Ask Ariely: On Ticket Tips, Coding Concerns, and System Setups

Here’s my Q&A column from the WSJ this week  and if you have any questions for me, you can tweet them to @danariely with the hashtag #askariely, post a comment on my Ask Ariely Facebook page, or email them to


Dear Dan,

Early last year, I bought five tickets for $200 apiece for the hit Broadway show “Hamilton.” In the end, two members of my family couldn’t attend, so I sold the two extra tickets—for $800 each.

The three tickets that we used cost me $600, but I could have made $1,800 (over their face value) by selling them for $800 each. We all really enjoyed the show, but I kept thinking about the other ways I could have used $1,800, and that cut into my pleasure. What’s the right way to think about the cost of our outing?

—Thanks, Willy 

If you had thought about this choice a few days in advance, when you could have changed your plans without too much disruption, you might have given serious consideration to the opportunity cost: the potential $1,800 profit on the other three tickets. You might have thought about what else you could do with the money and whether you’d rather use it that way.

But once you decided to go to the show—and certainly once you were in the theater—you should have been thinking about how to maximize your
enjoyment. After all, you’d made your decision, so why not enjoy the experience to its fullest? At
that point, it’s best to forget about the $1,800 and just think about the $600 cost of the three tickets you used.

But there’s an even more favorable way to see your situation: The five tickets cost you $1,000, but you got $1,600 from the two tickets you sold. That’s a profit of $600 on the deal—and you got to see “Hamilton” with people you love! Now you can use that extra cash to take your family out for a nice dinner, all thanks to your wise decisions.


Dear Dan,

I’m a college freshman and am debating whether to major in computer science. Last semester, when I took a course in the subject, I felt challenged during the first couple of weeks, but by the end of the term I found the assignments tedious and difficult.

Should I keep studying computer science, hoping that I’ll eventually enjoy it, or should I focus instead on engineering or business courses?


Since computer science remains a major with great career potential, I’d suggest that you explore it more deeply before giving up. When we are learning a new subject, from bird watching to social science, it often becomes more gratifying as we learn more and immerse ourselves in it. So maybe you should broaden the scope of your computer-science courses and explore things such as videogames, new programming languages and app design. They just might boot up your excitement about the field.


Dear Dan,

I’m a hard-core videogamer, but I’m trying to quit, since it all feels like a waste of time. Now I’m hearing about a new gaming platform, and I’m really tempted to buy it—even though I know I’d spend too much money and time on it. Any advice?


Buy the platform for your parents and set it up at their home. That way, you can play on it sometimes, but you’ll also get to see your parents more. I imagine that they’ll make sure you don’t spend all your time with them just gaming.

See the original article in the Wall Street Journal here.