6.22.2011

What Do You Splurge On?

image via Odette New York

I believe wholeheartedly that things and experiences that are hand-crafted, lasting, well-made…have a sort of inherent luxury. As products are increasingly mass-produced and highly processed, it feels hugely satisfying when I spend my money on something infused with a sense of mindfulness.

I rarely experience buyer’s remorse when I purchase a dozen eggs bought at the farmer’s market (directly from the farmer that raised the chickens) or a handmade leather bag. But the trick, for me, is balancing my commitment/desire for these types of things (which tend to be more expensive) with my budget. And lately, with a slew of new expenses, some self-inflicted (our pool, summer camps for the girls), some unplanned (home repairs, car repairs, surgeries, etc…) we’ve had to prioritize more than ever.


image via here with quote from this article...


In our budgeting efforts, assigning numbers to broad categories is the (somewhat) easy part, determining, for example, that we’ll allot a certain amount per week on groceries. The more complicated decision is how we’ll actually spend the allotment -- what we’ll cut-back on and what we’ll “splurge” on.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot of late, so I decided to make a little list (I do love me some list-making) of some of the things I’m willing to splurge on. The list might evolve over time, but it was a good exercise to put a stake in the ground on how we're want to spend our money. Here’s what’s currently making the cut:


  • Cultural Experiences/Memberships (museums,performances, etc...)

  • (Occasional) Travel

  • Organic Produce, Good Food...Good Coffee (!)

Equally important is the belt tightening necessary so we can actually swing the organic strawberries and the museum trips, which means dialing back on pretty much everything else… clothes, shoes, house stuff, eating out. Bolstered by my resolution to buy way less and buy higher quality when I do purchase something (and with Operation Simplicity to keep me accountable), I’ve finally got a pretty good grasp on curbing the acquisitions. The eating out, though, is a harder nut to crack. We struggle in this area, big time…so we’re committed to spending the summer focused on making eating at-home easier and more appealing and shifting our mindset so a restaurant visit starts to feel like a rare and special treat again rather than the norm. We’re bringing special back…

Have any of you guys gone through a similar exercise? How do you define luxury? How do you approach your budgeting when you think about “splurges”…what do you splurge on?

22 comments:

Lovin That! said...

What perfect timing to read this post! I totally agree and find that money is wasted on things I don't need or obligations and it's more special when it's something you've saved for. I think it comes down to knowing your values and I find as a mid-thirties mom, wife, career and almost 2 kids I'm just tapping into that now too! Thank-you for the inspiring post.

Rachel said...

Yes, it's an interesting balance. We sat down and looked at our budget when we realized we were going to need to save for the wedding. And I realized that I'll happily prioritize experiences over stuff. Articulating that made everything a little easier. I don't feel guilty anymore that we keep our cable (um, we both really love our cable and we watch a lot of shows together and with friends) and pay for spinning classes we take together and go out to regular happy hours with friends. Those are all experiences for me.

And it makes it easier to turn down going out when it would be for convenience rather than pleasure (instead, I keep a stock of TJs frozen options in the fridge, which are way cheaper and take no time).

It makes it a lot easier for me to stop randomly shopping. I'm working on getting my wardrobe nailed so that I can splurge on the occasional piece if I find something that meets a need for me. And I'll do regular stock ups to replace pieces as they wear out. But I'm really trying to avoid buying impulsively. Mostly, for me, this just means not going into stores.

The grocery budget slays me - there are only two of us and we're still bad at keeping it low. We indulge in good beer, decent cheese and a CSA subscription for our veggies - all of those feel like luxuries. I only buy us meat every week or two, because the good stuff is pricey. Luckily, bulk grains and beans are fairly cheap, so I try to make sure we make good use of those staples.

Kelly and Kelly said...

I totally agree that the definition of luxury has changed. Bags with the label printed all over them are falling out of being in fashion and small designers who make things in the US (and by hand even) are where it's at now it seems.

We splurge on raw milk and free-range eggs (truly free range, don't get me started on eggs from the grocery). We don't buy organic/free-range meat all the time though. I just don't know how to fit it in the budget. So I guess it's all a balance. You have to pick what is most important. The girls drink milk every day. We eat a lot of eggs. We don't eat meat daily. So it all works out hopefully.

And like the comment above, I do best when I stay out of stores. The impulse buys are what do me in too.

-Maria- said...

I spend most of my money on groceries- i feel it's a necessary luxury. I don't take for granted the quality of food i buy but at the same time I feel like it's a sort of insurance towards better health- thus less money spent on future medical/doctor visits. I try to buy the best ingredients but I also get almost all my beef and lamb directly from the farmer buying 1/4-1/2 at a time which really cuts down on the cost of high quality meat.

Jessica said...

I'm having a very hard time with this lately. We've seen our income drop by around $1000 a month in the past year. We don't have any trouble paying the bills, and we save a lot. But once those two things are accomplished we just don't have the extra money that we used to. And while I know things could be much worse and that we're ten times as lucky as some others, it's a real bummer to not have the money for the things that made life enjoyable for you. I love traveling, not extravagantly-- just around the U.S., but there's little time or money for that. My hobby of film photography feels very expensive now. We used to buy organic, grass-fed meat from a local ranch, but it's just too costly now. So, at the moment I'm sort of lost in the process of figuring it out. Hopefully I'll get there soon.

Tracy said...

Love the definition. Food is definitely high on the list - but we are finding ways to keep the CSA membership and organic grass-fed meat on the table but cutting back on eating out - and eating more vegetarian options (and reducing the amount I cook - no leftovers - but nothing going in the trash either.) Travel is a close second. And recently I have added home and clothing to my top 5. We really have everything we need as far as furniture - and anything new I bring into the house I want us to love - and for it to last forever. Clothing is similar. Classic and well-made. Of course the occasionally fun and trendy thing pops in as well. Very thoughtful post. Thank you!

Ana Degenaar said...

Definitely organic produce. No doubt about it... and perfume... some times.

modern-eve.com said...

Why am I plagued with expensive taste? I am definitely the splurger in my family. My husband would be content with the cheapest of almost everything. Here are some things I think are worth the extra dough:
-Date nights with my husband.
- Investment clothing items. Trying to stay away from the ultra-trendy and cheap.
-Organic meat (but smaller portions).
-Tips for valet. It's hot here in TX.
-Girl's trip -- hopefully happening in Sept!

Anne Living Life said...

I love this post. Especially this line: We’re bringing special back…

Jessica said...

We splurge on high-quality food, which means we eat at home for almost every meal. Something I find helpful is to make a menu for the week & then shop based on the menu. Of course you will need to adjust based on what's available at your farmer's market but it really saves so much time & effort & money to approach meals this way. Good luck!

Pretty Mommy said...

Ahhh....hmmm, I'm a chronic splurger - ack! but I would really love to plan a special, long, rent a house somewhere far flung trip somewhere next summer so I will be saving my pennies for that and only splurging on good food (always) and keeping my closet super basic but with good accessories...

Simply Mel {Reverie} said...

we have definitely adjusted our budget over the past few years, and it is never for the sake of expanding our means {aka artist's family}. However, one thing we never cut back on is organic and/or local grown food. For us, this is our lifeline to a healthy and fulfilling life ~ you are what you eat. Investing in the best possible foods keep us out of the doctor's office and free of meds. Americans spend less on food than other developed countries, and this is a sad fact. Yes, organic and healthy food may seem expensive while household incomes are decreasing, but we choose where our money is spent: cable tv, latest tech gadgets, clothes, travel, etc. It is all about priorities. Great thought provoking post {as usual}.

saltandpine said...

I love how your posts help me organize so many similar thoughts swirling around my brain! My husband and I were just talking about this. Healthy, local food tends to be a splurge compared to other stuff found in the grocery store, but is a no-brainer for us. It is usually grown/made/raised by our friends and neighbors, so not only is it good food, but it supports our community. Travel is another thing I want to prioritize. We haven't done it enough in the last few years and I really want to save for some great trips. I just need to remind myself to not be tempted by things I think I want or need without really thinking it through first!

ariel said...

Hi! I'm a long time reader (going back a couple of years) but for some reason this is my first comment!

This post resonated with me because when I met my fiance I was not used to having the budget to splurge on good food and especially on eating out. Over the last year, somehow eating out at great restaurants has become the norm, like you said, and Phil and I are actively trying to "make it special again."

He writes a blog called the Selective Omnivore about trying to find family-farm, good-for-us-and-the-earth food, how to afford it, how to cook it, and how to get a three year old to eat it. http://theselectiveomnivore.com/

Thanks for the years of great reading, Joslyn! Keep up the inspiring simplifying work!
Ariel

JAIME RUGH said...

i splurge on experiences - like i imagine i will be shelling out money left and right on our southwest road trip this summer on food and souvenirs, museums, gardens and such.

at home - i tend to splurge more on the things that make our home cozy- textiles, plants, food etc.

this post is funny to me with that dries van noten quote. i love the quote and i love him, but it's just funny since i was doing that writing about massively splurging on dries van noten shoes years back and it's been on my mind.

xo,
jaime

amy said...

This spring/summer I have splurged on fragrant herbs... I have pots full of them near our entry door and around our outdoor seating area...
I loved this post Joslyn and all of the reader comments...
Amy

Jacki said...

Thank you so much for the inspiring, encouraging post... saving for a house to get my two-year-old out of our crappy neighborhood before kindergarten! I'm finding that the attempt at a no-spending challenge has really helped me define what's important to me, and I'm appreciating things I never knew where a part of who I am. I'm finding I really LOVE: working in our yard, going to the library, going to the park with my daughter, simple healthy food, the fun of finding new ways to wear old clothes, my grandmother's jewelry, putting up my daughter's pre-school art around the house, donating all the crap in my attic... I find I do a lot more mindful planning, more able to enjoy 'well-spent' time. Isn't it funny how a lot of these 'green living' and 'cultivating a fuller, richer life' ideas actually save money too? I have my setbacks, focusing too much on 'lack', but there is always something (i.e. a good post from a favorite blogger) to steer me back.

amy turn sharp of doobleh-vay said...

we think alike xo

first came love said...

It's always a struggle to budget for me and my husband when it comes down to our arts (music and photography). We don't know where to draw the line expense wise and then trying to divide the percentage between the two loves is baffling. Art is sometimes ambiguous with over arching elements into other parts of our lives. We try to talk it through as projects come and go. Thanks for the great post! You definitely have me thinking about it again.

Toni said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Toni said...

We have a budget that's been working pretty well for us for almost 2 years. However, the things that we work into our budget that we consider "luxuries" are acting classes for my daughter (this is truly her passion), travel (daytrips, weekend getaways, or weeklong vacations. I want my kids to have opportunities that I didn't), date night with my husband.

We're purging/decluttering (how did we get so much useless stuff?) and it's making me more mindful of future purchases as we do some remodeling/redecorating. For us, we're starting to embrace simplicity and the "less is more" for our home and our lives. I'd rather have a few quality items that will last a long time than tons of "throwaway" things. So, we don't mind spending a bit more for quality when our budget allows.

Great post!

melissa engel marterella said...

My husband and I have been working on this for the last two-ish years, prompted by me being downsized while pregnant. I'm lucky, I have a part-time business that allows me to continue to stay home, but we've been forced into living a budget-conscious lifestyle due to the loss of my primary income. While I occasionally miss that steady paycheck, I love the way this new lifestyle has made us more mindful about our discretionary spending, and I wouldn't go back to our old ways.

I'm working on cherishing experience over things, and want to teach this to my daughter. Don't get me wrong, I love beautiful things - as a designer, clothing and home are especially important to me. But at the end of the day, I don't want to be tied to stuff.

New luxuries:
- organic and locally grown food
- date night (babysitter!)
- restaurants - still room for improvement on this one, and I love Rachel's comment about stashing TJ frozen dinners in her freezer for emergency situations...in my quest to keep our family eating healthy, I stopped buying such things...but let's face it, eating out for last minute meals is way more expensive than a TJ frozen, and it isn't any healthier.