I spent $3 on a raspberry chocolate bar the other day. The three of us sat in the parking lot in the rain, breaking off little pieces, giggling, singing along to Gnarls Barkley on the radio, and watching the rain drops bounce on the hood.
Was that $3 an effective use of money? Of course not. A $3 candy bar? It was very good chocolate, but it was $3 that basically disappeared in a few minutes. That $3 could have helped with the grocery bill or any number of other things; instead, we giggled and munched and the money was gone.
The $3 alone isn’t that big of a deal, but repeated over time, it really does add up. Let’s say I bought that same candy bar once a week – that adds up to $156 a year, enough to make a double payment once a year on my student loan and get it paid off years earlier.
The real value of the situation, though, wasn’t in the routine of it – it was a spontaneous moment of enjoyment with my family. It is those little moments, simple things like sitting in a car in the rain and sharing a candy bar and singing to music and laughing, that will be the things I remember in the future about this time, where the three of us were living together in that tiny apartment and he was in his toddler years, just discovering the world.
Was it worth $3? The chocolate bar wasn’t worth it, but the memory of it will be. Even now, I can close my eyes and see the raindrops bouncing on the hood, my bad falsetto singing along on the radio, a bit of chocolate on my son’s lips as he smiles enormously, and my wife just grabbing my hand and squeezing it. Those things were free, but they’re so great that they’re worth any price.
The value was in the uniqueness of the moment. By simply doing that – or something like it – every week, it goes from being a great, fun memory I’ll have of my wife and my son to something ordinary and plain. Trying to recreate that moment is really futile – I just enjoy them as they come along.
So what’s really important here? Those little special moments that cost a few dollars are fine – they are truly the spice of life. The trouble comes in when these special times start becoming routine – not only does the cost become regular, but it ceases to be special and becomes ordinary.