A Not So D.U.M.B. Use of Money

I had long had an item on my bucket list: Take my dad to a Duke men’s basketball game in Cameron Indoor Stadium. Yet due to challenges in coordinating schedules and the fact that that’s generally a difficult and expensive ticket to get, I had never been able to make it work — until very recently.

Last week, I was able to fulfill that bucket-list item at the Duke/Citadel game thanks to winning an auction set up by the Duke University Marching Band (D.U.M.B.). Not only did we get to go to the game, but we got floor seats with the pep band, and I also had the honor of standing in as the guest conductor at various points throughout the game. It was an absolute blast, and the story behind it showcases a great way to effectively integrate a bucket-list item in with other life priorities.

Photo courtesy of the Ringas family.

Why was that a bucket-list item?

There were several reasons that taking my dad to a game was important enough to make my bucket list. First, he and Coach Mike Krzyzewski went to high school together, which was something my dad first told me when he was dropping me off at Duke for my freshman year of college.

Second, my dad paid for a large portion of my Duke education, which was critically important in enabling me to start out my independent life without crushing debt levels. That’s a favor I’m trying to pass forward to my own kids, for whom my wife and I have been funding 529 plans since they were born. Taking my dad to a game seemed like a small measure of thanks for what I recognize he sacrificed in order to help me with my education.

Third, some of my favorite memories from college were from my time as a baritone player in D.U.M.B., particularly when I got to play with the pep band in Cameron Indoor Stadium. It really is an incredible place to catch a basketball game, and I’m grateful to have been able to play a small role in such an awesome experience. Winning that auction to be the guest conductor gave me the best chance I could think of to share that experience with my dad.

Why now?

Although taking my dad to a game had long been on my bucket list, a small handful of things came together to make last week the perfect time to make it a reality:

My dad recently retired, which made coordinating schedules easier.
Coach Krzyzewski announced his plans to retire at the end of this season, which made this year our last chance to see him in action.
The game I bid on was one that I could fit in with my already booked vacation schedule.
Duke was still in session before Thanksgiving break the evening of the game, so the “real” Cameron atmosphere would likely be there.
I had sufficient “bucket-list” money socked away to make it work.

Steady savings and a bucket list

The total cost of the event, including the auction, food, transportation, and lodging, totaled around $2,500. For a non-conference game that lasted around two hours, that’s a lot of money to spend, even if it did include four tickets to the game.

To truly enjoy the experience, it was critically important that we had the money available in a way that would not impact the rest of our life. That became abundantly clear when we had both an expensive car breakdown ($1,725 in repair bills) and a furnace failure ($690 in repair bills) shortly after I learned I had won the auction.

Add the cost of the repairs to the cost associated with the game, and that’s nearly $5,000 in costs above and beyond the ordinary that we needed to cover in a very short period of time. Even in these inflationary times, that’s a significant amount of cash. Neither the car repair nor the furnace repair would wait for a more convenient time. In addition, the auction was non-transferrable, which left little leeway other than to cover it all once my bid won.

The way we made that work was to dip into savings — cash reserves set aside for our car, for home improvements, and yes, for bucket-list items. It was money we had saved up for quite some time, but it was money set aside specifically to take care of exactly the things it took care of. As a result, we were able to cover it all without facing a financial hangover after the fact. That made the experience at the game all that much sweeter.

Get started now to make your bucket list a reality

Whatever falls on your bucket list — whether it’s a similar experience or not — it’s important to build a plan that gets you there in a way that also allows you to meet your other key life priorities. That way, when you do get a chance to make it a reality, you can truly enjoy both the experience and the memories you’ll carry with you after it’s done.

It takes time to build and fund a plan that lets you cover multiple goals. So get started now, and give yourself your best chance to check off key items from your bucket list.

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