Some things are worth the cost.

thApparently I was out of my mind when I booked my recent trip to the East Coast. My return schedule last Friday was Philly-Chicago and then Chicago-Anchorage. The option of flying directly to Anchorage vs. a stopover in Seattle or Salt Lake City felt like a grand piece of luck.

And it would have been, if the flight had left on the same day. However, it left at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday.

I wanted to do a series of forehead-plants into the drywall. Instead I sighed, shrugged and started looking for a semi-affordable hotel near O’Hare.

The old me would have done those forehead-plants.

The old me might also have spent the night in the airport, reading and drinking free water from the fountain and eating food she’d packed.

That’s because the old me would have required penance for the mistake, and because the old me was, in fact, a younger me. The new me is the older me, who’s learned that she can’t keep punishing her body and expect it to forgive and forget.

This is why I’m frugal

Not that I was nuts about paying the Stupid Tax, but it had been a whirlwind couple of weeks and I was bushed. A decent night’s sleep before flying for another six hours and 20 minutes was definitely worth the freight.

Once again: This is why I’m frugal. I save where I can so I can spend where I want. Sometimes that’s not where I want, but where I should.

Good thing, since I wasn’t done paying the idiot’s excise.

A few months back I’d bought a Groupon for a family day pass to the H2Oasis indoor water park. Things kept interfering with my actually using it, but I swore to my niece that she and her boys and I would go after I got back. We had to, because the Groupon expired on Jan. 13.

Wrong. It expired on Jan. 1, 2013. Which I discovered on Jan. 2.

The promotional value remained intact, so I had a choice: Forget the whole thing and consider it a lesson learned, or pony up another $35.

Did I want to spend another $35, plus lunch? Not particularly. But I’d already told the kids we were going – and again, everyday frugality meant I could afford it.

My eyes are still stinging from the chlorine. The boys had a great time. And the Master Blaster slide made me scream like a Victorian maiden gone nose-to-nose with a satyr.

Incidentally, I did drink the free water at the airport vs. buying a $4 juice. I’d bought the Groupon through Mr. Rebates, so I got 3% cash-back. Brought home the bar of soap I used in the hotel shower, too. I haven’t lost my frugal edge. I just misplace it sometimes.

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  1. Ro in San Diego

    I LOL’d about the phrase “Stupid Tax”. I too have paid that tax many times – I just didn’t know that it had a name.

    I invited a good friend to my home for the weekend. I had an off-brand Groupon type of deal for pedicures. We’d done this before with no incident and was stunned when the proprietress announced she was not going to honor the coupon and that we could get them but we’d have to pay $xx…

    Since I’d promised us pedicures, pedicures we got at full price! The stupid tax. And like you, since I am frugal, I wasn’t too inconvenienced by the setback.

  2. I laughed out loud at the bar of soap thing. I don’t think you are in danger of having your frugal card revoked anytime soon!

    • marketfog

      We have picked up the bars of soap also. But this is another false economy. That cheap soap becomes soap scum, which requires a lot of work to get rid of. Better to use a soap like “Dove” which doesn’t create much scum and a shower spray. It saves a lot of useless work and time.

  3. That is horrifying that the Groupon was not honored. However, it seems you sort of rewarded her for reneging. If I had been with you, I would have encouraged you NOT to play her game. How can she get away with her refusal to honor the coupon.

    • I agree – at least complain to Groupon and get your money back! I had this situation once when I had bought a Groupon for a kids’s baking class at a local bakery. They had several dates listed when I bought the Groupon, but later canceled every single class and ignored my attempts to find out when they would be rescheduled. Groupon refunded my money after I explained the situation.

  4. Holly Samlan

    Donna, Donna
    You should have called or emailed. I DO have 3 spare sofas & live 22 minutes from Ohare.

    That now is a DOUBLE stupid tax.

    • Donna Freedman

      @Holly: Thanks for the kind reminder, but I wouldn’t have felt right asking you to get me back to the airport by 7:30 a.m. — and for the price of a 22-minute cab ride I could probably almost pay for the hotel. 😉
      Besides, as I have to keep reminding myself, it’s a business expense. Still stupid, but a business expense nonetheless.

      • Holly Samlan

        That would have been NO problem. I used to be AT work( 25-35 min away)at 6 am. And there would NOT have been a cab ride as I would have either picked you up or told you how to take the CTA train & gotten you from there.

        I am disappointed that we did not meet up but I do admit – sleep probably would NOT have been high on the agenda.

  5. Holly Samlan

    Donna, Donna
    You should have called or emailed. I DO have 3 spare sofas & live 22 minutes from Ohare.

    That now is a DOUBLE stupid tax.

  6. Chiming in with Holly here. You have loyal readers in Chicago who could help you out, too. A tweet would have resulted in several offers, including mine. I’m four stops from O’Hare on the (24 hour) el, and have a very large and comfy guest room that’s pretty much like a hotel room (queen bed, private bathroom, TV) which you could have stayed in for free. One of these days I’ll get it listed on Airbnb so others scanning for places near O’Hare can use it. Just got to get my act in order!

    • Donna Freedman

      @Linda: I never thought of putting it out on Twitter. That would have been smart, and I was too busy being stupid…
      Honestly, though, if I’d done that I would probably have gotten very little rest — I’d have wanted to stay up late talking. Was likely smarter just to go to the hotel, do the small amount of work that I did (putting up a piece on Money Talks News, which syndicates my stuff) and get a solid six and a half hours of sleep.
      This does stimulate an idea, though: Could readers help one another out for frugal vacations? That is, offer their own versions of Airbnb as either a strict trade (you can have a few nights at my Chicago place if I can visit your L.A. home) or as a pay-what-you-will B&B situation? Just a thought.
      Thanks for your generous offer.

  7. LOL! We call it “dumb tax” in these parts…same concept, fewer syllables.

    While wisdom is a function of age, as you reflect, I suspect strings of small goof-ups are also said function. Lately I’ve found myself making one dumb mistake after another very much along these lines.

    Assuming you don’t go off and leave a pan on the stove, thereby setting fire to the kitchen, the really bad thing is making mistakes that affect paying work. Just came off a huge project that was made even more huge because I kept making stupid errors that had to be undone and fixed, adding many, many hours of labor to a job that started on a tight deadline. Really, I’m beginning to wonder if I’m competent to continue doing this kind of work…

  8. I love this! Sometimes, I feel a little less than adequate because of the frugal measures I chose not to use, but this proves you are human. And honestly? Sometimes spending the money is worth more than what it cost.

  9. Karen Wheeler

    I always enjoy your posts but this one really made me laugh this morning. Now, when something like this happens to me, (and it will), I’ll just blame it on the “Stupid Tax”.

  10. Absolutely! That is why we are frugal, so we can shrug off the mistakes and throw money at problems to make them go away. Otherwise you’re just a tight-wad and losing horses for want of a nail.

    We at grumpy rumblings approve of this post!

    • Donna Freedman

      @Nicoleandmaggie: Thanks! I live for such validation. 🙂

    • Agreed! It took me awhile to learn this lesson, and I wish I had learned it earlier. My favorite example was when I was in grad school. I had basic dental insurance, but it didn’t cover fillings. I got my first (and only, to date) cavity and had to pay for it out of pocket. I called my mom to complain about the cost, and she said “Isn’t that what you have savings for? This is your rainy day.” Somehow, I had the concept of saving down, but I was horrible at spending any of it.

  11. Absolutely agreee with everybody above. I can remember when I was a single mother and a costly mistake was absolutely horrifying.

    Now I’m a cheap senior citizen and I plan very carefully and then just pony up for any obstacles that come into my path.

  12. Carol in Philly

    I don’t know if I learned the term “stupid tax” from you or another PF blogger, but I’ve paid it on a few occasions. Now the term “idiot’s excise” is running around inside my head, and I’ll no doubt end up paying that one at some point. Thanks for the good laugh!

    • Donna Freedman

      @Carol in Philly: I think “stupid tax” is from Dave Ramsey. “Idiot’s excise” is mine own.
      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

  13. <3

    I'm tallying our yearly Spend right now and there's definitely our share of Stupid/Tired/Life Tax in there. But we're pretty stable generally, so while I keep trying to do better, I won't punish myself over it either.

  14. The stupid tax…. I love it. I am totally going to work that into my repertoire.

  15. jestjack

    Pretty cool that you are willing to “forgive yourself” for a mental error. This is something I need to work on. Recently went to Court on a rental matter…on my B-day no less….and lost….yep lost. Basically because of the lack of a… word in an agreement…Courts’s thought and opinion not mine. This error was expensive BUT a lesson that has been learned…very well. NOW if I can just learn to forgive myself as you have….Good article…best wishes for the New Year!

  16. I pay a Stupid Tax once in a while too. I need to get a little more frugal to make up for those occasions though. Glad you had some fun and got some sleep. 🙂

  17. ImJuniperNow

    I call mine doing a “Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced bouquet)”. If you’ve ever seen the opening credits for Keeping Up Appearances, you’ll see Hyacinth’s etiquette books toppling over and her rolling her eyes and head in response.

    To me, these things are just little debits in the checkbook of life. And I’m so glad I have more than one checkbook!

    As for sleeping in airports, etc., I keep reminding myself that “I’m too old for this s**t”.


    • Donna Freedman

      @ImJuniperNow: My sister is a big fan of that show. I’ll have to remind myself that sometimes, keeping up appearances can be hazardous to one’s personal as well as financial health.

  18. punkinpye

    I love this piece. I have also found that one of the joys of frugality is that when life happens, I have the funds to cover it without worrying about paying my bills. BTW, if you are ever in the Dallas area, I have a lovely air mattress. We’ll even pick you up from the airport. I’m also a very good cook.

  19. Christy

    Sometimes all the planning in the world still causes an unplanned expense. It happens to the best of us and those that are just trying to be the best version of themself. Your few adventures in “paying full price” or a “luxery” shouldn’t give you anything but pleasure. (as long as the hotel did not have bed bugs)

  20. …and now you’ve got an ‘in’ at Denver, too — I’m 30 min. drive from DIA, and you’ve got a place to stay! I’d love to meet you in person sometime.

    • Donna Freedman

      Thanks to all who offered a place to stay if I’m visiting your town…It would be fun to meet up. We’ll see where my next trip takes me. Phoenix, Arizona, is likely in the next half-year, or maybe sooner.

  21. The real question is did you drink free water at the water park? Did you end up snorting some? Now that I’m older, water parks and I don’t get along as well as we used to.
    Love your writing!

  22. I think what you said is so important. We are human and will make mistakes. I tend to beat myself up for making silly mistakes too, but I’m getting better about forgiving myself. Being everyday frugal means you have padding for those silly mistakes!

  23. Yes, “Stupid Tax” is a great phrase.

    However THIS: “And the Master Blaster slide made me scream like a Victorian maiden gone nose-to-nose with a satyr.” Makes my eyes glaze over with pleasure. FABULOUS!

  24. I love knowing that i’m not alone in the “stupid tax arena.” There are days where I feel like i’m preaching to the choir when it comes to finances and money, and others where i take the cake…

    but with everything moderation is good.



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