Money Management

Did I Really Just Pay $520 for a Lady Gaga Concert? Absolutely!

By  Opher Ganel

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Confessions of a Personal Finance Writer in Las Vegas.

It used to be “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas!

In today’s reality of everything turning up on the Internet sooner or later (usually sooner), Sin City updated its slogan to “What happens in Vegas happens only in Vegas!

They may be on to something. I’ll get to that, but first, some context.

Frugality Above All? Maybe Not

Since arriving in the US with a negative net worth and a salary of $31,000 to support a family of four, I was always conscious of our spending. If we didn’t have to buy something, especially if it was expensive, we mostly didn’t buy it.

My biggest financial regret is straying from that with the first car I bought here. I paid $8,000, of which I financed $6,000 at 10.4 percent (ouch!). I should have bought a $4,000 car instead, reducing my auto loan by two-thirds.

Oh well. Live and learn.

Overall, we were frugal so we could save and invest more. But for experiences like concerts, we’d occasionally splurge, if it seemed worth the cost. Unfortunately, big-name performers charge super-premium prices. When something like that would come up, I’d usually say, “That’s way too much,” and we wouldn’t go. Instead, we’d go to more reasonably priced concerts with less-well-known artists.

Las Vegas! Las Vegas!

Our favorite thing about Vegas is the shows.

Anytime you go, you can find any number of top-tier (and lower-tier) shows.

Our first Vegas trip was in 2012 for a business conference. We knew Celine Dion was in town, so we looked for tickets ahead of time. They were over $500 each. I couldn’t see paying that much, but since I knew my wife loves Celine, I told her we’d buy one ticket for her and I’d find something else to do.

She didn’t go for it.

Instead, at her suggestion, we went to the box office on the day of the concert and snagged a pair of great tickets for about a third of the original price.

Ten years went by, and a couple of weeks ago we went back to Vegas, this time for our first fly-away vacation since the pandemic started.

This time, our splurge show was Lady Gaga singing jazz. We found a pair of tickets for seats near the front of the balcony (decent at Park MGM) for $520. Pricey, but totally worth it.

Lady Gaga performed for three hours(!), mostly singing with orchestral accompaniment, sometimes playing the piano as she sang, sometimes speaking to the audience, and at one point talking with one of the couples lucky (wealthy?) enough to enjoy a candle-lit dinner at an on-stage table (off to the side of course). In short, she was spectacular.

Why I Have No Problem with Spending So Much

It took a real mindset shift for me to be able to spend this kind of money on a concert. Here are the three reasons I made that shift.

  • First and foremost, we really can afford it now.
  • Second, as we get older, the opportunity cost of money spent shrinks. This is because the money you invest has less time to grow, so spending it doesn’t have as big an impact as it does when you’re young.
  • Finally, spending a lot for something you truly enjoy makes a lot more sense than spending even smaller amounts on things that don’t align with your priorities, which most of us do on a regular basis.

That’s why I have no problem saying that despite regularly writing about personal finance, I paid over $500 to go to a show in Vegas. What’s more, I don’t expect this to be the last time.

The Bottom Line

Being a personal finance writer (among other things), I know that being frugal is important. It helps you live below your means, which is the only way to stop living paycheck to paycheck, build an emergency fund, and invest for the future.

However, that doesn’t mean you have to deny yourself all discretionary spending. You just need to figure out your priorities first, and then align your discretionary spending with those. That’s the real secret to balancing your current desires with your future self’s needs. And, it’s the only way to make frugality sustainable for years and decades.

Disclaimer: This article is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be considered financial advice. You should consult a financial professional before making any major financial decisions.

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About the Author

Opher Ganel

My career has had many unpredictable twists and turns. A MSc in theoretical physics, PhD in experimental high-energy physics, postdoc in particle detector R&D, research position in experimental cosmic-ray physics (including a couple of visits to Antarctica), a brief stint at a small engineering services company supporting NASA, followed by starting my own small consulting practice supporting NASA projects and programs. Along the way, I started other micro businesses and helped my wife start and grow her own Marriage and Family Therapy practice. Now, I use all these experiences to also offer financial strategy services to help independent professionals achieve their personal and business finance goals.

Connect with me on my own site: OpherGanel.com and/or follow my Medium publication: medium.com/financial-strategy/.

Disclaimer: In order to make Wealthtender free for our readers, we earn money from advertisers including financial professionals and firms that pay to be featured on our platform. This creates a natural conflict of interest when we favor promotion of our clients over other professionals and firms not featured on Wealthtender. Learn how we operate with integrity to earn your trust.

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