Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Reader Survey

Everyone seems to be talking about what they no longer spend money on, or how they are cutting back. Yet I know that, no matter how tight our finances are, there are certain things we choose to spend money on-- whether for luxury, idealism, or just-can't-live-without-it-ness. I'm really curious what these items are for other people.

So, what do you spend money on?

I'll go first. I buy fancy dish soap. It costs at least twice as much as the regular stuff, but it looks nice, smells nice, is easy on the skin and environment, and therefore improves my quality of life-- we don't have a dishwasher and so we spend a significant amount of time standing there washing dishes, smelling the soap. It's completely worth the extra $5 every 2-3 months.

On the more principled end of things, I buy nicer jewelry and shoes. This doesn't mean that I actually spend more money than most people altogether on these things. I have been known to save for two years, without having a watch to wear, in favor of buying the one I really wanted. Same with a pair of $100 earrings-- I just didn't buy any other jewelry that year (by the way, these would be next on my list.) I don't own many pairs of shoes, but almost all of them cost over $100. There is something very essential to me about having really good shoes that hold up and are comfortable but of course, stylish. And no buyer's remorse.... The other thing is that if I do happen to decide that I don't want to own something anymore, it still has value-- even after being used-- and I sell it on ebay!

In the can't-live-without category, Jeff and I love to eat out. We have a very small budget for this each month, and about 70% of our meals out are happy hour deals. If you are local, the best happy hour I have ever found is here. Whenever extra money comes our way, our first impulse is to go out to eat! We don't do fast food, and I try not to eat at places that serve food I could easily make at home, so we have to be super choosy about where we go to spend our precious dinner money. We could save good amount of money by never going out to eat, but we just enjoy it way too much to stop.

Addendum: For you Angelinos, our favorite happy hour spots there were Cafe Santorini and Ciudad (this one was actually my favorite restaurant, period)-- you should check them out!

There are so many things that we have to spend money on, but I am so curious what other people like to spend their money on, even when we're feeling some financial strain. Please share!


Luke said...

This is a fun survey, and such a good thing to think about. It's important to realize what are and aren't parts of our life that give it "quality". (c:

I loved the places we went to eat while I was with you. Such excellent food, and not really what you'd readily make at home. Broder's in particular was a highlight. (with the surprisingly good service, eh?) We've such a foodie family.

Money I spend... I'd say my largest expense is travel. It isn't essential and might get pruned back, but I feel like making trips to see people 1) expresses their value to me and 2) gives me marks on the time-line of a year that are highlights. (things to look forward to)

Other expenses.. there isn't much else. I like to have good breakfast tea and orange juice available. (two kinds of drinks at breakfast is my sense of luxury). I don't cut back on any forms of hospitality because I value graciousness so highly. So treating people for meals, or shopping for meals/snacks if people are coming over.. I don't think about cost.

Megan McMillan said...

We're similar to Luke. I love to host parties, have people over for dinner, have guests stay with us. Even though we're frugal with our food budget (although we eat *well* because we make everything from scratch and don't buy processed), I love to splurge for other people. We had a big NYE party and I spent two weeks of our grocery budget for one night, and it was totally worth it.

Also, Murray eats boxed cereal every morning. I keep trying to sell him on oatmeal or heartier, cooked breakfasts or even just bulk grains in milk, but he's a Cheerios guy through and through. I've succeeded in switching him over to healthy whole grain boxed cereal, but can't seem to break the box addiction. Oh well.

We buy quality tools, technology and equipment that we use for our work. From computers to cameras to brad nailers to carrying cases for those tools, we'll dole out the big bucks (after carefully researching the best deal -- shout out to B&H -- and mulling over the decision for ages of course).

Both of us love it when we are able to pick up something cheap / free that's quality, even if we have to fix it ourselves. That's a big high, but it's never worth it to try to wait for something like that to come along when you need it now for your work.

Case in point, we picked up a rickety ladder off the street a few months ago and tightened it up, but the thing is still shaky. We finally decided that a rickety ladder just isn't worth the risk, so we're saving up the $200 bucks or so that it will take to replace it. Gulp. That's not exactly money that's fun to spend, but it's too important.

Lastly: travel. I've never regretted any money we've ever spent traveling. I have buyers remorse all the time over other items, but not for that. I'll take a trip over a newer car / consumer electronics / brand new clothes / a warmer house / convenience foods / a mortgage any day!

Great question, Ariana!

ShackelMom said...

I had to think about this one, but even though I like to live fairly cheap, I'll spend a little extra on some good cheese (in the Philippines, that means real cheese). There, some good veggies are expensive, but we buy those too. But imported grapes? No.

We like to have good computers, but buy them used-- three to four years old.

And our weakness is used books, and 'finds' at thrift stores. I just found an Italian, stovetop, 6 cup espresso maker for less than $5! Won't my guests be pleased?

Anonymous said...

Fun question!

Whenever I can find artichokes I pick them up - the price makes hardly any difference in my decision. I also regularly buy Tropicana orange juice because it's pure and healthy. (Usually get it at Costco where it's a little cheaper.) I'm a sucker for Trader Joe's freeze dried mangos, and we always stock up on a whole bunch when were in IN or CA. (Jim does me a favor and hides a couple bags so I'll have a surprise sometime when I really need a treat... :) And Lara Bars are a real luxury for me - I regularly buy them for quick snacks.

I love cleaning products and usually feel very justified about buying whichever I want, since I'll be cleaning the house for everyone!

And we love hosting people when they come to stay, so we don't think about cost when they're here or when we're buying snacks for them.

Looks like I mainly splurge on food! Hmmm........

Unknown said...

I am completely agreed on travel, Luke and Meg! Can anyone really regret something like that? I hope that more traveling is in our future-- Finland is top of the list.

I love that food is a major one for so many people-- it is such a primal desire, and a good meal is so satisfying is many ways...

Like Luke and Erin, I think hospitality is a GREAT way to spend money-- it's always worth it!

Anonymous said...

I don't wear make up that often, but I really like the nice stuff
and I really like nice make up brushes too. I'll buy one thing at Sephora or Sacs and it last's forever. This was my most rewarding "Splurge": On her visit last spring, my poor, sweet granddaughter, Helen, got car sick and vomited blue berries all over herself just as the family arrived for a day at "The Living Desert". She was just crushed. The closest stores were in Victoria Gardens (on El Paseo, which happens to be the "Rodeo Drive" of the desert). So she and I drove over there together,found a single children's store and wouldn't you know, there, hanging right in front on the rack was a beautiful sun dress in her favorite color! I suspected that this was the type of store where movie stars shop for their children, but I didn't even look at the price tag. I even bought a hat to match, since the hat she had with her had taken the brunt of the blue berries. I know I could probably have bought her a whole wardrobe at Target for what that little dress cost, but her delight was worth every single penny and then some. I felt so rich that day! I wouldn't trade the moment for anything. My grandkids are my weakness. For myself, I just as soon shop in thrift stores! I love a bargain, but I will spend almost anything to create a memory.

Nathan said...

Our kids education...

I know we could do "something else", but our kids school is a wonderful environment and it's an investment to their future. PLUS, (rather selfishly) we do not have to worry about their peers or teachers...


Gretchen said...

We are on a very tight budget but when I see blueberries at Costco that aren't moldy or soggy I snatch them up. We are a berry family! Although I've always been a splurger I've come to realize I can use Kirkland shampoo, suave body wash and fairly inexpensive make-up and face lotion. It's kind of a relief to come to realize this. =0)

Bethany said...

This has been fun to think about. I have found that we had already cut back our spending so much, that I actually feel like we have been spending more lately since there isn't much more cutting we can do with out being really extreme. But I keep coming back to the thought that it is all relative. What seems like a luxury to one person is someone else's normal. So I finally decided that it isn't about how much I spend, it is more about whether it actually feels like a luxury or not. As we have tried to simplify our lives and reduce our “carbon footprint” and expenses, I have discovered the luxury that I don't want to give up. It's a nice, long, hot shower. I sometimes think about how I could turn down the water heater and use less electricity, save money, and do some good for the environment. But the truth is that if there was an attendant standing outside my bathroom and I had to fork over cash every time I wanted to take a hot shower, I would gladly do it once (or twice) a day! I love a hot shower!

We also splurge on local food. Knowing where our food comes from and who is getting our money makes it easy.

And I feel like life runs so much more smoothly for me when things are organized. A place for everything and everything in it's place, right? I tend to spend on things that will help me organize stuff: bins, baskets, drawers, shelves, plastic totes. For someone who can't seem to splurge on other things this seems funny to me, now that I think about it.

Oh, and anything that will keep us warm in the winter! Down coats, shearling boots, wool sweaters, long underwear, woodstove!

Dennis Family said...

I really enjoyed reading what everyone else had to say. One of the things that we usually have room for in our budget is eco-friendly cleaning products and body care. I feel like this takes care of our health just as much as our food choices do.
The other is fresh bread, if I had a bakery next door I'd really run up a bill, but because I don't, I make all of our bread fresh every night.
I also love to entertain and don't think about what I spend when it comes to hosting a party. We have never gone without because we shared what we had. It is amazing how things balance out, there is always more for us when we are generous with others!
I am with Ariana when it comes to shoes, I have never regretted long lasting comfortable shoes.

Anonymous said...

Oh- I thought of something else.

I see a trainer and I know that the money I spend could go towards other things (see my response above!), but seeing him is so crucial to my mental and physical health!

Plus, would I really do 3 sets of squats holding a 16# medicine ball? I don't think so!


EMILY said...

Oooh! This is fun!

We're trying very hard to save to buy a house, so we don't eat out very often (maybe once a month), but we like nice beer, so we'll spend a bit on that.

It's cold here in Philly, and I walk a lot, and I am a wimp. So, Smart Wool socks are my favorite splurge. I get them on Sierra Trading Post, where the seconds (which I can never tell why they are seconds) are always on sale.

I love my neighborhood store. It's owned by a family and they all work there. They remember your name and even congratulated me when they noticed I stopped buying cigarettes. They carry Mrs. Meyers cleaning products, so I spend a bit more buying them there. I like the Lemon Verbena the best.

goodjourneys said...

Hello there Ariana,

I LOVE the Caldrea dish soap too--it smells so wonderful. Your blog is great--I love seeing what you're up to. And Amelia is, of course, beautiful!

Maria (from FA days)