Spending More to Save More

J on airplane wings
I’m pretty sure I’ve blogged about this before, but spending more to save more always drives us personal finance bloggers crazy ;) Especially for people like me who sometimes fall for them, and then have to report back to you about it! Haha… but luckily this story ends the way I want it too. Despite being tempted like a mother. (Are you proud of me Frugal Gods?)

The point of almost caving occurred yesterday when I went to check in for my flight back home to D.C. It was approximately 9:45 a.m., and I was in front of the Airtran crew when one of them asked if I wanted an upgrade to Business Class. “Heck yeah!” I proudly exclaimed, as if it was high school prom all over again (I was actually asked out by the girl, talk about hot!). “That’s so sweet of you” I gushed, “Thank you so much!”

Of course, she wasn’t asking me if I wanted it for FREE – no – she wanted to know if I wanted to PAY to live like a king for those 2 hours on my way home ;) But I figured if she was trying to up-sell me, maybe I could out-CHARM her? Haha… yeah, I lost. BUT, I did not fork over that money! And she almost had me too.

You see, the upgrade only cost $49. Which, if you think about it, is pretty damn good. Comfier seats, free drinks (including alcohol – which is unlimited!), free food, and the chance of feeling like a rock star when everyone walks by you wondering if you’re famous or not, haha… (you know you do that ;)) BUT, and this is a big but here, once you become a first/business class passenger you no longer have to pay to check in your luggage! Saving me a cool $20 right there on the spot. Which, of course, was her main selling point. As she stared at me wondering why I’d need an entire suitcase anyways traveling for only 2 days as a guy. But what can I say – I like having options! :) And it’s not like TSA would let me bring on all that hair care product anyways even if I wanted to. Pshhh…

So to recap: If I spent $50 more right then and there, I’d get free baggage and a sexier seat on the plane – all the while “saving” me $20 in the process. Pretty tempting, huh? (Would YOU do it?)

Well, you already know that I turned it down. Whichever way you look at it, I’d be PAYING more to SAVE more, and in this instance it just didn’t make sense to me. No matter how good of a deal it was. I didn’t feel like dropping $30 more dollars all spur-of-the-moment like that because I’d rather be putting it somewhere else (that’s what HE said?).

It reminds me of all those Express coupons and other “Spend $100 and save $20!” deals out there too. They’re awesome as hell if you were planning on dropping $100 anyways, but 9 times out of 10 it just gets you to drive over to that store faster to pull even more money out from under you. Same with BOGO coupons (Buy One Get One Free) and the rest of their cousins. If you go into a place with a budget of $50, and come out spending $85, it doesn’t matter how many extra doodads you got cuz you STILL have to find room for that extra $35 you dropped now! And don’t even get me started on Groupons, haha…

But my point here isn’t that coupons or bad, or deals are made from the devil – no. It’s just that you REALLY have to watch what you’re doing and ask yourself before making spur-of-the-moment decisions if these extra expenses align up okay with your game plan. If they do, or you have padding in your budget – great! Spend spend away and live it up! If not, calmly avert your eyes and continue on your merry way exactly like you would have done anyways.

I’ve learned a long time ago that it’s OKAY to leave deals on the table if they’re not directly involved with my goals. Cuz all it means is that I’ll have even MORE money to throw against the ones that do when those magical times present themselves! If you can learn to prioritize and block out as much noise as possible, you’ll be a financial rock star in no time. And it won’t require a first class seat either ;)

(Photo by jronaldlee. Doodle by J. to the $)

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  1. Money Beagle June 28, 2011 at 7:25 AM

    Most of the time, any Groupon or related coupon type thing we buy is for something that we would have purchased anyways. We actually have the discipline down enough that we can pass up deals that look good but would get us into the trap you describe.

    Way to stay strong on the ticket!

  2. No Debt MBA June 28, 2011 at 7:46 AM

    I’m with Money Beagle. I only print out $20 off $100 coupons or whatever if I’m already planning to go shopping. Similarly, I’ve bought from Groupon twice in the last year and a half. The vast majority of deals don’t fall into the we would have bought it any way category.

  3. cashflowmantra June 28, 2011 at 7:58 AM

    We try to only use coupons on stuff we plan on buying anyway, although occasionally might try a new product using a coupon. Trying to drink $29 worth of free alcohol might have been an alternative strategy to passing on the upgrade?!

  4. Kyle June 28, 2011 at 8:02 AM

    If the flight was longer than two hours I probably would of upgraded. 30 dollars for an upgrade for first class is pretty sweet. Not to mention the free booze and the better food. I would drink 30 dollars worth of alcohol within an hour and enjoy the rest of the flight haha.

  5. Peliroo June 28, 2011 at 8:07 AM

    Very true, J$. I get this kind of spend-to-save-more thing a lot when I food shop. I only shop for 2 people and most of the time buying tons of food means food rotting in the fridge. The deals sound good for others, but not for me and Boy.

    (You brought a suitcase for 2 days of travel? lol!)

  6. rainbowfish June 28, 2011 at 8:30 AM

    Save those baggage fees, fly Southwest!

    I consider my deals very carefully, otherwise they are not deals. Food shopping really bugs me here in FL. Our main grocery store, Publix, is in a few other states. In those states, if it is a BOGO deal, you can buy one for 1/2 off. But not in FL. So I pass up many BOGO deals, it isn’t a deal if I throw the food away.

    My favorite clothing store often does the spend $50 get $25 off your next purchase. It used to be great, I would hit the clearance rack, use my teacher discount, and score some big deals. Now it is on full priced merchandise only. It is no longer a deal, I wait for things to go on sale and use my 15% off for better prices.

  7. Kevin @ Thousandaire.com June 28, 2011 at 9:21 AM

    It also depends on if you were going to buy drinks in coach. If you were, then I probably would have done it. But since I don’t drink and I’m not a large person, first class has no real benefit to me. I would have taken my normal seat in coach.

  8. Crystal June 28, 2011 at 9:46 AM

    If they served something girly like vodka with cranberry juice or had some straight rum, I could have sooooo downed more than $30 of alcohol to more than make up for the extra, lol. I hate flying, so alcohol is a nice way to ignore the fact that I am hurtling through the air and my ears hurt…I just usually am not willing to pay $8-$10 a glass. :-)

    In your case, you saved $30 to be slightly less comfortable for 2 hours. Sounds like you made $15 an hour doing what you were gonna do anyway. ;-)

  9. Grant June 28, 2011 at 10:33 AM

    I’ve done this before while traveling with a set of golf clubs on Air Tran. Obviously one HAS to check golf clubs while flying and if I remeber correctly, they cost a little bit more than the standard AirTran baggage fee. When it came down to it, the true “cost” of upgrading to biz class was something like $20. I valued the leg room, bigger seat, free cocktails and two free checked bags on that 3-hour flight at more than $20, so I updgraded.

  10. Mary H June 28, 2011 at 10:36 AM

    Love those cowboy boots! Ya know, the picture makes me think of that Twilight Zone story “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” with the gremlin on the airplane wing ;)

  11. wldflr June 28, 2011 at 12:13 PM

    Hubby and I have paid for the last minute upgrade on AirTran several times flying from the midwest to Florida on vacation – usually on a non-stop flight . Hubby is a big guy and loves the extra room and unlimited drinks. And since it is our vacation, we have 2-3 bags so $ saved there and no fighting over the armrest! We just plan on the extra expense as part of our vacation.

  12. Jen @ Master the Art of Saving June 28, 2011 at 12:15 PM

    It’s tempting sometimes, but I have to remind myself not to get too excited over coupons/deals where you gotta spend a little more. If it’s something that is truly beneficial to us and over a short period of time will actually save us money—then I’m good. Otherwise if the numbers and logic don’t make sense, I just bail.

    Too bad they wouldn’t just upgrade you for free after you said you wouldn’t pay for it, that would have been awesome.

  13. Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager June 28, 2011 at 12:33 PM

    Curious, would you have upgraded if it was a longer flight?

  14. Kathy June 28, 2011 at 12:52 PM

    I agree with No Debt MBA as I’ve purchased 3 Groupons in the past….they’re mostly not what I buy so I pass on them.
    The ones that I did buy were: one I used with a co-worker for a local food joint for lunch. the second I just printed last week & gave it to my parents for their anniversary (lunch at a local Italian place) & the third is sitting there waiting for me to save up enough money to pay cash for my mattress that I so need. I refuse to take money out of my 911 fund to buy it. And the Groupon was soooo good that I couldn’t pass it up….spend $50 & get $200 credit towards a mattress at Sit & Sleep by October.

    I think that I would have upgraded if it was a long flight. Otherwise, nope…would rather save the bucks.

  15. Jenna June 28, 2011 at 1:06 PM

    I think this has gotten most of us at one time or another. I know a lot of people who get a little Groupon-crazy and end up trying to sell them off later when they realize they’ve overspent!

    As you mention, the key is knowing your budget at the outset, and then pausing for just a couple seconds before you buy to figure out if that extra cost is in your budget. Or if you do have some extra wiggle room, use those couple seconds to make that quick trade-off comparison in your mind about what else you could do with that money. Once you get in the habit, it’s not as hard to pass deals up.

  16. retirebyforty June 28, 2011 at 1:14 PM

    I feel the same way! There is no way I would pay an extra $50 to upgrade to nicer seats. If it was a free upgrade, I’d jump on it. hahaha.. It was only two hours anyway, no big deal right? If it was 20 hours for $50, I’d pay for that. We got a free upgrade once on the way to Frankfurt, it was too awesome for words.

  17. Melissa June 28, 2011 at 1:31 PM

    Oh man, I am the worst at this. Especially buy-two offers when I really only wanted one in the first place. I am suck a sucker for it. But the cashiers are the worst. I once bought one vinyl record frame at Urban Outfitters for $20. They were 2 for $24, so great savings, but I really only needed one. The clerk looked at me like I was crazy when I declined to get a second for only $4!

    That said, for $30 I totally would have taken the upgrade to business class.

  18. Ryan June 28, 2011 at 4:26 PM

    I’m with Crystal, if I was in the mood for drinking, aka all the time :), I would have jumped on it. Of course, there might have been a problem if I was asked for ID, but I’m sure I could charm the crap outta the flight attendant and get hooked up. ;)

  19. South County Girl June 28, 2011 at 4:28 PM

    The other day I picked up one of those internet deals… a gift card valued at $25 for only $2… and yes, there were stings attached to the card… (you have to spend $35 on food with an 18% gratuity). We bought it because my fiance wanted to go there with his buddies for his bachelor party so the $35 food will easily be hit, and we always tip 20% unless the service is really bad, so for us it will save us money because we knew he go out with a large group.

    That same coupon we wouldn’t have normally bought because we’d have to spend more to save then we would for just ourselves to go out.

    Those social media deals are only good if you know you will use it or if it coincides with a planned shopping trip.

  20. slug | sunkcostsareirrelevant.com June 28, 2011 at 4:29 PM

    In a very rare instance, yes you can spend more to save more.

    Wait until the beginning of your credit card cycle. Buy $2,000 worth of $1 coins from the US Mint free Direct Ship Program with 2% reward card. Reap $40 in rewards. Deposit coins in bank upon receipt. Reap 30-50 days of interest on $2,000. Pay off credit card balance in full. Repeat monthly.

    Increased spending = $24k/yr.
    Increased savings = $480 + interest.


  21. J. Money June 28, 2011 at 4:47 PM

    @Money Beagle – Well that’s cuz you are awesome!! If only we can convince everyone else to be that good :)
    @No Debt MBA – That’s perfect! And oddly enough, my wife almost bought me something from it yesterday! haha… but it was for something I wanted to visit anyways – so I totally get that :)
    @cashflowmantra – HAH! You know, I would have def. taken up that challenge if I was dared ;) If we’re ever flying together, you’ll have to remember that.
    @Kyle – I would have too if we were going, let’s say, to Cali or something :) And ESPECIALLY if it was in the evening! I get soooo sleepy if I try drinking in morning/afternoon.
    @Peliroo – Shut it! I pack like a girl, I know :)
    @rainbowfish – Ahhhh yeah I remember when some places let you take those 50% deals too instead of actually having to buy 1 to get 1. Haven’t seen one in a while here either :(
    @Kevin @ Thousandaire.com – Haha, yes – all good points.
    @Crystal – HAH! I did! I made $15 an hour! haha… that’s a funny/cool way to look at it :)
    @Grant – There you go! If you have more than 1 bag it REALLY makes it worth it then too – same w/ golf clubs. You did good, sir, you did good.
    @Mary H – Haha never heard of it :) but now Googling!
    @wldflr – See, now THAT is smart. A) Because you can make the most use out of it (or at least your husband can), and B) you plan AHEAD for it! Which is key. Not that you always have that option cuz they may be booked and all that, but you guys set yourself up for best-case scenario and you jump at the opportunity. It’s perfect! :)
    @Jen @ Master the Art of Saving – Well, I’ll tell you a secret too. On my way TO Milwaukee I DID get a free upgrade! I don’t know how I did it, but when I went to look at my seat # it pointed to first class. I was like, huh??? is this a mistake? haha… it wasn’t until the stewardess called me by my last name that I realized it was meant to be my seat, haha… so I got to enjoy it already! :)
    @Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager – Only if it was in the evening, and if I was going TO somewhere. Like on a vacay or biz trip, etc. Coming back from trips I don’t care much for it, and if it’s not in evening I probably wouldn’t drink much anyways to take full advantage of it :) Also, dinner in those places are awesome!
    @Kathy – Ooooh that is a good one! We’re in initial talks about getting new mattresses so I can totally appreciate that groupon :)
    @Jenna – True that. And is another GREAT perk about bugeting and knowing where all your money is at all times. Cuz when you get an opportunity like that – whether it’s good or bad – you can at least know right away what kind of affect it would have, thus giving you better chances at a good decision :)
    @retirebyforty – I bet!!! I would ofcourse doing it for international trips :) I used to work for the airlines and ALWAYS paid a litle more to fly in style across water… ofcourse “a little more” only meant like $30-$50 cuz most of it was comped! haha… oh how I miss those times…
    @Melissa – Hah! I’m surprised the clerk didn’t ask you to buy them and then sell it to her for $4 ;) That’s awsome you stuck to your guns though. I probably would have caved in that instance, haha…
    @Ryan – Hah! I doubt they check ID in business class, but that’s very interesting… you should try it one day and see what happens ;)
    @South County Girl – Yup! They are GREAT when the stars align for you, but trouble when they catch you in vulnerable mode, haha…
    @slug | sunkcostsareirrelevant.com – HAH! We have a winner!!!! That is awesome dude. I’ve actually heard that before from another blogger years ago, but then I heard some rule came in place w/ credit cards that won’t allow it anymore or something? Or maybe you can only buy a certain amount each time on a card? Regardless though, I’m a big fan of workin’ that out :) Though I’m too lazy for it, haha…

  22. Darwin's Money June 28, 2011 at 8:26 PM

    Ha you mention those Express coupons. It’s like Kohl’s too. My wife can’t get enough of those coupons. I’m like, “who the hell EVER pays full price at any of these stores? What a chump!”. When a store constantly offers 20% off, isn’t that really the “non-sale” price? And a real sale is more like 40% off?

  23. Travis @DebtChronicles June 28, 2011 at 11:07 PM

    If it were just me, I would have declined faster than a TSA patdown.

    If my wife were with me, she’d most likely come up with some circular argument that would have my head spin just long enough to agree with it.

    I’m a sucker for her big brown eyes too.

  24. J. Money June 29, 2011 at 7:30 PM

    @Darwin’s Money – Haha exactly!!! Same with Bed Bath & Beyond – if you don’t roll up with a coupon you’re all kinds of jacked up ;) And the worst is when you accidentally leave them behind!!! Cuz you know you get tempted to just say screw it, haha..
    @Travis @DebtChronicles – Awwwwwwwww.