Knowing When to Splurge

Knowing When to Splurge - picture of hands raised at music concert

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Not too long ago, Greg and I were having some cocktails with his parents when I received an email alert I’ve been waiting for.  The subject line read: “Pearl Jam announces 2014 U.S. tour dates.”

Hell yeah. 

I totally freaked.  I had been waiting for that day ever since Pearl Jam came to Chicago last year and sold out for both of their shows in a matter of hours (and before I could buy tickets).  Ever since that day, I have been preparing myself to travel anywhere within driving distance if and when they ever decided to come to this damn country and quit touring in Europe for five minutes.  Fortunately, my time had arrived.

Unfortunately, I found the selection of tour dates and cities rather underwhelming.  Not surprisingly, Indianapolis was not on the list.  However, Pearl Jam was coming to Cincinnati, Ohio and Moline, Illinois, and both of those cities are only a few hours away.

But the dates for those two concerts didn’t jive with our calendar at all since we had a serious obligation one night and Greg was on call for work the other.  Womp womp.  Undeterred,  we started looking at the other seven cities to see what would work best:

  • Austin, Texas
  • St. Louis, Missouri
  • Tulsa, Oklahoma
  • Lincoln, Nebraska
  • Memphis, Tennessee
  • Detroit, Michigan
  • St. Paul, Minnesota
  • Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  • Denver, Colorado

Knowing When to Splurge

Just a few years ago, we never would’ve considered traveling anywhere for a concert.  Hell, we didn’t really consider traveling anywhere.  We were knee-deep in the U.S. consumer culture and making payments on nearly everything we “owned.”  We were relatively high-earners, but our paychecks were getting us nowhere.  Why?  Because we were spending it all.

But now?  We worked tirelessly to pay off all of our debt over the course of 18 months.  And, aside from a small mortgage, we are 100 percent debt-free.  The fact that we’re saving close to 50 percent of our income also leaves plenty of wiggle room in our budget for a few extras.  So, while Pearl Jam tickets are certainly a “want” and not a “need,” we decided to make it work.

Another Reason I Love Credit Card Rewards

I know, I know.  You’re sick of hearing about how much I love credit card rewardsI get it.  However, I have to explain how they played a factor in our decision to splurge on an out-of-state concert.  Humor me.

Since I have the Southwest Companion Pass and my husband and I have around 150,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points between us (after spending 100,000 on trips already!!!!), we decided to see if we could fly to see Pearl Jam for free.  And, lo and behold, we quickly discovered the Denver, Colorado is home to one of Southwest’s major hubs.  I have to admit, this did not break my heart.

Since Greg’s ticket was “free” for being my companion, and since I could pay for my ticket with points, the total cost of our flights was $10 and 14,300 Rapid Rewards Points.  In other words, almost free.  Furthermore, I used the free night from my Marriott Rewards Card to book a hotel room at the Ramada Inn Denver Downtown for free.  Yes, you read that rightFree.

Buying Pearl Jam Tickets

Since our hotel room was free and our flights cost $10, we decided to splurge for some good seats.  I mean, I’m cheap, but I’m not stupid.  I’m not going to fly my ass all the way to Denver to sit in the nosebleed section and stare at a giant concrete pillar.  On the other hand, the most expensive tickets were extremely pricey and we even saw a few that were $2,000 each.  Yikes!   Spending that much money would be insane, so we met somewhere in the middle.  The total cost of our tickets ended up being $185.50 each including taxes and the convenience fee.  I felt slightly guilty for spending that much on concert tickets, but the nearly-free flights and free hotel room certainly helped.

And, you know what?  This type of situation is exactly why we got out of debt in the first place.  I know I continue to harp on this issue, but all any of us really have is time.  We can choose to live in the moment and follow our dreams, or become victims of our environment.  We can create a life worth living, or we can become a slave to our lifestyle.  The choice is, and has always been, up to us.

So, on October 22nd, picture me sitting in Pepsi Center with a gin-n-tonic and the biggest shit-eating grin you’ve ever seen.

I’ve worked hard to create the life I want and nothing is going to stop me from truly living it.

Do you think it’s hard to know when to splurge?  Is there a concert you would pay big bucks for? 

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  1. Pearl Jam is the one band I almost have FOMO about missing when they were last here. But they are one of those bands whose new music I don’t like so much, so it was a bit risky.

    1. I don’t like their new music much either, but I will tolerate it to hear the old stuff!

      1. This cements the fact that I stumbled upon your website for a reason a few months ago. I, too, just purchased my tickets for the 10/3 STL show after totally missing out on Chicago. PJam, besides my husband, is my one true love in this world. It’s the first thing I’ve splurged on in the past 6 months. Worth every penny. Enjoy your show!

        1. Awesome! I am so glad you got tickets too! I absolutely love old Pearl Jam- it bring me back to my tortured teenage years in the 90’s! =)

  2. Good for you guys! Hey, if you are debt free and you are savvy enough to score free hotel room and nearly free flights then I think it’s A-ok to splurge on awesome seats. So happy for you guys that you get to go!

  3. While Pearl Jam isn’t our thing, knowing what’s worth a splurge and knowing that it’s a splurge is one of the big reasons that we don’t spend all of our income every month. I always kindof feel it’s one of the best parts about being an adult, too. =)

    1. I agree. Sometimes I feel like a teenager with a lot of financial resources and parents who are never home.

  4. The “TEN” album is over 20 years old. God, I feel old!!!

    I have to agree with you about splurging here. I regret not spending more money on concerts in the past. I missed opportunities to see great bands in their prime just because I was too cheap. Now I know the value of a musical experience. I also know the value of good seats. Sitting in the lawn of a pavilion is a waste of money.

    Hope you enjoy the show. I know I would!!

    1. I don’t do lawns anymore. Too many people stepping on my hands and being annoying.

  5. Saw U2 a few years back and it was expensive but worth every damn penny. I would love to see them play in Dublin and would happily pay for that. That’s why I love being frugal-having money for the things I REALLY want in life.

    1. Exactly Sue! That really is the whole point, isn’t it?

  6. I’ve traveled to both Chicago and Kansas City to see Incubus when their tours did not come to Minnesota. Ironically after seeing them in Chicago they decided to add additional dates to the tour so I DID end up seeing them in Minnesota as well haha. I think it was totally worth it, and was definitely a couple of fun trips that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

    1. If they do add a date in Indy, we’ll probably just see them again. Why not?

  7. As much as I love live music, there are very very few artists I would pay that much to see and Pearl Jam certainly isn’t one of them. I respect their place in rock history, but they just aren’t for me. I would spend that kind of money to see Elton John (especially if he is touring with Billy Joel) or Bowie.


  8. I love going to concerts, but over the years determined I have a better, more frugal approach. It can be difficult finding good seats, travelling, parking, etc. So what’s the alternative? Ok, I can’t replicate the visual experience from the good venue seats (thank goodness I’m not interested in the likes of Jay Z, Miley, Bieber, West). But from a sound perspective, I can rock the house! Get a pair of Crown amplifiers and JBL studio monitors connected to your hi-fi sound source (ugh, MP3s are low fidelity so forget ’em). Open an adult beverage of your choice, crank up the amps and you’ll be able to produce sound levels near equal to that of the concert and shake objects in the house. The fidelity will actually be BETTER, since you will be reproducing the studio version.

    1. I think that’s a great alternative if you can’t see a show. We listen to a lot of Pandora instead of silence or having the TV on.

  9. I use to love going to concerts and festivals but haven’t been to one in ages since tickets just seem to sell out so quick nowadays (and I refuse to pay the price ticket touts try and flog them at). I think its perfectly acceptable to have the occasional splurge especially when you have such good control of your money.

    1. Tickets do sell out crazy-quick sometimes! The Chicago Pearl Jam concert I was talking about sold out in just a few hours.

  10. Um, when that Sondheim show with Colbert and NPH came to local movie theaters we hired a baby sitter and went, which is the only time we’ve done that. We are boring people.

    (The shoe drop’t means#2 quit her tenured prof job.)

  11. I think that was an awesome plan Holly! It’s true, why are you going to work hard to get yourself to a good place financially to not have “responsible splurges” from time to time. Things like this are the type of reward/motivation to keep you going on your road to financial health.

    1. I agree that it is a great reward! =) Sometimes you have to treat yo’self.

  12. “We can create a life worth living, or we can become a slave to our lifestyle.” Well said Holly. Even during our student loan payoff journey we’ve done fun things like travel. Tomorrow isn’t a guarantee and we are only young once. Live and enjoy : )

    1. Yep. I totally agree within reason. It’s a balance between living today and saving for the future!

  13. Good for you Holly! Even better that you’re getting and staying there for nearly free. 🙂 I do find it hard to splurge, even though we can afford it it’s still a challenge for me at times. But, thankfully my wife tends to straighten me out. 😉 Anywho, I didn’t know they’re coming to Lincoln, NE…Lincoln is about 40 miles from us so I think I just may be looking in to that today. 🙂

  14. I love the takeaway from this. Life is full of opportunities waiting for us to take advantage of them. While concerts aren’t my thing, you got free flights and a free stay, so why not get good seats?

  15. I think money is meant to be spent to enhance your life so it was worth the splurge. I just wish the Cincinnati show would’ve worked out! I don’t live too far from Cinci.

    1. Awwww…..yeah that sucks. It’s on a weekday and Greg is on call that night. He hates asking people to trade.

  16. I travelled from Toronto to San Diego to see my favourite band a few years ago – sooooo worth it. Also made a trip to Hollywood out of it and saw Gerard Butler and Nate Berkus live on the Jimmy Kimmel show. I travelled overnight driving distance but with a hotel stay to see The Tragically Hip (awesome) and also Weezer (not bad). Agree with you totally that what we really have his time and we should try not to squander or fritter money away – when it’s time to splurge – make it count!! I love Pearl Jam. Concerts this year for me are with 2 of my kids and friends: One Direction and Big Ticket Summer Concert Series!

    1. One direction, lol. Oh, I am not looking forward to my children’s teenage years!

  17. I have no desire to go to a concert, however, we are going to Alaska again next year and quite willingly will put out over $3000 for a 3 night stay at Brooks Camp where you live among the grizzly bears and watch them fishing for salmon at the falls. (Think about those Animal Planet or Discovery shows where you see this scene….well, that’s the place). Anyway, we all make exceptions to our frugal rules if it is something that is important to us. If we never use our money for anything like this, why do we work so hard to save it?

    1. We all have different “splurges,” Kathy. That trip sounds amazing. I am scared of bears though =) I would have to watch out the window! =)

  18. I think I told you this before but I used to be OBSESSED with Pearl Jam. They literally are the reason I packed up everything when I was 25 without knowing anyone in Seattle and moving there. Groupie! lol! My obsession faded around 10 years ago or so, then it was Jack Johnson and I probably would have splurged to see him somewhere like Hawaii, but luckily got to see him locally a ton. Right now I don’t have any serious music obsessions, but I can see where you’re coming from! It will be fun!

    1. Hey, maybe I am a groupie too. I just love Pearl Jam! I watch their movie “Twenty” all the time.

  19. I am cheap most of the time, but often I’ll splurge. I think a good concert is totally worth it, especially when you’ve wanted to see them for a while 🙂 I know you’ll have a great time. Well done on the awesome flight and hotel deal – bargain!!!!

  20. We splurged for 3 concert/events this year – all in the space of about 2 weeks: The Last Ship (Sting’s new musical) in NYC, Billy Joel here in DC, and the Disney on Ice Frozen event. Miles and hotel perks are making the NYC trip happen, and the rest are just for fun. But it’s nice to have some set aside in the budget for “last minute fun”!

    1. How much were the Frozen tickets. I would love to take my kids to see that!

  21. That sounds like an amazing plan!!! If that’s not what credit card rewards points are for, I have no idea what they’re for!

    My boyfriend seems to like splurging on a king-sized bed when we book hotel rooms, so maybe we’ll buy one ourselves sometime in the next few years 🙂

  22. Nothing wrong with splurging when you’re not in debt and have an excellent savings rate. Why else would you work so hard to save and invest…so you can enjoy life right?

  23. I totally agree! I tend to splurge for the important things, it may be travel or an occasional dinner. The last splurge was for a dinner out with our children , but we used a gift card for 90% of it.

  24. I love going to concerts and I’m signed up to get all the latest concert dates in my area. I’m lucky to live so close to NYC because artist always make a stop here. I used to go to a lot more concerts but I’ve cut back now that I’m paying off debt. It’s definitely something I enjoy and would splurge on if one of my favorites came around.

    1. I wish I went to more concerts but they’ve gotten so expensive! I only splurge for the really good ones now.

  25. Hey Holly, I don’t think I’d ever pay 2,000 or 200 bucks for a concert ticket for that matter. But then again, I would spend 200 bucks on good juggling tools…oh yea, I juggle, bet you didn’t know that! Anyway, it’s important to splurge here and there. I find it gives a little balance to life…If you work hard, there should be no reason not to splurge here and there. Knowing when to splurge is hard sometimes, but I think I do pretty well. Also, 2 plane tickets for $10, you killed it with that deal. How could rewards cards get old when you can do things like that!

    1. I know, right? Plus Southwest doesn’t even charge for your first checked bag! Insanity!

  26. I’ve traveled to Virginia, San Diego, and Vegas to see Pearl Jam and I did not buy tickets this time because it’s on a week day and Jim would never miss a school day to do that, but now that you guys are coming to Denver, I might have to ask again. That would be the most fun ever!

  27. Just go for it! I wouldn’t spend that money now because I’m still working on my finances but the reason I’m working on my finances is to be able to splurge every once in a while.

    1. Yep! I can totally relate! And once you’re there, you’ll really be able to enjoy it!

  28. I have definitely splurged on concert tickets in the past. I wouldn’t pay $2,000 to see anyone, though, no matter how much I loved them!

  29. I really love the sentiment “I’ve worked hard for the life I want” idea. It’s something I remind myself when we consider traveling over debt repayments. It’s not like we travel every day or not frugally!

    I would pay $2k to see Paul McCartney or Bruce Springsteen though super upc lose! I saw both in concert over the last two years and were not disappointed!

  30. Live concerts definitely have a place in the budget! I really want to see Journey (I know…), but currently I can’t justify the $250+ tickets to get into seats where I can actually see them. If my student loans were gone, I might have a different attitude about it…

    Nice work on the free flights. Am I reading this right that you have earned over 250,000 SW miles? we talking 2 personal, 2 biz cards? Holy crap man, you rock!

    1. No, 4 personal and 1 business card. My business only has the plus card now but will get the Premier next go’round. Our rental property business also recently started getting its own cards (hehehe) so there’s that too.

      So many cards….so little time.

  31. I love that even your splurges are frugal. That’s the way to go–taking advantage of a good “deal” on a splurge. Have a blast!

  32. “I mean, I’m cheap, but I’m not stupid.” – LOL! And I agree wholeheartedly, the whole point of having financial freedom is being able to use your money on what matters most to YOU! And seeing Pearl Jam makes you and Greg really happy and the fact you were able to score some great deals so you could travel and get good seats, is fantastic!

  33. This is the exact reason we’ve been through so many changes in the last three years, so we could live the life we want. I have no problem with people choosing to splurge when there is as much discretionary income as it sounds like you have. It helps create memories and fun times in the moment.

  34. I feel the same way about Backstreet Boys. We have the same taste in music Holly! 😉 I actually just saw BSB live a month ago and it was worth every penny. Enjoy your concert!

  35. Felt a little guilty?! HECK NO! Treat yo self. Especially using rewards for so much of the trip. Awesome that you’re getting to fulfill a long-time dream. Now if I could just get to a Bon Jovi concert….

  36. Way to own your spending, Holly. Too often we PFers blog about the sacrifices we make for the things we want…but what about the actual things we want? That’s the point, right?

  37. Yeah, there’s nothing to feel guilty about. Especially because you’re getting a small vacation for so little, not just a concert. Pretty awesome!

    I have trouble letting myself (or my husband) splurge. We’re not putting away as much money as I’d like. Also, it’s hard to feel okay splurging when your savings are actually earmarked for something. (In this case, we’re saving against my husband’s oral surgery, which will be over $10k.)

    For that reason, we had to just start a vacation fund, so that we can ever go anywhere. I need the money to be earmarked to be able to relax! But, hey, it’s a process.

  38. Prudence Debtfree says:

    I look forward to choosing to splurge now and then. I think we’re still in the mode you were in a few years ago – not splurging on anything. For now, while we’re still shoveling our way out of debt, I think that’s the best way to be. But our day will come : )
    You are SO SMART to have figured this thing out in your youth!

    1. When your day comes, I’m sure you will enjoy it!

    1. Not too much. Our flight lands at 8:00 a.m. and the concert is at 7:30. We do have all day but we fly home the next morning. It’s on a weekday so we couldn’t get away with much more than that.

  39. My husband and I have bought opera tickets for the past two years, and we buy decent seats. We got a good deal that the opera keeps offering to get us to renew, which helps. The opera is an hour away, and we prepay for parking in a ramp to make going more convenient.

    Truly, yes, we save on things that don’t matter as much so we can buy items/experiences that do matter to us.

  40. I think there is a healthy balance between knowing when to splurge and when to save. This sounds like something you’ve been waiting for and looking forward to; you work hard for your money and what fun would you be having if you didn’t ever spend it?

  41. I support this splurge! When people work their asses off to pay off debt and ensure their financial well-being, splurges are our on-going rewards for being financially solvent. I am a music fiend and will travel to see artists that I truly enjoy. Have a great trip Holly!

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