When an unexpected $100 gets you more than a nice meal

This post was originally featured on the tillerhq.com blog. Tiller is a financial spreadsheet tool that helps you understand your spending and define how to track your money. I provide consulting support for Tiller. Tiller wants to empower individuals to spend money in ways that align with their values. 

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On my trip out here to Washington to meet up with the rest of the Tiller team I experienced first hand what it means to “spend money in line with your values.”

My own spending has been more frequent since I’m in a new place, and I want to explore the many amazing restaurants, breweries, and farmers’ markets around Seattle. The exploration doesn’t necessarily require spending money, but doing so definitely enhances the experience.

VISIT TO OUTLANDER BREWERY AND PUB IN FREEMONT, SEATTLE, WA

VISIT TO OUTLANDER BREWERY AND PUB IN FREEMONT, SEATTLE, WA

Fun money

I’ve mostly been spending a small treasure chest of cash I’d saved up over the past year. I accumulated most of it over my birthday and Christmas, but my dad did send me off with some extra cash to use for fun before dropping me at the airport. It’s kind of my “free spirit money” to do with as I please, and not worry too much about where it’s going.

However, the tracker in me knows it’s mostly going to craft beer, food at hip restaurants, camping passes, ice, firewood, and things of that nature. So essentially, it’s all discretionary and I’d end up classifying all of those transactions as “vacation” anyway. Spending this way lines up with my values because I deserve to treat myself sometimes and take vacation. I’m grateful that it’s an option in my life.

Adventures in and around Olympic National Park

During my recent explorations my friend and I decided to make a trek into the Olympic National Park for a two day, one night road trip. We visited Hurricane Ridge, Ozette Lake, and Cape Flattery. On our trip back we decided to stop in Port Angeles for dinner before catching a ferry back to Seattle. We debated about where to eat and decided to check out Kokopelli Grill.

PANORAMIC VIEW OF CAPE FLATTERY, THE MOST NORTHWESTERN POINT OF THE CONTINENTAL U.S.

PANORAMIC VIEW OF CAPE FLATTERY, THE MOST NORTHWESTERN POINT OF THE CONTINENTAL U.S.

Based on the Yelp information I knew it was going to be pricy and that our grungy attire and disheveled appearance would leave us exaggeratedly underdressed. I was right. We walked into a beautifully decorated restaurant, with equally beautifully dressed (compared to us) guests and wonderful aromas of Southwestern cuisine. We took a few minutes to review the menu. Even though I was splurging a bit while on vacation, it’s not my cup of tea to pay $20+ for a single entree and my friend agreed.

We turned to leave, a bit disappointed, when we heard a man speak up, “Hey, hang on a second.” I turned around and he handed me a $100 bill.

“I’m here celebrating my birthday, and I want you to have this. Please stay and eat here. This restaurant is wonderful. The Prickly Pear Dressing is amazing. We want you to enjoy this wonderful restaurant as anyone else would. Welcome to Port Angeles!”

I was dumbfounded and could hardly find words. We gave him a few sincere thank you’s. We were seated upstairs and gleefully recalled our disbelief at what just happened.

Grip our money tightly or dance with it?

The mystery man gave us the opportunity to experience something awesome and unique without any heartache over the money. He spent money in line with his values. For him, sharing his money to bring joy to a few tired and smelly tourists was more important at that moment than keeping that $100 crisply folded away in his wallet.

When our finances feel out of control, or we’re digging our way out of a precarious position, it might feel safer to hold on to our money tightly. This stranger shed light on what life looks like when we are in control of our finances and living within our means. With that flexibility we can enjoy a nice dinner out for our birthday or impulsively do something generous for a stranger. We can give more to charities. When we’re in control, we can dance with our money rather than grip it tightly.  

This stranger gave me much more than $100. I look forward to paying this gift forward.

-Heather P