I am as proud as can be because below is a post by my dear frugal son, who is home from college. After making us a meal of Thai shrimp curry for dinner (recipe on request), he wrote about his favorite leisure activity: bowling. He even wears the cool bowling shirt I bought at a thrift store a few years ago. Bowling is making a comeback! See below.
I have a friend from college, Ashley, who had been on her high school’s bowling team. For some reason, her bowling days were a frequent topic of our conversations during our biweekly plasma donations—another topic I’ll write about one of these days—and she told me that she had even been on ESPN once during a youth bowling tournament! I fondly reminisced about my last bowling experience some four years earlier at a sleep-away camp: for our group night out we went to the bowling alley and my counselor promised the highest scoring camper a free dinner at any of the local burger joints! I somehow managed to bowl a 105 which, while not particularly impressive, was quite a feat for me at the tender age of fifteen. More importantly, it was enough to win the meal!
This memory, along with the prodding of Ashley, was enough to make me want to go bowling again. Though I was initially hesitant about the idea, the more I thought about it, the more excited I got. I even surprised myself with how enthusiastic I was about our bowling adventure. When the planned day arrived, I rustled up a few more friends to come with us. The bowling alley was deserted—after all, it was the early afternoon on a weekday—and the woman working the counter was lazily examining her nails.
I put Ashley in charge of ordering the games and shoes because I was afraid I’d say something that would show I was a bowling rookie. Two games and a shoe rental came to a little over $10 per person ($2.99 per game and $3.50 for the shoe rental + tax); I later found out this was actually very expensive for the amount of bowling but at the time, I didn’t know any better. I was a little nervous as I walked up to take my first shot but I was confident that even if I didn’t get a strike I could at least pull off a spare. Step, step, step, release, CATASTROPHE! My wrist bent into an unnatural position; the ball barely dribbled out of my hand, and it promptly found its way to the gutter. I walked back to the ball return machine with a sheepish (or was it ashamed?) look on my face. Ashley helped me fix the way I was holding the ball so I was actually able to get it down the lane (most of the time) but my score for the first game barely broke 100. So much for being easy!
The second game I improved a lot (I may have got my score up to the 120s), but I was still surprised at how difficult bowling was! Ashley, of course, kicked my butt both games, but she played in high school and even had her own bowling shoes, so I didn’t feel too bad. Perhaps BECAUSE it was so hard, I was hooked. As we left, I was already talking about what I was going to do next time so I’d be even better. When I turned in my rental shoes, I noticed a flyer on the counter that listed the daily specials offered. The one that caught my eye the most was “Boot Scoot n Bowling” which was described as “Country themed music and 99 cent games from 9pm to 1am on Mondays.”
So began a (usually) weekly journey to the bowling alley every Monday night for four, sometimes five games of bowling. Sometimes we have only three people in our group and sometimes we have up to eight. We almost always run into people we know from school at the alley so it’s a definite social activity. If we have four people and bowl four games, it usually takes us at least three hours so for a little over $8 per person ($0.99 x 4 + $3.50 + tax) we got a full night of entertainment that is much more interactive than going to a movie. This year, the wait between Mondays became too much, so we started going to “Retro Night Thursdays” ($10 for one hour lane rental no matter how many people are on it) in addition to “Boot Scoot n Bowling.”
My game has been improving dramatically (I recently learned how to spin the ball!) but it killed me to shell out $3.50 every Monday and Thursday for a pair of crappy rental shoes. I checked on-line and bowling shoes could be had for as low as $35 + shipping. That meant that it would only take about twelve weeks for me to pay back my initial investment! In the end, I purchased some shoes at the pro shop in the bowling alley (it saved me shipping costs plus I got to try the shoes on before I ordered them…a good thing since I ended up needing shoes 1.5 sizes smaller than I normally wear) for $45 including tax. I’ve already worn them three times which means that if I wear them ten more times, they’ll have more than paid for themselves! Also, by not spending $3.50 on shoes, I can spend more money on bowling, which is what I really enjoy.
So, the lesson in all this is that sometimes you SHOULD buy things because in the end you’ll save money and get to enjoy what you do even more. As my frugal mama has said (or maybe not said but she should) frugality is not about depriving yourself of things; it’s about prioritizing and being able to spend—even extravagantly sometimes—on the things that you really care about. My extravagant spending is focused on travel, but bowling is something I do once (even twice) every week. It made sense from both a financial and fun standpoint for me to spend some extra cash on shoes so that I could have more money down the road to do other things I like.