When frivolity is frugal…

My wife phone-shot this bad-ass pic of U2’s Bono during their two-hour set. We were much closer than the picture makes it look. I could’ve winged him with a beer can.

(Or: how a music festival saved my marriage.)

My wife and I just got back from Bonnaroo, a four-day music and arts festival in Manchester, Tennessee. Bonnaroo’s the most fun you can have with your clothes on, and maybe even off.

Tickets this year ran to $450 each. I shelled out the $900, and then during the festival we also spent $250-ish on food, beer, and so forth. And while the end total of $1,150 might seem frivolous, especially when you consider forgone compound interest, I hope to convince you that it was the height of frugality.


Start with the math.

Four days for two people = 192 hours. If you divide $1,150 by 192, the bottom line is that we paid the festival owners roughly $6 an hour to feed, house, and entertain the two us.

As far as I’m concerned you can stop right there. I’ll just about always pay $6 an hour for high-quality entertainment for my family. Hell, we can’t even drive to a national park and take a hike for that.

But what about the intangibles?

Bonnaroo’s a trip, man. Four days of “peace, love, and music.” For one long weekend sixty-five thousand people come from all over the world to celebrate life…and of course to enjoy the best modern music there is, or at least in my opinion.

Among the bands we saw were U2 (playing The Joshua Tree!), The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Chance the Rapper, Royal Blood, Lucy Dacus, Glass Animals, Cage the Elephant, Future Islands, Milky Chance, Angélique Kidjo, Goldfish, and eight or ten others. We were damn nearly on the front row for U2, and seats like that would ordinarily cost $350 or more each if you could even find them to buy.

We paid $12.

So, yeah, six bucks an hour was short money. I could go on and on about other intangibles: making wonderful memories with new friends, exploring an ever-changing community, people-watching, etc. But the most important intangible was this:


For quite some time now our marriage has been on the rocks. I won’t get into the details, but ten weeks ago–thanks to a lot of counseling and honest conversation–we had a dramatic reconciliation. It turned out that our feelings for each other were still there, but they were so deeply buried under layer upon layer of resentment that we’d forgotten they even once existed.

So I wasn’t planning to go to Bonnaroo at all this year, but in light of the rekindling of our love, I decided to snag tickets. And it turned into a second honeymoon.

I can’t even tell you how magical it was. Seeing the sights, laughing, singing, dancing…shaking the tent at all hours of the day and night…well, yeah. Good times. And then the music on top of that.

What would a divorce cost in money, never mind in emotional turmoil? We still have a lot of work to do, but this year’s Bonnaroo was a damned fine dollop of mortar in our new foundation.


And so: can frivolity be frugal? You’re fucking-A right it can.

Author: ER Dude

Sick of your job? After a thirteen-year career, Early Retirement Dude fled corporate America for good. You can do it too! Visit http://EarlyRetirementDude.com or email EarlyRetirementDude@gmail.com.

10 thoughts

  1. I love how you put an hourly cost to the event, that really helps put it into perspective. 🙂

    Good luck with the relationship improvement journey! I’ve been there myself.

    1. Glad you liked that approach. I’ve only taken one cruise, but I worked out that it cost roughly $12 an hour, which made me realize that if I chilled out on the lido deck playing cards and drinking Mai Tais, Carnival was winning big-time.

      But more importantly, I appreciate the best wishes. So far so good…

  2. You did not buy a product that you used for a short time and don’t use anymore.

    You did not buy a doodad that sits around the house and takes up space.

    You did not buy something that in the long run was not worth the expense.

    You bought experience. You bought adventure. You bought happiness. You bought quality of life. You actually bought a lot of things that cannot “really” be bought. You will both remember this shared experience for the rest of your lives. No one can ever take that from you. It will never depreciate. It does not clutter up your house. It enabled you to continue to live life for what life is for. It saved your marriage. There is not a price that can be put on that.

    Was it expensive? Maybe.

    Was it worth it? Absolutely.

  3. Great job with the second honeymoon. Sometime you just have to splurge a bit. It’s really important to sit down and talk once in a while. Life is very busy, but we need to take time to do that.
    Last month, Mrs. RB40 splurged on a dress and I kept my mouth shut. It cost more than my annual clothing expense, but happy wife, happy life, right? Usually, she’s pretty good about being frugal.

    1. >happy wife, happy life, right?

      Right! I mean…in a case like that dress, the happiness likely about the material item; it’s more about the senses of ability and control and same-page-edness with you and such.

      Which means by extension that a solid and loving marriage is one of the greatest happy-making factors of all.

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