8 Little Luxuries That Go a Long Way

by Camilla Cheung on 25 August 2011 22 comments

It’s not always easy being thrifty. For me, it means not indulging my purse obsession as much as I’d like, forgoing the pricey bottles of wine, and decorating my house with thrift-store finds. I usually don’t mind, but sometimes, a little encouragement is in order. Here are a few of my favorite luxuries that are worth a modest splurge — they help me to persevere, encouraging me to take a long view of the frugal life. (See also: On Choosing and Defending Your Luxuries)

1. A Good Showerhead

Sure, you could shower every day with your apartment’s original showerhead that sprays as much air as water and takes twenty minutes to wash shampoo out of your hair, but why suffer? A new showerhead will set you back $20 and is completely worth the investment for better water pressure, even spray, and perhaps even different spray settings. When I lived in China, I had to make do with some less-than-optimal apartments, but the one non-negotiable was that there had to be a clean, spacious shower with a good showerhead. It went a long way towards keeping me sane.

Along the same lines, many old apartments don’t have an aerator on the kitchen faucet, which means that the water splashes up whenever you turn it on. Invest the $2 in an aerator attachment from Walmart. The difference is amazing.

2. Quality Bed Sheets

Life is too short to spend it lying on pill-y, bad-quality bed sheets. You spend up to a third of your life in bed, so why not make your bed sheets good ones? They’ll last longer anyway, so in the long run, they might save you money. Look for combed Egyptian or Pima cotton sheets with a thread-count of at least 300 (higher thread-count isn’t always better — I always get a little skeptical when it comes to 1,000 thread-count or higher). Look for a well-known brand with good reviews. I’ve heard good things about Costco’s Kirkland Signature Pima Cotton sheets, which are top-quality but not too pricey.

3. Soft Toilet Paper

I used to buy whatever toilet paper was on sale at Walmart, and I ended up with coarse, crumbly toilet paper that chafed. Not fun. Now I’ve found a brand I love, and I buy it in bulk when it’s on sale or when there’s a coupon, even though it’s marginally more expensive than the cheaper brands.

4. Certain Food Products

For my family, buying milk from cows that haven’t been treated with growth hormones, Omega-3 eggs, decent extra-virgin olive oil, and a few other food items is a priority, even though these food products may cost a little more. I believe that the investment in our health is definitely worth it in the long run. I make up for the extra cost by buying seasonal fresh produce on sale at our local market, eating meat less often, and cooking from scratch instead of using more expensive jarred and packaged goods. 

5. A Sharp Knife

I have one sharp santoku knife that I use for most cutting and chopping purposes. I have a few other slicing and paring knives, but the one I splurged on was the large santoku, which I use as a chef’s knife. A sharp knife with a good weight is safer and makes cooking a breeze. It doesn’t have to be super-expensive. Victorinox makes good-quality chef knives that won’t break the bank. Trust me, buying ONE good sharp chef’s knife is better than buying a whole block of cheap knives. Keep a sharpener on hand to hone the edge.

6. A Good Can Opener

For a year, I struggled with a dull can opener that gave my hands a workout every time I tried to use it. I refused to get a new one because my can opener WAS new. It just sucked. Finally, I caved and bought one at Marshalls for $5. It makes me happy every time I use it now. The smoothness of the mechanism and the sharpness of the cutter just make my heart soar.

7. Scented Hand Soap

Hand soap from Bath and Body Works is another item that I brought overseas with me when I lived in China. When on sale, these bottles of soap cost $3-4 each and went a long way towards making my apartment feel like home. Especially when you have guests over, a nice bottle of hand soap makes your bathroom feel more luxurious and spa-like.

8. Date Night

Sure, you can’t afford to eat caviar and truffles every week, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have an evening to enjoy yourself, away from everyday responsibilities. Schedule a babysitter and plan a date night for you and your significant other, even if it’s just a few hours at Starbucks or a leisurely meal at Burger King. It’s the time away and the extra focus you have for each other that count. Try to make it a regular ritual that has special significance. It’s a treat that you can look forward to every week or two.

Little purchases can add up over time, so it’s important to keep track of what you’re spending for these small luxuries. You might find it helpful to give yourself an “allowance” to keep your spending in check. This means that you can spend your allowance money guilt-free, but you’re not allowed to go over budget!

What little luxuries do you think are worth the splurge? How do you keep them to a limit?

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Guest's picture

Really Good suggestions here.

Guest's picture
Lynda

what is the soft toilet paper brand that you recommend? hehe i just wonder =)

Camilla Cheung's picture

Charmin Ultra-STRONG is my fave, but Ultra-Soft will do in a pinch!

Guest's picture

Great list! I agree with everything especially soft toilet paper!

Guest's picture

I agree with these. A good quality item doesn't always have to be super expensive.

Guest's picture

I agree with you on many of these. We're actually moving away from the scented hand soaps. I have sensitive skin that's prone to eczema breakouts, and have found that the fragrances and such that Bath & Body works make them some of the worst on the market when it comes to things like allergies and what not. In this case, we're going back to the simple SoftSoap solution. Luxury is great but sometimes kicking it old school works too :)

Camilla Cheung's picture

I can sympathize. I have sensitive skin too so I can't use scented lotions, but scented hand soap is still okay. Hey Softsoap is great too...I grew up on that stuff!

Guest's picture

Excellent ideas for enjoying the smaller things in life. I especially agree with the scented soaps from Bath & Body Works. I love pampering myself after a long day of work with a nice bubble bath, and the products are pretty inexpensive.

A good showerhead is great idea too. I will have to look into that, thanks for the idea.

Guest's picture
Darla

Lavender scented Epsom salts from Walgreens – (big bag for $5) make a hot bath feel like a spa treatment. Mmmm… light a candle and soak away the day.

Camilla Cheung's picture

Oooo that sounds lovely.

Guest's picture

For me, how I balance frugal vs 'luxury' is by insisting on a date night twice a month. Of course there would be a budget, but basically we get to have a lovely night out at a pricey restaurant and a movie thrown in after. Although, it's a far cry compared to the old days where splurging was a constant feature - now i realize that i appreciate it so much more! And we have so much more fun cos it's two days we block off the calendar to spend time with each other outside the home... ;p

Guest's picture
Justine

Love this list! I think people would be much happier if they focused on having a few, good quality things instead of a bunch of sub-par items.

Guest's picture
TerpLove

Great list! I'd also add a quality mattress. When I moved right after college I allocated a good chunk of money on a mattress, if I spend 1/4 to 1/3 of my day on it I should be comfortable!

Camilla Cheung's picture

I agree. In fact, my husband and I are planning to return our mattress, which has developed an uncomfortable sag after only a year. We're going to invest wisely in our next one.

Guest's picture
Danny

I love to treat myself to the following little luxuries:

awesome handmade soaps (from Etsy)
Godiva chocolate
Oberweiss ice cream
Krispy Kreme donuts
stationery
nice pens

These are occasional little luxuries, we ALL should treat ourselves to.

Cheers,
Danny
The Frugal Quack

Guest's picture
Stephaine M

I found that DG brand double roll tissue is just as soft as my use to be brand angel soft.Instead of buying alot of sweets I bake them from scratch even chocolate candy made from chocolate flavored almond bars. I wait until cvs has a .88 sale on Palmolive liqiud ech bottle last about a month the pink one is my fav. my splurge every so often is forrer rocher hazelnut mmmmmm once a month husband and i have a night out at least. Or when the kids are at grandmas house twice a month I exhale and enjoy the quiet and watch my ghost adventures or paranormal shows without any interruption.

Guest's picture

The date night with your significant other is definitely worth a splurge! Bonding time with your partner is important. We usually eat at Bodato Burgers - it's not that expensive and we get to enjoy each other's company.

Another thing I splurge on - high quality tea!

Guest's picture
Scoutmaster

I splurge on great tasteing (sometimes healthly) snacks for road trips & vacations. Since my kids ONLY get them durring these times...they aren't begging for "happy meals" and resturant meals while in the car.
I buy fresh flowers or homemade goodies at farmers markets as a real treat for me.

Guest's picture
RebeccaD

Great suggestions! I totally agree with date night as always worth the splurge. It's totally worth it to reconnect with your significant other, with the demands of kids and housework. It's totally worth it to indulge in romance once in a while to keep the relationship strong.

Guest's picture
Bryan

Good condoms
Quality pants hangers
A good quality iron (Rowenta for example)
Organic milk with granola
Good Cologne/Perfume
Glycerin Soap

They cost extra but you will have better sex, your pants wont fall off the hangers, irong will be fun and your milk will taste better and you will smell like a million bucks

Guest's picture
Liisa

High quality (clearance) jeans and shoes, a Vitamix blender (to make yummy, healthy soups and smoothies), and comfy blankets/throw pillows are what keep me sane. The latter can spruce up my third-hand couches and make my home a much cozier place to be as we're pinching pennies! :) Love the other things on your list!

Guest's picture
Matthew

In terms of a great sharp knife, I'd like to recommend looking out for a couple of the following:

1. Lee Valley Peasant knife--at $30, it's a steal with great steel ( I think it's O1 steel).

2. R. Herder Windmill knife--the paring knife is a bit funny looking, but cuts incredibly well due to the thin blade.

3. Opinel paring knives--better steel than Victorinox. Costs about $10, or 2 for $15.

4. Chinese chef knife--looks like a big scary cleaver, cuts like a Nakiri on steroids. It'll out prep pretty much anything from Shun or Henckels for a lot cheaper. Try to get the thinner ones in carbon steel.