What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas – For Now

May 1, 2014 by

          On Tuesday morning, I popped my head over my friend’s desk. “Hey, do you have a minute?” I asked her.

          “Sure, come sit,” she said, pointing to the chair beside her.

          “It’s not work-related,” I warned as I took a seat, though I’m sure she already figured that.

          “What’s up?” she asked.

          “Remember I had to buy a new laptop a few weeks ago because my old one crashed?” I asked rhetorically.

          She nodded.

          “Well, I thought my tax refund would cover the cost of it, but it’s not going to, so I had to use money that would have gone toward Vegas to pay for some of it. I never got my hopes up about Vegas. I knew that going was unlikely from the day I was invited, because the girls are going over the long weekend. The chance of getting approved for a flight on May 2–4 is low; all seats are probably going to sell. I’m actually now hoping that they do sell, so I know that I couldn’t have gone regardless of my money situation. My friend checked. He said there’s no seats available to staff; but, I checked our site, and passengers can still book, which means there’s still a small chance that I could be approved last minute. – Ugh, I’m stressed,” I finally exhaled.

          She waited for me to continue, because obviously there was more. There’s always more. I’m detailed in my telling of everything. That was just the background leading to my bigger concern.

          “I have this thing about doing the things I’ll regret not doing. It’s a happiness tip. When I’m old and look back on my life, I think I’ll be more likely to regret something like not going to a bachelorette party in Vegas on May 2–4, for example, than not paying off my student loan faster. I don’t want to have those kinds of regrets, but I moved back to my parents’ house with the eventual goal of living in my own place without roommates. Before I can even start saving for a down payment, my student loan needs to go. I recently started my new financial plan, so I’m already making additional payments toward my loan. I do not deviate from financial plans, yet I’m considering stopping one extra OSAP payment in order to go to Vegas. I’m freaking myself out! If I stop one, what is to prevent me from stopping another later? I also have this thing about saying yes. It is because I said yes to Niagara last year that I’m as happy as I am now, and it is because I say yes to social invites that I’ve met so many people since. I’m just not sure what is more in line with The Happiness Experiment: sticking to my financial plan or saying yes to Vegas. Having a realistic financial plan and saying yes to social invites are both happiness tips!”

          “Babe,” she started, “I know you have this thing about saying yes, but you can’t say yes to everything.”

          “I know,” I sighed. “Tradeoffs,” I said, more as a reminder to myself than as a demonstration of my understanding.

          “Yeah, you may miss out on the May long weekend in Vegas; but, because of that decision, later you’ll be in Italy or you’ll be in your own place. Saying yes to Vegas is not the same as saying yes to a club or a night in Niagara. Vegas can be expensive,” she cautioned.

          “Yeah, truthfully, I’m more concerned about the cost of expenses in Vegas than the cost of getting there. If I was going with people who are money-conscious, like I am, I’m sure I could have an amazing time without spending much at all. Because this is a bachelorette party, I’m worried about the cost of everything they have planned.”

          “Knowing how you are with money, you’re going to feel guilty spending what is meant for your student loan on Vegas,” she correctly assessed. “You’re not going to enjoy yourself.”

          “I know. I feel guilty just for considering it,” I agreed.

          “You’ve got to do what’s right for you. Going against your financial plan is not you,” she reminded me. (This girl gives awesome advice. She always guides me based on my personal values rather than her own.)

          “You’re right. I’m not going to Vegas. I think I already knew that was my decision. I was relieved when I thought there were no seats left on the plane, and then anxious when I saw that there still are. Clearly, I’m not comfortable spending the money. I need to accept that sometimes I have to say no. – Oh, this is so going to be a happiness tip. I can feel it. Thanks girl!”

 

***

 

          I’m pretty effing awesome at sticking to my financial plans, but holy fuck was my willpower ever tested this week. Throw any of the typical shit people get tempted to buy in front of me – clothes (the concept of shopping for fun blows my mind), the new iPhone 7,895,609 (seriously, are Apple’s constant upgrades necessary?), premium alcohol (can you really taste the difference between Ciroc and Smirnoff?), et cetera, et cetera, et cetera – and I don’t flinch. Throw prospective travel at me, and you’ve nailed my weakness. Pitting travel against travel is a bitch for me. Would I rather go on my months-long dream trip to Europe later or a short trip to some other awesome destination now?

          Obviously, I’d love to be able to do both, but that’s not always financially feasible. Although I make it a priority to travel as frequently as my vacation fund (not to be confused with my dream fund, which is solely dedicated to Europe) allows while I’m in the process of saving for Europe, at the rate friends ask me to go away, I sometimes have to reluctantly say no to short-term travel now in favour of long-term European travel later. Between the two, Europe always wins. I’d rather take up residency under the Gardiner than dip into my dream fund for travel anywhere other than Europe for a time period any shorter than a few months. The initial disappointment that follows notifying friends that I can’t go wherever they proposed quickly dissipates when I remind myself that it is because I know when to say no that I will succeed in getting my ass on a one-way one day.

          Now, pit short-term travel against paying down my student loan, and there resides a much larger gap between one of my wants and one of my financial goals. At least when it’s long-term travel versus short-term travel, I’m travelling either way. When it is the degree I resent versus short-term travel, I’m much more tempted to opt for short-term travel, as per the conversation above. When I saw that my tax refund was lower than I had expected upon filing my return late Monday night (yeah, I know, I said I’d file my return two weeks ago, but factor in my epic skill of procrastination and Maria time – the equivalent of Italian time – and you’ll understand that what I really meant is that I’d file my return just before the CRA’s annual deadline), I knew Vegas was on the line, and stopping a student loan payment (tempting, but not happening) was my only chance of recovering it.

          Typically, if the money to buy something is not in my bank account, I don’t buy it. My new laptop was an exception. I killed my old one by clicking on a virus-infested How I Met Your Mother link, ironically right after I was going to back up my documents but didn’t. My laptop was already on its deathbed, but I definitely pulled the plug. I couldn’t wait to buy a new one. I needed to write. Assuming my tax refund would pay for it, I swiped my credit card for the sum of $1,651.44. (I think my financially minded heartstrings just snapped. Before now, I had yet to add up the total cost, 128-gig USB included.) I had $179.09 to put toward the Mac immediately and my tax refund will pay for less than expected at $1,083.72, causing me to resort to pulling $388.63 out of my ass. By ass, I mean my bank accounts for once-in-a-while expenses, buffer spending money, and emergencies (the last of which I just created because of this very situation, so how appropriate), which are consequently empty. It was my vacation fund, though, that took the hardest hit.

          Like I told my friend, I refrained from getting too hopeful about Vegas, because getting a discounted seat on a flight through work on a long weekend when demand is high is unlikely, and I refuse to pay full price. However, evidently, my ultimate reason for not going to Vegas comes down to my financial situation – not seat availability. Seat or no seat, I am not going to Vegas, because I can’t afford to without denting my financial plan. Thankfully, I am strong enough to stick to my plan. The cognitive dissonance that would have erupted in my mind had I chosen to go would have eaten me alive. And so, May 2–4 in Vegas is out. On the contrary, downing wine that I’m pretending to myself doesn’t taste like torture (while I am not a big fan of wine, I am a huge fan of its work) in some gorgeous Italian piazza with less student debt than I have today is so in – circa the future.

Happiness Tip: Know that sometimes it’s okay to say no.

 
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2 Comments

  1. Great happiness tip, after all, there is no point in doing something if it leaves a lingering bittersweet taste which taking that trip would have done. 🙂

    • Thanks! I’m sure I would have had an amazing time, but guilt is my Everest and sticking to my financial plan is in line with my long-term goals.

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