Why I Spent $2,000 on an Airplane Ticket

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I made the single biggest purchase of my life last week. After fuel charges and 12 other airline taxes I spent $2,000 on a round-trip airline ticket from Tokyo to Chicago for the 2 weeks in August.

Is it an outrageous price? You bet, but as I’ll try to justify to my readers (and myself), the ticket will be well worth the money.

Now, this isn’t just a diary post about my stories abroad. Instead, let’s look at smart spending, saving for goals, and when it’s ok to open up our wallets to spend on the things that bring us happiness, joy, and all that other sappy greeting card stuff.

Here’s the reasons I decided to make the biggest purchase of my life.

My first time home in a year

For those of you who are new here, I’ve been in Japan since July of 2009. A lot of the other teachers in the prefecture headed home for Christmas, but my families not very religious, my girlfriend had just arrived 2 months earlier, and flying in to Chicago in December is as much fun as doing your taxes.

I haven’t seen my family, friends, or home in about 12 months and I’m overdue on catching up with my Illinois roots. Also, my sister is 15 so I expect she grew 2 feet while I was gone.

It’s important to stay in touch with those close to you and August is the best time for me to head back. Skype, e-mail, and instant messages can only do so much.

Met my saving goals for the year

Unfortunately, August is obon in Japan which means inflated airline prices – around $200-500 more than usual. Despite this, now’s the time that fits my schedule and because I’ve saved for 11 months, I can justify the huge expense without sweat.

For those of you who are FF fanatics, you know I keep track of my money goals every couple months. My goal at the start of my time in Japan was to save 40% of my monthly income and so far I’ve been able to save around 46%.

I’ve avoided any large trips, lived frugally, and counted my yen so now’s the time to let the wallet breathe a bit.

If you make the sacrifice and save your money ahead of time, there’s no reason you can’t splurge on your own big purchase. The key is to think ahead, map out your savings, and use your money for things you love – not just things you temporarily want to fill a void.

A chance to recharge my foreigner batteries

I don’t miss home as much as I thought I would, but it’s exhausting living in another culture as different for Japan. Things like going to the store and getting stared at, not understanding morning announcements, or wanting to grab a bite to eat are different here and it wears on you.

I’m staying for at least a 2nd year in Japan so it’s the perfect time in my stay to get back home and refresh the cultural batteries. It’ll be nice to hear English, drive on a big road, eat some hot dogs, buy shoes, go golfing, eat at a restaurant outside, not bow, see other races, and a few others.

Kidding aside, year 2 in Japan will be 150% easier if I can get home and get some perspective on my experience. Included in this $2,000 price tag are intangibles like catching up with my friends/family, having a chance to reminisce about the year, and seeing how I feel about my future.

Honestly, this reason is worth the money alone.

The cultural fatigue is probably like war – hard to fully explain unless you’ve experienced it.

Love summer, hate winter

The title is pretty self-explanatory, but I despise winter so visiting for 2 weeks in August is worth more to me than trudging through the snow for 2 weeks in December.

Summer allows me to play some golf, eat outside at a restaurant, and ride a bike without snow tires. It would be nice to do the Christmas thing at home, but I’ve figured out that I’m at least 4 times happier when it’s above 55 degrees.

Spend Your Money

This site sometimes gets caught up in finding ways to save money, but there are plenty of times you need to use your money to improve your situation, too. The pros of this trip are jumping off the page and even though it was hard to click the purchase button when I was staring at a $2,000 price tag, the feeling that I was actually going back home for the first time in a year was worth it.

The key is to prepare and think ahead. I knew that visiting Chicago in August was a possibility since we decided to stay in Japan for Christmas. In the back of my head I avoided huge, unnecessary purchases to prepare for this trip. I made sure I hit my savings goals and then after that, I’m using my money to make me happy.

What’s the biggest item you’ve ever bought, but would do it again in a second?

Photo: Photo8

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