So we are in Paris, as I type up this blog post on my phone like a putz. It is foggy and raining and to a soft punk Arizonan, pretty cold, too. I shouldn't complain about any of this, either the typing on a tiny computer that fits in my pocket, the weather, or the supposed danger of going to Paris or Brussels. How can you be sad in a place that is so beautiful and where all the food is cooked in butter? I am ridiculously lucky and I intend to roll around in my good fortune, slathering it all over, enjoying as much as I can of it.
While the four of us were able to travel hack our way to free flights, we are paying out of pocket for AirBNBs in the four cities we are visiting: Paris, London, Amsterdam, and Brussels. Throw in train tickets, food, bars, and attractions all in Western Europe, and it adds up to a fairly un-frugal trip.
This is always a bit of a conflict in our financial lives: trying to adhere to the life of frugality that initially set us on this path to financial independence and that makes us happier, too, if Mr. Money Mustache is to be believed, and, on the other hand, the genuine desire to do things that happen to be pretty damn expensive. Seeing other parts of the planet costs some coin, no matter how you do it. So do nice Christmas and birthday gifts. As do good restaurants and fancy nights out.
We could go the frugal route on all these things, of course. Hand made gifts and all our meals made at home with date nights at the park, and even more points chased down for extra-hacky vacations.
But I've become less and less enamored with the frugal approach, the longer we've used it. Frugality is just one tool, after all. It doesn't do everything well. And, if I am being a little too honest, I suppose I get tired of reading posts from frugality bloggers who only have that one saw in the bag, because, it seems, everything enjoyable in life is just one more thing that could be cut.
One of the big downsides of frugality is that these approaches, the DIY projects and insoucing of everything, while cheap, almost always cost you something else: time. And I am already time poor. Mrs. Done by Forty and I regularly put in long days: so we like an easy Chipotle dinner instead of spending 30 or 60 minutes to cook, and then more time spent cleaning afterwards. We generally don't want to tackle big home projects ourselves, since it's already so hard to squeeze in quality free time together.
So while the DIY approach saves us cash, it almost always costs us time.
And isn't it weird to trade our prime time for money at our jobs, only to turn around and choose options that cost us more time to save even more money?
These days, my take on frugality for its own sake is that it overestimates the value of money, and underestimates the value of time, or at least the net present value of time. Putting things off or eschewing them all together, like a trip to a new place or a concert or even something as ordinary as a fancy dinner out, seems short sighted when done in the name of hitting financial independence a year or three earlier.
We are in the last throes of our youth. Is it really that smart to trade this time today for time later or, worse, just for some more dollars?
At some point, it has to be about doing the things you want to do or (gasp) owning the sort of things you want to own. It sounds nice to have a big pile of money...but eventually you ought to convert that cash to something else.
I am being too harsh on frugality, of course. Spending less has largely set us up on a path to riches and freedom, so I should not complain. But the fervor of the newly initiated is wearing off, and these days I think there are a lot of limitations in living life thinking about ways to spend less, to cut things out, and to just make do with what we have.
On some level, it has to be about adding things to the list.
But enough of all that. We have pastries to eat and mimosas to drink. I promise to write about more cheerful things in the next post. Au revoir!