A couple that we are friendly with recently asked us to go to a play with them. We were interested because the play was one we’d been wanting to see for some time. However, tickets for this production were $60 for the nosebleed section. Add on $12 per ticket in service fees, plus sales tax and each ticket would cost about $80. That’s $160 for the two of us to attend this production. More if we wanted seats where we could actually see what was going on.
I realize that $160 doesn’t seem like much money. However, we just finished the flooring project and recently returned from a trip. Add to that the money we will owe the IRS this year and the fact that we know we have some major yard maintenance to do this year and we just weren’t comfortable spending that sort of money right now on something that isn’t necessary. Yes, we could easily have spent it and probably not been irreparably harmed, but neither of us really wanted to lay out any more money right now. Had they asked us three months from now, we probably would have said yes since our finances will have recovered by then.
When we told our friends that we would pass this time, the wife took me aside and said, “Oh, come on. Why do you deprive yourself this way? You know you have the money and I know you’ve been wanting to see this play, so why don’t you just give in and go. It won’t hurt you. I think you’re hurting yourself more by depriving yourself all the time. You only live once. Might as well go for it.”
I politely declined again, refusing to get drawn into a discussion of my finances or a defense of my position. But after she left, shaking her head at my bullheadedness I guess, I thought about what she said. Are we depriving ourselves too much?
I don’t think we are and I rarely think in terms of deprivation, anyway. Remaining debt free requires constant give and take. I can’t have everything that I want, so I have to choose what I want more. I have to compromise and have a little less of something in order to have more of something else. The $160 dollars in tickets certainly wouldn’t have sent us into debt, but it would have required giving up something else, especially since we’ve already had a large outlay of money this year. Had we spent the $160, in order to keep all of our other savings and charitable goals fully funded, we would have had to do one or more of the following:
- Give up or scale back the next trip we have planned for this year.
- Put off some of the maintenance we need to do and it really shouldn’t be put off.
- Try to cut back in other areas of the budget to generate the extra money, but that’s hard because we already have things running close to the minimum. There’s very little fat in our budget.
- Call this play my birthday present and forego the piece of jewelry that we had already picked out for that occasion.
- Raid a savings account. Bad idea.
- And there’s no way we could defer the IRS.
Remaining debt free isn’t always about avoiding the major purchase that seriously strains the budget. It’s about making the day to day decision to not rob Peter to pay Paul. So the decision to attend the play came down to this question: Do we alter the next trip, or do I give up my birthday present, or do we forego the play? After some thought we decided we’d rather have the trip as we’ve planned it, and I really wanted the jewelry for my present. So, no play. And we’re okay with that.
We do not feel deprived in any way. We have everything we need taken care of, and we’re getting some of our wants. We’re going to have a great trip and a lovely yard, and I’m getting a nice birthday present. Seeing a play that lasts one night just wasn’t as important to us as having a trip we’ll remember forever or a piece of jewelry that I’ll always treasure. We don’t deprive ourselves, we pick and choose the things that are most important to us and let the rest go. Deprivation would be having none of what we want. If we were depriving ourselves, we wouldn’t take the trip, buy the present or do anything else that wasn’t strictly a need. We make conscious choices to forego the less important things so that we can afford the important things. That’s not deprivation, that’s compromise and it’s necessary to remain debt free.