What are the best ways to upgrade personal services such as massages, food delivery, personal training, and more? More importantly, where is the middle ground between DIYing it and, for example, hiring a personal chef? How can you outsource and save time in some areas of your life so that you can focus on spending your time (and money) on the things you enjoy the most?
We’ve already talked about a bunch of stuff in our Next Step series: how to step up your workwear, upgrade your handbags, graduate from IKEA furniture, and buy better shoes — but something else that I thought might be interesting to talk about is services. I came up with a few ideas for areas such as massage, food, exercise, hair/beauty, and home decor/organization — what other services do you think are upgradeable? What other “middle ground” approaches do you know of?
Note: These generally go in order of money required for each level (i.e., Level 1 can be done with little to no money), but obviously other factors come into play here such as time, energy, and desire. Of course, if you’re really into a certain category, you may want to do ALL the levels, all the time (money permitting); you may also want to pursue it further as a hobby or even a future career. Where possible I’ve tried to include thoughts for that as well.
These were my ideas for each category:
Level 1: Foam rollers (here’s a good article on how to use them from the Art of Manliness).
Level 2: Go for massages occasionally (or as you find Groupons).
Level 3: Sign up for a recurring service like Massage Envy — it “commits” you to a monthly massage (and the cost for it), but depending on other options in your area it may be a much more affordable massage.
Level 4: Hire a personal masseuse to come to your home, book a spa day at a swank spa and go to a few different appointments, take a vacation with a spa as your main destination spot (e.g., Mii Amo spa in Sedona, AZ).
Hobby: Look for a couples’ massage class that you can take with your spouse or partner.
Level 1: Cook at home, eat fast food, do a mix thereof (e.g., bring deli meat with you to work, then buy a bagel for 50¢ at the counter and sweet talk the counter guy into giving you lettuce and tomato with it.) If you really want to be budget friendly, buy in bulk and cook for your freezer.
Level 2: Seek out gourmet food trucks, order Seamless/GrubHub, learn to cook with slightly fancier ingredients/equipment. If you’re cooking for a family on the regular, sign up for a meal-planning service like Weelicious or The Fresh 20.
Level 3: Go to gourmet restaurants, take a cooking class, or use some of the new services that send you ingredients for a recipe like Plated, HelloFresh, or Blue Apron. Another option: use some of the newer food delivery services designed for gourmet dining (e.g., Freshology, Caviar, or WunWun).
Level 4: Hire a personal chef, take an eating tour of your favorite region for food.
Hobby: Investigate cooking schools.
Level 2: Join a gym, consider Crossfit, or buy an exercise series like P90x or Insanity. If you’re looking for the next level for lifting, try an online program like Girls Gone Strong ($99-$179). Try one-off classes at fancier gyms for $25 a pop, or join something like ClassPass that lets you sample many fancier classes at a variety of gyms. Train for a race like a 5K, 10K, or marathon (level 4 effort but pretty budget friendly).
Level 3: Buy exercise classes independently of your regular gym (such as barre, Pilates, or spinning classes). Buy some sessions with a personal trainer.
Level 4: Do all of the above. Set up a home gym with your favorite pieces of equipment (e.g., treadmill, elliptical). Look into an exercise-related vacation, such as a biking tour of Italy, or a bootcamp spa.
Hobby: Look into getting your certification for teaching your favorite class — not only will you get paid to work out instead of spending money, you may decide to pursue it further as a career.
Level 1: DIY, baby — with drugstore products. If you’re really on a budget, look for a teaching salon that offers student haircuts (I did this until law school!). Another budget-friendly option: stretch your money by alternating a haircut at a really pricey salon with a trim at a less-expensive salon (where they can hopefully just follow what the better hairstylist did). On the beauty side: Learn some new tricks from YouTube.
Level 2: Go all-in with regular visits to the best salon you can afford. Upgrade your beauty supplies (makeup, hair, accessories like T3 blowdryers and more). Get an occasional deep conditioning treatment, blowout, or updo for a special event. On the makeup side: get your makeup done professionally by booking a “free” makeover appointment at a place like Sephora or M.A.C., where they do your makeup for “free” if you buy $50 worth of product.
Level 3: Get a haircolor or cut (e.g., pixie, blunt bob) that requires frequent maintenance. Get regular blowouts (as in, weekly, à la Kate Middleton — see my tips for how to make a blowout last for days). Look into laser hair removal for unwanted body hair. Consider looking into a service like GlamSquad, where you can get an occasional blowout or professional makeup application at your home.
Level 4: Have a team of professionals to come to your house to do your hair and makeup. Get daily haircuts, à la Anna Wintour.
Hobby: If you enjoy doing your own hair and makeup, consider blogging or vlogging about it to share your finished creations. (Depending on how committed you are to it, you may start to receive free products!)
Level 1: DIY it, get books out of the library, and use Pinterest and home decor blogs as a resource. A great source for (unframed) art: 20×200, where you can get a ton of limited edition prints for as low as $25ish. In terms of keeping a clean house clean, look into a system such as The Fly Lady or [email protected]#$ Your Habitat.
Level 2: Embark on a project such as Apartment Therapy’s 2015 Cure (or their book, The Eight-Step Home Cure). Buy nice furniture, or home organizing products from Ikea, Container Store, Bed Bath & Beyond, and more. On the cleanliness side of things, hire a cleaning professional on a quarterly basis at least. Look into cleaning appliances such as Roomba to help automate things.
Level 3: Use a service such as HomePolish, which allows you to consult and work with an interior designer for a flat hourly fee. Schedule a cleaning service on a more regular basis (such as once every two weeks).
Level 4: Hire an interior designer or professional organizer. Work with a company like California Closets to make the most of your space. On the cleaning side of things: get a housekeeper.
Hobby: Offer to decorate your friends’ homes. Buy multiple homes (either for vacation or just, you know, buying a new home when your old one gets too small) to decorate and organize.
Ladies, what personal services do you use most often? How have you “upgraded” those services through the years (as money or time allowed)?
N.B. These substantive posts are intended to be a source of community comment on a particular topic, which readers can browse through without having to sift out a lot of unrelated comments. And so, although of course we highly value all comments by our readers, we’re going to ask you to please keep your comments on topic; threadjacks will be deleted at our sole discretion and convenience. Thank you for your understanding!