You might have read my rant last week about the less than stellar service I had received from AMA Travel but they've redeemed themselves, and we are officially booked to go to Barcelona in November. Hooray!!! We'll be spending 8 nights (7 full days) taking in all the sights, food and sangria that Barcelona has to offer. If any of you have any tips on what to do or where to eat while we're there feel free to let me know in the comments, I'm always looking for good tips!
This trip is all thanks to my parents who gave me an AMA gift certificate for my 30th birthday so we could treat ourselves to a holiday. My initial plan was to hold on the gift certificate and use it for a few trips to the mountains and maybe flights to BC to visit family. That sounded pretty lame though, and I knew it wasn't what my parents had in mind when they came up with the idea. Once I started looking at trip deals, I realized how cheap you could fly to Europe. Some incredible sales were popping up so the initial plans were vetoed and a trip to Europe was the new plan. After missing out on a deal to Paris, we jumped when flights to Barcelona dropped to less than $500 each (round-trip, taxes in!) That sounded like a real trip, and something that I would really remember!
This also got me thinking about the importance of spending money on experiences instead of material things. I like new things as much as the next person and have been known to drop too much money on clothes, shoes and make-up, but there are very few things I own that I wouldn't trade for an amazing experience. Plus, I have a bad habit of buying something I think I love and have it sit in my closet for months and months. That never happens when you spend your money on trips, concerts, festivals, or whatever other "experience" type splurges you can think of. The memories you create from such activities will stick with you longer than that new dress you've been eyeing. This is proven science! Leaf Van Boven and Thomas Gilovich wrote a paper on this very subject and concluded that the level of happiness you get from buying things vs. experiences starts out similar, the happiness from things fades much faster. After some time the memory of the experience will bring you more happiness than the physical object, which you might not even own anymore.
I feel like I'm in a place right now to take full advantage of this. My budget has stabilized, and my spending money is no longer tied up with other priorities. What do I mean by that? Well, after we moved into our house there were A LOT of extra expenses and most of my spending was diverted to things for the house. It's amazing how much your first home will cost you! Not only were there the essential purchases, like a lawnmower for our new backyard, but I also wanted to fill my new (to me) house with new things to make it feel more like home. Flash forward five years, and I no longer have that same desire to buy things for the house, and we've done most of the major projects we wanted to complete. Now that money can be redirected to other things, and my goal is that experiences top that list.
What kind of experiences am I talking about?
I love to eat (I'm sure that comes as no surprise to anyone), so trying out delicious new restaurants is one of my favourite things to do. Eating out can be a tough thing to fit into your budget because there's a crossover between the essential act of eating and the entertainment factor of going out. For me, I have a section of my budget for groceries (essential fixed cost) and then eating out at a restaurant would have to fit into my entertainment (non-essential spending) fund.
I also enjoy going to concerts and sporting events. The atmosphere of being at a live event almost always makes it worth the price of admission! We also have a brand new arena in Edmonton for this upcoming hockey season, so I will most definitely be spending some money to check that out.
The last thing on my list would be to travel. Unless I win the lottery, I will have to continue to limit the number of trips on the agenda, but that doesn't mean it's not an important part of my budget. Contributing a bit of money each month to a 'vacation fund' gives me something to look forward to and means that I won't have to go into debt to travel.
What kind of spending is most important to you? Do you have something you regret buying or something you would pay for again in a heartbeat?