I was playing bridge with some friends last week when one of them mentioned that he and his wife were driving to Florida for a month. They estimated that it would take them 2 ½ days to reach their destination. When I asked them why they were driving, they claimed that they wanted to save the $1,000 in added expense that flying would entail.
I looked at them like they had two heads! “Wait a minute,” I said. “You took a month off of work and had enough money to buy and furnish a second home in Florida, but felt that you could not spend $1,000 to avoid putting yourself through five days of hell?” They looked at me incredulously.
This brief conversation illustrates how powerful the urge is to preserve capital in order to avoid a perceived loss. It almost makes us forget what the purpose of money is in the first place. In this instance, driving extended distances through difficult weather conditions is generally thought of as something to be avoided. That is what money is for, assuming you have the money, which our friends certainly did. Further, the idea of a vacation is to relax. Does it make sense to spend nearly 20% of your vacation time doing something that you would rather avoid? Of course not! It doesn’t make sense when you look at it that way.
It is difficult for most of us to realize the strange relationship we have with our money. The quest to accumulate it can form some very powerful unconscious habits that many of us find nearly impossible to break. Money is a medium of exchange. It allows us to buy things that can make our life or the lives of others better.
In this case, money could buy more time to do what our friends really enjoyed. It could also have bought them safety and spared them the anxiety of religiously checking weather reports before their journey, as well as saved them from a feeling of exhaustion when they arrive after their extended drive. So the next time you think you can save some money, fully consider the trade offs that could cost you more in the end.