Recently I was invited to a lunch at a very pricey, exclusive restaurant in town. I accepted because it was a professional thing and I felt like the contacts I would make would justify the price tag. I was right, to an extent. I did meet a lot of people that will probably be helpful to me at some point. When I got home and thought about it, though, I realized that the restaurant itself had no value for me. In other words, I’ll likely never darken their door again unless I’m invited to a similar function.
The food was good, but not great. Certainly not great enough to justify the price tag. There was no discernible difference between their food and beverages (which set me back about $75) and the food I can get for $15 at one of the local chain restaurants. The service was attentive and the atmosphere was, we’ll call it swanky. The service and atmosphere were the main draws but, while it was nice to be fawned over for an afternoon and dine in a quiet, child-free environment, it’s not something that holds enough value for me to justify spending that kind of money on a regular basis. I left thinking that, aside from the professional aspect, the afternoon had been a waste of money.
Other people in the group loved it and mentioned that they eat at this place all the time because they love to be treated so well. For them there is value in such treatment and in the plush environment. Paying that kind of money does not bother them because they perceive that they are getting their money’s worth. They have determined that this place holds value for them.
Everyone’s choices are their own and I certainly don’t think less of them for liking that restaurant. They would probably laugh at some of the things that I find valuable and for which I will happily fork over money. The point is that you have to spend your money on things that give you value. If that’s being treated like a celebrity for an afternoon, great. It’s equally great if you find value in roughing it for a weekend. Neither activity is better or worse. People are different and they appreciate different things.
There was a time when I would accept any invitation, do anything, and go anywhere. I had no filter. I couldn’t or wouldn’t determine which activities were “worth it” to me. As a result, I spent a lot of money on bad food, vacations to places I didn’t really want to go, and activities that I found boring or painful. Now that I’m older, I’m clearer on the activities that are valuable to me. While I’m still willing to try new things, there are some things that I just know won’t suit me. I knew that about this restaurant and had it been just a gathering of friends, I would have said no. Since it was a professional thing, I said yes. And I was right about the lack of value.
This doesn’t mean that you have to say no to everything that you might think won’t be valuable to you. It’s a good thing to try new things occasionally. But for your everyday spending, it’s helpful to know which activities bring you value (whether that be in terms of emotional satisfaction, great food or drinks, time with friends, or an activity that just brings you joy) and which you find worthless. The more you can define what value means to you, the less likely you are to spend on things you later regret.
(Photo courtesy of obvio171)