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Buy What You Value

Kenyon Sayler

IN A RECENT BLOG post, I mentioned a coworker’s Lexus. One commenter—none other than fellow HumbleDollar contributor Dick Quinn—noted that, while “there is no logical reason” the coworker needed a Lexus, he might have motivations I didn’t know about.

I didn’t mean to imply my coworker had made an imprudent choice. I spent my career working with engineers and scientists. As a group, we were well paid. We could afford pretty much anything we wanted—just not everything we wanted.

I’ve had friends purchase $15,000 custom-made carbon bicycles, buy $1,000 bamboo flyfishing rods and spend thousands making a Christmas village that’s on display for two months a year. While I personally don’t value those items enough to spend that sort of money on them, my friends all earned enough that they could afford to do so. They enjoy their hobbies, and spend countless hours biking, fishing and modeling.

While I tend toward frugality, there are two expenditures I make that some of my friends would not choose to make. The first was our family vacations. Every year, our entire family took a vacation. Some years, it was camping in our western national parks. Some years, it was going to a warm southern state in the middle of our long Minnesota winters. But every few years, it would be outside the continental U.S. Our children have accompanied us on trips to Alaska, Hawaii, Quebec, Ireland, France and Italy.

While some friends would take their spouse or partner on an overseas trip, a few expressed surprise that we’d take our children, especially when they were younger. These friends would tell me that the kids wouldn’t appreciate the experience or that they’d never remember the trip. I don’t buy those arguments. But even if they’re true, it wouldn’t matter. I worked with my colleagues for 48 weeks a year. I wanted to spend vacation with the people I cared most about—my entire family.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t approve of couples who arrange for grandparents to watch the children while they take a holiday. It’s just something that I never felt I needed to do.

The second expense is even harder to justify.

Before retiring, I built it into our budget. Like buying a printer, the initial cost is reasonable, but the ongoing costs are much greater—perhaps $2,300 a year. A bike, car or boat will probably have some residual value at the end of 12 or 15 years. After 12 to 15 years, my expenditures will total in the neighborhood of $30,000 and have zero monetary value. I also know that there are numerous places where I could cut the associated cost, but don’t choose to do so.

What’s this expense? My dog. He isn’t a fancy show dog. We don’t hunt. He’s just a companion. I could try to justify him by telling you that by walking him, I save on gym memberships. But it would be a lie. I’ve always had a dog simply because they make me happy.

A dog loves you unconditionally, whether you’re a CEO or on the dole. There’s joy in a young dog chasing swallows skimming above the grass. There’s contentment in an old dog enjoying the sun on a cool autumn day.

People earn their money. They should spend it as they see fit.

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Kristine Hayes
Kristine Hayes
10 months ago

Love this! Other than a couple of years when I was attending graduate school, I’ve always had dogs. Lots of dogs. I used to spend every weekend attending agility trials, flyball trials and obedience trials. My husband and I currently have four dogs. We are total homebodies, so being saddled with multiple dogs isn’t an issue for us. I can’t even guess how much money has been devoted to my dogs over the years, but it has to be tens of thousands of dollars. And I wouldn’t change any of it for the world. Just watching our dogs sleep in the backyard on a sunny day brings me great joy.

DrLefty
DrLefty
10 months ago

We traveled quite a bit with our kids when they were growing up and still do now that they’re young adults. At the time, I did wonder what they’d remember, and it was challenging when they were teenagers and didn’t want to leave their friends for a family vacation. I still remember my phone bill from a 3-week trip to Italy when my 16-year-old daughter went way over her limits texting her friends and boyfriend.

But now that they’re adults, there’s a benefit I didn’t realize: They’re comfortable traveling and being new places. They navigate airports and train stations and hotels and rental cars with ease. They have an open-minded, positive view toward travel and new experiences. Almost against their will at the time, we managed to bake it in to who they are as adults.

Because we travel a lot, we have not replaced our beloved Lab who passed in 2018, but I still miss being a dog mom.

Andrew Forsythe
Andrew Forsythe
10 months ago

I’m a dog man—always have been, always will be. The expense is considerable, and as they age and need all the newly available and costly meds and vet treatments, it increases. And yes, they can cramp your style a bit if you’re a frequent traveler.

But dogs are special creatures with a unique history and relationship with humans. For some of us, it’s all worth it.

If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.

Will Rogers

Mike Wyant
Mike Wyant
10 months ago

We took our 3 boys to Europe for a month when they were 7, 8, and 9 years old. The highlight, and the reason for the trip, was a friend’s wedding in Norway. She lived in a small town on the coast, just south of the Arctic circle. We could have easily left the kids with my in-laws, but the experience was priceless (and exhausting). Our boys are now 29, 30 and 31. We all still talk about that trip and hope to do it again someday. Oh, and we could never be without a dog!

steveark
steveark
10 months ago

Its a great point, personal finance is personal. In our case that means three cars between two drivers, two smaller sporty ones for our daily drivers and a bigger SUV to pull our boat and off road buggy. And more recently a cabin we are building on the side of a mountain we just bought in a wilderness area we love. We’ve got the money so why not spend it on things we will enjoy. Oh, and my daily driver is an INFINITI and it is worth every penny. On the other hand, having always had dogs, we decided not to replace the last ones, or the cat, when they passed on. Dogs are nice but they are way too much trouble when you have a travel lifestyle.

Jo Bo
Jo Bo
10 months ago

I suspect your children have fond recollections of the trips, regardless of what exactly they remember. My memories of a trip to Europe at four and a half years of age are still sharp, including crossing the Atlantic on a liner and taking trains abroad. Most of all, though, I recall being with my parents. They saved and took on extra work for several years to make that trip possible.

R Quinn
R Quinn
10 months ago

I’m with you on the dog. I love dogs and would love to have one. I was very attached to my daughters black lab. He was my buddy and it was hard to let him go.

But a dog is not in the cards for us. Our ability to travel even for a day would be limited and then there are those days walking him in the rain and snow.

‘’I’m hoping my daughter will get a new dog and then I can have all the good times – a grand dog is the best of both worlds. 🐶

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