Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Mental Spending Trick: Spreading the Money Out

She's a ticket and I'm drowning slowly
A few weeks ago, I was in the midst of a long trek as I was driving back home to San Diego with my wife after spending a long weekend visiting my family.  The trip (approximately 300 miles)  takes about 5 hours, on average, especially when you add in meal breaks.  It's not a bad drive, but if I can speed it up in a reasonably safe way, I'm going to do so.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, I was speeding.

You see, there's a shortcut that will take about 20 miles off of the trip, but it entails driving along a mountainous (read: hill...ous?) path that is primarily two lanes (one in each direction).  There are occasional passing lanes, though, but they end pretty quickly.  As such, I find that if I'm going to pass somebody while on this road, I'd better step on the gas to get around them so that I don't end up flying into oncoming traffic.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, that that was how I caught speeding.  I, at 29 years old, received my first speeding ticket.

The speed limit at that point was 55 miles per hour (though I was stuck behind a couple of cars driving slower than that -- hence, the desire to pass), and the officer of the law clocked me as doing 70.*  I'm not sure if that was the actual speed I was driving, or if the officer was doing me a solid by saying that's what he clocked me at (after doing some research after receiving the ticket, I read that in California, speeding tickets become significantly more expensive if you are clocked at speeding by 16 or more miles per hour over the speed limit).  Either way, I'm stuck with a fairly expensive reminder of my mistake.

Now, I admit, I shouldn't have been speeding.  Even so, I wasn't really furious about receiving a ticket.  In the first place, I am fortunate to be in a stable financial place where I have the money to pay for speeding ticket without being too inconvenienced.

But in the second place, I just kind of figured I was due.  You see, I, like I'm assuming most people do, speed a little bit pretty consistently, but my speeding is moderate.  When on the freeway, I find myself generally driving about 5-9 miles per hour over the speed limit (10 MPH seems like you're really pushing it to me :-) ).**

However, even though I speed, I mentally acquiesce to the idea that laws should be obeyed, so a part of me feels some guilt when I speed (I chalk this guilt up to years of Christian private schooling)  With this in mind, I kind of feel like my ticket, in a sense, could be distributed equally across each of the instances in my 13 years of driving that I've gone over the speed limit.  My speeding just finally caught up with me, and I received my (very overdue) punishment.

See, I'm not mad because I got to speed all those times for free up until now, and now, I'm just paying my dues (which probably work out to mere pennies per each time I've driven too fast).

This seems more than fair to me.

As another example of this sort of thinking, in the last weeks of my last semester, I bought a class ring to commemorate my grad school education.***  I paid about $400 for it, and I literally thought the first time I wore it, "If I never wear this again, this one time wearing of this ring cost me 400 bucks."  Each time I wear it, I take comfort in that fact that, from a days of use perspective, I'm bring the cost of the item way down.

Does anybody else play mental tricks on themselves like this to spread out some cost so that it seems less intense?  Let me know in the comments.

*Perhaps it will come off as unrepentant, but I never thought I'd get a speeding ticket for doing 70 on a highway.
**If I'm overestimating the speeding mentality in my readers, I apologize.  All I can say is that most traffic in the city where I live while on the interstate flows at about the speed I drive at.  I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm the worst person for speeding, and I deserve your judgment.
***I know, school rings are profoundly silly, particularly for a grad program.  Still, I was proud of my accomplishment, and I guess I wanted/was suckered into buying something tangible to commemorate it.

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