I read an interesting article in today's Arizona Republic (yes, the actual newspaper! I like newspapers!) about "Strategic Splurges." It discussed the things people still allow themselves to buy during these years of cutting back. For example, one person still takes vacations but now takes smaller trips instead of $4,000 luxury tours, and another spoke about the "essentials" of makeup and quality running shoes.
It is interesting to think about our strategic splurges. I have never been rolling in the dough, but as I make my way through the world over the years I have definitely thought about this concept of being willing to regularly spend a few dollars on things that others eliminate from their budget, while easily doing without things that other people see as essential. I suppose my strategic splurges have always been burritos, coffee, and movies (in the theater). I know there are so many people who can look me in the eye and say "I haven't seen a movie in the theater for a year!" I am not those people. I regularly go to the movies, and even in my direst (retail working) straits, the movie theater was where the entertainment budget went. You just had to be smart and go to matinee shows, and be an AMC MovieWatcher with free popcorn Wednesdays and rewards points.
I absolutely love to go out for caffeine, and I hit up coffee shops in every city (and every different country) I live in. It's delightful to return to the old faves (Starbucks, Dunkin' Donuts, Caribou, Biggby) where you know what to expect and get what you love, but it's also fun to become a regular at the indie coffee shop down the street, such as Champion Coffee in Brooklyn, the Loose Leaf Lounge in Chicago, Rosebud in Andong or Gallery Cafe in Phuket. As for burritos, I've organized my food for the last decade or two such that take-out Mexican food is on the menu every week (except when I live in Korea, where I'd take a monthly trip to Seoul to get Mexican eats). People (you might say "busybodies") have often criticized me for eating out a lot even though it's low-priced. I don't think I spend more on food than the people who buy tons of stuff at the grocery store. I have never bought tons of stuff at the grocery store. (And no, I never go to McDonald's; I'm more of a Chipotle kind of girl.) I don't stock a full pantry or buy snacks to have around the house. I don't buy meat or many dairy products (I prefer soy milk for my health, the animals', and the environment's.) You might be surprised how the food budget all evens out.
My expendable items have always been TV/cable and new clothes. I only pay for those things when I have extra; otherwise, I go without for years. (I also am generally not motivated to go clothes shopping, but that's another story.) More recently, you might say a smart phone and data plan are my expendables, although is it really expendable if you never even bother to include it in your budget in the first place? I am so OK with being the last person I know to get a smart phone. I don't see myself doing so until the phone is free and my data/talk/messaging plan is less than $40-50/month, total.
The Arizona Republic's piece actually restored my faith in humanity with its lists of the top 10 untouchable budget items and the top 10 expendable items. The "untouchables" were things like cell phone service, cable TV, haircuts, etc. You could go without those things for two or three years, but clearly not many people choose to do so. The number one expendable item? Luxury handbags! Thank !@$% goodness! I have often been heard to rant about the mind-boggling concept of spending $600 on a purse. I just absolutely do not understand it -- even when there's not a recession and we're not all living in an economic wasteland. There is no bag in the world that could possibly be of more value to me than a plane ticket. I also don't really think Coach or Louis Vuitton bags look any better/different than other bags on display at the mall. The whole thing baffles me, so I'm glad to read that people at least have a little bit of sense to realize how expendable that item is in the budget.
What about you? What are your strategic splurges?