[Hey guys! Welcome back to the site our friend Cubert from AbandonedCubicle.com, who’ll be dishing the dirt on his recent travels, and how he had to curb himself from spending an extra $100,000 upon his return ;) Something I’m sure we could all relate to at multiple times of our lives! Hope you enjoy, and find this helpful!]
In late June, I traveled to Switzerland for a good friend’s 50th birthday party.
Money-wise, things looked good from the get-go: I had a free place to shack up as well as free airline tickets from all the credit card hacking I had done over the past few years.
So far, so good. A cheap trip to one of the most expensive countries on earth – SCORE!
But soon after arriving and settling in at my friend’s smart, modern row house outside of Zurich, I started getting pangs of spendthriftery.
My buddy had two BMWs parked in the underground garage, and man are they pretty. In contrast, I drive a 2009 Honda Fit. It is not fast, nor a particularly sexy automobile, and it accelerates from zero to 60 in about, oh, forever.
Easy (Pricey) Rider
The day after I arrived, following a miserable night’s sleep on an air mattress, we went for a little 40 mile bike ride in the Swiss countryside.
In case you were wondering, I’m from the Midwest, where the only hills are formed when snow gets plowed into the corner of the shopping mall parking lot. How the heck will I keep up with two European cyclists who live to ride hills??
[Ain’t she a beut? That is not pee in the other bottle.]
It was convenient for my packing that my friend had spare shoes, helmet, and bike. And of course, that spare bike — a $2,000 carbon-fiber 56cm frame zippy doo 2-wheeler — got me thinking… I definitely should get a new bike when I’m home. So light, so pretty, so fast going down these hills!
My buddy is serious about his cycling. If you’re going to climb hills in Switzerland, you absolutely MUST have a $400 Garmin Edge computer with bluetooth heart-rate monitor as well. ESSENTIAL for any serious Saturday bike ride.
Of course, I didn’t have one, but now I wanted that too.
Bed, Bath, and Beyond
Over the next couple of days I came to appreciate more than just some fancy Beemers and bikes. My buddy has a nicely decked-out pad. Living outside of Zurich, you gotta keep up with the Schmidts’s, right??
“Ooohh Karl, did you see ze nice iFondu pot ze neighbors brought home from Wal-Mart? Jaaaavohl….”
The large flat screen TV, the fancy $800 push button coffee (and espresso) machine, the Sonos speakers. Sh*t, I even fell in love with their Weber charcoal grill he had bought in Minneapolis before moving to Europe! WHAT IS MY PROBLEM?!?
A little research might explain it. I checked out an article over at BBC.com that shed some insight on the psychology behind my sudden shiny object syndrome. The snip that stuck out for me was this:
“We are likely to justify our spending based on present circumstances, rather than sticking to a strict budget to control spending.”
I guess I’ll just blame it on currency values playing tricks on my brain. Psychology. It’s what’s for breakfast!
How to Enjoy Switzerland 101: Zip Around in a Sweet, Red Convertible Corvette
My favorite part about this trip was the day my friend got his ‘vette out of the shop and we proceeded to tear around the canton like bats out of hell. It was nail-biting fun, especially for someone used to Honda Fit level acceleration.
And of course, no Swiss-based Corvette is complete without a tricked-out exhaust that makes the car sound more like a Harley Hog than a sports car. You also learn quickly where all the speed cameras are hidden.
Suffice it to say, there were a lot of hair-raising moments bopping through them hills. But it was absolutely glorious. I even started to imagine myself behind the wheel, back home, with my wife as my co-pilot… Mmmmmm…
Okay, okay. You get the idea :)
By the end of the five day trip I was exhausted. The jet lag, the wee bit of celebratory drinking, the air mattress… It all added up.
What ALSO added up was the miscellaneous expenses you manage to compile in such a short amount of time vacationing. For this trip, it came out to a whopping $912!!! And remember: the flight was paid for by bonus points, and the lodging was completely free!
Where Did The Nearly $1,000 Go?
- Meals. I think I treated my friend at least three times, but have no qualms about that. The problem is that in Switzerland, even a basic pizza costs 20 euros! Then there’s tax and beer…
- Excursions. I also picked up a cogwheel train pass up Mount Rigi which had glorious views. No time to hike up it, hence the train, but it was not cheap at 45 euros.
- Gifts for family. I couldn’t leave the wife and kids behind without bringing home something for them, right? I was lucky enough to get the pass to be able to take this trip! No sense becoming papa non-gratis upon landing back in the States… Ring up three Swiss watches for 300 euros, please!
- Gift for a friend. I also couldn’t forget a friend back home. He’s always spoiling us after trips, so I figured I should return the favor and keep the vicious cycle alive. That set me back another 80 euros.
- Gifts for colleagues. Finally, I had to bring back Swiss chocolates for the co-workers. But since I couldn’t squeeze in a side trip to the supermarket, I ended up paying airport prices at 30 euros a pop for tiny things of chocolate balls. Jesus Marimba!
Despite all this, I also came home with a “want” list on my phone of all the frivolous toys I now just had to have. The fancy coffee maker, the corvette, the Weber grill! Absolutely insane, especially for someone like me who’s a proponent of minimalism, and values people over THINGS.
The Beauty of “Want” Lists”
The beauty of want lists is that they temporarily trick yourself into feeling good in the moment, without having to spend a dime. And if you’re anything like me, it can be just enough time to realize they were frivolous.
Here’s my “want” list again, with updated thoughts:
- Coffee maker. No way. Even though that $800 do-it-all coffee and espresso maker was super convenient, the taste of the brew came nowhere close to our Aeropress back home. And bonus, the Aeropress takes up zero counter space! DELETE.
- Fancy carbon fiber bike and Garmin bike computer. Hmmm… I don’t aspire to race in the Tour de France anytime soon. And as nice as that feather-light bike was, I’m quite content with my current steel-framed, sturdy mule “Surly Straggler.” (“Surly Temple”, if you’re nasty.) I only ride 20 miles a day anyways, 10 miles to work and 10 miles back. And while the computer is neat, it’s also another distraction when all I want to do is ride and meditate. DELETE. DELETE.
- Sonos speakers. Those were pretty sweet, not gonna lie. Sounds so rich! Problem is, whenever I want to listen to music at home, there are three other people to please at the same time. And at this age, the twins are more likely to yell over the music to be heard anyways. So for now, I’m sticking with our little Jawbone speaker. DELETE.
- Fancy kiddy pool and Weber charcoal grill. That pool looked really fun. On a hot summer day, nothing beats a nice dip in clean, cool water. But when you have to pay through the nose for that water, and the pool gets used only a half dozen times per year in the Arctic Circle (Minnesota), why bother? And the Weber grill? Sure, charcoal is fun to light and smells like camping, but a gas grill does an equally good job and is a lot easier to fire. Your favorite restaurant steaks never come from charcoal grilling anyways. DELETE. DELETE.
- Corvette. $hiiiiit. Who are you kidding? Yeah it was fun to tool around a beautiful country in an amazingly swift sports car, but a) it’d be insane for me to even consider this with all the costs involved, and b) I’m not much of a hard-driver. My friend has experience racing around tracks and is confident handling that V8. It’d all be wasted on 4-cylinder Cubert! DELETE!
[Ultimately, you don’t need a lot of toys to enjoy the splendor of this world.
A lesson reinforced on this little trip!]
Suffice it to say, there’s a very real compulsion to spend more and want more when you’re on vacation, traveling. The trick is to just be mindful of it.
The next time you’re on a craving binge, start up a silly list of wants on your phone like I did, and then when you’re back home and decompressed, reexamine everything and see how you still feel. Maybe you end up picking up one or two of the items, or maybe you end up deleting the entire list as I did and better appreciate the memories you just built. Memories that are practically priceless.
As for the frivolous spending while on vacation? Sometimes you just have to have a little fun. And depending on where you’re at in the journey, there’s nothing wrong with spending a little money! I went a little overboard on this trip, but it’s not everyday your best friend turns 50.
Cubert is an early retirement wannabe who blogs over at AbandonedCubicle.com. He and his family reside in Minneapolis – the best FIRE town on the planet, were it not for 9 months of winter. He plans to retire early in 2019 at the rip young age of 46, to spend more time with his family and on projects he has a passion for (like real estate, blogging, and life coaching). He can be found on Twitter @cubertAC.
Enjoyed this? Try out Cubert’s previous guest post next! –> How to Lose a Million Dollars
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Nice dude. Part of me says go for the bike, but since you already have a Surly, it’s not necessary.
But it’s still nice :)
Funny you say that. I was thinking about my desire for that Sensa just the other day on my commute home. I’m glad I chose to stick with Surly Temple. Though I did buy new racing slicks I can inflate to 115 PSI – a frugalish compromise to speed up my ride!
Now that’s indeed a great experience especially being able to ride that Corvette. I myself would want to have extra budget when I go on a trip because you’ll never know what things you’ll see, what sights will take more of your attention and what things to buy as gifts for when going home. Being a spendthrift isn’t that bad, but when you’re in the company of someone who seems to have everything, I agree with your tips on planning your Want lists, as long as you have the money and resources to fun it. Thanks for sharing this!
“Being a spendthrift isn’t that bad” — I think you’re on to something, Arianne. There’s a time and a place for dropping a little more dough. And typically, that’s when traveling.
Good news for yours truly: I haven’t purchased ANY of the items on my wish list since returning in June. I’m more excited about paying down the mortgage (money nerd alert!)
J.! Thanks for hosting me once again on your stellar blog! You make this Pete Best feel like a Ringo Starr.
yeah dude – it’s an excellent article you put together here, had to pass it around!
Wow, your friend must be doing well financially. I know how exactly you feel.
I visited my college roommate recently and he has a huge house next to a golf course. It must have been bigger than 5,000 sq ft. The house was recently renovated and looks amazing. It’s full of artworks, custom lighting, huge kitchen, etc… I’m happy for him, but I didn’t put anything new on my want list. That’s way out of my league. Well, he has a cleaning service come once per week. I want that. Someday…
Haha… yeah, it’s always easier to cope with when they’re on way different levels than you :)
Either that, or he’s up to his eyebrows in Debt. Stealth Wealth is the only way to go!! It may not be as sexy as the Corvette, but ultimately it will get you to the real destination (FIRE, baby) a whole lot quicker!!
It’s also possible that he’s filthy rich but doesn’t know *when to quit*! Which can be equally troublesome for a healthy balance :(
I honestly think he’s doing alright on the debt side. Interestingly, 80% of households rent their dwelling in Switzerland. My friend is no exception, so there’s no mortgage. He’s also fortunate to have a company paid car (a sweet BMW) so no car payments.
Still, I think shedding the ‘vette habit would go a long way in freeing up his capital for other pursuits later in life.
He’s doing well on the income side, but being a bit lax on the expense side (see exhibit A: Corvette in Europe)
Cleaning services are so tempting. But if you’re retired early, it’s a little easier to stay on top of clutter and chores. Unless you’re a prolific blogger such as yourself! :-)
This story makes me laugh. I lived in Switzerland for a year as an exchange student when I was 18. I remember feeling that everything was insanely expensive. I’ve gone back several times to include last year. Despite having much more money now, I still though: “Damn, this place is insanely expensive!”
Glad you had fun though. It’s always good to have friends with nice toys! :-)
It sure is expensive! I’d have been happy with a Domino’s deep dish after all that 20E pie. Man…
So, what’s your secret for finding the cheapest (and best) chocolate to haul back to the states??
This really drives it home: far better to have friends who share nice stuff than to have the stuff itself. Everybody wants a pickup truck or a boat or a big house full of custom designer accoutrements — nope! I’d rather be on good terms with those folks, and provide them with a nice six-pack or gas money when I get to help them play with their toys. Then I want to get in my 14-year-old Hyundai and drive to my modest 1920s house and sleep soundly, knowing we’re tucking away a grand into savings and investments each week.
Meanwhile, enjoy the Surly! The only time I ever visited Minneapolis was an interview back in 2003 for QBP, the folks who own the brand; they’re good people. Way to ride local. :)
Hey Adam! A-men to THAT. Got a pool??? :)
I would suggest in addition to providing beer and gas money, a little side-chat on smart money might be wise. But you certainly don’t want to jeopardize friendships with holier than thou approach.
So he owns all those cool and expensive toys and you had to sleep on a bad AIR MATTRESS??? Lol.
I know, right? He should’ve done what most Americans do, and gone house poor. Then I’d have had a luxury suite in his would-be chateau instead! ;-)
My thoughts exactly!:)
I’m seriously in love with the “want” list! Such a great way to pause spending to give yourself some time to consider if you reallyyyyy need it. And I’m all about borrowing fancy things from my friends! Something I’ve been working on lately is thinking outside the box when I fall into the pressure of wanting something. So, basically I ask myself, “how can I fill the same need with something I already own or something cheaper.” Thanks for your insight on this topic! I love it!
You’re welcome, Grace!
Your point about want lists is spot on. I think that’s one of the nice take-aways here. I will keep that “want” list handy on my phone going forward. Not much unlike my Amazon wish list – which is typically a library of books I’d never get around to reading, even if I got them.
Thanks for sharing your awesome trip with us! I’d say less than $1000 for a trip to Switzerland is fantastic, and thank you again for sharing the details about how you spent the money. It makes for a great conversation about real spending while on vacation. Your wants list is such a great idea, I would keep mine just to laugh at myself later on! I don’t think wanting a red Corvette ever goes away, tho. :)
I can’t complain much at all about a trip to one of the most expensive parts of the world for under a grand. Right on.
I giggled a tooth loose when I re-read my list a few weeks back. Crimminy.
This is the first comment I have ever made. You are making a HUGE mistake. Buy the bike, you’ll never regret it. But take your time. Buy a NEW bike from a good LOCAL bike shop. You will need the bike shop. I have 2 bikes. One is somewhat fancy, Cannondale Synapse Carbon. Love this bike for long touring rides. The next is my commuter bike I use every day for commuting to work, stores, etc. It is a Trek CrossRip 3. Love this bike more. Bikes are where I will treat myself. Cars, blah! Homes, blah! Travel, well I spend money there too. Enjoy and Bike On Brother!
I am honored to receive your first comment! And let me just say – comment more!!! Excellent suggestion. I love going local for all my biking (and boozing) needs.
You gave a little nudge there, to keep looking into at least a winter bike for our snowy, cold, and wet half of the year. Thinking a single speed with wide tires, but not the fat tires that all the rage. Bike on! Bike on!!
What year is the vette? I have a similar one from that generation. There a whole bunch of money in Europe, over here there really cheap. I can only imagine how long ago I would have sold it if it was worth what it is in Europe.
I want to say it’s a 2008? It’s kept in super nice condition, that’s for sure.
It’s certainly not cheap to own that thing. There’s a huge tax on new cars, not to mention the cost to fuel and insure. So it’s more of a weekend fun car for my buddy. (When he’s not riding his bike anyhow…)
Cubert – you are spot on with the occasional splurge trip. Certain events only happen once so make the best of it. But be sure to be honest with yourself – if you know you can’t afford it then limit the expenses.
Your list is also a great idea. I have never written down a list but I do make mental notes about cool things I have seen/done on trips. You were wise to sit on that list until the adrenaline rush was over. Waking up at home makes you really think about whether those cool things makes sense for you.
Thanks man! I agree with you. Combine those dollars with the experience = recipe for good memories. You don’t have to overdo it of course. But enjoy yourself while on vacation, especially if you’ve worked to obviate airfare with credit card hacking!
This article came at the perfect time. I swore I’d spend next to nothing on my trip to Spain and here I am, home for 2 days, wondering where that almost $1700 went!! Granted, most of it was meals, transport and excursions over 17 days, but I also broke my year-long shopping ban while I was there. It was so tough sticking to it in a land (well, continent!) full of such pretty/cool/frickin’ awesome things. I also did come home and try justifying it “based on present circumstances” (I can only get this in Spain, it’s handmade, it’s one of a kind, etc) instead of sticking to the budget, or in my case, complete ban.
Don’t beat yourself up. As you can see, even the most frugal minded among us can backslide when we’re out of our element.
Spain sounds lovely. I would retrace Anthony Bourdain’s steps and eat myself silly while there. Then do an encore in Portugal. Meet your match, pork.
We’re human – I think it’s common to have our moments of “wanting to keep up with Jones’s”. The question is do we act on that feeling. I like the idea of writing down our wants and thinking them over. I’m also one of those who picks up an item, puts it in the cart, walks around the store and then talk myself out of it (most times!). I do agree with others though that some times you do have to splurge on yourself and enjoy life – especially on vacations. (Of course, still within reason.) I would be so bummed if I traveled somewhere but was so thrifty I missed out on the adventures/experiences of that area.
Great point, LeeAnne. We’ll see how disciplined I stay with this wish list approach.
And I can certainly relate to buyer’s remorse *before you even get to the register!!* Ha! Done that MANY times.
Our first few overseas trips we did the whole souvenir thing and realised how much clutter we’d accumulated not to mention the wasted money. Our family aren’t keen traveller’s so we figure if they want a souvenirs it’s a good time for them to get themselves overseas (not working as yet :p). Now we just send a post card which fits in with our minimalist values and resist buying ourselves anything as well – there are only so many shelves and walls! To me our photos, memories and the occasional ticket stub is our souvenir :)
I enjoy watching the occasional House Hunters episode but thankfully never feel the urge to buy any 4000 squre foot home with 3.5 baths and 5 bedrooms and a huge backyard as I am pretty content with the time it takes me to clean our current humble abode and pretty keen to keep it that way ;)
But definitely think of the nice things we could have or upgrade but my thing is always asking myself ‘do I hate this enough to spend the money on it’ and that usually gets it off our list :)
Haha yeah – I always envision a pile of cash next to the item I want and see which one excites me the most :) Usually the cash wins, but not always!
I think we’re birds of a feather on this topic! Photos are really all you need. Use whatever “play money” to have a nice time while you’re THERE, vs. bringing home crap. Course, I went against my better judgement this trip with the watches and chocolate, but I don’t travel alone overseas much these days. If Mrs. Cubert were with me, she’d help keep my spendthriftery in check! :-)
Agree with everything but the bike, and I’m glad to see a few others on here with the same sentiments. And that’s the coolest thing about FI! You drastically cut the spending in the thing that aren’t important to you so that you can spend extra on the things you really want. If that’s a bike, Great! If that’s not a bike, Great!
Happy want listing!