The Almighty Dollar

Restoring some fiscal sanity in our -- negative savings rate -- lives


Was it worth it?

So a day has passed since showering your Valentine with flowers, candy, love and affection. Maybe you splurged on a prix fixe menu at that four-star restaurant you've always wanted to try but never had the occasion. Or perhaps the evening was spent quietly at home, catered by yourselves -- with a little help from Rachael Ray.

My husband and I spent the holiday in our humble abode. He quickly cooked up a few things from the fridge to nosh on, while I took down wine glasses from the cabinet. Overall, we had a perfectly pleasant meal, listened to music, read our favorite books, and called it a night. It cost us nothing.

However you chose to celebrate, I expect the final tallies should be in by now. With a couple days of hindsight, I'd like to know:

Was it was worth it?

I expect many of you will say that it was worth every penny. OK, fair enough. Now fast forward a few months...

You are writing a check for $1000 made out to the IRS for income taxes due on April 17, 2006. You knew there wouldn't be a refund. You knew you would owe money. Deep down, you hoped it would be less. Either way, it sucks to pay and now you're stressed out, because it's going to be tight for a while.

With a few months of hindsight, let me ask you again: Do you think it was worth it? I bet some of you would have a different answer.

I know it's impossible to anticipate every bill down the road, and yes, emergencies always seem to happen at the most inopportune times. But, generally, we all have fixed monthly expenses (rent/mortgage, utilities), and whatever is leftover is ours to spend.

You didn't mind being price-gouged for a dozen red roses, and you bought Godiva chocolates since the drug store brand would make you look cheap. Fine, maybe it was worth it that day.

Personally, I'd rather spend that money on vacation in South America, where I can treat a family of four to dinner in a respectable restaurant for the same amount. But that's because I am an avid traveler with a modest income and would rather have $100 to spend during my next trip, not on roses and candy.

Prioritize your spending.

The next time you're about to hand over 50 bucks for another sweater, think about that ratty old mattress you needed to replace years ago. Or that Caribbean cruise you plan to take this winter with your best friend.

If nothing else, think about your tax bill that's coming in the mail.