We all have our extravagances.
Mine, justified. Yours? Not so much. You should save and invest more, live within your means better and generally sacrifice today for a better tomorrow.
Don’t even mention those Taylor Swift concerts. People spending thousands of dollars on tickets and travel for a few hours of music? Do they not know they can listen to music on Spotify for free, or find it online? Think how much long-term care they could buy in old age with their concert money.
This rant is brought to you by the judgmental, cranky side of people in personal finance, which operates with the idea of making you feel guilty for spending on yourself. Some earlier contributions from this school of thought concerned the wastefulness of buying lattes and avocado toast, the foolishness of buying new cars versus used and the excess of the granite countertop, when laminate will do.
We need a new way to talk about extravagances, and Taylor Swift’s Eras tour is the perfect venue. It’s accepted as fact that everyone deserves a splurge or two, that we may not agree on what’s a justified indulgence, and that it’s okay for a splurge to stretch your finances just a bit. We want rules for real people and the real world, not a personal finance utopia.
Let’s start with a definition of extravagance. Tickets for Taylor Swift’s six-night swing through Toronto ranged from roughly $150 to $600. That’s the cost of a premium concert in 2023, like it or not.
If you were unable to score some tickets when they were offered online, you can buy them on the resale market. On StubHub, tickets ranged from roughly $2,500 to almost $6,000 each. We are now well into extravagance territory, especially if you’re travelling from out of town. A couple of nights at a hotel, a few restaurant meals and a bar visit could easily add another $1,000 or more to your cost.
A sign you’re overspending on a Taylor Swift concert is that you plan to put the cost on your credit card because you don’t have the cash. The 20-per-cent interest rate on most credit cards is tolerable – just barely – for a month or two. But if your card already has a balance owing, adding a few thousand dollars is very likely to cost you hundreds of dollars in interest. That’s a pure waste.
Dipping into your savings for tickets is fine, as long as you have something substantial left for emergencies like a loss of income. Sooner or later, a recession is coming. Now’s not the time to blow your financial cushion on a weekend in Toronto.
The best way to make splurges doable is to have a basic financial plan in place. That means you’re putting money away regularly to save and/or invest, that your debts are being paid off in an orderly way and that your spending does not exceed your income, except in rare moments.
Consider a “splurge budget” for spending beyond your weekly and monthly costs for restaurants, bars, clubs, movies, etc. Maybe this overlaps with your vacation budget. The point is to have a pool of money you can use to blow on something fun and frivolous every now and then.
Some degree of restraint is important here. Saying yes to a Taylor Swift concert probably means taking a pass on the next big concert, or a similar event with a four-figure cost. You can’t do everything, although you’ll be tempted to. The Taylor Swift concert tour is a perfect example of how we’re getting comfortable with the idea of spending large amounts of money on experiences.
Partly, this is an aspect of the “revenge spending“ that followed the pandemic lockdowns. Denied the chance to be out in the world, people have been spending heavily on travel, restaurants and other services.
Fear of missing out – FOMO – is another part of the story. In the social media age, it can be unbearable to see your friends having epic experiences while you’re at home with your emergency fund and your tax-free savings account for company.
And, let’s face it, we as a society are less and less emphasizing short-term sacrifice for long-term gain. This isn’t just a spending thing – it’s also evident in planning for climate change, our aging population and other areas.
We all deserve to kick back once in a while, though. I won’t judge your expensive concert if you can overlook my new cars, my coffee habit and my appreciation of avocado toast.
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