Trent Hamm at the Simple Dollar wrote a post in January about enjoying the free things in life. On a flight home, he found himself looking forward to taking a hot shower and spending time with his family. Once he realized that these things were free or nearly free, he started listing activities he enjoyed that cost less than a dime per hour.
His post made me think not only about all the times I pay for entertainment when I could have as much fun for free, but also about the times I spend more to get something I enjoy less than a cheaper alternative. For example, we recently took our children to see a Disney on Ice show. We used a coupon on the cheapest seats, and the tickets cost our family of four a total of $33. From our seats, we could see not only the show but also all of the more expensive seats, which cost (if I remember correctly) up to $36 each with no discounts accepted.
The most expensive (“VIP”) seats had a few benefits — characters left the ice to interact with the children sitting there; Prince Charming’s footman even tried Cinderella’s glass slipper on a few of them. The chairs looked more comfortable, and the aisles allowed more leg room. Nevertheless, I suspect that we could actually see more of the show from our bird’s-eye viewpoint than those audience members sitting in the VIP seats saw. At some points in the program, props placed along the borders of the ice blocked the views of those on the floor, and I’m certain that some of the kids in the second and third rows of the VIP seating wished they had tiered seats (like we did) so that they could see over the heads of the adults in front of them.
Meanwhile, our seats gave us not only a panoramic view of the ice but also “free” exercise (climbing the stairs) and a little more leeway for our antsy children to move around during the show. When their attention waned before the finale, we were able to leave a few minutes early without disturbing many other people in the audience.
Many of us have become so accustomed to pricing systems for shows and other forms of amusement that we assume that higher prices equate to a better experience, but that’s not true all the time. Individual preferences and circumstances can often make the less expensive alternative a better option even if the costs were the same. I would much prefer a game night with family and friends at home to a night out on the town. My husband, a football fan, likes to watch games on television from his comfortable sofa instead of sitting in cold, crowded bleachers without the benefit of close-up views and commentators’ insights. Homemade popcorn and a video can be as entertaining as a trip to an overpriced movie theater.
I will second Trent Hamm’s recommendation to make a list of free or nearly free things that you enjoy doing. I also recommend adding to your list some less expensive alternatives to the costly things you enjoy doing. You may find that you enjoy more when you spend less — and not just because you are spending less. Once you make your list, consult it whenever you are bored. You will find plenty of things to enjoy and will be able to keep more of your money.
Image courtesy of djking