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Can a ticket to a single baseball game be worth $12,000?

That’s what a World Series ticket behind Wrigley Field’s home plate was going for last week. And to some fans of the winning Chicago Cubs, it looked like a good deal.

Rational money decisions often take a back seat to emotions. If you grew up root, root, rooting for Chicago’s lonesome losers, if your grandpa was a Cubs fan and your dad was a Cubs fan and Harry Caray was the soundtrack to your Saturday afternoons growing up then, yes, a single ticket to watch the Cubs battle the Cleveland Indians for baseball’s world championship could easily seem worth enough cash to cover a year’s worth of mortgage payments.

Of course, that $12,000 price tag also might have seemed reasonable if you’ve been waiting since 1948 to see a World Series featuring the Cleveland Indians.

And probably feeling foul

Nobody pays $12,000 — or $3,000 or even $700, as one of my co-workers did — just to see a baseball game. You pay that much because you want not only the memory it will create, but also to reconnect with the memories within that new experience.

“It’s a loyalty thing,” says Anne Brennan Malec, a financial therapist and managing partner at Symmetry Counseling in Chicago’s Loop. “There probably were lots of people in the stands who went to their first Cubs game with a parent and have these incredibly warm, fond memories and went to honor that experience from their childhood.”

But, Malec adds, “If the Cubs had lost, it’s a different ballgame.”

And that can be the key to deciding when to burn a hole in your budget for a once-in-a-lifetime experience and when to sit on your wallet. Research finds that over the course of a lifetime people value experiences over stuff, which makes that awesome family vacation much more valuable than a pricey designer handbag.

That changes the way we value things, but it doesn’t change the fact that a $12,000 World Series experience you can’t afford will be just as damaging to your financial health as a $12,000 necklace you can’t afford.

There is crying in baseball

That’s where we can learn a lesson from Indians fans. Shelling out big bucks is one thing when you assume — when you KNOW — that your team is going to win. But for Cubs fans, every year was the year, “They’re going to go all the way!” for 108 years and if Chicago’s North Side boys had made it 109 years, how would big-spending fans have felt today?

“Some people have the resources to do this and don’t think twice about it,” Malec says. “But for people who aren’t millionaires it’s an impulse purchase. If they were to wait something like 48 hours, would they still want to go through with it? Would you see yourself being proud to tell your friends and family what you paid for a Cubs ticket in a year, or would this embarrass you?”

Shame, of course, never is a good reason to do anything, especially in financial decisions, so if you do overspend, don’t succumb to regret. Make it a lesson in strengthening your financial discipline but also try to respect your thinking at the time.

“If someone came into my office and said, ‘(Gosh), I feel like an ass because I spent thousands of dollars on a ticket and the team lost,’ I would try to reframe that and ask about your story and what you were thinking when you bought that ticket,” Malec says. “I’d guess that in the end they were proud of their team and proud that they came out to support their team, and that they will be able to share this story with their neighbors and friends and children and grandchildren.”

And if that’s the story you’re going to relive every time you think about paying off the Visa bill, tell yourself the same thing Indian fans are saying: “There’s always next year.”

boconnor@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2145

Twitter: @BrianOCTweet

Brian O’Connor is author of “The $1,000 Challenge: How One Family Slashed Its Budget Without Moving Under a Bridge or Living on Government Cheese.”

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