if you’ve been reading here for a while, you may already know that, unlike a lot of folks in the pf blogging community, we are not naturally frugal. we came to this lifestyle of aggressive saving for retirement by thinking hard about what we value (time, freedom) and what it would require to have what we value all the time (some big changes in our spending and saving, as well as a clear plan of attack). we’re 100 percent on board with the minimal spending and maximal saving required to be able to retire early at the end of 2017.
but these are habits that did not come naturally to us, and as proof, today we’re sharing the story of some very, very bad money decisions we made once upon a time. some very bad money decisions that we couldn’t be happier about.
confession time: though you probably would never guess this by meeting us, we’re total romantics. which, it turns out, is a great thing, because we wouldn’t be together today if we weren’t. our beginnings as a couple were highly impractical, and only die-hard romantics would have been willing to stick it out.
(cue the rom com music…) about a decade ago, when we were in our mid-twenties, we were living on opposite coasts from each other, in expensive big cities. (picture us each living very cosmopolitan lives, but often staring out the window forlornly, knowing we were missing something… okay, not really.) we were working for the companies we still work for today, and just happened to have a client in common. during an event for that client in another city, we met. not to be overly dramatic about it, but it was love at first sight. (we didn’t think that was a real thing, either. but now we know.) after the event, we grabbed a casual dinner, had a smashing time, and then each went back home to our separate lives, now carrying this little spark within us.
a year passed with little contact. we probably each wondered if the spark was one-sided. or if it would be weird to flirt with someone who lived 3000 miles away. or if we’d get a “who are you again?” reaction if one of us reached out. and so neither of us made a move.
we have friendster to thank for breaking the ice and kicking off an extended email flirtation. (friendster now seems to be some kind of gaming thing, but used to be an early facebook, before it got supplanted by myspace. we know we’re dating ourselves. gen x, woot!) then we moved up to extended phone conversations. and quickly we realized that we both felt something that seemed real, and needed to figure out if it was real. that meant only one thing: we had to arrange a visit.
this is where the string of bad financial decisions begin. one of us was in pretty good financial shape at this point, but certainly didn’t have huge savings or anything. the other had a student loan, a car loan and credit card debt, but didn’t hesitate for a second to book a cross-country flight.
that first visit was pretty spectacular, and we both knew that this was the real deal. only problem: that whole living on opposite coasts thing. and we were both practical enough that no one suggested one of us moving that early on.
what followed were months of flights back and forth, and often to weekend meet-ups in locations where neither of us lived, requiring hotels and more restaurant meals. we were both in that place in life where we were getting our first taste of career success and wanted to impress each other — so the weekends tended toward the more extravagant: tickets to pricy shows, meals at the trendiest restaurants. when we met in cities where we didn’t live, let’s just say we weren’t staying at the motel 6.
we easily spent thousands on this cross-country spending spree. we aren’t sure how many thousands, as we weren’t keeping track back then, but it’s not a small number. we saw each other, on average, every three weeks for almost a year. assuming we got incredible airfare deals, which we’re sure we didn’t, that’s at least $5000 just on plane tickets. not counting meals, taxis, hotels, entertainment and all the rest. we wouldn’t be at all surprised if the total was approaching $15,000 or even $20,000.
just under a year after the cross-country travel started, we officially become a west coast couple. and a little while after that, we got a handle on where we each were financially, got serious about paying off debt, and got on the path that’s led us to where we are today. along the way, we got married, moved to a smaller town, and committed ourselves to saving for early retirement, which means living so very differently from our extravagant beginnings.
but we’ve never once looked back and regretted having blown all that money. we think of that time in our lives as the best bad money decision we’ve ever made.
our relationship, not to be too schmoopy about it, is everything to us. we’re best friends, we laugh together constantly, we support each other, and even though we both work from home and have plenty of time together every day, we can’t wait to retire early so that we have more time together. and every single day we feel lucky that we’re both so committed to the same life vision and financial goals. we couldn’t do what we’re doing without that shared vision of where we’re headed.
in other words: worth it. every penny. we’d blow every dollar again in a heartbeat if that’s what it took to find each other.
because some things are more important than money, love chief among them. and sometimes it’s important to invest in your future, which can mean relationships and not just job or home, even if relationships can’t be tallied up the way your other assets can be. to us, the money we spent on our long-distance year is some of the best money we’ve ever spent, even those dollars that just went on the credit card and raised our debt. and those memories are some of our favorites, whether because of the cool places we visited or the amazing meals we splurged on, or just because we had time together.
our relationship is our most valuable asset, and while some might call that “priceless,” let’s pick a number and say it’s worth $500 billion, plus the dividends it pays each and every day. it’s our best bad investment ever.
have you ever made a spectacularly bad financial decision that you are happy about? or had to shell out a lot for love? think we’re romantic fools, and we should have saved that money and found partners closer by? ;-) tell us what you think in the comments!