Budgeting

How setting goals saved me $500

I haven’t read Harry Potter.
I don’t have an iPhone.
I’ve never seen an episode of The Office or Homeland.
I rarely put 5 (out of 5) stars on any evaluation.

I am not one to follow the hype. When lots of people say something is great it usually isn’t that great. At the very least it ruins the experience for you because in your mind you’ve built up this grand expectation that never gets realized. Generally, my rule has been to avoid anything that everyone is hyped about.
At the very least wait for the hype to subside and see if there’s any truth (much like an initial IPO where initial stock prices soar only to soon come crashing back down to it’s real value).

So, when tickets for some show called Hamilton went on sale, it came and went without me batting an eye. Surely enough, it soon became all anyone could talk about. My Instagram filled with people who had early access to the show, ads appeared on every bus and subway platform, the news couldn’t get enough of Hamilton’s success. As I learned more about the show, Hamilton definitely got my attention. I realized, I want to see Hamilton. Yet, as hype rose so did Hamilton’s ticket prices.

Sold out? I could wait.

But then I saw the cast of Hamilton perform at the White House, Lin Manuel Miranda freestyling for the President and listened to Miranda talk about his experience on a podcast and I was hooked. This dude (and Hamilton’s marketing team) is a genius. National tour? Looking for a new cast? I was convinced. I have to see this… NOW. How could I pass up the opportunity to see this piece of history? So see the show I did, from the second row, for less than an arm and a leg (just an arm ;)).

My reaction:
Damn.
Wow.
I’m grinning like a fool.
I’m in love.
Pure genius! GENIUS.

Everyone else’s reaction: How did you do it?

Here’s how.

I set goals. Yup, goals made this possible.     bitmoji891461672

Without goals it would’ve gone a little something like this.
Me: I want Hamilton tickets.
::looks online, finds tickets in back row for $700. Looks at bank account.
Me: I have $700, let’s buy this!
::2 weeks later, looks at bank account::
Me: Uh oh, I can barely make rent, definitely can’t afford groceries. Guess I’ll be eating at my mom’s place and walking to work for the next month.

Or, let’s say I charged it to my credit card and made minimum payments
::6 years later::
Me: Finally paid off that bill!

Instead this is what really happened:
I have a long term goal to build wealth. This goal dictates a lot of my every day choices. In the short term, I set a new goal that I wanted to see Hamilton with its original cast. Having a long term goal keeps my short goals in check as it’s important that my long and short term goals stay aligned. My long term goal led me long ago to set up what some call a ‘splurge fund.’ Monthly I put away money to spend on something I really want or need that I haven’t budgeted for. (In other words, a budget for the unbudgeted) This habit makes sure I have the money to spend when I need it.

The goal of building wealth also means I have to make my money work for me. So when a credit card offer arrived in the mail offering 50,000 bonus points, the equivalent of $500, I thought, free money I can put towards Hamilton tickets! If 50,000 points is $500 I could definitely find tickets for $500! My balloon was quickly deflated.

A quick internet search revealed that Hamilton tickets could cost over $2000 on the high end and about $700 for nosebleed seats. Service charges not included. Seeing this had me a bit daunted as before I was quite confident about a $500 splurge. I had to rethink some things. I searched endlessly, different websites, dates, times, seat options. No luck. $1000 for nosebleed seats? Was it worth it?

Ok, time to re-strategize. I’ve got a miscellaneous fund that I never spend. I could use some of that to buy these tickets. If $500 is free money or a subsidy, I could afford an extra $200 since that’s the extent of what I would’ve paid for original price tickets. Ok, new budget $700. Oh, still not enough? Damn. With taxes and fees included I could either spend $900 on seats in the back row or $2000 for orchestra seats. Despite the strong temptation to give in and count this as a “treat yo’ self” purchase, I couldn’t because my long term goal was too important to me (which is a good measure you’ve chosen the right goal.)

One evening on the train home, depressed that I’d never see Hamilton. I made one last attempt to search for tickets on Stubhub. I struck gold. $500 for Orchestra seats, row D on a Friday night. I’ve never pulled out my credit card so fast! I bought the tickets, and later ended up with a seat upgrade.

I’m not one to re-read books or re-watch movies but by the time the cast stood for their final bow, I was already strategizing how I could buy another ticket. Something tells me I wouldn’t mind watching Hamilton again and again.

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