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What Are Experiences Worth?

NCAA tournament experience costs

Nothing quite like it!

March is a fun time to be from Kentucky. For 10 months of the year, we don’t have tons of things to be proud of. Then spring rolls around, and we have the NCAA tournament and the Kentucky Derby. Too bad it’s all over within a a few months, but those are a couple of pretty big events that people pay tons of money to attend. I’ve also seen fans pony up a mint to see their favorite band or sports team in action. I’ve often said that I’d rather spend money on experiences instead of things, but what are experiences worth?

A Whole Industry Built On Luxury and Convenience

When I was younger, there were no companies reselling tickets online. If you weren’t able to buy a ticket by standing in line before they sold out, you had to make a shady deal in cash, on a corner, wondering if you’d make it back to the car without getting mugged. Not that I’ve had personal experience or anything……

Today, companies like Stubhub generate upwards of $700 million in revenue per year. What that means to consumers is that you can buy a ticket in any section to just about any event IF you have the money to pay for it.

Outside of single performance events, people can also pay for luxury excursions to places that used to only be accessible for those willing to wait and work. Getting a rafting permit on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon can take years. For the right amount of money you can take a “luxury” trip with a guide service.

We have some friends who used to work for such an outfit. Basically, the client has to show up and someone else cooks, pitches a tent, and makes sure you don’t kill yourself. Yes, it’s still camping, buy you can pay for the convenience of not having to fend for yourself.

For a few hundred dollars, you can also do things like have someone guide you to the elevator in the Eiffel Tower instead of standing in line. Enough money insures that you never have to sweat, push, stand, or use effort that mere mortals have to exert to see popular sites or events.

Here are some crazy expensive experiences just waiting for the right buyer:

  • 2015 Lower Level Final Four Tickets: $10,851
  • U2 Lower Level, May 15 in Vancouver: $776
  • No Wait Entrance to St. Peter’s Basilica: $105
  • 10 Day Lower Grand Canyon Rafting Trip: $3075
  • 2015 Kentucky Derby Upper Clubhouse: $4427

You missed this one, but the average price for tickets to this year’s Super Bowl were $5188 each.

Granted you could probably a better deal if you planned early enough, but there are tons of people paying these prices, often for a few hours or entertainment. What if your team gets beaten to a pulp or Bono crashes his bike and can’t sing? Is it worth it to pay big bucks for a one time event?

It Depends

I would love, love, love to see the Kentucky Wildcats play in the final four. I’ve actually put my name in the lottery for tickets, which are face value and not subject to scalper upselling . You have to apply a year in advance without knowing what teams will be playing. I figure if my team gets in, I’ll find a way to go. If not, I’ll sell my tickets. Lord knows, there would be great rate of return!

It’s been several years back, but we’ve paid around $300 for concert tickets. I don’t know if there is anyone out currently that I’d pay that much to see but maybe if the right show came along.

I would not pay thousands of dollars to see anyone or anything. For $10,000, I could take a trip around the world or pay for a semester at a state college for my daughter. I could buy lots of stocks. Those things would be worth more to me right now than a sporting event, concert, or even rafting the Grand Canyon.

However, if it was your lifelong dream to see your team in a championship game or your favorite band play one last show, who am I to judge? I would hope people paying those kinds of prices have enough money to spend on a few wants while still saving enough to fund their needs. If people are cashing in their 401(k)’s to go see Mick Jagger before he needs a hip replacement, then we’re all in trouble!

What would be your dream experience? Is it worth thousands of dollars?

 

About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.

27 comments

  1. I just sent off the final payment to Brooks Lodge in Katmai National Park, Alaska where, for the third time, we are going to visit a wilderness where grizzly bears roam through the place and fish for salmon at the top of the water fall. Think documentaries on Discovery Channel or Animal Planet and that is the exact place. It is around $4000 for two of us to stay in a very rustic old fishing cabin but we are in love with the place and while I’ll try to save money on cars, appliances etc., I don’t hesitate for a second paying for this trip.

    • Kathy, I think that is the whole point of saving and being smart with money, so you can spend on the things that make you happy. If I were going to spend a ton of money on something that wasn’t and investment, it would certainly be on a trip of some sort.

  2. My dream experience is to see K-State is the national title game. I don’t know that it’ll ever happen, but it would be fun to go if we made it. 🙂 Beyond that, there are a number of trips my wife and I would like to take that would be a once in a lifetime thing and wouldn’t regret spending it. The ticket reselling though is another issue in my opinion. I realize something like the Super Bowl tickets go that high because someone will pay it, but they’re hugely over the face amount of the ticket. But, if people pay for it then why not? 😉

    • I think if I ever did find myself with a Super Bowl ticket, I’d probably try to resell it. I would love to see the NCAA championship game if anyone was in it, especially Kentucky, but I might be tempted to sell it too if the price was right.

  3. Well, most of my wife’s family is from Kentucky, so if you don’t bleed that blue, you can’t even be around them! My dream experience is actually to get my pilot’s license and then take a cross-country trip with just myself and my wife. I think that would be awesome. I would pay thousands for that, but I can keep the license!

    • I had no idea you married into the madness. You and Jim should get together and swap stories. He probably never dreamed he would own so many Kentucky shirts. My Mom gives him one every Christmas whether he wants it or not! I am terrified of small planes, but that sounds like a great plan to see the country.

      • Forgot to mention that my brother in law has season tickets for Kentucky basketball. His son says the only thing he cares about inheriting is the season tickets. I guess they can be inherited once but after that the tickets get returned to the school for re-distribution to the next person on the waiting list. Wild!

        • I am so happy to find all these Kentucky fans out there. Season tickets are very cutthroat. My Dad is a UK alum and he had a chance years ago to get season ticket and passed. I would love to have them today. Even if you only went to a couple of games and sold the rest, it would still be awesome.

  4. I don’t think there is too much I’d pay a ton for for a very short amount of time. I’d pay a lot if the experience lasted a long time like a year long trip around the world or something. I’m not even keen on paying more than $40 for even my most favorite musicians. If I really want to I can at least catch them for free on a talk show in LA or something. I’m glad I have at least that going for me. I have too many other spending demons. 🙂

    • Free entertainment is one thing I do miss about living in a city. Although, it’s been so long I’d probably still stay home even if I had the chance. I don’t like crowds at all anymore.

  5. This is a really, really tough one. Experiences are important, but if you can’t support them financially sometimes it’s better to just pass. I’ve gotten a lot better at weighing the pros and cons of experiences. I won All Star Game tickets last Summer. $300 each, face value. After paypal fees I ended up selling for something like $450 total. Not bad imo, and definitely wouldn’t have enjoyed the game $450 worth!

    • If I ever meet you, I’m going to rub your forehead or something. You win more stuff than anyone I’ve ever known!

  6. For us, travel is an experience that’s worth it. We’ve never really been into entertainment experiences (like movies or concerts), but that’s just our personal preference. We definitely prioritize travel and are happy to spend in order to see the world. I think, like you said, it’s all about figuring out what you value and spending your money on things that are deeply meaningful to you.

    • I used to enjoy concerts, but now I really don’t like staying up late and dealing with crowds. I do love taking trips and hopefully being able to retire while we are relatively young will allow us some extended travel plans.

  7. My dad’s side of the family is from Kentucky, and my dad is a huge Wildcats fan!

  8. A family road trip would be worth it for us! We took one a few years ago and it was a blast. I would love to get another one in before the kids head off to college.

    • I love road trips if you have the time not to feel rushed. I’m only good for about 8 hours in the car before I start crawling out of my skin.

  9. Jon @ Money Smart Guides

    Not sure if it is worth thousands of dollars, but I would love to see a basketball game on Duke’s campus. The student section just looks so much fun with energy. It seems like it would be intoxicating.

  10. I totally believe that paying for experiences is way better than paying for things, but I can’t imagine any experience that would be worth thousands of dollars, except maybe a long family trip to Asia or something, but that’s not something I feel like I have to do. I am a big fan of Broadway and love going to shows but thankfully I live in NY and my in-laws like to buy us tickets for holidays.

    • That would be a great Christmas gift. We have a couple of days in NYC after our Europe trip this summer. What show would you recommend for an 8 year old?

  11. March Madness has been crazy this year, but I think once all the smoke clears Kentucky will be on top. Going out on a limb there I know.

    One thing I would spend money on to experience is going to the nba finals if the Knicks make it. I know tickets to MSG are sky high, but that would be worth it. Now there’s the little issue of them actually MAKING the Finals.

    • I would rather see the NCAA finals, but I be the NBA would be fun too. I’m sure the atmosphere is really something to experience.

  12. My dream experience would either be a trip around Europe or an up-close performance from Paul McCartney. My wife and I talk about which is more “worthwhile”, an experience you’ll remember for a very long time or something around the house that you’ll see/use every day. Both are important I think, but sometimes there’s just no replacement for an engaging experience that makes a lifelong memory.

  13. My dream experience is to spend a couple of weeks in Vegas, seeing every single Cirque du Soleil show with some friends. Ah, to dream.

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