How to Tell When You Should Splurge on an Experience
Attending a wedding can be a lot of fun. Between seeing the people you care about tie the knot, to enjoying the food (and the drinks), to dancing the night away, weddings are full of potential happy moments. Still, weddings can get expensive. You have to factor in transportation costs, potentially hotel costs, and also the cost of purchasing a gift. This is true of many other events, such as reunions, graduations, birthday parties, concerts, and vacations.
As much fun as these events can be in the moment, sometimes the cost of attending them outweighs the fun that you might have. This is particularly true of events that you probably won’t remember in a few years, or events that you are attending simply out of obligation. So how can you tell if an event is worth your money? Here are five questions to consider.
1. Is it in the budget?
This is the most important question on this list. If you don’t have the money, then you probably can’t go. Of course there are some cases when you will decide to go anyway, such as you best friend’s wedding, or a networking event that you can’t pass up. When it comes to less important events though, you should start by asking yourself if you can afford to go. If you don’t have a budget, the first step you should take is to make one. There are many budget sheets available online that can help you get started, like this one from Freddie Mac.
It can be tempting to use your emergency fund to finance an especially tempting trip or event, but don’t do it. Your emergency fund should be for emergencies only. Instead, try to include money toward weddings and other events in your monthly budget.
2. Why are you considering going?
If you are planning to go to an event solely because you feel obligated, then you may want to skip it. While it’s important to support family and friends during important moments of their lives, no one can attend every birthday party, every wedding, or every graduation. Most people will understand if an event is too expensive for you to attend. If you are uncomfortable sharing the reason you can’t go, then you don’t have to.
Another variation of this issue is the question of whether or not you can afford to play a big part in an event. For example, if your friend asks you to be a bridesmaid or groomsman, but you can’t afford to purchase the necessary outfit, then you may feel like you are letting that person down. If you do need to say no, you can always offer to help with something else, like the guestbook. Of course, there are some situations in which you may choose to attend an event solely out of obligation; if the stakes are high enough, you may feel that you don’t have a choice.
3. Will you remember the event in five years?
As much fun as attending a concert can be, if you won’t remember it five years down the line, then it probably isn’t worth your money. This is particularly true if your finances are tight. The same goes for any other event, such as a birthday party, graduation party, anniversary party, fundraiser, and so on. While it can be tempting to spend the necessary money in order to have a good time with friends, if the event really isn’t that important to you, and you don’t have the cash, then you should just say no.
On the other hand, if money is tight, but you can afford to go see your favorite band in concert, then you might want to do it. If you know that you are truly going to get personal satisfaction out of going, then that’s a good sign that the event is worth your money.
4. Will it benefit you in some way?
Obviously sometimes we go to events because we are showing our support, but if that question isn’t relevant, you should also ask yourself if the event is going to benefit you in some way. While a trip to Hawaii might be expensive, if you are going in order to attend a conference that will help you network and learn valuable skills for your career, then the trip might be worth your money. The same is true on a smaller scale, such as an expensive charity event where you know that you will likely might people who could help advance your career.
If you see no advantage to attending an event, then skip it. While many people hate to say no, it is particularly important to do so when you are on a tight budget. Also, remember that you don’t need to just attend conferences or join professional organizations in order to network. Volunteering can help you to learn new skills and connect with potential contacts.
5. Will going push your limits?
One of the best ways to avoid overspending is to set limits. If you have kids, tell them that they can attend a certain amount of birthday parties each year. While that may seem unfair at first, $10 for a present becomes a large expense when your child is invited to multiple birthday parties each year. Set a limit, and stick to it. Do the same for your children’s extracurricular activities, eating out with your friends, going to movies, attending concerts, and so on. This is a little harder to do for weddings, since you may not know how many you will be invited to, so you may have to give yourself some leeway when things come up. Setting limits can also give you a good excuse to avoid certain events, if you are comfortable using it.