15 Fun Things to Buy for Under $5

Photo: Albert Law

You know what's fun? Pampering. Eating. Learning. Drinking. Socializing. Helping People. Basically — lots of things. And while there is a lot of free fun to be had out there, it's not unreasonable to buy yourself a little bit enjoyment on occasion (as long as you're spending consciously). With that in mind, here are 15 fun, (mostly) useful things that can be yours for a five spot. (See also: 25 Great Gifts for $5 or Less)

1. A Magazine Subscription

You could blow your $5 on one magazine at the newsstand, or you could take advantage of one of Amazon's frequent magazine sales and snag a full year's worth of issues for $5. Don't see something you like for $5? There are usually plenty of $7 subscriptions too.

2. The Ubiquitous Latte

If you read enough frugal living websites, you know that you're not supposed to regularly buy lattes (because, yeah, those little savings make a big difference over time). But an occasional latte — especially if you're sharing conversation with a good friend — can be a very worthwhile treat.

3. Fresh Flowers

I consider fresh flowers to be one of the ultimate indulgences — they're not practical, and they have a very limited lifespan. That said, I love the vibrancy they bring to a room. On my birthday this year, I spent $4 to buy fresh Gerbera Daisies, and it made me really happy to see them in my kitchen over the next week.

4. Exotic Fruit

Enjoy a bit of fruit you don't have regularly — lychees are my favorite. If your regular grocery store's "exotic" fruit collection is a few kiwis tucked next to the bananas, visit an Asian grocery store to find more unusual fruits like dragon fruit, mangosteens, and Asian pears.

5. An Accessory

Whether it's a scarf, new belt, or even just socks, perk up your wardrobe with a new accessory. Try scoping out discount stores like TJ Maxx, Ross, and Marshalls.

6. A Bath or Makeup Product You've Never Tried

One-time packets of bath salts, nice bars of soap, trial size shampoos, and lots of nail polishes fall well under $5. Pick one and pamper yourself.

7. A Nice Beer

I've seen stores in more and more states where you can buy beer by the single bottle. If you like a nice beer (but not the dear price of a six pack), buy a single bottle. Personally, I love sour beers, and I'd recommend Flemish red ale. The Monk's Cafe one is good.

8. New Pens

Most of my pens are freebie ballpoint ones branded with company logos, but I love the feel of writing with something a bit nicer. Consider splurging on something that will allow you to write without constantly shaking the pen to try to get more ink out.

9. A Small Toy

I'm a fidgeter, and I love things like squishy balls that I can fiddle around with. I'll also never get tired of high-bouncing super balls. This is extra fun if you're with a kid.

10. Fresh Herbs

Fresh herbs can add such a wonderful flavor to food and drinks (mojito, anyone?). Or, instead of just buying some at the grocery store, purchase a small herb plant so you can have fresh herbs all year round.

11. A Kickstarter Project Donation

Lynn wrote last year about how spending money on other people is a way that money can buy happiness. Help fund someone's dream project by donating through Kickstarter, where people raise funds for everything from making movies to recording concept albums to opening theaters and more.

12. A Cheap Show

From music to comedy to theater, there are always plenty of $5 or "donation accepted" shows going on. Check your local listings.

13. Used Books

Depending on your used book store and what you want to read, $5 could mean one book or 50 books.

14. A Nice Greeting Card

...which you can then use to write a note to someone.

15. New-to-You Thrift Store Clothes

 A new shirt, new pants, or new dress could all be yours at the thrift store.

What are your favorite things to buy for under $5?

Average: 3.7 (7 votes)
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Guest's picture

I like tea. Especially leaf tea. Found a place that has several kinds for sale. It was pretty pricy. $3.45 an ounce, but you would be surprised how much tea is in an ounce. Have been having a cup about once a week.

Meg Favreau's picture

Good suggestion! I love tea, and relaxing with a mug of it can be such a treat.

Guest's picture

One of my favorite things to pick up for $5, besides pens, are those thin plastic folders that hold a few sheets of paper. You get them from Staples and they come in all kinds of colors - the see through ones. Staples is my one guilty pleasure and it's usually in the form of office org type stuff. I guess it's not all bad if my office is always over compartmentalized right?! lol

Guest's picture

A new nail polish. Walgreens and Target both carry the Sinful Colors line & Walgreens has them on sale frequently.

Guest's picture

Have you tried the new "crackle" polishes?

Guest's picture

Along the lines of food, a good candy bar or two from Trader Joe's or Whole Foods can also be a fun and cheap indulgence.

What I like about your list is that these make fun treats for surprising a friend when they need a little pick me up.

Meg Favreau's picture

Love the idea about surprising a friend. And I agree with the candy bar! I have one of the salted caramel ones from Trader Joe's in my freezer right now. =)

Guest's picture
Purchase Wisely

I like to buy something to feed my needlework addiction. A nice ball of soft yarn that's under $5 is a few hours of crocheting bliss while I make a scarf to give as a gift. I did that driving cross-country from Iowa City to Chicago one winter - my boyfriend drove, I crocheted and his sister received a gift (that she wears to this day) when we arrived at her home in Chicago - that's a lot of enjoyment out of $5. :-)

Guest's picture

You could also buy some mobile apps. You could by one for entertainment, one for fun, and one just because.

Guest's picture
Oscar C

Chocolates and purple writing instruments would be mine.

Guest's picture

Such a great post, I really enjoyed it!! I love the feeling of fresh flowers in my room, they really brighten my mood and I always by them when I can. Also, I always treat myself to a warm pastry and a fancy local bakery. They are usually about $3 or $4 but you can get cinnamon rolls as big as your head, they're delicious!

Meg Favreau's picture

Glad you liked it, Jenna. Now I want a cinnamon roll...yum!

Guest's picture

We sometimes do need to be reminded that while saving money is important, it makes no sense unless you make yourself happy. I always buy myself a little something every month as a reward for not splurging. This reward method really helps with my discipline.