One of the things I remember the most about being broke when I was younger was that I couldn’t afford any entertainment. I went from being a single guy to supporting a family of three on my single income. It took every dime I made just to pay the bills. When I first got married, we used to go to dinner every Friday night. But, this just piled up a balance onto our credit cards. Soon, I had to break the news to my wife that we just couldn’t afford it. This wasn’t very popular. But, tough times called for tough measures.
Now that I’m a little older and have climbed a couple of steps up the corporate ladder, I have some discretionary income to spend on entertainment. The biggest problem is deciding what to do with our entertainment budget, because everything has become so expensive. A night on the town or a weekend getaway can quickly add up to clobber your budget. The real trick is finding affordable entertainment, so you can enjoy the moment, without stressing over the cost.
I have always been a huge fan of rock concerts. When I was a teenager, we used to hang out on the Sunset strip in Hollywood and catch all of the up-and-coming bands. I saw the Motley Crue at the Whisky, before anyone knew who they were. I think I spent more money on concerts as a teenager than anything else, including my car.
Last night I took my wife to a UB40 concert. This is one of her favorite bands and it was her first time seeing them perform. This was my second time. I saw them way back in 1984 at the Hollywood Palladium, when the first Labor of Love album came out. They were awesome, by the way, and I would love to see them again.
Concerts are worth the money to me, because they are a one-time historical event, at a specific moment in time. There is the venue, the music and the people you share it with. Each concert is unique and special. I never regret a dime that I spent on concerts. Except for that Rolling Stones concert in 1989, they have all been well worth the money.
It took me years to pay off those Friday night dinners from my credit cards. So, that left a lasting impression that sticks with me to this day. I enjoy dining, but it can be expensive and the food is usually not very healthy. Of all the entertainment options available, dining out seems to be the least memorable. It’s almost as though I forget about the dinner as soon as I get up and walk away. Some restaurants have great food and atmosphere, but they usually have high prices to match.
I don’t consider this our best entertainment value, so we don’t spend a lot of money on nice dinners out. I enjoy a nice dinner with my wife at home just as much and I have no problem cooking or doing the dishes. We do grab lunch or dinner together fairly often, but it’s usually simple and inexpensive. It’s about being together more than the food. The only time we eat a nice dinner at a restaurant is when we are travelling or for a special occasion. That’s when it makes sense to spend the money.
I used to be a sports fanatic. I grew up a Dodgers fan and switched to the Angels, when I moved to Orange County. We had rotating parties every Monday night to watch football. And, we would get together for every playoff game, whether it was football, baseball or basketball. I was also a huge race fan. I grew up in Ontario, California, where they used to have a speedway. We got autographs from Richard Petty, Mario Andretti and many others at the Holiday Inn near our house.
This year, I lost my enthusiasm for sporting events. It started with the hockey strike a couple of years ago and it just went downhill from there. Between the crybaby millionaire players and the extortion artist owners, nobody respects the hard-working fans, who pick up the tab. I even went to spring training this year to generate some enthusiasm, but it didn’t help. This was our last year for buying Angels season tickets. We have decided to spend our entertainment dollars elsewhere. We may catch a game or two, but we won’t be spending thousands on tickets, food and merchandise.
Books, Music, Movies & Media
When I was younger, I used to spend a lot of money on albums, then CDs. I still have quite a collection that I spent a small fortune on. I also started collecting videos, until I realized that I rarely watched them more than once. I am an avid reader, especially finance and motivational books. I have a bookshelf full of books and a media cabinet full of CDs and DVDs all gathering dust. I don’t want to sell them, but I don’t have the time to enjoy them either.
I don’t regret all of the money I spent on these items, but I wouldn’t say that it was wise. I have slowly recovered from the expensive habit of collecting media. Instead I “consume” it from the Internet and satellite. I do spend quite a bit on Internet service and satellite TV. But, this enhances my family time, which is very precious to me. We rarely ever go to the movies.
Vacation & Travel
I was very fortunate to have travelled for work, when I started my career. I got to see a lot of great places, at the company’s expense. It was an incredible experience and it developed an adventurous side of me that longs for more. I met my wife while I was on vacation, half way around the world. In a couple of weeks, we are going to Catalina for our 20th wedding anniversary.
Travel is the one area where I intend to spend a lot more time and money. I want to see some of the places I’ve never seen and experience more of the customs and cultures of people around the world. Right now, we spend a lot of weekends camping and taking small trips. But, I want to expand our travel for longer trips and farther destinations. Unfortunately, my profession makes it difficult to be away from the office for long.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that entertainment and experiences are an important part of the fabric of life. Neglecting these sources of happiness for the sake of frugality is a mistake. Money comes and goes, but experiences last a lifetime.
“Once a person has all the things they need to live, everything else is entertainment.”
Neal Stephenson – American Author