Personal Finance is Personal: A tale of two bags

Posted by in Communication, Spending

 His and hers $300 bags
This September will mark 10 years Andrea and I have known each other. We’ve seen a lot, been through a lot, and done a lot together in that time. So it takes a lot to phase us or surprise us. A few weeks ago, though, something strange happened that caught us both off guard. Without talking about it or coordinating we both bought $300 bags!

I figure you’re having one of two reactions. “Oooo, what kind of bag? Tell me more, tell me more, tell me more!” or “What kind of self-respecting man spends good money on something he could fashion out of duct tape and beard sweat?” So let me give you some context.

Frugality has a cost

Last year, Andrea and I flew to Atlanta for a conference and decided to try an airline with yellow planes that shall remain nameless. Let’s just say, their name rhymes with “regret it.”  Which we certainly did.

Their flights cost less than half of the next cheapest airline and proved too tempting an offer, even though we could’ve afforded to fly with someone else. Long story short, the flight down was fine, the conference was great, but the flight back to Boston was a disaster. Turns out there’s a cost to frugality.

Our flight was delayed so much we didn’t even leave Atlanta until after we were originally scheduled to arrive home. I get it, it happens. I’d rather an airline take the time to make sure the metal tube in the sky is working before leaving terra firma. Not like we can just pull over on the side of the road in case there’s a problem. And if I’m flying a budget airline, I certainly don’t expect champagne and caviar. However, our flight wasn’t delayed for mechanical reasons, but rather the flight crew didn’t feel like showing up on time.

The real icing on the cake, though, was when we finally landed in Boston. We were running really late for a friend’s birthday party and needed to collect our things from baggage claim.  Except our stuff never came. There was no one around to talk to and we weren’t the only ones missing things. Another couple was missing their bag, a lady was missing HALF of her daughter’s car seat, and we were missing our suitcase. We were all livid.

We tracked down an employee of “suck it” airlines on the other side of the terminal and thankfully she took pity on us. Seriously, she was the first person all day who didn’t deal with the customers of her airline with arrogance and apathy. She disappeared after hearing all of us out and returned ten minutes later with the other half of the car seat, the other couple’s bag, and ours too.

Turns out our stuff did make it from Atlanta to Boston, but the “Screw it” airlines ground crew couldn’t be bothered to load them on the baggage carousel. That night Andrea and I promised ourselves two things. First, we’d never fly “Smells Like Teen —–” Airlines ever again, even if they were the cheapest by a wide margin. And second, we’d do our best to avoid checking bags whenever we fly.

Changing of the guard

NO MORE CHECKED BAGS!
A couple months later, I flew to Houston for business and got away with a single carry on. I pulled out my old Army assault pack and loaded all my clothes, toiletries, and work stuff. It wasn’t great, but it worked well enough for my 4 day trip to convince me this was the right way for me to travel.

I did some research and found GORUCK, a company founded by a former Army Special Forces guy making high-end, rugged travel gear. Their bags looked cool and claimed to be able to comfortably fit a couple weeks worth of gear. I’ll be honest, $300 was more than I ever imagined spending on a backpack. But I was happy to buy as I figured it’d pay for itself in saved baggage fees and time not spent waiting at baggage claim wondering if my stuff made it. 

I’ve since travelled a few times with my new GORUCK bag and it’s been great. We just got back from a 10 day trip to Hawaii involving 6 flights and never had to check a bag! GORUCK solved my travel problem AND did some good at the same time. The company is run by military vets, employs vets, and a portion of the profits go to charities I believe in. Win-win-win in my opinion.

As for my wife’s $300 bag, she bought a fancy leather brand name bag because…reasons. Heck if I know. But she wanted it, had the money, and got it.

Personal finance is personal

It’s easy to nerd out, get caught up in the numbers, and forget why we’re trying to win with money in the first place. It’s so much simpler to treat money like a math problem, only focussing on how to grow the amount of cash you’ve got leftover at the end of the month. But while it’s important to make more money, optimize your expenses, and cut your costs, there’s more to money than math.

How we handle our money is a reflection of our unique values. Yes, there are proven steps to take and principles to live by, but how you and your partner execute them is totally up to you.

Maybe you don’t care about travel and would never buy a $300 bag, but you only eat grass-fed, free range, GMO free, organic, fair trade lima beans even though they’re hard to find and cost more than store brand lima beans. Or maybe you’re an animal lover and can’t imagine life without your fur baby (babies?), even though they cost as much to feed and care for as you do. Maybe it’s something else, but if you’re honest there’s something you care about and spend money on (or wish you could) that’s unique to you.

Point is, there’s no cookie cutter financial plan. Your financial plan will be as unique as you are. You have your own values, hopes, dreams, and fears. Your financial plan will and must reflect them. And if you want to talk about money without fighting, you need to remember this.

Let me know in the comments. What’s something your spent money on that other people think is weird, but you couldn’t imagine doing without?


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