A Bad Case of Saver’s Remorse

Saver's RemorseBuyer’s remorse: A feeling of deep regret when you realize you don’t actually want or need or even like your purchase. As irritating as buyer’s remorse can be, in many situations, there’s a return policy for that. But what about saver’s remorse? Is it possible to actually save money in such a way that you develop that same feeling of deep-seated regret? It turns out there is.Thinking about our vacation from 36,000 feet in the sky, I couldn’t help but let saver’s remorse wash over me. Or more precisely gnaw at my stomach. The Liberia airport is teeny tiny and dozens of Trip Advisor reviews cautioning against the sky-high prices at the local eatery left me with a plan: I would scoop up some snacks from the resort’s lounge before hopping on the plane. All went according to plan until I realized that the two slices of banana bread my husband and I split were hollow succor…or at least not nearly as filling as a sandwich would have been. Even a leftover snack bar that I fished out of my carry-on did little to fill me. Of course, I was probably $30-$40 richer, but I spent two hours in an airport followed by three and half hours in the air with a rumbly stomach. Saver’s remorse indeed.

Still, that kind of saver’s remorse is more of a nuisance than anything. Add sandwich, problem solved. But what about serious remorse? The kind that can’t be easily remedied? Our vacation to Costa Rica was a tropical fusion of sun and sand, relaxation and adventure. But we did not get to do everything we had planned. Originally, I had my heart set on seeing a volcano up close. When we discovered that the Costa Rica volcanoes would only let us view them from a distance, it was a little challenging to justify the $150+ price tag for each person. After all, I could see volcanos lining the horizon when I stood on our balcony for no additional charge.

Nicaragua, though, promised a volcano with lava flowing right before my eyes. The problem? A day trip there would set us back over $400. $400 is no small chunk of change. It’s more than every other trip the tour companies offered by leaps and bounds. It’s more than all the other spending we did on our vacation. It’s almost half a mortgage payment. It’s more than enough for two people to go to Vegas. Not to mention the fact that it would have been a sixteen-hour day and a tedious border crossing that garnered months of questions from my mom, like, “If you can’t cross back over, does Costa Rica even have an army to come get you?”* So we didn’t go. We opted out.

But I can’t shake this feeling. It’s the same feeling that I used to get when I would root around a shopping bag, retrieve my latest impulse buy, and realize it didn’t quite fit right or I would have preferred a purse instead of another pair of shoes. But there’s no receipt for this. In fact, I can’t fix this saver’s remorse in the next 30-, 60-, or 90-day window. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to fix it, because I have no idea if or when we will return to Central America.

As my stomach rumbled, I flicked through photo after photo of our trip and smiled. It was a fantastic vacation. It was one of my absolute favorites. But I also can’t help but wonder how I would feel if that saver’s remorse hadn’t taken hold in the back of my mind.

* Have I mentioned I’m an only child?

So Tell Me…Have you ever had saver’s remorse? How did you combat it?

A Bad Case of Saver’s Remorse

36 thoughts on “A Bad Case of Saver’s Remorse

  1. I think this happens to everyone! I know I have regretted not spending money in different areas of my life – and even on vacation. Hopefully you’ll get a chance to go back someday and see a few more things you wanted to see!

    1. Glad I’m not alone! Thankfully, Southwest makes it so reasonable to go back there. I don’t know that it will be very soon, but it’s not (I hope!) a once-in-a-lifetime kind of vacation.

  2. Wow – that’s a tough one. It’s so hard to know whether excursions are worth it – especially when you have already spent a lot to go on the vacation to begin with. And it makes it harder because it was an “experience” and not just some cool new clothes or some other “thing”. Maybe this is a good time for reflecting on all the great parts of the trip and not second-guessing. Reflecting may help you make a different decision next time – but not let you beat yourself up over it now? Not sure that helps!

    1. That absolutely helps. By the time we realized that it really would have been a great excursion, we couldn’t find a tour company that was running any tours on the day we had available. I think we will try to go back and either make Nicaragua a priority or stay closer to the volcanoes in Costa Rica. Live and learn!

  3. I’ve definitely been there before! I think it says something about how important life experiences are, especially since the remorse I remember had been over ten years ago!

    My wife (gf at the time) and I took a trip just out of college to Boston since we had voucher flights we could take advantage of. But we were too cheap to buy tickets to a Red Sox game! It may seem small, but I regret that derision and I’ve wanted to avoid that feeling every since.

    We took a trip to Peru a few years ago. While we wanted to do it on the cheap, we didn’t want to have that regret so we made sure to still do everything we wanted. That included paying up to go see Machu Picchu.

    Sorry you are feeling some remorse! I’ve always struggled with the fine line of paying up for the experience and finding true value in it.

    1. Sorry that you missed out on the game, but it’s great that it influenced you in a such a way that you haven’t missed out on much (anything?) since! Peru is definitely on my list. I didn’t take all those years of Spanish for nothing, right?!

  4. I think we’ve all experienced that feeling. Many times it can be remedied, but vacations are unique and ‘limited time only’ for those decisions. I’m sorry you feel like you missed out, and hopefully you’ll be able to see a volcano up close (and safely) soon. There are volcanoes in many places besides Central America–maybe it’s time for a trip to Hawaii!

  5. I think we’ve all had that feeling that we let an experience pass us by because we were too cheap, or even just made a different choice that may have turned out “meh.”

    Some of mine: not taking the sailing/snorkeling excursion on Kauai or any of the helicopter tours in Hawaii during our honeymoon, not traveling to a broader range of places in my semester abroad, and not taking any major trips when I was young and single period (though pre-kid travel with Jon was pretty fun.)

    On the other hand, I listen to the ladies at my knitting group, many of whom are older and travel all of the time. My mom travelled tons in her 60s. There’s still a lot of fun to be had and plenty of things to see.

    (Save for Hawaii! It’s awesome. We did the cruise and watched Kilauea lava flows from the ship, with was amazing.)

    1. It sounds like I need to put Hawaii at the top of our list! My parents always joke with me that I was technically there. They “babymooned” in Hawaii before that was a thing. They talk all the time about what a great trip it was – not sure if it was because it was the last trip sans kid or if it was the island 😉

  6. “If you can’t cross back over, does Costa Rica even have an army to come get you?” I had to smile at this – as an only child myself, these would be my mother’s exact words in that situation (and I’m 41 y.o)!

    I’ve definitely had savers remorse in the past, but since my kids are getting older and will be out on their own in a few short years, I tend to loosen the reigns on the budget when I feel like it’s an opportunity I may never have again.

    Sorry you are feeling bad about missing the volcanoes. You will have so many more opportunities in the future, so many volcanoes you could go see. Incentive to plan your next trip?

    1. Only children unite! I love your perspective about loosening the reigns in those situations. That makes a lot of sense…and is definitely what we should have done. As for planning that next trip, that’s all I’ve been doing in between loads of laundry!

  7. I NEVER regret experiences. So if it’s something that’s amazing, I usually do it. As I’ve mentioned on Twitter, I’m thinking of justifying an INCREASE in my spending on travel because that’s really where I get the most enjoyment. But you can also experience that kind of volcano on the big island of Hawaii… so maybe you’ll make it there! 🙂

    1. I think Hawaii is actually more expensive than Costa Rica. Probably by a lot, right? But our flight attendant said that Southwest is eyeballing Hawaii and Panama for routes in the next year or two.

  8. As soon as you mentioned saver’s remorse, my mind immediately went to vacations. From your article and all of the comments so far it looks like everyone else also sees it mainly in vacations and trips. I wonder if there are any other situations that people find themselves with saver’s remorse.

    1. I think I just dodged it! We needed a new mailbox for about a month, and today I finally purchased a new one. I was going to go with a Rubbermaid plastic one. They’re practical and very inexpensive. But then I realized I will see it EVERY day for hopefully many, many years. Or until my mailman rips the door off again 😉 I paid an extra $100, but I’m very happy with this decision. My husband is happy too, since I think he would have divorced me if he anchored in the cheaper once and had to redo it!

    1. Yes! I spent some time with my parents tonight and looked through some of the photos. We got to feed wild monkeys (my mom was deeply concerned that I could have lost a finger) and rafted down a river through the rainforest. There were dozens of other things that we did. So really, I just need to shift my perspective. Thanks for your wisdom as always, Gary!

  9. I love this post. We go through this debate all the time when we’re traveling. We definitely can’t afford every side trip, excursion, and attraction, but we also don’t want to miss out on something awesome when it may be decades before we make it back to these destinations (or never).

    Unfortunately, when you’re an over-analyzer like me (and most of us in this community!), the remorse cuts both ways. Sometimes we pay a lot for an attraction that ends up being disappointing. Spender’s remorse! Other attractions totally exceed expectations. I figure the same spectrum exists for the things we decide not to do: some of them are probably great, some of them we would probably be much happier having saved our money.

    When a place is truly unique, my bias is to go for it regardless of price. There’s only one Roman Colosseum, one Machu Picchu, one Hagia Sophia. I can’t imagine regretting those stops. When something is nice, but similar to a lot of other places around the world (like a tropical island or a volcano or a castle), I figure you can reasonably skip it if the price isn’t right.

    Glad you had a great trip!

    1. I can’t even imagine all of the planning (and second guessing) that goes into traveling like you are doing. I do hope to return to Central America, even Costa Rica. So maybe my volcanoes aren’t totally out of reach!

  10. I think this is an awesomely-real post. Sometimes personal finance blogs have this way of glossing over the negatives that come with being frugal and prioritizing savings. There’s much more focus on reaching those saving benchmarks – and rightly so – but I do think it’s important to still be open about how hard it can be to get there. Saver’s remorse is one of those things. It’s nice to know that I’m not alone in having those twinges of regret!

    1. Thanks, Kate! I try so hard to be grateful and appreciate all we have. We were so fortunate to be able to take the trip to begin with. But at the same time, it felt like something that needed to be said. A cautionary tale, I suppose!

  11. Chin up. You made this decision for more than just financial reasons. There were several factors that went into not going to Nicaragua. It’s not like you were at the gate to walk up the volcano, saw the price and pinched your pennies back to the car.

    You could have missed your volcanos for all sorts of reasons. What if you booked the day trip to Nicaragua, made it half way and something happened so you couldn’t see the volcano anyway. A day wasted and still no volcanos.

    Story time: This has happened to me TWICE now. I flew all the way to freaking New Zealand with my heart set on seeing Milford Sound. Guess what? Worst rain storm in 40 years, washed out a bridge and we couldn’t get there. It’s been 4 years and I’m still upset about it. Then 2 years later, I dreamed of the bonnie bonnie banks of Loch Lomond. I sang that song so many times, I thought Hubs wasn’t going to let me on the plane. On our drive down from Inverness, probably as I was singing the song, I realized I forgot our passports. Then BOOM, 2 flat tires. Chaos ensued. We had to completely divert our trip and no Loch Lomond for me. Now I’m listening to the song, trying not to cry because Loch Lomond. I even took the low road like the song says!

    You’ll get your volcanos. I promise.

  12. I hope that what we all learn from your post is that we should opt to spend money on experiences when they present themselves. I know mine all originate from travel as well, and funny enough, includes my trip to Costa Rica about 11 years ago.

    My friend and I stayed at the Barcelo resort in Tamarindo and had considered a day trip to Nicaragua. It wasn’t the cost that held us back, but the fact that we’d have to leave the resort at something like 5am and wouldn’t return until about 10pm, so we’d lose an entire day. Needless to say, I now regret that decision since I haven’t had a chance to return.

    You’d think I would have learned my lesson but on a trip to Ireland 2 years ago, my (different) friend and I had the chance to go to Northern Ireland but decided not to. It was for the exact same reason — it would take an entire day of our vacation. Really regretting that choice.

    Maybe 3rd time’s the charm? 🙂

  13. I feel you. We were in Naples Italy and it was 90° outside. I was too cheap to spend €50 on the hop on hop off big bus so we decided to walk around for four hours instead and kill ourselves. I’m always thinking About trying to exercise and lose weight while also saving money so I thought this was a perfect plan. But we didn’t get to see a couple cool stops all way up in the hills which I regret now. When one is on vacation one might as will make it count!

    Next time I’m sure we will both spend our money more aggressively. Just wait until you get close to 40! It will be mid life crisis time! 🙂


  14. I was in South Africa for a bit, but could not afford to travel within country and I still regret it. I was so close, but could get no closer. It’s been over a decade and now I don’t think I can go back to SA since they have begun really persecuting gay people in earnest.

    1. Oh, that’s awful. At least I know there is a possibility (even a small one!) of going back to Costa Rica. Ugh. Our world, ZJ. I don’t know sometimes.

  15. I go through the exact same emotions as you, whether the purchase is small or large, and its hard to kick the habit. However, I try to remind myself as often as possible that we only get one life to experience all that we can. And spending money is a large part of that.

  16. I hug my pennies whenever I can, but, and this is a big but, when it comes to traveling I don’t think twice about spending money. The experiences you garner while traveling are truly priceless and you will very rarely get a second chance. That’s not to say that I haven’t balked, like that time my wife wanted to watch Le Nozze Di Figaro in London and I almost passed out when I saw the ticket prices. But you know what, we did it, and I would not take it back, not matter how much compounding was lost.

    It’s a fine line and it feels like at times we’re walking it while drunk, but you’ll refine in due time. Good luck!

  17. Gosh, I go through this multiple times per day. I drive myself (and my wife) nuts with the constant questioning: ‘would I rather have a trip to see an active volcano, or would I rather have the $400 that it will cost me?’ Or, “if I were given the choice between a free trip to see an active volcano, or $400, which would I take?”

    Lame, I know, but it’s how I make decisions. Vacations are the one area where I don’t do this. It’s so easy for me to justify vacation purchases that under normal circumstances I’d NEVER make.

    Savers remorse, for me, is a daily nag! Good post, I really enjoyed it!

  18. I was in Paris 2005 during the French Open. I could have watched Nadal win his first Grand Slam. Tickets were like 200 euros or similar and we thought that was crazy so we didn’t go. I was broke at the time but still should have gone.

  19. Yes! When we were in Barcelona and had a week to do a trip south — I wanted to go to Granada or Valencia, but we caught the local train to La Pineda instead, a small beach town that was closer and cheaper. Total bust. It was a nice little place but basically an empty tourist trap.

    To save $300, I missed the opportunity to see southern Spain — it kills me every time I watch Game of Thrones. I suspect missed travel opportunities will be a recurring theme in these comments!

    1. Laura, I’m so glad that I’m not alone. And at the same time, I hate that others have made the same mistake. But I suppose the bright side is that you were in Spain! How amazing is that?! 🙂

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