My husband and I celebrated an anniversary a few weeks ago.  Rather than exchange gifts to mark the occasion, we decided to treat ourselves to dinner at an AAA Five-Diamond award winning restaurant.  We dressed for the occasion; him in a suit and tie, me in a strapless black gown.  From the moment we arrived at the restaurant, we were treated like royalty.  The maître d’hôtel greeted us by name and wished us a happy anniversary.  We were shown right to a lovely table and presented with personalized menus.  Nearby, a harpist played elegant mood music.  Everything from the lighting to the tableware to the refined décor contributed to the most opulent dining room I’ve ever experienced.  And that is saying nothing of the impeccable service or extraordinary food.

If you’re anything like me, you might read that description and immediately wonder what an experience like that costs.  Suffice it to say that the bill we were presented at the close of the meal was equal to about a quarter of our monthly mortgage payment.  Ouch, right?

Yes and no.

Our one income household certainly could not afford to make a habit of dining experiences like that one.  It was an occasion we planned and saved for.  I know there are those among us who wouldn’t dream of spending such an exorbitant amount of money on something so, well, consumable.  My husband and I, though, are nothing if not foodies.  We’re also the kind of people who value experiences more than we value things.  Given our priorities, it might not come as a such a surprise that we splurged on that anniversary meal.

The million dollar question, of course, is this: was the experience worth it? 

Most assuredly I can tell you that it was.  That single, seven-course meal was worth every hard-earned penny.  Why?  For starters, it stretched our horizons.  We savored foods that we’d never before been exposed to.  We were able to put to practice dining etiquette that we’d seen modeled on Downton Abbey.  Above all, though, the money was well spent because we made memories that will last a lifetime.

It all comes down to the plain and simple truth that value is relative.  What is “worth it” to me, might seem like a silly expenditure to you.  The reverse is true as well.  All I can say for sure is that I will most definitely be bypassing the Starbucks drive-thru for a good long while, saving those pennies instead for my next five star meal.  Bon appétit.

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