Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Our "Mastercard Commercial"

My family's fun outing yesterday to get free pancakes at IHOP inspired me to reflect somewhat on the difference between cost and value -- not exactly in a specific intellectual distinction sort of way, but in the very practical way that we spend money.

In reality, to get our "free" breakfast yesterday, we spent $15! We ordered drinks and sides of sausage to go with our pancakes and of course left a tip as if we had paid for the pancakes. We also donated $5 to the Leukemia and Lymphoma society, which was the charity that our for which our restaurant was raising money.
However, I have no regrets. First of all, if we had gone to IHOP on a regular morning and all three ordered breakfast, we probably would have spent at least $25, and that would not have included a donation to a charity. So we did get a bargain.

But furthermore, what would have been the chances of our little family getting up to go to a restaurant at 7:30 on weekday morning before Michael left for work? Let's just say, that as my husband is not a morning person, the chances would be pretty small! But since it was "free" breakfast, we got up and went out and created a very fun memory. My two year old really enjoys outings like this and occasionally asks to go to a "restaurant," so it was so much fun to treat her.

There was no line for the free pancakes at that time of the morning, so we were quickly enjoying IHOP's really good buttermilk pancakes and sausage. My daughter got her chocolate milk; the baby cooed and was admired; and Michael teased me about making him get up so early.

Of course, if we had not had the money that we spent left in our restaurant/entertainment budget for the month, we would not have spent it. We did not have to order the sausage, and we could have drunk only water. But since we were able to spare the money, we treated ourselves a little.

Remember the Mastercard commercials that they used to run (perhaps still do?) -- the ones that went, "There are some things money can't buy; for everything else, there's Mastercard." I always liked that commercial, despite its real message of totally irresponsible credit card use! But it did point out an important truth about the value of money: that it is not the important thing, but that it can aid you in creating the kind of moments that by far transcend the value of the money you spent.

In college, I spent a wonderful semester in Rome. One long weekend, two friends and I decided to visit another friend who was in the seminary in Germany. Barely speaking any Italian and absolutely no German, we took an long overnight train ride to this tiny town in Germany, stayed barely 24 hours, and had to immediately head back. We created our own "Mastercard commerical" for that weekend, something like the following:

Ticket from Rome to Salzburg to Bayerisch Gmain - $150 Euros

Hotel in Bayerisch Gmain - $40 Euros

Reber chocolate - $20 Euros

Dinner in Salzburg - $30 Euros

Time spent with old friends: priceless

I am still close to these friends, but we all live far away from each other now. To this day it can't help but bring a smile to my face when I think of "our commerical," and I don't regret a Euro of it!

I think special days like these are one of the wondeful reasons for frugality. If you live most of your life simply, you hopefully will be able to spend money to create memories like these, whether they are crazy European trips or simple family outings.

I guess today my motto is: "There are some things money can't buy; for everything else you can get a bargain!"

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