What if No One’s Watching?

What’s worth the money (and what’s not)

There is a ton of talk right now about belt-tightening and money saving and the altar of frugality. I follow quite a few blogs on those subjects. They are full of tips, from cutting out unnecessary expenses to re-using to cash-only budgeting. That’s all good advice. I have nothing to add to it. And yet, I wanted to contribute something to the growing body of frugality knowledge. So, with that in mind, I give you my lists of what is worth extra money, and what is not.

Worth Extra Cash

Coffee: if you start your day with a cup or a pot, you depend on it. Things on which you depend to get you started should not suck. Life is too short to drink bad coffee. And yes, if it comes in a metal can already ground, it is bad coffee.

Eyebrow waxing: If you get your brows waxed, don’t cheap out on it. I did, once, getting them done for $5 or $8 at a cheap nail salon. It HURT, and I ended up looking like someone had punched me in the face. At my beautiful, wonderful Aveda salon, they charge me $20, but it barely hurts, it looks great, and I get a cup of tea.

Pet food: Don’t feed your pets cheap chow. Just don’t do it. It’s bad for them, and it will end up costing you more as they develop more health problems. Plus they’ll need more quantity to eat, since it’s mostly filler. Pay for the good, protein-rich, healthy stuff.

Direct flights: Flying is expensive. Flying is uncomfortable. Flying is a general pain in the ass. Direct flights are a much smaller pain than connections. If it’s possible to get one, I will pay more (though only to a point) for a direct flight. (What I will not do, however, is pay to check a bag, upgrade to a seat with 3″ more legroom, or eat nasty airplane snacks.)

Your own domain name: If you want to use your websites in any serious way, it’s really worth it to buy your own domain name(s). It isn’t expensive, and it makes you look way more professional. Plus, then nobody else can buy them and use them to host porn sites.

Nice soap: Anybody who reads WINOW for long knows I am a sucker for bath and body products. There is a reason for that, though. Showering is something we have to do every day (or I do, anyway). It’s a forced opportunity to take just a few minutes out to relax. Having nice products that make you feel good and smell good helps a whole lot with that. So it’s worth it to me to pay more for those products.

Cable and DVR: Cable is something that a lot of people suggest cutting out of your budget. I disagree. We use our cable, and our DVR, and I think we use it well. We watch what we enjoy, on our own time schedule. We don’t spend a lot of time staring at a TV with nothing we want to watch on it.

Tattoos: If someone is going to put permanent ink into your flesh, you don’t want a discount. Seriously, this one is a no-brainer. You want the expensive tattoo artist. And then you want to tip really, really well.

Laundry detergent: On a whim, I recently bought Mrs. Meyer’s Clean day lavender laundry detergent. It’s not cheap. However, given that the $14.99 64 oz jug will do something like 100 loads in my HE washer, it’s not exactly breaking the bank. And it’s SO nice–smells great, the clothes come out clean and soft, and environmentally friendly. My All Free days are over.

Underwear: For a long time, I’ve been a proponent of discount underwear. I just wore whatever was cheap at Ross. Then I happened upon a pair of Aerie panties. And now I am in love. They are made of thick, soft, cotton. They stay in place and don’t ride up my prodigious behind. And they hold their shape, don’t stretch out, and look cute. They aren’t super expensive (5/$25), but they are more than what I was wearing. Totally worth it for an ass that is comfortable all day.

OK To Cheap Out On

Books, movies, and CDs: Really, wise up and learn to use the library. If you have a decent branch, you will be able to get a large portion of what you want to read, watch, or listen to for free from them. Also, learn to use the RedBox in all its free code goodness.

Furniture: There is no reason I can see to buy new and expensive furniture. All that leads to is having to worry about what will happen to it. Our furniture is 75% hand-me-down or thrift store and 25% Target and Ikea, and it’s done just fine. You can even have a cute house with this type of furniture–just focus on “eclectic” as your decorating style, rather than anything too specific.

Air conditioning: People here pay out the nose to have their houses at icebox temperatures in the summer heat. It makes no sense to me. Sure, we use our AC, but we set it at 79 or 80 during the hottest part of the summer. Is our house perfectly chilled? No, but it has air movement and it’s not an oven. Gives us more incentive to be naked that way.

Baby clothes: Thrift stores are full of barely used kids’ clothes, especially in the smallest sizes. Often, they are new with tags on them. In my moral universe, those are prime gift material. I do not buy presents for friends having babies at regular stores, I buy them at the thrift store. And, should we have a kid in the near future, it’s going to be Goodwill model baby. There’s just no reason not to.

Multiple cars: Mark and I have been a one-car household the entire time we’ve been together. It’s really not that hard to do, with a little bit of flexibility and planning. And it saves us a lot of money–not just another car payment, but insurance and gas and maintenance. Plus we have to be more efficient with our car use this way, which is both an environmental and an economic good.

Landlines: Why do people still have landlines for their phones? Now that everybody has a cell phone, and most of us have a lot of minutes on that cell phone, what’s the purpose of a landline? We haven’t had one for years, and I’ve missed it exactly once (when stuck at home with a dead cell phone). I’ve been happy not to have it countless times, though, especially since I get no telemarketing calls now.

Glasses: I posted a while ago about the amazing cheap glasses I got from Zenni Optical. I am now kicking myself for having spent so many years paying $200 and more for glasses. Never again.

Mascara: At this point, I’ve tried just about every expensive brand of mascara there is, as well as a good many of the cheaper ones. I see no substantial differences. Next time I buy mascara, it’s going to be at Target.

Cleaning products: Lots of people will tell you that all you really need to clean is baking soda, vinegar, and Dr. Bronner’s. Add a toilet bowl cleaner and something for pet stains on the carpet, and I’m one of those people. There is no need for expensive cleaning products. They smell bad and hurt the planet and cost a lot.

Bras: I’ve worn cheap bras, and I’ve worn expensive bras, and the conclusion I have come to is that bras are uncomfortable no matter how much they cost, so may as well still with Target. If I splurge, it’s to buy Jockey. No Wacoal for these ta-tas.

Clearly, I know that my lists don’t apply to everyone. The real point is about knowing your priorities and spending in line with them. If you are anything like me, there are things you are currently spending extra money on that you aren’t getting any extra value from, and there are also things you are spending on and feeling guilty about when they really are worth it to you. So, it’s worth taking the time to think about your spending, cut the areas in which you aren’t seeing value, and stop feeling guilty about the things that really are worth it.