Life is expensive.
There’s no way to really drive that point home quite like spending a term studying in Europe. Whether it’s the socialism, the current weakness of the dollar, or the fact that everything is more expensive in the city, I’ve been burning through money faster than I ever did on campus.
A few days ago, I was sitting in a café with some friends organizing a trip to London and Paris. As we went through the itinerary, planning out our stops and adding up ticket prices for each attraction, the cost kept climbing. Flights weren’t cheap either and lodging was worse. As we started looked for ways to cut corners, whether it be getting a smaller Airbnb and taking turns sleeping on the floor, staying outside the city, or skipping stops on our itinerary altogether, something dawned on me. I’m in Europe for the third time in my life and may never have the opportunity to travel around like this again. I’ve never been to London or Paris and may not have the chance to return for a long time. It would be incredibly short-sighted to compromise my 96 hours in two of the greatest cities in the world to save a few Euro. With that in mind, we got slightly more expensive lodging in the city center with enough beds for all of us, bought a bunch of (incredibly overpriced) tickets, and decided to visit every spot we feasibly could in the time we had.
Oftentimes, when we think about frugality, we think about saving money at any cost. Frugality brings to mind images of driving a car until it stops running, spending hours clipping coupons, using free trial memberships, and cutting other corners in order to spend even a little less. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are plenty of people who go way down the rabbit hole, evidenced by the dizzying number of websites which offer trick after trick for sucking every last cent out of your daily life. It’s enough to drive one more than a little bit crazy.
In truth, our societal concept of frugality is a gross oversimplification of the Franklinian virtue, and one that makes life less enjoyable, not more. Society says frugality means wasting nothing. Franklin reminds us that an expense is only wasteful if it doesn’t “do good to others or yourself.” In other words, it is critically important to be financially responsible, but not to the point that you miss out on an opportunity to make the most of an experience or help someone else. Often, we forget about the second part.
Back to Europe, where I am hemorrhaging money as you read this. I’ve come to the conclusion that I will not skip out on any opportunity I have over the next month and a half simply because it’s expensive. I am going to travel, eat good food, see museums and landmarks and soccer games, and generally do everything I can to make the most of the time I have here. To be sure, I won’t be sitting in the front row or flying first class and I might have to cut back a little bit when I get home, but missing out on the incredible opportunity I have to experience Europe would be the least frugal thing I could do.
Jack Hutensky studies at Dartmouth College. On campus, he writes for The Dartmouth Review, plays on the club golf team, and hikes with the Dartmouth Outing Club. He has previously worked on a United States Senate campaign and at a sleep-away camp for boys.