Who Deserves a Splurge?

“Go Ahead – Buy it! You Deserve it!”

When is a splurge worth it? And when is a splurge just an unnecessary extravagance?

I’m writing this hours after booking my last-minute ticket to Indianapolis for the NCAA Big Ten Football Championship game. I’m a Michigan State Spartan alumna living in Denver – not exactly a comfortable driving distance to Indianapolis, and I have two little boys to care for, and Christmas stuff to buy and wrap and do. The plan is to jet my littles over to my amazing parents, where I will miss them desperately and feel guilty for every second of annoyance they are sure to bring my parents for the weekend. Nevermind that this is only the second time they’ve watched the littles overnight and we are now adding on two more days and nights of fun fun fun!

I’m trying to financially justify this expenditure in many ways. “I haven’t been on a vacation in 4 years!” True, but I also made some long weekend trips to attend a wedding, clean out a farm and celebrate a few holidays with family. My husband and I also actually bought a camper this year. Maybe the camping fees were minimal, but the camper was a chunk of change. It’s not like I’ve been living a hermit’s live. So, I go to, “We saved money selling our Patriots tickets, so it’s almost all like found money!” True again, but who’s to say the found money was intended to be spent on a whirlwind cross-country trek for a single football game, as opposed to, say, Christmas presents, a family vacation, school fundraisers or those darn college savings accounts?

Aside from justifying the trip with purely financially reasoning, I can try to justify it in terms of what the experience will be. “I haven’t seen a Spartan football game since I graduate from there in 1999.” True enough. “I haven’t seen Dantanio coach.” True again. “But they’re playing a tough competitor in Iowa – who’s to say how the game will go? Maybe we will lose?” That’s a genuine concern, but is it only worth it to go if my team wins? If that’s the case, then I have been to a LOT of sporting events over the years that clearly weren’t worth their investments.

What my friends are telling me sounds like this: “You deserve this!” “You work so hard, you need a break!” “You need to splurge on yourself!” “You need to get away!” “You totally deserve to buy this trip for yourself!”

That’s where I kind of get lost. I work hard, sure … sometimes … I try to work hard, at least. I’m certainly busy every second of every day, as is every other human I encounter while out doing human things. Yet, our society has this notion that when we work hard, we deserve a treat – and that treat most always has monetary value. It could be a new purse, a bigger car, a nicer home, a new scarf, a trip, a visit to a spa, or any number of things. When we work hard, we feel we deserve something. Something. A thing. As if our work hard is intended to be rewarded by stuff. I believe hard work is intended to create and build and improve our world, so should not just be something one does to get a reward at the end of the day.

When I see a group of women at a home jewelry party convincing each other to buy the bracelet and the earrings because “oh girl, you deserve this! You work so hard and you deserve something beautiful!” it kind of confuses me. The jewelry is beautiful, the women are beautiful, they have money to spend and they can spend it as they like. But retail therapy usually only offers a fleeting moment of gratification, which is then sometimes followed by moments of guilt.

We DO deserve beauty in our lives. There is no question in my mind. And we deserve adventure. We deserve joy. We deserve self-expression and payoff that come from taking risks. We deserve it all …. But do we have to attach it to some idea of “hard work” preceding the things we deserve? Is it possible that we deserve beauty, adventure, joy and self-expression just because we are decent humans? We can get beauty, adventure, joy and self-expression in many simple ways every single day. We don’t have to buy it.

In the end, there was only one thing that needed to be said about the trip, and it was said by my husband. “This is a once in a lifetime experience. You love your Spartans, you should absolutely go!”

There it is. He didn’t attach it to some spectacularly and promptly folded laundry or a week of homecooked meals. He knows I work hard (most of the time), and he wasn’t offering it as something I deserved for hard work. He just wanted us to go, because we can go on this adventure together, and it will be beautiful.

Yes, there is some money involved, and some inconvenience left for the amazing people caring for our children in our absence, but our hearts are full of appreciation for the best grandparents on the universe and we are thankful to be able to swing the costs with creative money juggling.

My wonderful husband is telling me that I am good enough – not to “deserve” this trip, but to take it, no strings attached, because that’s what you can do when you let go of being perfect and doing everything right. You can live a little.

So all that is left now is to pack a bag of green and white.

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