I’m all for saving money. But last week I learned a valuable lesson about how saving money at the expense of time isn’t always such a great idea.
I flew to Portland last week, stayed with my wonderful friend, Shannon Wilkinson (my partner in Declutter Happy Hour), then rented a car and drove to Walla Walla, Washington to visit family and attend my high school reunion.
As I planned this trip, I kept my eye on airfares and never saw one that I thought was inexpensive enough. I’m fortunate to have a wonderful friend who is a pilot for American Airlines and he offered me the chance to use one of his passes for a deeply discounted fare. The catch: I had to fly standby.
I’ve done this a number of times before, with nary a problem. I’ve even done it right before Christmas. But this year things are different. Flights are fuller. Flying standby is, to put it mildly, more difficult.
I arrived at the St. Louis airport on Monday morning at 5 a.m., aiming to get on a 6 a.m. flight. I didn’t get on that 6 a.m. flight. For the rest of the day, every couple of hours I’d go to a gate and wait, hoping to get on the next flight to Dallas to connect to a flight to Portland. Seven different times, I was disappointed. I finally got on the last flight of the day, the eighth one. It left at 7 p.m. That’s right, I spent 14 hours in the St. Louis airport.
The connection to the last flight to Portland was tight. If all went well, I’d have about 15 minutes to make the last flight to Portland. Alas, all didn’t go well. Our flight was delayed in taking off and I missed the Portland flight. I was able to get on a flight to Seattle, though. I’m very lucky to have good friends and one of them arranged for his brother to pick me up at the Seattle airport, put me up for the night, and drive me to Portland in the morning, if you can believe that. So it could have been much worse (and more expensive).
Faced with the prospect of having an equally difficult time getting home, I started looking at one-way fares. And I found a pretty good one. So I ponied up a couple of hundred dollars extra for a confirmed seat. And it was well worth it. My trip home was on time and stress-free.
The lesson here? Sometimes it’s just not worth it to take the cheap route. I was stressed out for an entire day, all in an effort to save a few hundred dollars.
The lesson isn’t limited to travel. It can apply to all sorts of effort-saving expenditures, like purchasing technology or hiring someone to help you do something you’re not great at (or do it for you).
We’re in a recession. It’s smart to curb expenses. But my experience last week reminded me that saving money doesn’t always have to be the priority.