Several years ago I spent a weekend learning about points, miles and other travel-related things from some of the best people in the business. I learned many tips on how to book trips for as few points as possible, but it was a single comment during one of the presentations that stuck with me. It was the kind of statement that the second you hear it, you know it’s going to make a huge difference. It’s a thing that’s so simple, that you can’t believe you never thought of it. It’s been several years and I’m excited to share how it changed our travels and I’m happy to share it with y’all.
I heard it during a talk by Chris Guillebeau. He told stories he learned while visiting every country in the world but one simple thing he mentioned stood out. He called it “The Fifteen Dollar Rule.” This is an idea he wrote about back in 2010 but back then it was called “The Ten Dollar Rule” (I guess by now it would be the Twenty Dollar Rule because of inflation). It was one of many tips he was passing along to readers of his blog in an article about decreasing stress when traveling. Here’s how he put it back then.
Spend more money. I often get stressed out spending small amounts of money. Overall, this isn’t always bad—it’s led to a healthy paranoia about debt and a lifelong adherence to frugality. However, it has its downsides too, in that I can spend hours walking around trying to decide what to eat, or hours trying to figure out the public transit system somewhere instead of just flagging down a taxi.
It only took me about 100 countries—I’m a slow learner—but I finally created a $10 rule for myself that has been rocking my world. The $10 rule is that when I’m traveling, I deliberately avoid worrying about most things that cost $10 or less. As I said, this makes a big difference. I actually eat three meals a day now. If I can’t find free WiFi, I’ll walk into a hotel and pay for the connection. SO MUCH LESS STRESS.
It seems such a simple idea, doesn’t it? It hit me as especially relevant because just the day before his talk, I made Sharon schlep our luggage through the streets of Chicago, walking for 15 minutes in the cold, wind and rain to get to the train station. I could have called for an Uber that would have cost less than $10 but I thought it was a relatively short walk and with traffic, it would have been no faster, so why spend the money? I realize now that the difference between the two was sitting in a car, dry and warm, or walking in the cold and getting wet. In retrospect, staying dry would have been worth a few bucks. Why didn’t I do it? Was it to save money? If I remove the worry about spending a few bucks here and there, I’ll be able to stress out over things like this less and enjoy my trips more.
Now granted, I’m not going to start spending money left and right but it’s spending money to go see something we want or calling for a car instead of walking, I’ll open myself up to the idea of spending a few more dollars and not worrying about it. I worked hard to earn miles and points to pay for our travel or I looked for discounts to make our trip less expensive and/or more comfortable. Why am I worried if the restaurant we’re looking at is charging us a few extra dollars for a hamburger?
I’m curious if this concept seems as life-changing to anyone else as it did to me when I first heard it. Maybe you do this already and think people like Chris and I are crazy for worrying about taking a $10 cab ride or buying a $5 bottle of water when traveling. I want to know what you think!
I’d also recommend taking a look at Chris’ website. He’s written five books, has a daily podcast and blogs regularly on his website about hacking everything from travel to your life, career and everything in between. He says the essence of his philosophy is this:
- You don’t have to live your life the way other people expect
- You can do good things for yourself and help other people at the same time
- If you don’t decide for yourself what you want to get out of life, someone else will end up deciding for you
- There is usually more than one way to accomplish something
I’m starting off by working on the twenty-dollar rule but I’m also considering these other ideas as well. At least I won’t fret over buying a soda from the hotel vending machine for three dollars anymore. Well, I hope.
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