FOR CHRISTMAS, I bought Rachel a saucepan and a universal travel charger for her smartphone. The previous year, I bought her a pair of gloves and socks. She likes gifts that are practical and good value. During December, we prefer to spend our Christmas money on weekend trips. We live in Los Angeles county and this year we went to La Jolla and Las Vegas.
We like to collect pictures of our adventures. We not only store them on the cloud, but also keep some of them in a scrapbook and on a flash drive. We frequently look at our pictures, because it makes us feel more alive than any item we could purchase. For Christmas, Rachel gave my mother a 2019 calendar with pictures from our 2018 adventures. My mother was thrilled. Pictures seem to bring out the joy in people.
Travel doesn’t just offer enriching experiences and great memories. It’s also a chance to see what’s wonderful about the world—but also what’s wrong. While we were in Las Vegas, we went to a buffet. I noticed a young man devouring one plate of food after another. While watching him eat, I realized we live in a society where it’s too easy to overindulge.
Food is everywhere. While filling your car with gas, you can purchase fast food. While standing in the checkout line at a grocery or drug store, you’re tempted with candy. All of this can’t be good for our health.
It’s also too easy to spend money in other ways. With a credit card, you can make a purchase on the spur of the moment—which means people take less time to evaluate their spending. Credit card companies encourage you to spend by enticing you with cash back, airline miles and points toward hotel accommodation.
Spending with a credit card isn’t just easier. It’s also less painful. You aren’t physically relinquishing an asset during the transaction. That’s why I carry a roll of bills in my pocket. It’s my way of reminding myself that these are real dollars I’m spending.
Travel also offers the chance to interact with others—something we don’t do enough of. You now can converse with your friends by texting and using social media, such as Facebook and Snapchat. There’s a big difference between talking with your fingers and speaking with your voice on the telephone or in person. You really don’t have that same close connection—which is what you need to get through the rough times.
It also takes more nerve to be disparaging to someone’s face than it is through Facebook or Twitter. It seems like some people think social media gives them the license to fudge the truth and attack the character of others. What if you get out and meet those with differing views? Maybe you’d be more sympathetic to their point of view.
Dennis Friedman retired at age 58 from Boeing Aerospace Company. He enjoys reading and writing about personal finance. His previous blogs include Be Like Neil Young, First Impressions, Family Inc. and Creative Destruction. Follow Dennis on Twitter @dmfrie.