We all have those expenses we tend to go overboard on. For some people, it's gadgets. For others, it's travel. Here are three categories I tend to spend a lot on -- and why I think it's OK that I do.
1. Takeout meals
I used to not be such a big fan of takeout, since I'm a decent cook and can whip up tasty food in my kitchen for a fraction of the cost. But these days, not only is my work scheduled jam-packed, but so is my after-school schedule. My kids' various activities leave me with very little time during the week to stand in my kitchen preparing food, and so sometimes, I have to throw money at the problem for the sake of my sanity, and for the sake of feeding my children something other than instant macaroni and cheese.
Let me clarify something, though: As a self-employed writer who only gets paid when she works, freeing up a few extra hours during the week results in a higher paycheck, so while I do sometimes spend more than I should on takeout meals, I feel less guilty since my earnings can make up for it.
I used to treat myself to store-bought coffee several times a week. Nowadays, I typically do it once a week, and as such, I don't feel bad about it at all.
Can I brew a less tasty version of that large coffee at home for $0.25 rather than pay $3? Absolutely. But I work hard, and I put in long hours, and so once a week, I feel I'm entitled to a $3 splurge. In the course of a year, it's roughly $150 all in, and since I'm already doing a good job of contributing to my retirement savings account, I figure that sum isn't life-changing.
3. House-cleaning services
I do lots of laundry during the week -- lots. And, I clean up after my kids, and myself, as messes are made. But I rarely do much to otherwise clean my house, because I mostly outsource that task. And again, it's something I refuse to beat myself up over.
The time I'd spent cleaning my house from top to bottom would easily cost me a day's work, and the income that goes with it. Instead, I spend the equivalent of about two hours' worth of work on the wonderful woman who comes in to make my house spotless. Not only does she clean more efficiently than I do, but she claims to actually like it (I'm not sure I believe her, but that's another story), whereas I really, really don't. As such, we seem to have a good arrangement going -- I keep a hard-working person employed, and I get to complete my work on schedule without spending my time mopping and scrubbing toilets.
Let's be clear: I'm a big fan of saving money, first for emergencies and then for retirement. But I also make a point to automate my savings so I'm sending a large chunk of my earnings into the bank or my retirement account off the bat. As such, the money I'm left with is money I'm comfortable spending, and the above habits don't result in a situation where I'm forced to rack up debt. I do have to limit my spending in other areas to compensate for these added expenses -- particularly the first and third -- but I'm willing to make those accommodations in my budget because takeout, coffee, and my cleaning lady not only make life easier and more pleasant for me, but also make it possible for me to boost my earnings.