At this point of the year, many of the folks I know are deep in the throes of New Year's resolutions, and an ever-popular one is to spend less. I, on the other hand, might actually spend more in a few categories that I've already been known to splurge on. And you know what? I don't feel bad about it. Here's where some of my money goes -- and why I don't have a problem spending on certain luxuries.
1. Pre-cut fruit and vegetables
Generally speaking, it costs more money to eat healthy foods than unhealthy foods. Since my family tends to consume a lot of fruit and vegetables, our grocery bills are probably higher than those of the average American. But whereas many people whose families eat lots of fruit and vegetables will spend hours each week washing, peeling, cutting, and storing said produce, I instead choose to pay a premium to have those items pre-cut and prepared.
The reason? I only have so many hours to work during the week, and so rather than spend 20 to 30 minutes a day cutting up fruit and vegetables, I instead choose to spend that time plugging away at my desk. Because I make more money than what I spend by purchasing pre-cut items, I can justify this cost. Furthermore, I tend to buy much of my pre-cut fruit and vegetables from my local warehouse club, which means that while I am paying more for the convenience of having these items prepared for me, I'm also saving some money by buying in bulk.
Another thing? I consider buying pre-cut fruit and vegetables an investment in my family's health. And that's worth the extra money to me. Finally, my family doesn't eat out very often, so while I do overpay for pre-cut produce, it's still less expensive than restaurants and takeout.
Much of the time, I make myself a simple cup of coffee at home that costs just pennies. But a couple of times a week -- especially those days when I haven't slept well or I know I'll be spending hours upon hours staring at a computer screen -- I treat myself to store-bought coffee. Typically, this costs me between $2 and $3 a pop, depending on the size I opt for. (I like to keep my coffee simple, which means I can avoid spending the $5 or $6 a fancier latte would cost.) And while I know I could make the same thing at home for $0.05 to $0.10 a cup, I refuse to feel guilty about my coffee purchases.
For one thing, good coffee is a treat, and not one I splurge on every day. Secondly, coffee actually enables me to do my job better, and when I'm more productive, I earn more. Finally, because I work from home, I prepare my own lunch pretty much every day, so while I might spend a few bucks on store-bought caffeine, I spend very little on the rest of the food I consume.
As a parent of young children who doesn't have family living close by, I rely on babysitters quite a bit. They enable me to do my job when school isn't in session, run errands without screaming kids in tow, or escape my house on a weekend for a few hours of much-needed adult time.
I'm at peace with paying babysitters for a number of reasons. First, they enable me to work more, thereby paying for themselves. Granted, I could stick my kids in front of the TV instead, but this way, I'm not encouraging them to sit and stare at a screen for an hour and change so I can complete a few extra articles. Secondly, I tend to hire local high school and college students who are looking to make money, and frankly, I appreciate the fact that they're willing to take a side job. Watching my children isn't the easiest job, but rather than spend their free time playing video games or hanging out, my sitters are willing to work. And I'm happy to make that possible for them.
We all have our things that we tend to overspend on, and in my case, the above items top my list. But while I can justify each and every one in its own right, here's the main reason I don't feel bad about spending in these categories: I pay myself first every month. Before I spend so much as a dime of my earnings, I arrange to have a large chunk of my income land in savings. Therefore, spending on the aforementioned items doesn't thwart my financial goals. If anything, it just means that I might have to cut back on other nonessentials, which I don't mind doing.
Saving money often boils down to setting priorities. Since I've prioritized my savings above all else, I can sleep at night even with the knowledge that I could technically be spending less.