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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Disney : Japan :: Not Worth It : Worth It

This post is a musing on “Not Worth It” and “Worth It,” a twofer, definitely “Worth It.”

Frugal people tend to be value-oriented. In other words, frugal people think of the value of an item or experience, rather than the cost. This is a concept that is mystifying to non-frugal folks. I know; I’ve tried to explain. The value-orientation is why I think it’s well worth it to buy a piece of furniture for over $1000.00 (a lot over in one case) and not worth it to buy a soda in a restaurant, even it is $1.00.

And, of course, the “Worth It” “Not Worth It” ratio differs from person to person and family to family. When I was in graduate student poverty, I spent about $8.00/pound on good coffee beans, which I ground every day. Now, 20 plus years later (and my salary is more than 20 times my graduate school stipend), I pay about $3.00/pound for New Orleans coffee with chicory. I wish I’d had this coffee back then. Besides, now I’m too lazy to grind coffee beans.

This brings me to the example I want to highlight: the ubiquitous Disney Trip for grades 6-12. At least this was ubiquitous for my children. When they hit sixth or seventh grade, every single class or subgroup at school featured a Disney Trip. The trip cost about $600.00; that covered bus transportation, a 3-day ticket to the theme parks, and 2 nights in a hotel. Breakfast and dinner were included but lunch, eaten in Disney World, was not. This grated on my values orientation. The parents of my children’s friends who generally agreed with my thinking—and certainly agreed that the trip was a major rip-off—all capitulated. “But Alexandra REALLY wants to go! All her friends are going.”

I was alone. I couldn’t argue that we didn’t have the money (we did) and I don’t like lying to my children. We said,”This is a rip-off. When there’s something that’s WORTH IT, even if it’s more expensive, you can go.”

We were hoping that a class or a club would sponsor a trip to DC or to Chicago—anything but the Disney Trip! Most of the kids had been to Disney numerous times anyway. But, in an appalling lack of imagination and initiative, every year my poor children had to opt out of a Disney Trip. Sometimes there were two or three: the Honors Club Trip, the Science Club Trip, and so forth. Some of these 12-17 year-olds went on two or more Disney trips each year, depending on how many organizations they were involved in. My children were disappointed, I suppose, but I think they trusted us when we said they could have something even better later.

Then, first my son and later my daughter went to a wonderful residential magnet high school in Natchitoches, Louisiana. When my son began in 11th grade, he announced that during winter break a teacher was leading a 10-day trip to Japan. He pointed out that the cost was equal to about three of the Disney Trips. He didn’t even have to remind us of the promise or to do the math for us: the minute he said it, we knew it was WORTH IT.

Ditto for my daughter, who went on the same trip two years later.

This might ring some chimes. It’s easier for parents to say “No” to their own desires than to the desires of their children. And we were up against peer pressure, from both the children and the parents of their classmates.

What say you, Dear Reader? What’s WORTH IT to you and yours? How do you decide?


Over the Cubicle Wall said...

Not exactly a response to your question, but Disney never did anything for me. I watched cartoons with a passion growing up, but only if they were funny. Warner Brothers was my thing. Disney I ignored.

Chance said...

I'm with you on Disney, we don't think it is Worth It, and have a standing offer of plane tickets for school trips that are Worth It. Saying no to pleading children is really hard, but I think at the end of the day, it is a good muscle to exercise. Our kidlet went to to Puerto Rico instead of DisneyWorld and is still raving about the trip and all that she learned in an authentic culture, instead of participating in a fake consumerist "experience".

Frugal Scholar said...

@over cubicle: I actually enjoyed Disney the one time we went. It may have helped that we were in Orlando for a conference, so the cost was quite low. As I was entering, the Imagineer (or whatever the employees are called) said "Cheer up. It won't be so bad." I must have looked quite dour.

@Chance--How come I've never been to Puerto Rico or Japan?????

Chance said...

@ Frugal Scholar I make travel (conducted frugally but still) my highest priority because it gives me great joy. I scrimp other places to make it happen(e.g. I decided not to buy a house once so that I could go to Africa for a few months).

I had a wonderful time in Japan, and despite what everyone says about how much it costs, I put it together pretty inexpensively. You have to be willing...willing to travel low to the ground, willing to take risks, willing to ask for help, willing to not have the usual tourist experience. Pick a place, decide to go, fix the dates, more or less, post about it, and ask for frugal travel tips. You'll get lots of comments. I've got tons of them to share. No time like the present to travel, I always say.

Frugal Scholar said...

Chance--Where should we go next? I'd love some ideas. Frugal Son says we need to get out of our comfort zone--i.e. France.