I am proud to call myself a wary consumer. I do my best to combat manipulative marketing, I recognize the value of repairing and maintaining my things, and I focus on long-term goals rather than short-term gratification.
That being said, there are certain products I buy without guilt, even when I know an alternative can be had for less. That’s because I have honed in on what matters to me. Everyone will have their own version of this list, and that’s great. We shouldn’t feel guilty about small (and sometimes large!) splurges that lead to a dramatically increased quality of life.
With Amazon’s big “Prime Day” sale coming up, I decided to profile my favorite products, all of which can be found on Amazon, and some of which can hopefully be had at a discount next Monday.
Safety razors are all the rage in the personal finance community, and for good reason. They represent the cheapest way to shave, they produce less waste than disposable razors, and many people get a closer shave by using them.
I tried for over a year to master the art of shaving with a safety razor. I found it tedious and painful. Then, one day, against all my frugal instincts, I splurged on some fancy (to me) multi-blade Gillette razors. My next shave was glorious. It was like I’d unlocked a super power. Everything was effortless and easy.
Ever since that moment, I’ve been spending $50 to $60 a year on new blades. When using a safety razor, I could get a year’s worth of blades for less than five bucks. It’s a steep price to pay, but for me, the new blades are worth every penny. If you’ve been struggling to master the safety razor and you’re sticking it out for cost reasons, I recommend coming over to the dark side.
I commute to Manhattan for work, and I don’t know how I would do it without headphones. It is so nice to get lost in my music while riding a squeaky subway or navigating the impossibly crowded, noisy streets.
When I moved here, I quickly realized that if I really wanted to get some peace and quiet, my $10 earbuds were not going to cut it. I had to blast those at dangerously high decibels in order to hear them over the din of NYC. I have sensitive ears and I didn’t want to get tinnitus, which is when you hear a ringing in your ears.
This is not a minor issue. About 50 million Americans have some sort of tinnitus! I look at the care of my ears in much the same way I think about my dental health, in that relatively minor efforts now (like brushing twice a day) will go a long way toward securing a healthy future. Thus, I invested in a nice pair of noise cancelling headphones from Bose.
They are very expensive, but I think they’ve been worth it. Hands down, the best aspect of the headphones is the noise cancelling function, which allows me to listen to my music at a reasonable volume amidst the chaos of the city. The icing on the cake is that music sounds rich and textured, the earpads feel like clouds, and the battery lasts for a very long time.
I use them about an hour a day. Even if they only last me four years, that will be about 1,500 hours of listening time. That’s enough time spent with one product for me to be willing to invest in something of the highest quality.
As an avid home chef, I find my $120 Wusthof chef’s knife to be indispensable. If you’re chopping onions and peppers with a dull knife, you have no idea what you are missing.
When using quality knives, prep work in the kitchen is infinitely easier. I’m actually more likely to consume healthy foods than before I had this knife, as I’m less hesitant to prepare dishes that require me to chop vegetables. Yes, my past self was lazy. But that doesn’t change the fact that an upgraded knife made a big difference. It is durable and easily sharpened, so I should be set for a long time.
When you make eating at home a pleasure, you’ll be much less likely to spend money eating out, an activity that costs the average American over $3,000 per year.
As much as I wish I was like my father-in-law, who can chug instant Folgers all day and be perfectly satisfied, I really like to drink nice coffee. It’s something I do every day, and it would feel like a big sacrifice if I were to try to save as much money as possible on my habit.
I do limit my costs by mostly brewing my own coffee at home, but I’ll drink stuff that costs eight to 10 bucks a pound, such as Peet’s, when I could easily find coffee at Costco for four bucks a pound or less. I estimate that this costs me an additional $300 to $400 per year.
I consider this a worthy expense, though — especially because I drink my coffee black. If I used cream and sugar, this wouldn’t be as big a deal. You can mask a lot of the poor qualities of bad beans with additives. So, if I ever go the cream route, I know I can scale back on my coffee spending.
This one might seem like an odd choice, but hear me out. Most of us use a bath towel every single day of our lives. Do you want to be rubbing yourself dry with something that’s rough, slow to dry, and prone to holding in smells?
For me, high-quality camping towels solve all of those problems. They’re soft, quick drying, and can pass the smell test for a lot longer than a cheap cotton towel. They aren’t prohibitively expensive, running me about $16 for a large towel, but they are significantly more than a generic one I could get at Walmart for four bucks. Heck, there was a couple-year stretch where I exclusively used old towels that I’d “borrowed” from my parents. So, while it’s not a necessity to spend money on a towel that perfectly suits my needs, it sure is nice.
I wouldn’t recommend these splurges to people who are in debt, or have yet to save an adequate emergency fund. But, for those who have those basics covered, there’s nothing wrong with spending a fair amount of money for quality things that make you happy. And if you can find something on sale during Amazon’s Prime Day, all the better.
10 Things I Refuse to Do to Save Money
Knowing When to Splurge – and When You’ll Regret It
The ‘Buy It for Life’ Compendium, Vol. 2