Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Can spending more money on fun be a frugal choice?

Sometimes I have a really hard time spending money on things when I don't think I'm getting a good enough bargain.  I know, I know, some people would love to have that problem!  But honestly, it is a problem sometimes, especially when I hold back from having fun and enjoying myself because I don't like the price (or, worse, go ahead and then fret about the cost the whole way through.)  But luckily, I think I've found a partial solution.
One of the great things about living in the heart of Chicago was that every three months, without fail, a new set of coupons showed up in the mailbox with at least 4 or 5 buy-one-get-one-free coupons for great restaurants in the area.  As a result, my boyfriend and I would go out to eat maybe once every three or four weeks, almost always using the coupons, happy about the experience and the price and the value.  But here in DC, we don't get any coupons like that, and so we've eaten out much less often, even though we do value eating good food and having nice dates together.  It's not just restaurants, either; especially with the free Smithsonian museums in town, it's hard to choose other outings that have a pricetag (even when we're down to the last few museums which we're not really that interested in!)
So we decided to order the Entertainment Book for $20 [although we should've gotten it for $14 via Ebates, see below.]  I flipped through the offers online, did some mental calculations, and figured that it wasn't likely to save us much if any money.  While there are lots of offers that we can see ourselves using, there weren't too many of the "We go there/buy that anyway, so we're saving $X that we would have otherwise spent" variety.  (Although I didn't realize until it came in the mail that there's $20 of coupons to our grocery store-- $15, really, since one has expired-- so that actually goes a long way.)  In fact, since nearly everything in the book is "buy one get one free," paying half-price for something we otherwise wouldn't have paid for actually means spending more money.  That made me hesitate to buy the book at first.
But on reflection, I think it's going to be a good value for us.  Like I said, I often have a difficult time spending money on things unless I feel like it's a good deal (my boyfriend is similar although definitely less extreme.)  I'll tell myself that surely there's something else fun we could do for free or cheaper, and so it's my responsibility to find the cheapest entertainment and choose that instead.  And there are indeed other things to do, and we do them and we enjoy them-- I'll be the first person to tell you that there's a lot of free (or cheap), fun, fulfilling things to do out there.  But there are also some enjoyable things that you just can't do for free, and if you're too hung up on the cost you miss out on that fun.  And now we've got a whole bunch of "good deals" to lure us into doing them. 

For example, we went to a dinner theater for Valentine's Day and really enjoyed it, but we felt a little reluctant to do it again because we weren't sure it was quite worth the price (about $100 for the two of us, which is definitely at the high end of our usual entertainment costs.)  But in the Entertainment Book there's a buy-one-get-one-free coupon for that theater, and that means we'll probably go back-- at half the cost it goes from a probably-not to a great bargain.  There's a lot like that-- from eating out to bowling to mini-golf to boat trips on the Potomac, I feel like someone told me, "There's a 50% discount on fun this year!  You've paid for it already, now go out and enjoy it!" 

So in other words, thanks to the Entertainment Book, I think we'll be spending a little more on entertainment this year, but getting a lot more fun in return.  And isn't that what frugality's all about, anyway-- not merely spending as little as possible, but instead getting the most happiness you can out of your money?  Merriam-Webster says that frugality is "Middle French, from Latin frugalis virtuous, frugal, from frug-, frux fruit, value; akin to Latin frui to enjoy."  I think investing this extra money in fun will be a good value, and I'm looking forward to enjoying it!
Do you hesitate to spend money on entertainment when you're not sure you're getting a good deal?  Do you ever feel like you're taking that too far?  What ways have you found to address that?  (And for those of you who think that's crazy, you can just share your thoughts on the Entertainment Book!)
* By the way, I did a bad job of shopping around.  I should've bought the Entertainment Book through Ebates and gotten an extra $6 back.  (And if you haven't joined Ebates yet, you'll get an extra $5 on your first purchase-- if you want to join and don't mind using my referral link, click here-- or just go to 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think it's super that you bought the EB. Like you, I don't like spending unless it's a good deal. Getting the EB creates a lovely middle ground where you can do some great activities pretty frugally. Enjoy!