Why the $2,555 I've Spent on 'Frivolous' Purchases This Year Was Worth It

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  • I made several big purchases this year, totaling $2,555.
  • These purchases, which included a new computer, an air conditioner, and new dishes, improved my quality of life.
  • Having a higher quality of life in turn positively impacted my motivation and earning power.

Sometimes, you gotta spend money to make money.

There are some financial gurus who preach asceticism during debt payoff. Eat cheap ramen noodles, sit on the floor of your bare apartment (it's bare because you sold off most of your possessions to scrape together a few hundred dollars to send to your debt) lit by a single 60-watt lightbulb, and feel ashamed of all your financial missteps. You are not allowed to buy yourself nice things.

I've gotta say, these are not optimum conditions to make a positive and lasting change to your life. I instead spent $2,555 of my hard-earned dough on several nice purchases to improve my work and my quality of life. Here's why spending that much money was worth it, even though I'm paying off debt.

What I bought…and for how much

Here's an accounting of the "frivolous" purchases I made this year:

Purchase Cost
Desktop computer $1,760
Portable air conditioner $368
Bluetooth earbuds $190
Cordless vacuum cleaner $174
New dishware set $63
TOTAL $2,555
Data source: Calculations by author.

I feel good about having made all these purchases, for the following three reasons.

1. I improved my earning potential

While all of these items improved my earning potential, some of them had more of a hand in it than others. The computer was the first large purchase of the year, and it was immediately a revolution in work productivity. Prior to this year, I hadn't had a desktop computer at home in 10 years, and I have never used one for freelance work, relying instead on a tiny laptop. This worked fine for earlier work assignments, but if I was going to be able to produce enough to make a real dent in my debt, I needed something more powerful.

The new earbuds similarly contributed to productivity, allowing me to tune in for work meetings without being distracted by my three "housemates" (my cats are sweethearts most of the time, but they have a tendency to tear around the house and meow when I'm on Zoom calls; it's like they know I'm trying to concentrate).

2. I made my work and home life happier

Although multiple studies have shown that the old adage that "money can't buy happiness" is actually wrong, I'm certainly not qualified to judge or approve of anyone else's money-based satisfaction. I can only speak for myself, and having more financial security has definitely led to more happiness for me. Since I am increasing my financial security by getting out of debt and achieving the means to start investing, save up a solid emergency fund, and potentially buy a home in a few years, my happiness is also likely to increase accordingly from here.

The purchases I made this year also improved my happiness by providing additional creature comforts at home, where I spend a lot of time. I knew that taking any vacations would be out of reach this year (both due to money and to maximize my work hours), so instead, I focused on making my apartment more comfortable. I don't have central air conditioning in my apartment (as I live in a part of the country where most older homes and other buildings don't), so the portable air conditioner I bought gave me a more temperate work and living space over the summer. The vacuum I purchased allowed me to keep my home cleaner; having a clean and ordered space is important to my mental health and happiness -- as well as my productivity.

3. I gave myself motivation to keep going

It's much easier to approach an uncertain future with optimism when you can already see some of the fruits of your labor. I really enjoy entertaining, and especially cooking and serving beautiful meals to people I care for. These pandemic years have been difficult for this, but I have been able to host guests occasionally during the last year, and I hope to do it more often as my finances improve and we all learn to live with COVID-19.

I had been using the same dishes I've had since my early 20s, and I had broken some accidentally over the years. When I dropped one on my kitchen floor during the summer, I decided it was time to invest in some new ones. It may sound silly, but using my new pretty dishes is motivating me to keep going on debt payoff and keep striving to put myself in the best position to buy a home in a few years, so I can entertain more often.

I definitely don't recommend going further into debt to make non-necessary purchases, and I'm very happy that I didn't this year. But if you're working hard to get yourself in a better financial position, don't feel bad about also buying things to improve your quality of life and your work productivity.

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