Tales from the Wallet: What’s Worth the Splurge (And What Isn’t)

When to Splurge, When to Save | CorporetteSomething that I’ve wanted to do for a while is talk about what’s worth the “splurge” (on a big or small level) versus what’s NOT worth the splurge. For example: I always joke that life is too short for cheap liquor and cheap toilet paper. On the flip side, I rarely notice the difference with a “fine” wine (ahem), and “good” coffee is wasted on me also — Folgers is just fine for my one cup a day. At the grocery store, I often buy store brands (or whatever’s cheapest).

On a day to day level, my cleaning lady (who now comes once a fortnight) is non-negotiable and an absolute essential (we love you Olga!), and I will give up other splurges (such as frequent dinners out) to keep room for her in the budget. (Pictured:  Fossil ‘Key-Per’ Wristlet, was $40, now $29.98.)

On a grander level, I think education is worth the splurge if other factors align; in other words, the more expensive program may be worth it if it offers enhanced networking capabilities / alumni base / career services / etc. In terms of housing, I’ve always prioritized living space over location or amenities (e.g., I’ve never lived in a glitzy apartment building in a super chic area but rather the largest apartment I could get in the safest area near where I wanted to live).

As I’ve mentioned before, in terms of fashion I tend to splurge on accessories (bags, jewelry) and less on clothing. Still, I have noticed huge differences in, say, a sweater marketed as a $100 sweater versus a sweater marketed as a $500 sweater (which I may have paid $100 for).

Yesterday we talked about travel splurges, with many people (me included) noting that you should travel when you can. I wonder, though: when is it worth it to get the “bargain” deal for travel — taking your trip in the off season or staying somewhere not as fashionable — if you’re going for the experience?

There are no right answers here, obviously; I just thought it might be an interesting discussion. Readers, where do you splurge and where do you save? 

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  1. Breakfast in bed at the Four Seasons with my boyfriend for dessert!

    • This is definiteley a splurge, as long as your boyfreind is not an Alchoholic.

      Personally, I rareley splurge on myself b/c I am way to busy forgeing a career for myself, so most thing’s I spend on are viruteally ALL related to the partnership. Once in a while, I make for myself a nice meal that I cook myself with stuff I buy from Fairway’s. For example, I just made a great rack of lamb with Myrna when we came back from Ocean City after eating out all week. At least we knew everything about the lamb and did not have any guy’s in the back room fooleing around with it for joke’s. FOOEY on the kitchen help that does that kind of thing!

    • SuziStockbroker :

      Splurge (or at least not cheap-out):

      Living closer to work (city of about 1 million) and paying more. 15 minutes public transit, 40 minutes walking to work, is worth it for us. If I am going to spend 40 minutes getting to work (suburbs), I want to be walking not in my car.

      Part time nanny/housekeeper: kids are in school all day during the school year now but the little one still requires after school care. We have someone come to the house 1-6, 3 hours for cleaning, making kid lunches for the next day and doing kid laundry etc, 2 hours supervising kids. Would be cheaper to put little one in afterschool care at the school and have a cleaning service, but not having to do all the laundry or make kid lunches is totally worth it to me.

      Sports equipment for kids. I don’t buy the most expensive thing going, but I will definitely drop $ in a sporting goods store since I love that they are active (bikes, skateboards, snowboards, soccer cleats, catcher’s gear etc etc). I am too tired to go hunt for their sizes in second hand stores.

      Outerwear. Very, very cold here in the winter. I am done with shivering. Canada Goose FTW!

      Watch ($1400 which felt like a splurge for me). I will pay up to $100 for professional looking earrings. Have a couple pairs like that which I alternate with cheapie but still professional ones.

      Vacation, even flying to FLA for a week and renting a townhouse is $7K+ for a family of 5. I don’t care, we make memories that I treasure when we are out of the day to day routine. Our summer vacay is probably $4K since there are no flights. Not a huge splurge, but we make sure to stay at a nice place.

      Shoes/boots: not outrageous but I will pay up to $250 for good work shoes (usually $150-200), or $350 for good boots (had not done that yet but could justify).

      The occasional splurge for work clothes/outerwear. Usually Judith and Charles (maybe $400 ish for a coat or blazer) or Femme de Carriere (maybe $600 for a 2 piece suit) that I wear on “important” days.

      My husband splurges on golf clubs.

      Will spend up to $300 on a handbag. Haven’t gone over $200 though yet…..

      Personal chef service. Will start this in September. Think it will actually pay for itself as it will save money on eating out because of not wanting to cook/no groceries in house etc.

      Not worth splurging on, for me:

      Kid’s clothes. They grow out of them too fast. I stock up when we are in the US.

      Car. We only curently have one vehicle (live close to work), and its a Dodge Grand Caravan.

      Clothes (yes this is on the splurge list too), most of my workaday suits are Banana Republic or Ann Taylor. Suits don’t last that long for me as I don’t take my jacket off at work and the elbows get shiny, even on more expensive suits.

      Hotels. I decide what I would be happy paying and then I upgrade to my husband’s tastes with travel reward points.

      • smalltown :

        this is a brilliant idea:
        Part time nanny/housekeeper: kids are in school all day during the school year now but the little one still requires after school care. We have someone come to the house 1-6, 3 hours for cleaning, making kid lunches for the next day and doing kid laundry etc, 2 hours supervising kids. Would be cheaper to put little one in afterschool care at the school and have a cleaning service, but not having to do all the laundry or make kid lunches is totally worth it to me.

        We have been trying to figure out what to do with the kids once we really have no need for a fulltime nanny. Chances are, my father may be moving close to us, but it’s not definite yet. Right now, we have a nanny who comes 7:45 a – 5-ish p. We are flexible with hours, and it is necessary now, even during the school year, as my youngest is still in half-day/3-day/week preschool. But, come fall 2015, both kids will be in public schools from 8:20 a (bus time) till 4p (bus time). Hubs and I could probably shift our schedules so that one of us is home during those times, but the idea of a 3p-6p caretaker is genius. Thanks for the idea!

        • My kids are older – 8 and 10 – and when I went back to work 2 years ago a nanny didn’t make sense, so we hired a housekeeper. We pay more for her but she’s worth it – does the laundry, cleans, picks up the kids from school, makes them a homemade snack (!), and then feeds the kids so they don’t have to wait for one of us at 6p when we alternately get home. It is heaven coming home to a clean house, happy kids who get to hang around their own house, and dinner! She works 20 hrs a week, from 2-6p, on the books, so I run Quicken Payroll and pay employer taxes as well as withholding.

          Next year the kids are going to parochial school, and there’s an after school program, so we’re going to cut back to 3 days a week, and I’m able to shift my schedule to pick them up 1 day, and pick them up from the after program the other. It’s worth it to have someone I trust drive the kids to sports and school, and help around the house. She’s our only splurge!

  2. I would give up a LOT of things before I gave up having someone in 1/2 a day a week to clean. (I don’t refer to her as a “cleaning lady” though, because I think that’s not very nice .)

    • Yeah, I wrestle with the term “cleaning lady” but have trouble finding a better alternative for someone who is not part of a cleaning service company. I have landed on “Kelly My Neighbor Lady Who Comes to My House to Clean.” That’s mostly in my head, though, since I tell no one I have a neighbor lady coming to my house to clean.

    • Ha, I completely agree (and I have a cleaning man)….

    • What’s offensive about the term cleaning lady?

      • It is demeaning and sexist, but if those things don’t offend you, I guess nothing. Ask yourself if you would like to be referred to as a “[your occupation] lady” – then apply the golden rule.

        • I prefer Lawyer Dame or Lawyer Doll, myself.

          • “Single Female Lawyer / fighting for her client /wearing sexy miniskirts / and being self-reliant.”

        • Why is it demeaning and sexist? I don’t think cleaning houses is demeaning. Is cleaning woman better? [Your occupation] + man/woman/whatever is a common pattern, like saleswoman/man, policeman/woman, garbageman/woman, mailman/woman, etc.

          • ExecAssist :

            Agreed! I think this is a case of privileged people trying TOO hard to be PC. I can tell you, as someone who’s been on both sides (my family used to have a helper that came in every weekday when I was growing up, and when I was in college I cleaned house for a bit), it’s not demeaning at all. Relax!

          • Senior Attorney :

            Salesperson, police officer, sanitation worker, mail carrier.

            I think we are past the point where it’s appropriate to attach a gender to an occupation.

            I call mine the cleaning crew because there are two of them, but I think house cleaner is probably best for an individual who cleans houses.

          • Wildkitten :

            Salesperson. Police Officer. Mail Carrier.

          • I do think it is better to remove gendered terms from the occupations. At the same time, if you’re referring to one person rather than making an assumption I can’t get too worked up about it. I feel like some of the offense stems from classism, as if having a blue collar job is something to be ashamed of and it is totally not at all.

          • I think you just made your own argument invalid by comparing it to other equally sexist constructions. We don’t call people poetesses anymore. Gendered terms for job titles are outdated and inappropriate.

            I have a housecleaner. Used to have a male one, now I have a female one. It’s the same job regardless of the bits the specific person has.

        • Anonymous :

          I get called a Lady Surgeon on a regular basis (patients tell their children that I’m a lady surgeon, and the like) and I don’t find it offensive. Maybe its a geographic thing…

          • Senior Attorney :

            I think the thing that irks me about this is that “Lady” modifies “Surgeon,” which is the default and assumed to be male.

            Which reminds me of one of my favorite stories. When my son was about three years old, I had the day off for Lincoln’s Birthday (and by some miracle was able to actually take the holiday), and I was explaining to him that Abraham Lincoln was a great President of the United States, and before that he was a lawyer, just like Mommy.

            My preschooler looked at me with an expression of utter disbelief, snorted derisively, and exclaimed, “a MAN lawyer????”

          • Very funny!

          • Where I live, “lady surgeon” = OBGYN ;-)

    • We refer to “Debbie the cleaner” and would probably just refer to “Debbie” if one of my dad’s colleagues wasn’t also called Debbie!

    • I use the term “housekeeper,” but my coworkers refer to the women who clean their homes as “maids.” It makes my skin crawl.

    • SFAttorney :

      We use “housecleaners.”

    • Anonymama :

      We have an occasional cleaning guy, and we refer to him as the cleaner or the cleaning guy or his name. I don’t know… we also refer to the yard guy, the fence guy, the tree guy, the appliance guy, etc. I would use lady interchangeably with guy in any of those instances (I do say, for example, the deli lady, or the flower lady, or the dry cleaner lady)… to me it seems more casual and like they are an actual person I know, rather than something more formal like “cleaning service” or “cleaning person.”

  3. I’ll jump in.

    Worth the splurge to me: good food and wine. We primarily cook at home (I love to cook) and drink at home. So, it is substantially cheaper to have excellent food and wine often than it would be going out to dinner. The very few times that we do go out to dinner on date night, we make sure it’s somewhere pretty good, and try to always pick some place that we couldn’t just replicate at home. Good coffee. Good vodka (noticing a theme?). Our maid service every other week. The lawn service. Our daycare with extended hours. Good toilet paper and paper towels. My car – my commute isn’t terrible but it is highway driving, so I love driving a car that I love and is comfortable. And it’s paid off, so it’s even better.

    Not worth the splurge to me: Pretty much any “designer” clothing. I still look put together and professional, but I have two young kids and knowing me, I’ll just eventually ruin whatever I’m wearing. Jewelry – I have my wedding ring, a nice pearl necklace, a good watch, and diamond stud earrings. All my other jewelry is cheap, costume jewelry. Shoes – I just can’t spend that much money on something that will be on my feet and has a limited lifespan. Living “in town” – I like living in the ‘burbs and the family-friendly lifestyle that we have.

    • Inspired by Sydney Bristow, I should add that Amazon Prime is absolutely worth the splurge. At least several times a week we have Amazon smiley-face boxes at our door when I get home from work. And DirecTv. We watch a lot of football, so the Sunday Ticket is absolutely worth it to us.

      • Yes, Amazon Prime is totally worth it for me too. I’m currently watching The West Wing for the first time!

        • Sydney Bristow :

          Ooh enjoy it! I watched it for the first time a couple of years ago and just rewatched it this year. It is so fantastic.

        • I love Prime too, but I don’t see it as a splurge – I save money on shipping and save time and gas just picking up stuff on Amazon rather than chasing all over the world to find the t-shirt/dress/widget/whatever that I need. Also, Prime music saves me from buying music I have an itch for but don’t need to own. I watch Prime movies rather than go to the movies. The list of savings goes on and on.

          • Anon Worker Bee :

            Agreed. Prime isn’t a splurge for us because we save more from the free shipping than we pay for the service.

          • This is all true – plus the savings we make from my student discount go some way to covering the cost.

          • Ditto – we probably cost Amazon money given how often we use the prime movies/TV.

  4. Former Partner, Now In-House :

    – long term care insurance (I’m older than many here)
    – education (and I agree with Kat that sometimes you pay for the non-academic experience both as a student and as an alumna)
    – travel
    – real estate for location
    – fine jewelry (not many pieces, but they are beautiful and last for decades)
    – performing arts
    – shoes and suits that are well designed (so you want to wear them for years) and well constructed (so you can wear them for years) and tailoring (so they fit properly)
    – saving for retirement

    • Anonymous :

      +1 (compounded) re: Saving for Retirement

    • Saving for retirement isn’t a splurge. It’s a necessity that most people don’t budget for.
      (Says what I’ve learnt about annuities in the last month or so – I’ll sound a little different when I have to start paying into my pension plan!)

  5. I splurge on fruits and vegetables and paying my kids’ tuition so they don’t incur student debt. And my Dyson vacuum cleaner. I don’t know if I can even call it a splurge because it has lasted about 4 times longer than any vacuum I ever bought and is still going strong. If it breaks and can’t be repaired, I’d shell out for another one in a heartbeat.

  6. Good cookware! I never would have thought that Le Cruset was worth the money until my husband bought me a big dutch oven – it is really fantastic, far better than my old Caphalon. For the most part, you don’t need to spend a ton, but having solidly constructed pots and pans really makes a big difference, along with good spatulas (Kitchenaid makes some nice ones) and whisks (Oxo) (neither is really a splurge, but they’re much, much better than the cheaper brands). Good, sharp, knives are also extremely important. And there’s something to be said about eating and drinking off of finer dishes, at least when you’ve planned a special meal.

    I’m also a believer in splurging on fine restaurants. I’ve had people look at me like I have two heads when I’ve mentioned spending several hundred dollars on a dinner, but a truly great dining experience is worth it to me, and just doesn’t compare with an ordinary nice steakhouse.

    I see nothing weird about spending $700+ for a special dinner, but still buying store-brand pasta because it’s 10 cents cheaper.

    • I agree completely with the splurging on nice dinners (though my budget is much smaller). But seriously, when it costs two people $20 to eat at subway, it’s not that much of a difference in my mind to save a few smaller trips, and go somewhere nicer.

    • +1 on good cookware. I love to cook at home and go out for dinners but hate spending time on lunch during the week, unless I’m eating out with a friend. I usually eat lunch at my desk so don’t get the enjoyment out of lunch and would just rather bring leftovers.

    • I LOVE Joseph Joseph cookware. They do a pasta scooper thing which I use for everything in the kitchen – I have very little, so everything has to work hard.

      Anyone in the UK, I recommend the i can cook range at Lakeland – the pan scraper spatula is my 2nd favourite piece of kitchen equipment after the pasta scooper mentioned above.

    • +1 on the good cookware. I have my one Le Crueset stockpot that I got after a cheapie Martha Stewart one chipped after less than a year of use…still fantastic after several years of use. And I’ve been slowly swapping out my other pots and pans for All clad ones – they aren’t cheap but are so sturdy and clean up beautifully with a little bar keeper’s friend.

      Kitchen gear is in general worth the splurge to me with the exception of appliances. They tend to need repair based on brand anyway and I’m not one of those cooks that use the fancy features. It is however important that I have good quality tools, knives, etc while I cook.

  7. I splurge on eating lunch out. To me, its worth it to pay $10 a day so I don’t have to worry about packing a lunch. Other people will strongly disagree, but I hate packing lunch, am not a morning person (and already have to walk the dog, feed the pets, and feed myself before leaving) and will not do it.

    • I hate packing lunch, and don’t even mind the money on lunch, but I hate “spending” the extra calories on lunch. I prefer to bring in a bag of stuff at the beginning of the week that can be eaten for breakfast/lunch at the office.

    • Baconpancakes :

      I pack the night before – I usually have leftovers that would just get thrown away anyway, either from cooking or from eating out. If I leave it to the morning to pack my lunch, I will end up eating an apple and a jar of peanut butter.

    • I’m with you. Packing a lunch seems like the worst kind of torture to me. Plus, I need to force myself to take a break/get out of the office for a minute, so leaving the office to pick up lunch is the only way I get outside during daylight hours sometimes.

      • Lunch out is not worth the splurge to me. I have never craved variety in my meals, so I buy hummus and pita at the beginning of the week and eat it for lunch every single day. It’s like $9 for an entire week’s worth of lunch. More money for other things!

  8. S in Chicago :

    Worth splurging:
    A good watch (I wear one every day and not much other jewelry)
    a good swimsuit (they’re just built so much better than cheapos and more flattering and the right one is worth its weight in gold)
    A good handbag-key to dressing up whatever you’re wearing, sturdier construction and again, a very high use item
    cake-nothing worse than grocery store sheet cake

    Not worth splurging
    I would never ever go for very high-end luggage–it just pains me to see things get stained and battered while out of my control
    pressed powder–the covergirl stuff works just as good or better than the fancy stuff
    doughnuts–they’re all good when they’re fresh

    • On the luggage, a friend splurged on a set of Tumi luggage, then found that stuff was stolen from her checked luggage with much greater frequency. That has been reason enough for me to stick with Eddie Bauer rolling duffels.

      • my bf frequently has had things stolen from his tumi luggage (ferragamo belts, shoes etc :((((( because it looks like his bag has that stuff in it) whereas my aging samsonite gets passed over, luckily for me!

    • I splurged on Tumi luggage a few years ago; it has held up marginally better than the Samsonite set my parents gave me after grad school (which lasted a decade). One piece I selected was a rolling duffel which, the corners of which wore down much more quickly than I would have expected and a few months ago the main handle was torn off by a rough baggage handler at the airport. Because the duffel was 3 years old and under limited warranty (and the damage was obviously wear and tear vs. manufacturer’s defect), I begrudgingly sent it in for a repair estimate. I was blown away when they simply gave me a new bag! For that reason, I will likely stick with Tumi for any future luggage needs. (Plus I really love the casual laptop brief I’ve used for the past 5 years – still looks new!)

    • Love that you said doughnuts! Ha!

  9. Sydney Bristow :

    Fun question!

    I splurge on nice toilet paper too. Also, Fresh Direct food. It’s yummy, basically requires just being heat up in the oven, and is delivered to my door. Amazon Prime is also a splurge for me. 2-day shipping is just so convenient. Likewise, ordering pet supplies on Wag. It’s a little more expensive but i get cat litter delivered instead of trying to carry it home from the store.

    We are also likely to splurge a bit on a nicer hotel, at least for part of a vacation. I get a ton of pleasure out of staying at a nice hotel that it is really worth it for me.

    I don’t splurge on cable. Netflix and Amazon Prime work just fine. I also don’t really splurge on clothes, shoes, or accessories. I’d love to splurge on nicer items but clothes aren’t really worth it right now because my weight and size fluctuates and I just can’t justify it to myself for shoes and accessories. Someday after my loans are paid off I probably will.

    • Sydney Bristow :

      Oh I forgot about air conditioning. I was really strapped for cash when I bought it but my window a/c was some of the best money I ever spent. It is definitely worth the extra electricity costs to me to use it when I’m hot in the summer, including leaving it running at night.

      • Gail the Goldfish :

        Oh man, things I don’t miss about New York: window unit air conditioners that cost a fortune to run thanks to ConEd. Having said that, when I was there, that was something I would splurge on. I didn’t care if it cost me $200/month to cool my not-that-large apartment, it was worth it. (But I’m very much enjoying being back in the land of central air and cheap utilities).

  10. I’m not sure about the comment on expensive education. I have never attended a private educational institution: public elementary, high school, college, and law school for me. While the latter two certainly were not inexpensive (and are beyond the reach of many people) they were far, far less expensive than private schools with “pedigree.” And, at the end of the day, I got the same internships and jobs as the Harvard/Princeton/Duke/fancy-pants-university kids, but have half as much debt.

    • The thing is, anecdote is not data. An outstanding student will likely do well in finding employment with a degree from any ABA-accredited law school, particularly if that school is in the jurisdiction where the student wants to work. But if you look at the stats on median starting salary and employment rate at 12 months post-graduation, there is a clear relationship to school ranking.

      I do think that the benefits of splurging on undergraduate education are not demonstrated, however – I’ve never seen comparable stats to those for law school.

    • West Coast Lawyer :

      I don’t think the splurge comment was meant to apply to private vs. public higher education, but rather spending money on higher education in general. For example, in the bay area I’m going to say you’ll get a reasonably comparable education at Boalt and Stanford law schools. You will pay significantly less at Boalt (if you qualify for in-state tuition) but I would consider both a splurge unless you are getting a full scholarship.

      Now, if I were to get into a good private law school in the area where I wanted to practice and there wasn’t a comparable private alternative I would probably consider the splurge worth it in terms of local connections and demonstrated commitment to the area.

      Edited to note I went to neither of the schools I mentioned above and still managed to get a good job, so I’m certainly not suggesting you have to go to a T14 school to be successful.

  11. I tend to splurge on: cheese, chocolate, soda, liquor, dinner out, cookware, outerwear, books (always buy hardcover), electronics, and tampons

    I cut corners on: wine and beer (unless it’s for company), event tickets (happy in the nosebleed seats or, with sporting events, just watching on tv), sporting goods, shoes, purses, jewelry, and cosmetics/beauty products

    • Missed the edit window to add that I will also splurge on real estate, especially to get a great location (which to me means being within walking distance of work, shopping [food, books, clothes], the gym, restaurants and bars, etc.)

      • ExecAssist :

        How does one splurge on soda?

        • By buying the fancy kind in glass bottles with cane sugar and organic flavors, rather than whichever Coke or Pepsi product is on sale this week.

        • I grew up in a family that drank only Shasta or store brand soda, and now that I’m an adult I love buying the specialty root beers and cream sodas that come in the glass bottles (Virgil’s soda, for instance). It’s not a splurge in the same way a $1000 coat is a splurge, but each bottle costs more than a 2 liter of the cheap stuff.

  12. Great topic!

    I splurge on:
    – Shoes. Size doesn’t change (much) with your weight, they are repairable/maintainable, and they make a huge difference in how you feel (physically, mostly, but also emotionally). ‘Splurge’ may be relative though: $100-160 for Clarks or similar.
    – Travel and experiences. Overall, these have a big priority in my budget; frequency and quality are more important than luxury. What we don’t do: cheap out on the accomodations. If we get a cabin, house, or condo, it’s a really nice one; if we stay in a modest motel, it’s a better name brand, and if we stay in a campground, it’s a highly rated one with lots of privacy and plumbing.
    – Books. I am a heavy library user, but recently I’ve been ‘allowing’ myself to buy real hardcovers of books and authors I love. This feels like a splurge because I didn’t do it for so long, and having them in my home makes me happy.
    – Good quality lattes. They make a wonderful, soothing treat when I’ve been a good girl or have had a rough day.
    – Toilet paper and tampons. (I will use cheap paper towels though).

    Not splurging on: Clothing, TV (just use library DVDs and Roku), cleaning service (have done it in the past, will do again, but managing without for now), car, house. These needs are all being met, just not at a ‘splurge’ level.

    Overall I try to focus my splurges on things that really give me pleasure.

    • Sydney Bristow :

      Ooh I forgot to list books. I read a ton from the library, but if a book isn’t available or if it’s something I will want to continue to refer to I’ll buy it. I always buy fiction on my Kindle but spend the extra for non-fiction that I’d like to keep and buy a physical copy.

      • I am also a book nut, and the quality used book store in my town just completely makes my life. Sure, some things have a wrinkled page here and there, or a beat-up cover/dust jacket, but for $2, I can get over that. I’ve also found good quality (very minimal shelf wear) used books at thrift shops.

        • I usually get books for $3 or less from used book stores or thrift stores. I use the library a lot too. Rarely do I ever buy a book new or at jacket price, and that’s maybe once a year if I want to read something for a book club but can’t get ahold of the book from the library in time.

      • I’ve been cutting corners on fiction books by identifying a new author I want to read and then buying a box of his/her books on eBay. I really don’t care if the books aren’t brand new when I’m paying around $2 for a paperback. I’m also obsessed with reading a series in the right order, so I make sure the lot has most of the books in the series and then buy the missing one(s) used and cheap from eBay or Amazon, or I get the missing one via PaperbackSwap dot com.

  13. I splurge on organic food. I believe in preventing problems before you have to treat them so I try to make sure I’m feeding myself and my husband things that well help us over time and not hurt us.

    I also splurge on handbags, makeup, and jeans.

    I save on a car, vacations, and toilet paper. haha

  14. This is fun!

    Hybrid splurge/save (yes, it’s a luxury, but trying to make the most of it):
    – monthly cleaning lady for a “deep clean” (it’s $30 more than a “regular” clean because it takes longer, but then only light cleaning is needed in between visits, which I/hubs do ourselves)
    – Nice but not outrageous wine and food for making dinner at home on weekends (still way, way cheaper than going out)
    – Amazon prime (probably a wash, price-wise vs. buying all the same stuff from CVS or Target and carting it home myself, but very worth it for the convenience, the lack of buying a ton of crap at Target that I don’t need, and also the streaming)

    – travel. After taking two trips during shoulder season and having dreary weather, we decided that high season is high for a reason… and since we only take one trip a year thanks to Biglaw, throwing an extra $1-3K in for an upgraded overall experience is well worth it.
    – school. I paid full freight for Ivy law (and paid it off in 4 years thanks to Biglaw). Would I do it again? Yes… but I’d probably have been a savvier negotiator (thanks, experience and hindsight!) and brought other schools’ offers to the financial aid office to see if they’d match.
    – city living. 15 minute walking commute has been a lifesaver when you’re already in the office 10-11 hours a day. That said, we’re still in a condo, not a house.
    – weekly manis.

    – “regular” (boring) food for weekdays – we watch the grocery stores for sales and stock up
    – low fixed expenses (no car, cheapest cable package, modest condo, etc.)
    – dining out – we don’t do takeout and only go out to eat 1x or 2x a month
    – clothes (I like to shop, but watch the sales like a hawk)
    – makeup (I’ve never been one to try a bunch of colors or switch up my look day to day)
    – books (I check out everything from the library on my Kindle)

  15. curious b/c it’s been mentioned more than once now – how does one “splurge” on tampons or TP, I mean, beyond not buying the total cheapest option like one-ply?

    • Sydney Bristow :

      I’ve lived with people who were just fine buying 1-ply toilet paper or whatever was cheapest. The kind I buy is not the most expensive but is on the higher side of the price range. It took some training to get my fiancé to remember to buy that kind instead of the super cheap 1-ply.

    • If you’re used to a certain brand, it’s kind of a splurge to only buy that brand even if a different brand is on sale.

    • Exactly that. Before we got married, my husband always bought one-ply toilet paper (for his place). That does not happen any more. :) And it makes me happy, so it goes on the splurge list.

      • +1 sounds familiar! This was a non-discussion in our house when we got married. No more cheap, store-brand, 1-ply for us – I can’t stand it. I’m the same with tissues.

    • I cannot bring myself to buy anything other than Cottonelle, Bounty, and Kleenex. Those were the brands in my house growing up, and those loyalties die hard. I remember a friend actually complimenting my mom on our toilet paper. Compared to cheaper brands or store brand, the difference is very noticeable. And I do buy generic for lots of other things.

  16. I splurge on travel, our living space (renting now), purses, dining out, and experiences.

    My makeup is 50% drugstore and 50% pricier brands and my car is pretty average-priced.

    I don’t splurge on clothes (the exception being suits and dresses for special occasions), shoes, jewelry, cable, and alcohol.

  17. Splurge:
    -Hair and Skin Care products: I have very sensitive skin, so I pay the extra for Aveda or other organic brands
    – Going out to eat at nice restaurants: I just enjoy the experience, we normally go to BYO places with a great chef if possible, so it isn’t too pricey. I’d much rather do that than pay money for other entertainment.
    -Mattress: Once I’ve gone TempurPedic, never going back.
    -Suits, Shoes: So much better quality, but I do usually wait for higher end brands to go on sale.

    -Cleaning products: never noticed a difference
    -Car: as long as it gets me places. I feel that part of the reason I was able to pay off $100K+ in student debt in 5 years was because I was driving a 2001 Ford sedan until this past year.
    -Transportation: I walk everywhere within 2 miles. I rarely pay for cabs. This cuts down on gas, parking, etc.
    -Cleaning: I’ve never had a cleaning service- I pick up after myself. Maybe this is because I live alone
    -Pets: While I would love to have a dog, the expense isn’t worth it as a lawyer; I work too much.

    • Sydney Bristow :

      We’ve been debating a tempur-pedic. We really need a new mattress but are having trouble getting started picking one.

      • Medic Maggie :

        Do it. You won’t regret it. That was probably our biggest splurge in the last 10 years.

        • Sydney Bristow :

          Which one do you have? I didn’t realize there were so many options. I’m also a little worried about it being hot. Have you experienced that?

          • Orangerie :

            They are definitely hot. My BF has one and I don’t love it…. but I tend to sleep hot in general.

          • Medic Maggie :

            I think we have the least-expensive–the basic one. But it’s a king, so it was going to be $$$ regardless. If I had it to do over again, I’d get a similar one, but maybe one with the latex on top so that it stays cooler. The one thing I hate about it is that it is a heat-magnet. I used to sleep cold, but now it seems that I sleep hotter. Not enough to want me to buy another mattress any time soon, though.

          • anon eagle :

            I went to the store to purchase a tempur-pedic and was talked into buying a cheaper Sealy iComfort because of the hot issue. The iComfort is pure heaven. I was able to negotiate the price down too, which may not be possible with tempur-pedics.

          • Sydney Bristow :

            Good to know. Thank you both. I already sleep hot so I’m worried about that.

          • I am always “on fire” as my DH calls it and we have a latex mattress with 4″ of memory foam at the top. The combo has really held up well and isn’t as hot as traditional memory foam mattresses. Honestly, I LOVE it and I was a diehard spring mattress lady.

      • Maudie Atkinson :

        A little late, but I will join the chorus of people saying that the TempurPedic is worth every precious penny. And I realize I’m alone in this, but I don’t find it sleeps hot. I feel the same way about my Dyson vacuum, as tesyaa and Wildkitten mentioned above.
        I tend to splurge on experiences (travel, but also entertaining in our home, hosting folks for dinner or drinks every week). My mattress and my vacuum are the two splurgy-est items I’ve ever bought, and they were both so, so worth it.

  18. I agree that help with cleaning is definitely worth the money. I’m wondering what others pay for that service. I pay my cleaning person $90 (in a small city in the NE). When we originally agreed to this fee, it assumed that she would spend about 4 hours cleaning. Lately, however, I don’t think she ever spends more than three hours, and sometimes only two hours. $90 seems steep for that amount of time?

    • We paid $70 every other week for 2 bedrooms, 1+1/2 bath, living/dining/kitchen/sunroom. Our whole house is about 2200sf, but she cleaned only about 3/4 of it. It took her about 2-4 hours. We had several different services, and they were all about the same price–I think the most we paid was $85

      • smalltown :

        I should add that the rooms that she cleaned were not all the rooms in the house. She did not clean our room or bathroom, or the formal living/dining rooms.

    • A Nonny Moose :

      We pay $145+$30 tip for monthly cleaning. 2br + 2 ba, 1050 sq ft apartment in D.C. It’s three people, though, and they really do an amazing job. They stay for 2 hours or so.

    • $70 every other week for a 1 br/1 ba 650 sq ft apt in DC.

    • $65 every other week for a 4Br 2.5Bath. 2 story

    • Spirograph :

      DC area, $80 every other week for 2br, 2ba and finished basement, about 1500 square feet total. It takes her about 3-4 hours.

  19. Medic Maggie :

    There are lots of splurge-worth things in our life:
    Some foodstuffs we “splurge” on (turns out, Duke’s mayo is cheaper than some of the other nationals!), TP, tissues. But, I also try to buy high-quality for the things that are going to be spotlight flavors, and save on things that are more basic. Like sugar, rice, mustard, bread…I have found that in some cases the house brand is tastier than the name brand (I’m looking at you, Kroger Ricotta cheese vs. Sorrento). We used to “splurge” and get pre-made frozen pizzas, but now I buy frozen dough & top & bake ourselves–way tastier, and way cheaper.

    We also will splurge on things that we intend to last a lifetime, such as cookware & knives, silverware & dishes. Most of our cookware was gifted to us, but as we make purchases, they will be expensive All Clad or similar, because it does absolutely last forever. I “splurge” on good sheets from TJMaxx for us, but not for the kids (at least while bed-wetting is still a distinct possibility). But, our coffeemaker was the cheapest I could find with the features I wanted (programmable, removable water reservoir).

    Clothing is probably one of the places that we cut costs the most. I shop thrift/second-hand for myself & my kids for about 95% of our clothes. That way, I can keep up with trends at a fraction of the cost, and still find lovely basics too. I will splurge on some shoes, but not all. I will buy Keens for work/weekend because they do last forever, and they’re super comfy. But, I’ve not yet splurged on ballet flats. Maybe one day. I also splurge on bras, though that was out of necessity at one point, as I was a very hard-to-fit 30D/DD. Now I can function pretty well in a 32C which is much easier to find at brick & mortar stores.

    I also splurge on haircut/color for me. And I cut the boys’ hair (and hubs’) myself.

    Everything else we have is kind of a “set” expense, and it is what it is. I could say that our housing is a splurge, because we could certainly get by with less. But, we love our house, and moreover, the location, and so continuing to live where we do ripples across our other financial decisions as well.

    We do as much of our own mechanic work as we can; our nanny does light housecleaning (so we aren’t paying for biweekly cleaning service); we don’t have cable (but we do pay for streaming Netflix); we don’t own a computer (so replacement/service isn’t a cost for us).

    In all, it’s a big give & take.

  20. Gail the Goldfish :

    I will splurge on paper products (toilet paper, kleenex, paper towels. the non-brand name ones just don’t seem as good), clothing items that are exactly what I need (for example, if I find a black pencil skirt that fits perfectly but is more than I wanted to spend, I’m probably just going to buy it rather than spending the time to hunt down a cheaper one), and travel (in the sense that I will travel at the drop of a hat. You’ve invited me to attend your wedding on the other side of the world? Great, I’ll be there!). If I could find a cleaning service I could trust, I would probably splurge on that, too.

    What I won’t splurge on: hotels. Yes, I’ll spend money to travel, but once I get there, I’m not staying anywhere fancy. I’m not staying in hostels, but I just don’t think there’s that much difference between an average hotel and a fancy hotel when all I’m doing is sleeping there. I’d rather spend the money on food or entertainment. I’ll compromise on location, though, if a more expensive hotel is in a location that means I’ll get to spend more time sightseeing.

    • Gail the Goldfish :

      Oh, and add to my not worth it list: cable. Between netflix, networks putting their shows online, an antenna, and parental HBO Go and ESPN 360 accounts, we’re covered. If there’s something I really want to watch I can’t get for some reason (or if my parents ever get rid of cable and I lose HBO Go and ESPN 360), my apartment complex has a couple of very nice common room/lounges with large TVs and cable. Plus, the joy I get from not paying Time Warner every month for their terrible service is glorious.

    • I think I agree with you on the hotels with one exception – we stayed at a hotel that was more akin to a resort for our honeymoon on Nantucket and it was well worth the splurge. The hotel had a port and cheese offering for free every afternoon, free bike rentals, free chairs for the beach, free activities like sight seeing, going out on their boat, free continental buffet for breakfast, free shuttles to the downtown area of the island, and an incredibly helpful concierge staff. (They scrounged up a vase and took a fresh cut on my wedding bouquet at 8PM when we checked in that night)

      I will go for a more expensive hotel if there are more freebies/amenities that I would otherwise have to pay for thrown in.

      • That sounds like an amazing hotel. My experience has been that more luxury hotels offer far less in included amenities than discount hotels. For example, discount hotels are far more likely to offer an included continental breakfast, free WiFi, and free parking – all things that fancier hotels charge for separately. Fine for the business traveler, but I’d rather save!

  21. This IS a fun topic! For us, it’s travel and now that we make a little more, we will do things we didn’t used to like pay more for a direct flight or take a taxi rather than schlepping our stuff to/from the hotel on the bus/subway. I will pay more for a nicer hotel with lovely bed linens, whirlpool tub, massages, etc. When I’m on vacation I want to wake up somewhere that is more beautiful & luxurious than have every day.

    Also we now upgrade to a little better rental car. Used to just get the cheapest until I read s that it really makes a difference in your enjoyment of a trip where there’s a lot of driving. It can also mean the difference bet being able to get all of your luggage in.

  22. This is fun!

    Splurge: Dining out, regular trips out of town (I live in the middle of nowhere), clothes (sorta, I don’t make tons of money but I make an effort to step up from Banana/Ann Taylor/Halogen – which I love – when I can). I bought a $200 Vince skirt a few years ago and that baby just won’t quit. Totally worth the splurge. My hair -$150 a month for highlights is a lot for me but always being happy with my hair makes me more confident all around. Waxing. Nuff said.

    Haven’t really yet but plan to splurge on some new furniture. Bought a couch and “leather” chair 7 years ago for about $800 total and they look like utter crap now. Planning an upgrade on those, plus nicer throw pillows than the rando stuff I’ve picked up at TJs.

    Things I don’t splurge on: Technology (laptops, ipods, gadgets, phones); jewelry, fancy hotels (I stay when I can find sales or split the cost with a friend); cars.

  23. Spirograph :

    Hm, I’m the opposite of Kat when it comes to housing. There’s a minimum amount of space I need, but it’s not huge, and as long as I have at least that much space, I’d much rather be in a more convenient location than have more. Amenities are a mixed bag… usually the best locations have good amenities anyway, though.

    As for vacation, I could go either way. I’ve gone a lot of places in the off season and still had a great time. If the only reason you want to visit a place is to see/do [seasonal thing], you have to suck it up with expensive high season. But my trip to Costa Rica wasn’t ruined because it was foggy in the rainforest and the waves weren’t quite as big (I’m a beginner surfer anyway), and I just went to museums and did mostly indoor things when I visited various European cities in the winter. Plus, I hate crowds, so avoiding throngs of tourists is its own off season draw for me.

    I tend to splurge on experiences more than things. I like to buy good quality stuff, but I don’t go out looking for “the best,” and my internal limit for clothes, furniture, etc is probably lower than a lot of people in my income range. I buy mostly drugstore makeup and hair/skincare products (although after the animal-friendly info a few weeks ago, my replacement purchases will be in that vein). I do go to the symphony, ballet, musicals, whatever fairly often and buy the good seats, though. If I go on vacation, I do what I went there to do and anything else that looks fun along the way. If I’m at a restaurant and the dish it’s known for is the most expensive thing on the menu and looks good, I order it. etc etc I also splurge on my time and convenience – so Amazon Prime, house cleaning, a location that cuts my commute in half, direct flights… My husband requires that we splurge on the fastest internet service. *sigh*

  24. Diana Barry :

    I do splurge on:

    – take-out instead of meal planning, much less mental effort;
    – clothes for me;
    – good olive oil and beer;
    – going out to dinner;
    – plenty of babysitting;
    – kid activities (the ‘fancy’ dance studio, for example);
    – driving to work instead of public transportation;
    – service people (lawn, cleaning, etc.)

    Save on:
    – DIY home renovations, probably saved us about $500K markup in ‘new’ home cost;
    – not taking expensive vacations. Our vacations normally cost about $400 (gas, mostly) and are often cheaper than spending a week at home;
    – clothes for the kids;
    – clothes for my DH (he works at home);
    – jewelry – other than my engagement ring and wedding ring, everything is $10 from Forever 21 or similar.
    – watches, don’t buy them.

  25. Clementine :

    Organic Food
    Housing- bought our ‘forever’ house versus a smaller starter home
    Gym Membership (one with lots of group classes, indoor pool, day care, etc.)
    Highlights and a good hair stylist
    TP (Cottonelle), Paper towels (Viva) and Tampons (tampax- a horrible generic experience has brought me back)

    We DIY almost everything- yardwork, painting, cleaning, plumbing, etc.
    At home Spa treatments- I’ve gotten very good at a self-pedi.
    Area we live in- had option to move to high COL area or moderate COL area. Chose the moderate one.
    Furniture – any non-upholstered furniture we have is bought at estate/yard sales and junk shops. We’ve gotten gorgeous pieces for incredibly cheap.

    Great topic. Also, you have all validated my choice that as soon as I get a promotion (anticipated in the next year or so) and the corresponding pay bump, I’m going to hire a cleaning professional. Husband has debated the need for this, but having someone come in once a month and deep clean our house even would bring so much joy and stress relief into my life.

    • My favorite moment of the week sometimes is walking in to my freshly cleaned house, before the kids and the husband have a chance to mess it up. Sometimes I’ll just sit on the couch and enjoy silence and cleanliness before everyone gets home. So worth it.

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