Tom Kerr writing on savvy travelling…

When I was a young man, a gentleman in his 80s gave me some sage financial advice.

“Anyone can make money,” he said. “The hard part is to know how to spend it.”

It made absolutely no sense to me.

Only over time, and through experience, did I realize that he was talking about controlling your expenses by being a smarter, more insightful consumer.

One year I scrimped and saved like crazy, because I wanted to set aside enough to go on vacation to South America. Before I had a chance to book my airline tickets though, I cracked a molar while eating a carrot.

“It wasn’t the carrot that cracked your tooth,” my dentist said. “That was just what finally caused it to break.”

Then he asked, “Do you know why so many old folks fall and break their hips?”

“I guess they lose their balance,” I replied.

“Actually, “he explained, “the main reason elderly folks suffer so many falls is because their hips break. Sure, plenty of old timers get a little lightheaded and tip over, or they just trip over the cat. But usually it’s not falling that breaks the hip. Instead, it’s the broken hip that causes the fall.”

Then he described how the same kind of thing was happening inside my mouth…and that it was about to cost me an arm and a leg.

“Your old fillings are made of metal,” he continued. “Metal tarnishes over time, and as your fillings tarnish the corrosion builds up in layers on the outside of them…expanding their width in tiny, molecular ways that aren’t even noticeable.

“It’s like when water seeps into a tiny crevice in a rock, then freezes and expands. That creates a wedge that splits the rock wide open. The fillings you got when you were young are now quickly turning into wedges inside your teeth. Unless you replace them soon, they’ll all split apart…and that will be much more problematic and expensive.”

Instead of going on vacation that year, I had to spend all my hard-earned money at the dentist’s office.

But later, when I told a friend of mine about the episode in my medical history, he just laughed.

“You should have gone to South America anyway,” he insisted.

“Aren’t you listening? I just told you. I spent my travel money on dentistry.”

“But Tom, the dentists down there are so much cheaper. You could have paid for your vacation and the dental work, too, if you had gone to a dentist in some place like Buenos Aires. You’d probably have enough left over to pay for a dozen tango lessons.”

When I heard that I gritted my teeth so hard it’s a wonder I didn’t crack another molar.

What he said is true though. Savvy travelers and clever consumers have figured out ways to circumvent the exorbitant cost of health care in America by combining medical procedures with exotic foreign vacations.

Hey, it’s important to know how to spend money. Spending wisely – as I learned from that older gentleman years ago – can sometimes be just as valuable as earning and saving.

I’m glad that week of dental surgery is in my rearview mirror. But if I had to do it again I’d rent a fast convertible…drive down to Mexico…get a nice deep tan on the way…and go visit a high-quality, low-cost dentist.

And when I got back home I’d smile and laugh all the way to the bank.

P.S. Discover how you can enjoy a more laidback, authentic, independent way of life in Truth & Plenty. Sign up below to have it delivered – free of charge – to your email inbox.

Image: ©iStock.com/dmbaker

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