What was your best purchase in the past year?
This week, Wise Bread writers share our favorite purchases from the past year. And in the spirit of sharing, we'd like to hear what you, our readers, are particularly fond of purchasing in the past year. If you add your great purchase story in the comments section, you'll be automatically enrolled in a random drawing for a $25 gift certificate from Amazon.com!
CONGRATULATIONS TO SYLRAYJ, OUR WINNER FOR THE $25 AMAZON GIFT CERTIFICATE DRAWING. THANK YOU TO EVERYONE FOR PARTICIPATING.
Being frugal isn't just about saving money - it's about spending wisely. Shopping isn't a sin, and frugal shopping isn't an oxymoron. It's just a matter of assessing your needs, wants, and then doing a little research. And when you find something that really suits your needs, buying becomes a truly rewarding experience.
Here's what we spent our hard-earned dollars on:
My new road bike is my best purchase.
I have had others (bicycles) and my most recent one had carried me from my teens, cycling to high school rather than driving or taking the bus, and riding up and down mountains on a 2-week, 200+ mile ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway from Peaks of Otter, Virginia to Mount Mitchell, North Carolina clear through to a young adult with occasional leisurely jaunts from Fleetwood to Todd, also in the Blue Ridge Mountains with great views of the New River.
Though never a stand-out athlete, I used to enjoy competing in summer league swimming, AAU swimming, high school track, and community road races (10Ks). But being in the water doesn’t leave much time for socializing and road races seemed to be becoming more competitive than fun so I dropped out of racing altogether. Then, as the years passed, I piled up obligations: at home with my family, at work, and around town with volunteer activities, nearly dropping me out of the fitness arena altogether.
A hike up Mount LeConte a couple of years ago convinced me that I needed to begin a regular exercise routine, and so, finally, I decided to join the Y, which had always seemed to be expensive to me. The Y workouts led to setting goals for strength training and cardio. And, at some point, I decided to get back into bike riding.
From the time I made those rides in the mountains to this past year, the world of cycling had changed dramatically. For starters, road bikes had become very technical and expensive. Besides my car and computer, my road bike is the single highest priced item I’ve ever bought just for me. I’ve come to love riding, socializing on group rides, getting an emotional/spiritual lift from being outside, and sleeping really well at night after a great workout, whether it’s a studio cycling session at the Y or a metric century charity ride.
What I love about cycling is that you can compete against yourself; that is you can set goals and gain satisfaction from reaching them, whether it’s a faster mph or a yet a longer distance. And, notwithstanding doping allegations, generally those who excel in the sport get there not just because of birthright, geography, and/or an early start but because of training and tenacity.
Our Las Vegas Wedding. Hands down the best thing I purchased in the last year.
When it came to wedding planning, my husband and I had completely different ideas of what our dream wedding was going to be. In fact, we had the stereotypical wedding planning roles totally reversed. He wanted an extravagant wedding with an equally extravagant reception for 500 of our closest friends, and I couldn’t justify spending $20,000+ for a one day affair. I would have been happy running over to the courthouse during my lunch hour to get married by a Justice of the Peace.
So, in the spirit of compromise, we decided to get married in Vegas! We had a traditional ceremony in our hotel’s onsite wedding chapel at a fraction of the cost (and stess!) normally associated with modern weddings. I do not know if it was all the champagne they plied us with at the salon before the wedding, the fact that getting married in Vegas allowed us bypass the normal stress associated with a wedding, or the combination thereof; but we had a blast at our wedding. If you look at our wedding pictures, there is not one picture of us not smiling or having a great time. It was the best day of my life, and I would not trade it for anything.
In retrospect, our Las Vegas wedding was the best thing we purchased in the past year because it allowed us to focus on our marriage and not our wedding. Instead of spending months stressing out about a one-day event, we spent the months leading up to our wedding channeling our energy, time, and resources into preparing for our future together.
My best purchase was Wise Bread.com.
Greg and I registered this domain name for about $8. We had no idea what to do with it. Greg wanted to do a shopping blog. I wanted to turn it into a Digg for consumers. Lucky for us, Sarah was one of the first bloggers to join us. She wanted to write articles that will help young people fresh out of college. Sort of a "new adult's guide" to personal finance. We loved the idea.
Thanks to Lynn's eye for talent, Wise Bread now has a wonderful community of writers. I love discovering cool tips, thoughtful essays, and fun discussions on this little website every single day.
We launched Wise Bread just a few weeks before Christmas. It is a gift that keeps on giving.
We wanted to get out of the country, and we wanted to have both private time and activities, and we didn't want to spend a ton of money. Dave was all for an all-inclusive resort, but I was skeptical because I hate all things "touristy." My mom's friend had been to Sayulita with her boyfriend and loved it.
We ended up getting a very private large studio-sized "room," with a complete kitchen, for less than half of what we would have paid for the best deal we could find at a resort. We had all the beach and related activities that we wanted, again for substantially less than we'd have paid in the resort towns. In addition, we got the color and flare of a more traditional Mexican town. It was the best of both worlds--the town had enough tourists that we didn't have the stress of communication struggles and being stared at, but it was not so overrun with Americans that we wondered why we bothered to leave the country. We got to detox from the wedding planning and stress and focus on starting our lives together.
The best thing I bought all year was Eygptian Magic Healing Cream.
I had read rave reviews about this odd-ball beauty product. The packaging is a bit kooky ala Dr.Bronner's complete with pyramid and allusions to mystical powers. Initially I thought it was a tad pricey for a mere salve, but it has been worth every penny. It works amazingly on burns, cuts & scars. I use it as a lip balm, hand, foot and body lotion, and night eye cream.
A friend of mine raves about it healing her eczema, and another has used it for post-baby stretch marks with good results. I've even used a tiny amoung to moisturize the ends of my hair. For such an all-purpose product, I am very impressed. It is always sold out at my local health food store, so if you see a jar, grab it!
My best purchase is a little off the beaten track. I purchased my own company. Well, by that I mean I incorporated my small freelance business.
I was a little afraid at first. I mean, it's a big step to become a business owner, or so I thought. A friend had recommended Legalzoom.com, another Incfile.com. I did Incfile because it was a lot cheaper and just as professional. It cost me about $130 to do the paperwork, but the tax advantages are so amazing that it has already paid for itself 20 times over. I can now write-off everything from new computer equipment to mileage and business lunches.
Whereas before I was afraid of earning too much in one year because of the tax hammer coming down, now it doesn't worry me. And when I did my taxes in March, I was surprised to see just how much my incorporation had saved me. Roughly $3000. Not bad. It's all completely legal, I'm not dodging taxes or anything like that, I am simply getting a better deal because the taxman treats businesses a lot better than individuals. If you have a small business, be it making hair bows, mowing lawns or selling art, I would suggest looking into incorporation. The tax advantages are enormous.
By the way, I opted for LLC. There are others, like S-Corp and C-Corp, but they all have different pros and cons. Check them out with an accountant.
I know the skepticism of those who don't own one. Won't it make you watch more TV? Does skipping commercials really save you that much time? Isn't it just a glorified VCR, which you never used anyway?
I admit, I follow a lot of TV shows. But if I log in my daily TV hours, it's between 1-2 hours. That's because I don't surf (if I feel like watching TV, I go directly to shows saved in my DVR instead of scanning mindlessly through the hundreds of channels, trying to find something of interest at that given moment), and skipping commercials saves a lot of time. If you consider that commercials take up 20 minutes each hour (I know this because unless I start watching at least 20 minutes after the show has started, I will inevitably catch up to it live, and will need to sit through at least one or two more sets of commercials), you can actually watch 3 hour-long shows in 2 hours.
A DVR guarantees that whenever you want some TV time, you've got something good to watch. If I've already caught up on all my regular shows, or it's rerun season, I can browse through Good Eats, Globe Trekker, The Simpsons, Man vs. Wild--shows that I don't keep up with, but I enjoy and always keep an episode or two saved. You can program all sorts of neat things with the DVR. For these shows, I reserve one or two episodes each. The DVR will keep recording the latest show every time it sees it on. While the shows that I religiously follow, I set it to record every week, without set numbers of episodes. So if I don't watch Heroes for 4 weeks, I'll have all 4 episodes still saved. But for a show like Good Eats, there's always just two of the most recent episodes.
I'm home all day, so I have the flexibility to schedule my TV time, but it's not worth it. TV is the last thing I need to work around. But when I'm ready for a break, I like to relax on my favorite chair and see what happened on Oprah a few hours ago, and if that's a repeat, let's see what's cooking on Good Eats.
And another big perk is when it's a great and exciting moment on 24 and the phone rings or there's a knock at the door or your roommate comes home blabbing on the cell phone, you can just pause or rewind and you didn't miss a thing.
This is how I can follow Heroes, 24, Gilmore Girls, Scrubs, Grey's Anatomy, CSI, Lost, Battlestar Galactica, Oprah, The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, Nip/Tuck, America's Next Top Model, Desperate Housewives, How I Met Your Mother, and Smallville on 1-2 hours/day.
My house doesn't have a lot of storage space, and I have a lot of stuff. My master bath is the size of a closet, and my countertop was overflowing with my various hair and skin care products. Under the counter didn't offer a convenient solution to my storage problem, as I could find no good way to arrange everything that I needed on a daily basis.
I finally decided that I needed a medicine cabinet. I had to fight for my right to get it. EVERYONE advised against it. My mom called them 'tacky'. My boyfriend tried to shame me out of it by pointing out how the stainless steel cabinet that I chose at IKEA wouldn't match the Craftsman style of my home.
But I would NOT be deterred, and I'm so glad that I stuck to my guns on this one.
For $60, I bought a HUGE cabinet that holds all of those little vials and bottles and brushes and capsules. It's mirrored inside and out, so if I've got some strange pimple that needs examining or a errant eyebrow that needs plucking, I can find a good angle for viewing and destroying, using any of the reflective surfaces on my medicine cabinet.
My countertop is finally clean and clear, which is a first for me. Ever. To sweeten the deal even more, my stuff actually looks GOOD inside of the cabinet - when I open the mirrored doors, it's like opening a vault onto a treasure trove of beauty potions.
What was your best purchase in the past year? Share your brilliant buy with us in the comments, and you're automatically entered in a drawing for a $25 Amazon gift certificate! Be sure to enter your email address when commenting so we can contact you if you win (we don't use email addresses for anything other than contacting the winners, we promise).
THE DRAWING HAS ENDED. CONGRATULATIONS TO SYLRAYJ, OUR WINNER OF THE DRAWING!
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