfast in half the time it took last year, which more than made up for the fact we now had a 25 to 45 minute drive to the beach, rather than a five-minute walk.

The inn didn’t have a spa on site, but would schedule spa services for guests, not that we requested any. There were fewer planned activities on the calendar, but that just made us feel less guilty about doing what we wanted to do anyway, rather than feeling we weren’t getting our money’s worth if we didn’t have every hour of our vacation scheduled.

Objectively, the beachfront resort was nicer than the inn. The rooms were a little newer, the amenities were a bit more updated and luxurious, the common areas were a little fancier, and it was certainly more convenient to be right on the beach, rather than having to drive.

But we haven’t discussed one critical factor yet: the cost.

Each night at the beachfront resort cost MORE THAN TWICE what each night at the inn cost! Keep in mind, the inn we decided to stay at was not a flea-infested motel that hadn’t been renovated since the 1970s. It was a lovely place to stay.

We are blessed that we have the means to go on a nice vacation, and that we could afford to stay at either place.

But just because we can afford it, it doesn’t mean we should do it! When we considered the amount of money we would avoid spending by staying at the inn, rather than the beachfront resort, and that the only substantive difference in our experience was a few car rides to the beach, the right decision for us was crystal clear.

We had a great vacation while staying at the inn, and saved enough money compared to staying at the beachfront resort to push our potential early retirement date up by at least several days.

If we keep looking for ways to save a little more money, while still enjoying our lives, we might be able to push financial independence forward by many months!

Have you ever spent top dollar on something because you “deserved” the best? How did you feel about the purchase a year later?

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