Just a super-quick post today folks — The Tako family is still on vacation, and we will be until the middle of next week!
As we touristed around the wonderful city of Houston today, I was thinking about vacation spending — I found myself worrying myself over the cost of small things, like how much we paid for fruit (our main breakfast), or how much a cold drink cost.
I kept telling myself, “Back home I would never pay that much for a banana or apple!” And I wouldn’t. Back home I would have totally optimized the hell out of every regular purchase. I would totally know which store was the optimal place to buy fruit from and the I would only buy when the price was reasonable.
That’s great when we’re at home (and I have tons of time to optimize). but on vacation this kind of thinking presents a problem.
Vacations & Efficiency Don’t Mix
For efficiency nerds like myself, overpaying never feels great. I want to have every financial transaction be optimal, but it’s just not going to happen on vacation. When we’re on vacation, time is very limited and I just need to relax that part of my brain that desires financial efficiency.
Instead of telling myself “You really overpaid for that banana”, I need to be saying something more along the lines of “Good job being frugal on vacation by eating fruit instead of an expensive restaurant breakfast.”
Time is a precious resource on vacation, and I shouldn’t be wasting it trying to over-optimize everything, I should be out enjoying my vacation (keeping it within budget of course)
So yes, I probably overpaid for some of our groceries on vacation, and probably missed out on some good discounts because I was in a new city and didn’t know all the tricks… but I need to be OK with that because our mindset is still frugal.
Here’s just a few examples:
* Rather than buying a fast-food breakfast or eating at a restaurant, we eat fruit we picked up at a grocery store.
* We are refilling our own water bottles and bringing them along rather than buying expensive drinks.
* Some meals we’re eating-out to experience the local flavors. This is expensive, but we’re also eating some meals ‘in’ which helps reduce the costs.
* Using public transportation in big cities like Houston or Austin might be a cheaper option, but definitely not faster. We rented a car to drive around Texas. This might be more expensive, but I’m still using GasBuddy to find cheap gas stations and saving a ton of time.
* Part of the trip we’re staying with local friends instead of a hotel. While we can’t do the whole trip this way, it does cut down the cost somewhat.
* Even though we’re paying for tickets to expensive museums or locations like Johnson Space Center (NASA), we’re also utilizing a lot of free (or low cost) entertainment options like city parks or State parks. This helps keeps the costs down.
Hopefully you can see what I mean — it’s impossible to optimize every transaction while on vacation, but we aren’t throwing caution to the wind either. Our mindset is still pretty frugal.
Once In A Lifetime Experiences
Just one final thought today on vacation expenses — Even though we skip a lot of the regular tourist stuff, and completely ignore many of the commercialized aspects of traveling, there are definitely still certain experiences worth paying for.
I call these “Once in a lifetime” experiences — the experiences so unique and fulfilling to your person that they’re worth paying the ridiculous tourist prices. Furthermore, you might only have one single opportunity in a lifetime to experience it.
This is going to be unique to every individual. For me, a once in a lifetime experience was the opportunity to visit Johnson Space Center, which is just outside of Houston. Yes, at $30 per adult it is kind of overpriced, but it’s probably the ONLY time I’ll get to visit NASA in my lifetime. So I gladly paid the price.
Funny enough, financial independence at an early age is kinda like this — a once in a lifetime experience that represents a significant opportunity cost. People like myself make the tradeoff for a unique life experience rather than a maximum amount of total lifetime earnings in the bank account.
It would seem I’m pretty consistent about making that tradeoff…