Updated on 08.01.14

The Simple Dollar Weekly Roundup: Things I Splurge On Edition

Trent Hamm

Yesterday, I mentioned a bit about my challenges with splurging on certain items, which led a few readers to email me and ask for more information. I thought about this for a while and was able to come up with a short list of things I still splurge on.

Food I mentioned yesterday that I tend to splurge on food, and it’s definitely true. If I find a dish I want to try – like my recent experiments with croque-madames – I’m quite willing to spend to make sure I get the correct ingredients, and ingredients that are top notch. In this case, I got some top-shelf gruyère cheese, which isn’t particularly easy to find in Iowa, and I even attempted some Mornay sauce to go along with it.

Kitchen tools Similarly, I’m often willing to splurge on kitchen tools – things like a KitchenAid Pro 6 stand mixer, a magnetic knife rack, and so on. I don’t buy a lot of tools, but the ones I do have are either of very top quality or will eventually be upgraded to top quality ones.

Frugal “investments” Whenever I determine that I can easily be money ahead over the long haul by buying a fairly expensive item now, I’ll go for it. This includes all sorts of things – CFL and LED light bulbs, a programmable thermostat, cloth diapers, even an old-fashioned safety razor. I usually research these like crazy and try to make sure that I would actually use the item, but if it is so, I’ll splurge and get the item. The interesting part is that most of these have actually paid off for me and thus subtly reduced our living expenses over time.

Video games This is probably the least of my “splurges,” but it is out there. I own a Wii and a Nintendo DS and a few games for each of them, but these are generally games with a very long shelf life and a lot of replay value.

And that’s pretty much it. Outside of those things, I basically don’t splurge at this point on anything. I read a lot, but I get my books from the library almost exclusively… and that’s pretty much all of my free time.

Anyway, here are some personal finance links of interest.

The Language of the Perpetual Poor He’s right – the people I hear using these phrases are the same people that seem to always be in financial trouble. (@ frugal dad)

15 Tips to Avoid Overspending for First-Time College Students This is a pretty good set of tips – I wish I had done half of these in my college days. (@ moolanomy)

Cooking at Home with Basic Kitchen Staples Saves You Money This is an excellent article that really nails what you ought to have on hand to be able to just cook at home at your convenience. (@ girls just wanna have funds)

Learning to Love the Emergency Fund I remember the exact moment I loved my emergency fund. It was late last year when the brakes went out in my truck. Rather than going “OH MY GOD!” and panicking and running in circles, I just took the truck to the shop, paid for it on my credit card, went home, and paid the whole credit card balance from my emergency fund. Done. No fuss, no muss. And all I had to do to build that up was to cut down a little bit on my silly spending and instead sock that money away. (@ get rich slowly)

Curb Spending by Writing Goals on Credit Cards I usually keep my card wrapped in a picture of my children to remind me of why I shouldn’t spend – incidentally, this reminds me I need to make a new sleeve, as my old one is just about in tatters. (@ blueprint for financial prosperity via gather little by little)

Money, Currency, and Wealth Here are some compelling thoughts on where our money really comes from. (@ free money finance)

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  1. paidtwice says:

    Thanks for the link love and the comment on my site. :)

    I splurge on food but for the wrong reasons – I have to learn to get away from gratification via a spoon. Although I think the occasional limeade might be okay. :)

  2. Saving Freak says:

    Making this list of splurge items is actually a good idea. I did this a while back and found that I am very aware when I start to look a splurge danger areas. Admitting you have a problem really is the first step.

  3. InvestEveryMonth.com says:

    Food and sports are my downfalls. I “save” money by cutting off my cable subscription, then I go spend money and eat a burger while watching a basketball game at a bar. Makes no sense.

    The “dollar” menu at fast food restaurants is also a killer for me. Both financially and in terms of what it is doing to my arteries. I have now banned myself from going to fast food restaurants, but I slip once in awhile.

  4. Pinyo says:

    I see we share some weaknesses on food and video games. Thank you for the link to Tisha’s article on my blog. :-)

  5. Rebecca says:

    While I agree that nice kitchen tools can be spendy I think they are well worth the money spent. I say this for a couple reasons. One is that (since your and AB fan) it sounds like your not wasting $$ on unitasker gadgets. Those are stupid. Really? We can’t slice our own freaking eggs? Second is that having the knowledge and tools to cook quality things at home keeps me out of the restaurants more. I know that I can often make things (and make them better) than the restaurant so even if spend a little extra on ingredients I am still saving money. A justification? Perhaps so but I know it’s saving me money in the long run.

  6. David R. says:

    Where did you find LED light bulbs? Do they fit into a regular socket? I’ve checked everywhere in my city, and can find CFLs but not LEDs.

  7. sara says:

    We have similar interests in excellent food and high quality kitchen tools. We don’t have the money to splurge on these things, so we find strategic ways to pay for them- like using coupons to save significantly on the staples so that there’s extra money to spend on the more luxury food items. We also had our sights set on the williams-sonoma ice cream freezer, which we researched and drooled over in the store for close to a year, while we earned/saved/traded giftcards till we had accumulated enough to pay $10 cash for the $300 machine. And after wanting it so bad, and delaying gratification till we could afford it, BOY does that ice cream taste good!

  8. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    I got them online because I was curious about trying them out. I still haven’t made up my mind about them and will probably write an article about them soon (when I make up my mind). There are big advantages, but a couple big drawbacks, too. If you’re curious … be patient.

  9. I can totally relate to splurging on food. I do that too, and I also splurge on organic food, which is outrageously expensive.

  10. It sounds like we share a lot of interests.

    Lately I’ve been allowing the passing of time to even out my enthusiasm for the hyped must-have video games of the moment. I write the title down and check my list a few months later to see if I still care. The bonus is that games take years to really be “stale” and last year’s hot game is often half price or lower.

  11. Beth says:

    Trent, I’m wondering if you are really discriminating when you splurge, or if you buy the most expensive and assume it’s the best. I know that this is a trial & error sort of thing, but I first had the thought when I read your post yesterday, saying that when you eat out, you eat the best (= most expensive).

    In my experience, best does not always equal the most expensive. I (finally!) ate at Chez Panisse last month, and it really was fabulous, but surprisingly, I’ve been longing to revisit a dive-y place I found in Oakland’s Chinatown, which cost about a tenth of the CP meal.

    I’ve found the same with wine – yeah, a 40-dollar bottle is yummy, but when I do blind taste testing, I frequently find that a bottle that costs half the price often tastes as good or better to me.

    I’m not bagging on your choice to buy quality ingredients, I am wondering if you’re analyzing expense vs. quality.

  12. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    With eating out, I’ll try about anything, but it relies on a trusted recommendation from a friend. I don’t return if I don’t like it.

    When buying stuff, I usually research it to death then end up buying the consensus best of breed at the best deal I can possibly find.

  13. !wanda says:

    @Beth: I’ve found that the quality of Chinese food at a restaurant has very little to do with its price. The best sign in terms of food quality is if the clientele is mainly Chinese people. Of course, places like that can look dive-y, don’t have waiters that understand English, have “flavor sauce” (MSG) in the food, are loud, etc., factors that Chinese people don’t care as much about (before people flame me, my mom is Chinese).

  14. livvy says:

    have you played phoenix wright for DS? i love that game. :)

  15. Frugal Dad says:

    Trent, thanks for including my “Language of the Perpetual Poor” article.

    I’m close to joining you on the video game splurges. My wife and I have been really trying to hold off the “urge to splurge” on a Wii, and the more we read about how much fun they are the more we want one! We did compromise and recently created a targeted savings account at ING. When our “Wii” account is funded with cash we’ll probably pull the trigger, but not until enough is in there for the Wii and Guitar Hero!

  16. It seems like we share something in common. However, I have done well and controlled myself from spending on computer video games even though I do enjoy playing them. My biggest problem is dining out and buying kitchen tools. I love anything to do with food. I am really trying my best to cut down on eating out and so far its been a challege.

  17. ZerCool says:

    Food splurge is as good an opening as I can find.

    Opinions on storing up food for a rainy day? I know the Mormons recommend a year’s supply, which strikes me as … umm … a bit excessive. However, the idea of having a few weeks of food and fresh water tucked away is something that appeals to me.

    It’s become an ongoing project of mine, and is finally beginning to go somewhere. Small steps are going a long way. There’s the obvious benefit of buying in bulk (generic white rice: 20lb/$9.50, Uncle Ben: 1 box/$1.49), and many staple items (rice, beans, pasta, sugar, honey, etc) store well. I hunt, and have a freezer full of game meat (also an economical choice – if you hunt), along with several bags of frozen vegetables and so forth.

    For those of us in areas prone to natural problems (and that is essentially the entire US: blizzards, flooding, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, etc), it really does make sense (to me) to have things on hand for when the store is not an option, for whatever reason. Putting up two weeks of simple food shouldn’t cost much, take up much space, and is a heck of an insurance policy.

  18. Michael says:

    Trent, will you please review financial software for smartphones, especially the iPhone? I do not see much written on that subject.

  19. Trent, thanks for the link love and including Yakini’s post in your weekly roundup, I appreciate it :-)

    I too wish I had those tips back in college, it would have saved me a lot of grief and debt after college.

  20. Girly Home Webzine says:

    Thanks so much for including my article “Cooking at Home With Basic Kitchen Staples Saves You Money.” :-)

    I can definitely relate, as far as splurging on kitchen tools and ingredients for a specific dish. Those are two of my guilty pleasures! :-)

  21. Todd says:

    I splurge on upgrades to our home. We don’t spend much on cars (depreciate fast), or clothes (depreciate fast, kids outgrow), or fancy food (depreciates — well, you know !), but I think sensible upgrades to our home are decent investments.

  22. Bill says:


    a modest generator run as little as an hour a day will keep a *chest* freezer going (with uprights the cold air spills out when you open the door)

    I’m buying more in bulk just to save money – skim milk at Costco is $1/gallon less than at any grocery store, so I buy and freeze it (no fat to separate)

  23. Flexo says:

    I splurged on an Xbox 360 this year and I buy games once in a while (though usually used). It’s good entertainment for the money. But that’s just me. I’m sure my girlfriend disagrees… although, she does like her Wii.

  24. You know its amazing what we actually spend our money on.

    If some people actually sat down and wrote down all the little things that they spent their money on then they would be amazed.

    Like i think like you said a lot of us spend so much money on food. Even that cup of coffee everyday … think about that … if you had a cup of coffee at $3 a cup .. thats like $1095 bucks that you didn’t even know that you wasted.

    Thanks for sharing

    Young Investor


  25. jullie says:

    Hi Trent,
    Being a foodie who likes to cook also thought that you might want to get the expensive knifes off the magnet, I took a class at william Sonnoma, Sunday morning free where I live on knives and the said that those magnetic holders damage the edge and showed us some knive in the store display with chips in them. I also was able to find some really great Shun knives on Overstock.com awhile back so depending on your style of cutting Eurapeon vs eastern you might like to check it out.

  26. Ann says:

    Most of my splurges are on food and wine.

    There are a few wonderful products out there that I just love: fennel pollen, good-quality olive oil, chocolove chocolate bars, whole-grain bakery bread, anything from June Taylor, Katz & Co. citrus honey – to name a few. The one thing my husband appreciates are “real” Cheerios – no Trader Joe’s O’s!

    And of course, I love a latte made by someone else and enjoyed in a nice cafe!

    I often feel I should buy fewer clothes and spend more on them; I think you get what you pay for in terms of quality and fit.

  27. Beth says:

    @Zercool- I live in earthquake country and have 3 gallons of water and some power bars set aside… I am only half joking when I say my emergency food plan is to loot the neighborhood grocery store! Seriously, though, I’d love to see a link to a list of a 3-day kit, a 7-day kit, etc. I really don’t see having an extreme amount stored up, but I could do better.

    (I do have a couple of hand-crank flashlights now… maybe I can barter my light-shedding skillz for food if the Big One hits.)

  28. ZerCool says:

    There are literally hundreds if not thousands of sites out there dedicated to preparedness. I’d recommend doing some Google work, but here’s the bare minimums: (I live in the Northeast and am basing that roughly around my needs and the idea of an extended power outage or similar. Roads may be closed, but essential services would remain. In earthquake country, this may be different.)

    Water: 1 gallon per person or pet per day
    Food: 1200cal/day minimum, long-term storable (MREs, energy bars, survival bars, dry staple items)
    Clothing: comfortable, durable, layers, season-appropriate. EXTRA SOCKS.
    Medication: small *labelled* bottles of OTC meds, one-week supplies of prescriptions.
    Simple first aid kit.
    Two flashlights, preferably LED, with two or three sets of batteries (MiniMag LED is a good bet, LED headlamps are good too.)
    Small camp stove if appropriate (if you have an electric stove, look at the prices of small camping stoves; gas stoves can be lit with a match)
    box of kitchen matches
    leatherman or similar multi-tool
    heavy sleeping bag or several extra blankets
    phone cards for two carriers
    roll of quarters for pay phones
    CASH – at least $50, preferably $300+

    Now, here comes the reasoning:
    Food and water: you cannot count on grocery stores to be open and supplied in a disaster. Ever wandered through whenever there’s more than six or eight inches of snow forecast? Milk, bread, diapers, and toilet paper are wiped out. Other stuff is hit or miss. Bread freezes well. Water should be rotated through/used every six months or so.

    Medication: if the grocery is closed, the pharmacy likely is also. Ask your doctor for a ‘scrip for a one-week supply, and then rotate it through your normal bottles. Ibuprofen, aspirin, and tylenol are worth their weight in gold; so are things like PeptoBismol and the like.

    First aid kit: this should be self-explanatory. No one expects you to do major surgery, but being able to splint things and slap on a bandaid is a good idea.

    Clothing: layers are your friend, and you can never have too many dry socks.

    Flashlights w/ extra batteries: self-explanatory. LEDs make much better use of power. A MiniMag AA-LED will run for a LONG time on a set of batteries, with the normal bulb it’s good for maybe an hour. Headlamps look silly, but when you need both hands free, they’re a godsend. Again, look for LED models. I just picked up a Black Diamond LED headlamp on clearance for $30, and it boasts a 29-hour run time on the “low” setting. I do NOT recommend lighting at home with a candle or gas lantern because of fire hazard.

    Camp stove: compact, efficient, and just fine for cooking over. If you have a gas range at home, you can light that with a match and cook just fine; your gas oven will likely not work.

    Matches: obvious.

    Multi-tool: an entry-level Leatherman can be had for about $25, has a decent knife blade, a couple screwdrivers, and a pair of pliers. This comes in handy in daily life, let alone when things aren’t normal.

    Sleeping bag/blankets: keeping warm at night! Sleeping bags are arguably better for this than a traditional sheet/blanket setup, because you are more insulated on all sides. Toss on a knit hat for extra warmth.

    Phone cards: do not expect your cell phone to work in a pinch. Have a couple phone cards for contacting family and friends out of state.

    Quarters: pay phones are getting harder to find, but they are going to be the most disaster-resistant communications out there. Know where there are a couple in your area, and have a roll of quarters to use them.

    Cash: no power means no ATMs and no credit cards. Have enough cash on-hand at home to get yourself a couple tanks of gas in your vehicle or a motel room. Or both.

    Think about some snack or treat items, and entertainment. Paperbacks, crosswords, puzzles, etc.

    There are people who will add guns to this list; that is a matter of personal preference. If you feel the need, you know what you like and for what reasons. For three days to a week, I don’t think that’s necessary. Longer and it might be something to consider.

    All that said, the best way to prepare yourself for anything is knowledge. Call your local Red Cross and ask about taking CPR and First Aid. Have fire extinguishers in your home and know how to use them. If there is a CERT group (http://www.citizencorps.gov/cert/) in your area, look into joining. Know how to cook over an open fire. Know how to purify water. There are numerous books on the topics; one of the best is the US Dept of Defense Field Manual “Survival”.

  29. I feel like I’m always spending a lot on food. Partly due to the fact that I really like to follow recipes in my cookbooks since I’m still learning how to cook. I think that the other part too is that I buy things that I decide I don’t feel like eating after all and then I end up throwing them away.

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