Updated on 11.27.09

Spending on Your Passion

Trent Hamm

Recently, I picked up two Le Creuset 5 1/2 quart French ovens on a special deal. I’ve been slowly upgrading our kitchen implements and I’ve wanted to upgrade our cracked ceramic casseroles with enameled cast iron that can be used over a burner and also thrown in an oven for baking purposes.

They were expensive, far more than the ceramic items we originally purchased for casseroles. However, the casseroles were already slightly cracked, didn’t heat evenly, and weren’t to be used over an open flame. The new ones fulfilled the exact need we had and allows us to also reduce the number of items in our kitchen cupboard, as several items are now headed for a future yard sale.

Here’s the real thing, though. I don’t feel bad at all about spending the money on the French ovens.

First, I planned ahead for buying them. I’ve been studying and planning for this purchase for a few months. I knew that I wanted to replace our casseroles after a dish cooked in the ceramic casserole was very unevenly heated and was developing a large, ominous crack on the side. I spent some time studying the options and decided that these were the ones I wanted.

Second, they’ll last forever. They come with a 101 year warranty. My grandchildren will be using them (if they want to, of course). I’ll never have to buy another casserole again.

Third, the purchase is in line with something I’m deeply passionate about. I love to cook, preparing elaborate meals in our kitchen. I also tend to get frustrated by items that don’t work well and I also strive to maintain what I have – I’ll stand there honing knives and other such things when there’s not a meal to be prepared. In other words, food preparation is a real passion of mine.

Here’s the real truth of the entire story. If it’s something you’re passionate about, you plan for it, and you can afford it, don’t feel guilty about buying it. There’s absolutely nothing “wrong” with living your life and enjoying the things you truly care about.

It only becomes dangerous when you begin to extend that policy into purchases of items you don’t really care about that much or that you buy impulsively. That’s a slippery slope into the type of consumerism that leaves you buried under a pile of debt.

How do you always distinguish between these two? It’s easy – just be mindful of yourself and how you choose to spend money. Look at what you’re most passionate about and how you spend your time. The more time you spend (and the more deeply you enjoy that time), the more worthwhile a purchase often is in that area. Whenever you consider a purchase, back off and ask yourself if you really need it or if there isn’t another way to scratch that same itch for a lower price. I often use the “thirty day rule” for any major purchase – I just wait thirty days and see whether it’s something that’s genuinely important to me or if it’s just a fleeting impulse that was better off ignored.

And if you’re wondering, yes, we used these at our Thanksgiving dinner. We made dressing in them and the dressing turned out exquisitely, cooked very evenly throughout and not sticking at all to the French oven. In other words, it’s almost perfectly what we wanted.

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  1. Nicole says:

    I’m also a big fan of Le Crueset, and make stuffing in our large flame dutch oven every year. I hate using anything other than our medium/small le crueset for rice.

    They really do honor their warranty– after something like 30 years of heavy use, my father’s le crueset started cracking, and they replaced the entire set no questions asked. (Note: never ever let water boil to the point of complete evaporation– that is really hard on the ceramic and can cause it to pop off).

    Le Crueset was something we budgeted for even when we were nearly broke graduate students. It’s one of those high quality choices that a truly frugal person never regrets.

  2. Benjamin says:

    We received one of these dishes for our wedding over 8 years ago! They’re are excellent for just about anything we use them for. We use it several times a month and it looks as shiny and new as the day we received it!

    Meanwhile, we’ve already had to replace some of the other pots and pans we received as wedding gifts twice!

  3. Craig says:

    I don’t actually own any Le Creuset, but enameled cast iron is absolutely the way to go. I love my two pots to death. If you cook like I do, they’ll look like they’ve been through a war before long (the teltale purpulish discoloration up to the exact level of the coq au vin, for instance), but the proof of the pudding is in the eating, non? I’m going to make turkey stock in one of them tomorrow–bring to the simmer on the stove, then into a 180 degree oven for six or seven hours. Just wonderful.

  4. Adam says:

    Excellent post.

    I think more PF blog posts should give advice on when its okay to spend some money on a “want” purchase, instead of re-hashing the same tired garbage about latte factors, freezing your credit cards in ice and driving your car until the doors fall off.

    – Save for it with cash
    – Research, research, research
    – Spend in an area you enjoy (cooking, travel, shoes, video games)
    – don’t feel guilty about the purchase

    I have been rather frugal lately and didn’t take a vacation this year because I switched jobs and took a pay out of vacation pay rather than time off between the two jobs. I have no debt, good retirement savings and a $25k emergency fund (about 10 months expenses) so I splurged on some dvd sets I have wanted a while now last night after finding the best prices. I’ll watch them over and over again, with friends and alone for years to come. Cost? $120. A lot to some people, but worth it to me.

  5. friend says:

    I like those too. Care to share more details on your special deal?

  6. Zella says:

    Thanks for this post– this is exactly what I’ve been trying to construe to my husband about our music collection.

  7. Sarah says:

    Enjoy your new purchase – I LOVE my Le Creuset that we bought last year. I almost feel like a professional chef when I use it.

  8. Michelle says:

    We’re taking this same approach to buying a new TV. We love movies, watching one every evening. Currently, we have Netflix, which is awesome for us, and no cable because it doesn’t meet our needs. We’re saving for a 52 inch plasma, and bluray player. Some people have given us crap for it, but we figure if we’re paying in cash, and it’s something that we really want, what’s the harm?

  9. Dave says:

    I have used the “it will last forever” justification in buing nice things before, but there’s one part of it I didn’t consider at first. I don’t care how long it lasts if it’s lost or stolen. Now I’m sure you live in a substantailly lower crime area than I used to, and theft of kitchen implements is probably not rampant anywhere (and accidential loss is nearly impossible I hope..), but in considering big ticket items it’s something to keep in mind. I had a lot of great craftsman and snap-on tools that I bought thinking they’d last me years and years, and then they were stolen back when i lived in the city… Because of this I’ve purposely not bought other things of high value that are easy to lose or have forcibly removed from my person. For example I’d love a high end watch, not rolex but rolex grade. I could realistically afford one if I saved up for it for a little while, but I’ve lost several watches in the past and know I would be devastated if I lost one that cost that much. Until i can afford to LOSE a watch that expensive and not sweat it too badly, I won’t buy one.

  10. Noadi says:

    Ooo! I’m jealous. However I don’t really do a lot of cooking that would require one of those. I don’t do many casseroles and use the crock pot for most slow cooked foods.

    I have my little fund of money for stuff I want and save up for everything. Currently the fund is saving for some custom fit clothing I can’t tailor myself. Clothes and cooking about about the only typical “feminine” things I enjoy. Thankfully my taste in clothes is not related to current fashion trends so when I spend $200 on something to wear it’s going to last me years.

  11. tambo says:

    I’m saving up for a kitchen aid stand mixer, so the cast iron casseroles will have to wait for me, but they’re definitely on the list! :)

  12. Kenney says:

    I think more important than just spending on things that you’re passionate about, is to not spend unconsciously or fall victim to buying things for the wrong reasons (mainly to impress other folks). But if you want something that is really nice and expensive, and you can afford it, and the purchase makes sense? I say why not. You only live once.

  13. Kathy says:

    @tambo #11–When you get that kitchen aid mixer, it will be worth every penny you spent. I have one and it’s the best mixer I have ever owned.

  14. Nicole says:

    @tambo The kitchen aid stand mixer was our fancy purchase year #2. Also totally worth it. (And, when the engine burned out after a year and some it was still under warranty and they sent us their top of the line model, with the stronger engine, as a replacement. Another company with excellent customer service.)

  15. ej says:

    “a 52 inch plasma … what’s the harm?”

    The harm may not be to your wallet, but someone else’s drinking water/back yard.
    Just saying that all our choices have impacts.

  16. Evangeline says:

    This is sound financial advice. Save for what you want, do your homework and buy the kind of quality you need to fulfill your goal.

  17. anne says:

    over time you spend a fortune on ingredients for the meals you make, and lots of time prepping the food and then cleaning up after.

    you’re saving money if the pots and pans you cook the food in keep you from burning the ingredients, and make it quicker and easier to clean up after.

    i think some people don’t think they’re good cooks only because they’re struggling to cook w/ flimsy pots and pans, and they’re burning food. they think it’s their fault, but it’s not- it’s just too hard to cook w/ cheap pots and pans. and then the clean up after?? ugh.

    i’ve put together our farberware set by scouring estate sales, tag sales, and thrift shops. i bought one large pot new, but the rest i bought already used.

    and i love cast iron skillets, too. i had the hardware store order me an extra large one- it’s so heavy, but i just love it. and you can start it on the stove top and then finish in the oven or broiler.

    good pots and pans pay for themselves pretty quickly- they really do.

    i don’t think i’ve ever found any used le creuset-
    i imagine it’s a combination of people not wanting to part w/ it, or other shoppers scooping them up before i get there.

    i suppose i’ll have to buy it new.

    so what’s this special deal you found, trent- is it online?? care to share your source??

  18. Michelle says:

    Just out of curiousity, how does a TV harm someone else’s drinking water or backyard?

  19. Georgia says:

    I do not cook all that much anymore, since I am only one. However, I have what I feel is an excellent set of pans. I have a cheap set that is 10-15 years old (1-2 qt & 1-1 qt saucepans with lids) which work marvelously. They are the waterless type and clean up so nicely.

    My skillets, in several sizes, are what used to be sold on HSN as Ultrex. The linings are warrantied for 50-75 years. As the gentleman said, you can scrape the lining and it will still be nonstick. He even sent metal utensils with his items.

    I bought my daughter a complete set when she acquired her first home. She had one of her skillets catch on fire. It still works very well. My husband, God rest his soul, did not understand the directions to not keep the heat high as it was distributed evenly. To fry eggs, he would turn the heat on high. The inside of this skillet is scarred, but it is still nonstick. I use in several times a week.

    This brand is no longer on sale on HSN. It has a different name on the market. This man said he manufactured pans from the high to the low end. These pots &pans are all I will ever need & they will last me the rest of my life. I’m 72 now.

  20. almost there says:

    Dave #9,I love quartz watches for their accuracy, but hate changing the batteries. I bought a rolex to replace the one that I sold to start a savings fund for my child. Hardly ever wear it as it is not as accurate as a quartz watch. In hindsight, a foolish purchase for me. I have now discovered the perfect quartz watch, a Citizen Eco-Drive model that was pretty inexpensive ($74, new) and guaranteed to never need a replacement battery as it is solar powered. Like you, I had my craftsman tools stolen during a move so just buy inexpensive ones now.

  21. triLcat says:

    Dave #9 For things like jewelry (which an expensive watch is) and high-quality tools, you should be insured against theft or loss if you have anything of value.

  22. @#18- eWaste & disposal…this stuff has to go somewhere. Landfills are in people’s backyards and all too often they leak leachate into the local aquifer.

  23. Melissa says:

    Yes so true, it’s why we save money on everyday unimportant things – so we can afford to spend guiltlessly on our passions. That’s good living.

    I also love our Le Creuset oven, definitely a great investment for me too. At the other end of the scale though, I have an awesome cast iron skillet that will also last a life time and it was $8 at the army disposals store.

  24. Courtney says:

    Cook’s Illustrated reviewed Dutch ovens earlier this year. They found that several brands were comparable in quality to Le Creuset and much less expensive – Tramontina, Lodge, and I believe Chefmate. All were in the $40-50 range.

  25. Stephan F- says:

    We love our Le Creuset.
    We got a larger one 7.5q for pot roasts and it has come in pretty handy. Our current apartment has a lousy oven and we use it as an intermediary vessel for roasting chicken. Makes for a much more even roast.
    We recently got the metal knob for doing a few things at higher oven temps, since the regular bakelite ones top out at 400F or so.

    #24 Don’t got with the Lodge just yet, they outsourced that to China and the enamel is falling off pretty often.

  26. SLCCOM says:

    #22, I don’t know where you live, but they don’t build landfills in people’s back yards. BAck yards may end up near a landfill, but that is permitted by the local zoning. And there is no shortage of land for landfills, and when they are filled up, they often become very desirable housing developments.

    And they are very well engineered,and there is very little leakage into the places where there is groundwater. And there aren’t that many places depending on groundwater.

    People should enjoy the things they want to enjoy without people like you laying guilt trips.

  27. sbt says:

    I agree that sometimes it’s worth spending the money to get something of quality that will last and be useable for a long, long time. That said, I could not bring myself to buy the La Creuset. I’m just too cheap. On the other hand, after some research, I found the Lodge enameled cast iron, and bought a nice casserole on special for $29.99. It’s great quality, and so far I am very, very happy with it. Enameled cast iron is fantastic.

    On another note, when it comes to plain cast iron, IMHO, there is not a single piece of new stuff that is worth buying. It is all cast with low quality casting sand that leaves a rough surface. 20 years of seasoning will not change this. My cast iron comes from Grandma, or from estate sales and auctions, and dates to the 1920’s. It is as smooth as glass, and completely nonstick. Average price paid for the ones I bought, $20-40. Great stuff.

  28. Ellen / MoneyLounge says:

    This post hits home with me. My passions are in computers and technology and design, so naturally a new macbook pro is the equivalent for me of cast iron cookware for you. I have been back and forth trying to justify buying a new one to replace my ancient one and have settled on a doable solution. I will start a “savings account” using Apple gift cards that I purchase when I can afford. As I start a pile of plastic in my quest for a new laptop, the money remains set aside with a single purpose in mind. Hopefully I’ll get there soon, but only when I can really afford it.

  29. tarits says:

    agree! i’m passionate about theater and music, so i won’t hesistate to spend money on tickets for really good seats to a musical play by my favorite theater group,or to watch choirs perform. i do take advantage of free shows when they fit my schedule, but paying for the privilege is also my way of supporting the culture and the arts.

  30. Jennifer says:

    Where did you buy yours? I came across a couple at Marshalls in a good size (normally all I can find are odd sizes) and I came close to buying but couldn’t pull the trigger. They were still a little over $100.

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