Lame Friends and Sunk Costs

Check out this roseate spoonbill that was on our lake this weekend. They don’t hang around here much, so it’s such a treat to see their lovely pink feathers!

I haven’t talked that much about it on the blog so far, but one of the things that I enjoy greatly is running.  Not only is it one way that I invest in my health, but running alone is my favorite sanctuary, so much so that I run about 9 hours a week most weeks.

But no matter how much I enjoy running by myself, I’ve also found that there are a few friends that I really connect with over runs and I try to regularly make time for these “running buddies” where we can run together, catch up, vent out frustrations, and just be.  Think of it like a great coffee date with a friend, only instead of sitting on your butt drinking 600 calories of caffeinated sugar you’re on the move.


Being A Good Friend

One of my favorite running buddies took some time off running and has been trying to get back into it, so over the summer, I had been doing my best to support her efforts by running with her most Saturday mornings.  “The Saturday runs have been great,” she said, but she wanted more of a concrete goal for her running.  I suggested a half marathon that was about 5 months away, and she balked.  She wanted a closer more intermediate goal, so she found a 5K that was a little off the beaten path and sounded fun and asked if I would run it with her.

I was torn.

You see, I have this rule – I don’t pay for 5Ks.  My reasoning behind it is that there are 8,000 of them here every year, and as soon as you say yes to one, everyone expects you to run their 5K too!  And call me cheap, but I really like running races where you get a nice tech shirt instead of cotton t-shirt that can be pretty useless when it comes to running.  5K race shirts as a rule are terrible.  Sad, but true.

But Mr. PoP served as my Jiminy Cricket and reminded me that the “wrong things may be right at the right time” and that supporting my friend was really the issue of greater importance here – not my cheapness or adherence to a silly rule that I imposed on myself.

So I mailed in my check to sign up.  Heck if I was already paying $30 for a 5K, I wasn’t about to pay $2 in fees for on top of it, right?  Plus, I wanted the early-bird pricing to save an extra $5.

And my running buddy started to get pretty psyched about the race.  We even had an excellent run the day I told her I was in.  There were about 5 weeks before the race to get her to her goal pace.  Totally doable.


But Then She Started Being Lame

Right after the check for my race registration was cashed my running buddy started canceling on me.  She’s got a two-year-old kid, so her canceling over the past few years has become a somewhat regular occurrence.  Her excuses were all the same this time…

“My ankle is stiff… now it’s kindof swollen a little… my ankle still hurts…”

“This is seriously lame,” I thought.  “Seriously.  I paid $30 for this race that I wouldn’t normally have done, and she’s going to be totally lame and cancel on me, isn’t she?”  Jeez.

And I wasn’t surprised when she cancelled on me for the race.  The day before the race she told me she wasn’t going to make it because of her ankle.  I was nice about it.  I told her she needed to go see a doctor if her ankle had seriously been giving her trouble for 5 weeks.

But on the inside, I was annoyed.  I didn’t even want to do the race if she wasn’t going to be there – not to mention pay for gas and tolls to get there.  So I let my $30 be a sunk cost.  There was no way I would be getting it back, so I let it go and decided not to throw any more money at it because to me, a 5K just wasn’t worth it.


And Then I Felt Like A Jerk

Turns out, my friend wasn’t so much being lame by canceling on me all those times as she was lame.  Literally.

She had been walking around on a fractured ankle for the past 5 weeks and didn’t schedule a doctor’s appointment until I reminded her of how long she had been complaining about it!  Apparently it was a mild fracture, and by the time the doctor saw the x-rays it had already partially healed (and was healing correctly, thank goodness).

Now I just feel like a bad person for being annoyed at all my friend’s recent excuses.  Yes, the $30 was a sunk cost.  But in comparison to the pain and frustration my friend has been going through walking on a fractured ankle, $30 hardly seems worth complaining about.


My friend has to take it easy on her ankle for another few weeks – but she’ll heal without any permanent damage.  And the $30 didn’t do any permanent damage to our finances, so all’s well that ends well, I guess.  But the next time she wants me to run a race, I may not feel the need to get the early-bird price discount… if I had thought about the likelihood of cancelation, I probably would have been better off paying the fees and registering late in the game rather than trying to save $7.


Have you had any sunk costs lately?  What about lame friends costing you money? 

12 comments to Lame Friends and Sunk Costs

  • Don’t feel too bad:) I think any of us would have had the same reaction had somebody cost us money and them punked out. You didn’t know her ankle was broken.

    I think you did the right thing anyway. Plus, you did the smart thing by not throwing any more money at it. Sometimes, friendships are important enough that we just need to spend some money on them. This weekend, I’m headed to an event with a friend that cost $150. It was a stuggle to decide that it was worth it, but it is a one time deal and he was so disappointed when I said no. Like Mr. Pop said, sometimes the wrong thing is the right thing at the right time.
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    • Thanks – I *know* I couldn’t have known that her ankle was broken, but I still felt like a jerk for complaining to Mr. PoP about the $30 when I found out.

      Have fun at the event with your friend – live it up and enjoy every penny of its cost so its worth in terms of experience will be of so much more value than the $.

  • swimmy44

    The biggest expense young people have these days is when far away friends they value get married – and invite them to the wedding. they want to go but it involves expensive travel and it’s important to keep up those friendships. My daughter (in California) has been invited to two weddings next year on the east coast in June and September both in VT – and she will go to one not both. She’d enjoy both and one friend will be disappointed I’m sure. But she’s smart with her money and is working into making one wedding celebration a vacation of sorts. Of course she could ditch that idea between now and then but we shall see.

    • So true. We’ve had to prioritize which weddings are “worth traveling” for and which are not – plus we were able to combine at least one with a work trip for Mr. PoP so that helped a bit.
      For us at least, our friends tend to know that we don’t put a whole lot of emphasis on ceremony and would rather spend time with the lovely couple when there aren’t 100+ people competing for their attention, so wedding invitation declines from us have so far gone over pretty well. But weddings seem to be a minefield that you have to be careful where you tread less a bomb burst and kill your travel budget!

  • Don’t feel bad. I’d be the same way. I always assume people are playing up things when they don’t want to do something. We just bailed on a concert that we’ve had tickets to since January. It got postponed and rescheduled. It would be a huge inconvenience and hotel stay to go right now, so we’re just giving them up. They’re fan club tickets so we can’t sell them.
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    • That stinks that you can’t sell the tickets or even give them away – race entries are the same way. Once you pay for them there’s really no way to recover most of them if you don’t go – though some of the big ones will occasionally let you apply part of it to the following year’s entry…

  • That sucks but at least it was only $30. And you couldn’t have known that your friend’s ankle was fractured. Most of the time when friends do something like that it is really just an excuse so I wouldn’t feel so bad about it.
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  • Jonathan

    I love 5K race shirts! I personally have NEVER worn a “tech shirt” I’ve gotten from a race (who knows, maybe I’d like them). But I love the standard T-shirts, and I actually have some that I try to keep nice for wearing on errands and the like. I only ever run in standard T-shirts.

    I’ve never heard of your excuse not to run in 5Ks, that it makes everyone expect you to run in all of them…If you don’t want to run in a particular race, just say no! Or beg off due to a prior commitment. But I happily pay the $30 for several 5Ks a years.

    • Oh if you get a tech shirt, you might become addicted to them. Tech shirts help wick away the moisture and make it much more bearable to run when it’s hot and humid. Some of my favorite races that I run every year have high quality tech shirts.

  • Haha you do get pretty lame shirts for 5k’s. I did a 5k mud run and they gave us t-shirts just like you describe :)
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  • […] of my favorite running buddies is moving away soon. We’ve spent the last nearly five years getting together once every […]