Michael on August 31st, 2009
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Rather then focus on cutting costs to the bare bone, I try to ensure that I maximize the value I receive out of every dollar I spend.

You: Every dollar?

Not really.

You: Good. After all, you’re the one who wrote Your Problem Isn’t Starbucks.  I would hope you still stand by it.

I do. But I’ll give you another example about how I don’t stress over all the little stuff. (Bank fees and billing errors are another story.)  I was out with my wife last Thursday night near the beach.  Along the street, there were a bunch of “funland-like” places.

You: Funland like?

You know, with skee ball, arcade games, air hockey.

You: You  mean arcades?

Yes, I guess so. Anyway, I insisted my wife play the hockey game where you spastically control the players by spinning a long tube. With any luck, after half an hour someone accidentally scores a goal on him or herself and loses.  You know the game?

You: You mean like this, right?

Hockey Game

Hockey Game

Yes. Nice job.  It’s kind of freaky that you can put pictures in my post. I barely do that.

You: Glad to help.

Anyway, I put four quarters in there and, well, no action. No crowd noise, no puck, just the continual flashing score of the last game. Nearest employee’s location?  Unknown, but estimated at 500 feet behind a line of 20 people trading in skee ball tickets for four-cent key chains.

You: Annoying.

So I didn’t get any value from that dollar.

You: Why not try to get a refund?

It would have cost me more than a dollar to get the dollar back.

You: Why?

I was paying a babysitter at the time.

You: Oh.

I figured it wasn’t meant to be and we had already had a great time.  Besides, I think my wife was, at least on some level, relieved the machine wasn’t working.

Ordinarily, of course, I do try to get more value from my spending.  Furthermore, the more expensive the contemplated purchase, the more I try to ensure the value element. So I take a good amount of time before purchasing a car.  When planning a vacation, whether it be the selection of a hotel or the coordination of flights, even a decision of whether to use frequent flyer miles, I take my time and carefully evaluate my choices (just not with a lost dollar at a arcade game).

A Day in the (Amusement) Park

Last week, my family and I went on vacation.  Ordinarily we visit Acadia National Park in the summer, but this year we decided to go somewhere else.

You: Why?

Our youngest is 19 months old.  She’s big enough now that she’s a bit uncomfortable to carry in a backpack.  While she can walk for miles in our neighborhood (a surprising amount of endurance for a little one), she lacks any sense of fear.  Any.  While we don’t ordinarily take the kids on precipices to begin with while hiking, my wife and I both agreed that our youngest would be all too likely to find something extremely dangerous around every corner.  So we’ll get back to Acadia next year.

The first part of our trip last week was to Burlington, Vermont, where we biked over 30 miles along Lake Champlain with the girls in tow.  What a blast!  The last day of our trip was spent at a theme park in northern New Hampshire called Story Land.

You: Never heard of it.

Until recently, neither had I.  Not a place that gets on your radar screen unless you have children.  Nonetheless, I have to share: Story Land is a place I’ll return.

You: That good?

Yes.  Not only did the kids have a superior time, I was consistently blown away by the prices.  As you might recall, I formerly worked for Toys “R” Us. One topic that came up frequently when discussing a toy or a service we offered was the “play value.”  At Story Land, you get play value. A lot.  Admission was a quite reasonable $25 a person, especially when you consider that includes absolutely everything besides food.  One price and you’re done.  Compare the $25 to what you might pay elsewhere.

You: I’d rather not.

Furthermore, coupons were readily available and they didn’t charge anything for our youngest, even though she was permitted to go on a significant number of rides.  For the four of us to spend nine hours in the park: $50.

It got better.  Not only does Story Land  openly welcome you to bring your own food and drinks into the park, if you decide to purchase anything from them, the prices are completely reasonable, not the prices you might find at other captive venues like zoos, airports, and movie theatres.  I kept thinking to myself: these guys (the owners) get it. There’s no gouging.  They don’t charge for parking. They’re not selling alcohol.  They are leaving money on the table.

You: Really?

The more I thought of it, probably not.

You: Why not?

Because I’ll be back. And I’ll be back more often than I would have been otherwise. In fact, I’m sure I’ll back often enough that I will definitely spend more money in total than I would have had I just gone once and felt “taken.”

My kids received a ton of play value. I received a ton of financial value. That’s a pretty good day.

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Where do you receive the maximum value for your spend? (Don’t say the library, I mean places where you actually do spend money). What typically disappoints you on the same metric?

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2 Comments to “Where do you get value?”

  1. Derrick says:

    We are heading to Storyland on Labor Day weekend! It’s very quiet that weekend, most people head home on Sunday/Monday and you pretty much have the park to yourself on Monday.

    We rent a chalet with family and friends up there (sleeps 4 adults and 4 kids), just behind Storyland, and compared to most of the hotels….it’s cheaper to rent (depending on what you are renting) than to stay in the hotel. If your only going for one night, then I recommend a hotel since renting includes other fees such as cleaning services, but we’ll be there for 4 nights allowing the cleaning fees to be spread out more than if we were only there for one night (plus most places only rent for a min of 2-3 days).

    Great value for $25 SL tickets!!

  2. Michael says:

    @Derrick: Have a great time up north. Indeed renting a place for a lengthy stay with a big group of people can often be more affordable and a heck of a lot more comfortable than a hotel. For us, it was one night at a hotel that had water slides for the kids and a “Yes, we’ll be happy to accept your hotel points instead of your credit card,” for me. A true no-brainer.

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