A Life Without Debt: Deprivation vs. Compromise

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.

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21 Responses to A Life Without Debt: Deprivation vs. Compromise

  1. Michelle says:

    Very cool post … I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog.

    My Future Husband and I have been having similar discussions lately – we’re getting married in April and we’ve decided to have a simple honeymoon in lieu of putting in new flooring in our kitchen.

    The trip would be divine but flooring will last for the next 20 years. :)

  2. Michelle says:

    I think I used “in lieu” wrong. We’re going on a simple trip to save money that we’ll be socking toward our kitchen floor.

    It’s pre-coffee … :)

  3. Shannon says:

    Your friends might not realize it, but they are probably “depriving themselves” of a lot of things you have. It might be a vacation, or some jewelry, or an earlier retirement. Any time you choose to do one thing with your money, you are “depriving” yourself of something else — but at least you’re smart enough to realize it :)

    Thanks for the reminder about opportunity costs and the benefits of choosing not to do certain things so we can do something better!

  4. justme says:

    good job;-) anyone not in high school should be able to resist peer pressure

    I always get irritated when others try to decide if I can afford things,how would they know?

  5. Slinky says:

    I would have simply said, “I’d rather spend that money on X,” or, “Actually, I don’t have the money, we owe some taxes this year.” I can’t argue with your choice because you explained why you made it. She doesn’t understand your choice because you didn’t explain it to her. Most people understand the concept of not doing one thing so you can have another, they just don’t always practice it.

  6. Janet says:

    Congratulations on putting your foot down. I like the way you looked at the play, it was only one night, where as the jewelery will be cherished forever as will the memories from the vacation (which will last more than one night).

  7. Natalie says:

    OMG!! I cannot even imagine spending $160 on a play. I’ve never heard of such nonsense. I know plays can be more expensive, one I was in, an amateur production, was $12. Was this broadway? I know the price of the play isn’t the point, but that you’re friend was trying to convince you to go. You should have just said, “The play is $160 for both of us.” And she should have understood. What’s the problem? My friends asked me to go play paintball recently for $40. Uhh, no. Why? Because I can do a lot of things w/ $40 besides being hit with paint bullets.
    Seriously $160??? For a one night play??? Who can blame you?

  8. Natalie says:

    $160?? Really? I’ll have to tell this one to friends…

  9. rochelle says:

    Thank-you for your insight. I need to practice this making good a choice ritual. I usually just do or buy something because I like it or want to. Not anymore, my goal is to become debt free and make wiser choices. Doing that is hard work especially to someone like myself who always had it my way. Your message helps me to ask myself similar questions when posed with making a financial choice. If I do A how will it affect B,C,D. I’ve been spoiled too long and it’s disgusting. Thank-you again.

  10. Diane says:

    I see nothing wrong with spending $160 for a special evening out with friends to see a play – IF that’s what your priority is at the moment.

    But if you have other priorities for your disposable income, whether a trip or jewelry, then you make a choice.

    Nothing wrong either with saying “not this time”! There will be other plays and other nights out… Saying yes and giving up something more important to you would make you feel deprived.

    With a limited amount of disposable income, most of us make choices every day on what is most important… not always easy, but a necessary thing.

  11. Cheapchick says:

    Interesting that your friends would push it. It sometimes is difficult to be around people who do not share the same financial awareness. I am glad you stuck with your guns….To share: Saturday night we were given 2 tickets to a hockey game (I live in Canada in a hockey crazy town) The tickets we received through hubbys company were $130.00 per ticket. We cannot sell them as they are specifically for employees and enjoy hockey so we went. After a defeat of our hometown heros my husband (not so frugal as me) said “and now we know why we have not ever paid that kind of money for hockey tickets” We would have been out $260 as a couple if we had actually bought them. I know some of our friends think we are cheap but really we just have financial goals. Hold on to yours.

  12. Shaneil says:

    I really agree with the main character in this survey because I feel like why spend all that money when you can get 2 for the price of 1 and plus you can charish that ring and and everytime you look at it you will see the good use your money went to plus you and ya mate trip is something you always want to

  13. bank deals says:

    Things that you can do include:
    – spending less, even if you still go out
    – making more than minimum payments on credit cards; pay more than you’ve charged for the month plus the interest due
    – negotiate for lower interest rates on credit cards
    – don’t charge things on credit cards
    – start saving money so that you have resources should the unexpected occur

  14. Shaneil says:

    I like it and I agree with the saying”why pay for the price of one when you can get two out the deal”

  15. El Cheapo says:

    I applaud you for doing the responsible thing and not falling into peer pressure. I have friends on both ends of the spectrum – spends a lot – spends a little. I know I’ve fallen into peer pressure and spent on things I really shouldn’t have. Best example is a spontaneous trip that cost me $1500 for one night. Not worth it at all.

  16. ThiNg says:

    Is there any reason why the memory of the play would not last as long as the memory of the vacation?!?!

    If you say its because there is more to the vacation (things to do, length of time, etc.) I would argue that the vacation costs a lot more than the play does, correct?

    I agree with your other reasons, but the vacation is just as frivolous as going to a play, eating at a restaurant, or watching a hockey game. All you have in the ends are memories (or a little more waistline!).

    Paying your taxes, maintaining your home, etc. are priorities which can lower costs in the long run (penalties and interest, or costly repairs to unmaintained property in the future).

  17. Texas Girl says:

    If you would have REEEEAAAALY wanted to go to that play, you would have. Really.

    I get so sick and tired of having to be on the defensive about my financial decisions too!! Usually its the people who are up to their eyes in debt and who have zero willpower to not finance every last restaurant meal their heart desires RIGHT NOW, are the ones putting the pressure on. Misery loves company.

    Those types of people will probably still be paying off those play tickets 10 years from now.

  18. IRG says:

    OK. $160 is NOT a small amount of money.

    However, two seats at a Broadway play for $160 (And I’m assuming it is Broadway or similar in another major city) are NOT the most expensive seats in the house.

    You’re right. It’s not deprivation to choose not to go. By the same token, to not clearly tell your friends “we choose to spend our money on other things” does set up their responses. And if they are your friends, while they may be disappointed because they wanted to share this experience with you, they will understand and respect your wishes.

    I’m surprised at how many people have turned this back on those people. Seems more than a tad bit defensive, to say the least.

    By the way, for some of us, a night at the theater is an experience that is equal to or more than a lot of other things.

    It all goes back to what you want to do. I know plenty of people who have very modest incomes who save and watch their budgets so they CAN go to a broadway show. It’s something that is worth the money to them.

    They’re aware that it means sacrificing a lot (even with discounts), but it’s what works for them.

    I’m always amazed at how much money people “waste” (in my mind) on sporting events, including the cost of food and drinks. Ugh. Give me a really good nite of theater with top actors and quality writing anytime.

  19. gerhard says:

    I am married and proud parent- I go through similar thoughts several times a month, but if I look back 10 years we did not enjoy all this extras that we are wanting today. Standard of life has improved and has asked us for more spendings over the last few years.
    Beeing together with real friends and not having to show off is what we really enjoy this days.
    eg.: Birthdayparties past year were done by a cateringservice and waiters…etc.
    Today we categorize friends in: salads, main course, desert, beer, wine etc. everybody contributes ..and it is even more fun and a lot of laughs
    I do not feel that we are depriving ourselfs, we really enjoy it finding new more affordable ways in doing things.

  20. Carly says:

    Your friend pushed it because she had some hurt feelings. You prioritized other more expensive things over spending time with her. She may have been excited about attending this event with you especially since you had expressed an interest. I’m CF and I also have a considerable savings. Your decision may have made sense to you, but to the average person, you are taking expensive vacations, improving your house and don’t have kids. The logical conclusion from the average friend would be that spending time with her at this event would not be worth $160 of enjoyment. I’m not saying your decision was right or wrong, but just giving you some empathetic perspective.

  21. bill says:

    There’s always a trade-off when deciding to do something now as opposed to later, or buying this as opposed to that.

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