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I like to travel. Over the past decade, I've probably made an average of two international trips per year. But you know what? Never once in that time have I tried to track how much I spend while exploring the world. Sure, I log my numbers in Quicken as I do for everything , but I've never analyzed the cost of an individual trip. This month, I flew to Europe to hang out with my cousin Duane again.

He and I enjoy traveling together. Because I was curious, I decided to be diligent about tracking my expenses for this trip. Note, however, that I didn't try to do anything different. I did what I always do. I spent in ways that felt normal to me. I don't need a fancy hotel, for instance. Neither does Duane. We're happy with cheap, simple lodging. And because most of the time we don't book rooms in advance, we don't hunt for the best deal. When we decide to stop for the night, we look for a place to stay. We don't continue to search. We'd rather use our time to explore our surroundings. On the other hand, we're both willing to splurge on food from time to time.

Our rooms aren't important to us, but what we eat is. We don't pay much for tours, etc. Chateau Chenonceau in France's Loire Valley. Hello, friends. I have returned from France and recovered from jetlag. I'm not good with jetlag. Later this week, I'll publish an article about how much my cousin Duane and I spent during our ten-day drive across Normandy and Brittany, but today I want to share one small epiphany I had on the trip. Midway through our excursion, we heeded a recommendation from a GRS reader and stayed the night at the Royal Abbey of Our Lady of Fontevraud , a former monastery founded in Although many old buildings remain and guests are free to explore them , the site is no longer an abbey.

It's a fancy upscale hotel and a Michelin-star restaurant. Duane and I typically prefer to stay in simple rooms when we travel. We don't need fancy. For us, a hotel is a place to sleep, not a place to be pampered. We do make exceptions, though. On this trip, we also paid extra to stay the night on Mont Saint Michel. That's way too expensive for us. And the restaurant was even more expensive. Duane would have been perfectly happy eating crepes or galettes which are savory crepes at a regular restaurant in the nearby village, but I've always wanted to eat in a Michelin-star restaurant, and this seemed like a perfect opportunity.

I mean: It was right there in the same building as our hotel. I'm making a deliberate decision to do this. You just enjoy the meal. Don't worry about the cost. We did enjoy the meal. It was a fixed menu at a fixed price, although we could add options. Duane added mushrooms and I added a cheese plate. The food was fun and fancy.

That's the most I've ever paid for a meal in my life. But was it the best meal of my life? It was good — don't get me wrong — and I loved experiencing how a superstar kitchen combines flavors, but this wasn't even in the top twenty meals I've ever eaten. There are several restaurants here in Portland that I'd prefer to dine at, and they cost much less. But I don't mean to grouse about how little enjoyment we got for the money we spent. Just the opposite, in fact. When we reached our hotel room after a long day of driving, I needed to freshen up before dinner.

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I went to the bathroom to wash my face. I love it. I've never had positive feelings for soap before in my fifty years on this Earth. When I'd finished, Duane took his turn in the bathroom. It's fantastic. Maybe we can find it when we get to Paris. He can get away with jokes like that because he is a gay man. We forgot about the soap and went to dinner.

In the morning, as we were checking out, we noticed that the soap was for sale in the hotel lobby. On a hunch, I googled the manufacturer. Sure enough: The soap was produced by a small company only three kilometers away. We hopped in our rented Peugot and made the short jaunt to the soap factory, Martin de Candre.

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Sidenote: We knew nothing about the Peugot before we picked it up at the rental company. Turns out, it's an awesome little car. France is filled with awesome little cars. Unfortunately, none of them are available in the U. Americans like big trucks and SUVs. This makes me sad. I'd gladly purchase a Peugot as my next vehicle. We spent about half an hour looking at and smelling the different soaps. A friendly French woman answered our questions and taught us how to better get a sense of each soap's scent.

Then you'll know how it really smells. Kim and I currently use watered-down liquid soap from a dispenser. I don't like it. Now when I come in from working in the yard, I'll actually enjoy washing my hands. It sounds stupid, I know, but it's real. Plus, it'll remind me of France and this trip with you.

I don't think we pay enough attention to them. Sometimes you can get big pleasure from small things. More pleasure than from big things, in fact. He likes gourmet coffee. I'm happy with a cup of coffee from McDonald's but he's not. Every morning, he gets a lot of joy from a fancy cup of coffee.

For me, I enjoy having a clean car or a clean house — especially since I don't clean either one very often. I'll bet you can think of all sorts of similar examples. As we drove, I thought more about the pleasure we get from small things. Duane is right. There are certain tiny actions and objects that make my life better. Here are some simple examples:. It occurred to me that these are examples of conscious spending in action. When we identify small, inexpensive items and behaviors that make us disproportionately happy, spending on them allows us to get more bang for our buck.

I'm unlikely to ever again in my life be so enthusiastic about soap. But I'm glad that Duane and I allowed ourselves to make a small side trip to buy this stuff. Now that I'm home and have the soap in the bathroom, it really is a small thing that gives me big pleasure. Fortunately, Kim likes the smell of the woodsy soap too. Spare change: Awesome articles from elsewhere How to choose your car Reddit: When does it make sense to stop repairing a car?

A story of a "fuck off" fund [recommended by a friend, should be required reading for all young women] Using a "regret minimization framework" to make tough life decisions Five key lessons learned during 25 years as a retirement financial advisor Revisiting "bucket" investing portfolios Seven solid TED talks about money A call for millennials to join the AARP Zillow's homeownership report [demographic info about renters and homeowners in the U.

I hate phones. Long-time readers are aware that I've struggled with depression for most of my life. The trouble? When I don't drink in the afternoon, I get more anxious. Here are some ways this manifests itself: Today, I had a lunch appointment with a colleague and friend. Karl is a great guy and I enjoy spending time with him. Today, though, all I could think about were the reasons I might be able to cancel. Yesterday, I taped a TV interview with a local station.

I wanted to cancel that too. Afterward, I ought to have driven out to the family box factory. But I didn't. I didn't want to spend time with my brother and cousin. This Sunday evening, there's another Portland Timbers game. Kim can't go with me, so I need to find somebody else to join me. I have zero desire to do so. I may end up selling the tickets and skipping the game because of my anxiety. Have it. You bet. Feelings of guilt and worthlessness? Oh boy. Yes, and it's so not me.

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I'm not an irritable guy — but I am lately. Loss of interest in things once pleasurable? Nothing appeals to me. I'm numb. Trouble concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions? You have no idea. Everything is a chore. It might have been the worst day of my entire life. It's a problem. Bringing Gratitude Instead of canceling my lunch appointment with Karl today, I went.

I'm glad I did. As we sat down for lunch, I told Karl point blank about the issues I'm going through. I'm thankful for Kim. She's a not just a wonderful partner in life, but she's a wonderful person. She's a good soul. I'm thankful for my dog. Tahlequah is a handful a pawful?

But I'm also grateful to have such an enthusiastic hound dog in my life. I'm thankful for my health. I haven't taken care of myself much lately, but that's on me. Generally speaking, my body is in fine shape. And with a little work, it could be in great shape once again. I'm grateful for music.

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I don't mention it much, but music brings great joy to my life. I love music of all sorts. I'm thankful for Portland. I love the green of it. I love its quirky die-hard sometimes absurd liberalism. I love the food scene and the Timbers and the passion for books. Speaking of which… I'm grateful for words.

Books bring me joy. So does writing. I've managed to make a living from my words, and I hope to continue doing so in the future. I'm grateful for life. It was awesome. It was just what I needed. What's been going on with you? So, go outside and enjoy the summer sun! I'll see you again on July 1st.

And not just with money decisions. Schwartz argues that faced with so many options and decisions, we would be better off if we: Embraced certain voluntary constraints on our choices instead of rebelling against limits. Lowering our expectations. Made our decisions non-reversible. Paid less attention to other people. That's precisely what I've been trying to answer for myself lately. Now, at age fifty, buying things seems more like a hassle than a reward.

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He writes: If you want to become and stay the quiet millionaire, you must plan and manage your financial way of life…You must be proactive in order to obtain the financial life you want. Without discipline, it's difficult to build wealth. In fact, it's impossible to get rich — slowly or otherwise — if you spend more than you earn. The math just doesn't work. Wilder also warns against compulsive spending , and he urges readers to track where their money is going. Stuff will not enrich your life. But materialism breeds discontent. Instead, Wilder says, focus on intellectual and spiritual pursuits to obtain fulfillment.

Not all debt is bad, of course. A reasonable mortgage on a sensible home is fine. But consumer debt — or a bad mortgage on a big house — is an enemy to financial success. In fact, bad debt may be the biggest enemy to financial success. It's our responsibility to pay the taxes we owe, but we're under no obligation to pay more than that.

We should instead actively work to keep our tax burden as low as possible. Inflation is wealth's silent enemy. It will not destroy you all at once. But it's always there, nibbling at the corners of your life, consuming a little cash every year. It's impossible to keep inflation completely at bay, but you can learn to mitigate its effects. Istock Forget the get-rich schemes. Success comes through hard work and long hours.

You can afford to be generous The Proof: The affluent are giving more to charity than ever before. Please leave your comment below. AARP Membership. See All. Fraud Watch Network Get tips and resources to protect yourself from fraud and see the latest scam alerts in your state. Home Insurance Exclusive program for members from The Hartford.

Join or Renew Today! Leaving AARP. Got it! Please don't show me this again for 90 days. Cancel Continue. Thank You Close. Your email address is now confirmed. Explore all that AARP has to offer. Offer Details. Once you understand the forces pushing Mr. In the book, Mr. To truly fix the world, Mr. Bezos ought to push for policy changes that would create a more equal distribution of the winnings derived from a tech-driven economy, Mr. Giridharadas said. An Amazon spokesman declined to comment on Mr. Those who are fans of Amazon may argue with the notion that Mr.

After all, Bezos, 54, is an uncommonly gifted businessman. He acquired his wealth legally and in the most quintessentially American way: He had a wacky idea, took a stab at it, stuck with it through thick and thin, and, through patient, deliberate, farsighted risk-taking , created one of the most innovative companies of the modern era. But Mr. He is growing unprecedentedly rich — rich enough that his wealth, by itself, illustrates a new economic reality. A year ago, when he first called for philanthropy ideas, Mr.

The ideas rolled in, but the money came in faster. Bezos told an interviewer in April. In July, Mr. Only John D.