Spending for happy: What purchases give you most joy?

Guest post by Kathryn Welch

Spending money on board games? Spending money on haircuts? What kind of things make you feeling awesome to give away your cash. By: Philip TaylorCC BY 2.0
When I saw the Offbeat Bride post “What do you wish you’d spent more money on?” I had initially assumed it was an Offbeat Home post! I got super-excited about the possibilities. I’m usually so focussed on spending less money in general, that it’s actually really liberating to think about spending more money in some areas, and to make cutbacks in others without affecting my overall happiness.

I’ve recently come to notice that some of the things I buy bring me a massively disproportionate amount of happiness (let’s call it a happy-for-money rating), whilst other — more expensive — purchases just leave me feeling meh. I had the (admittedly, blindingly obvious) realisation that thinking consciously about which purchases made me happiest means that I can choose to focus more of my spending in those areas, and cut back on those areas that weren’t pulling their weight, happiness-wise. Obviously everyone’s priorities will be different, but I bet there’s areas where loads of us are spending money without actually seeing the happiness-benefit.

For example…

New pajamas: Worn every night (and most days, to be honest), and make me feel great every time I put them on, even though I got them for peanuts on sale. Very high happy-for-money rating.

The veg box that gets delivered to my office every fortnight: Actually not that expensive at all, but I get a massive hit from seeing what’s in there and figuring out what I’m going to do with it all (and also from not having to go to the supermarket, which I hate).

Plants for the garden: Digging up potatoes feels like panning for gold.

On the other side of the fence… Haircuts: I seem to have gotten sucked into a cycle of spending £50 a pop on a haircut (yes, I know), when in actual fact I hate getting my hair cut — awful awkward conversation, staring in a mirror examining my flaws, leaving feeling self-conscious and over-styled. TERRIBLE happy-for-money rating.

I could easily go to the local cheapy hairdresser, and save myself £40 for spending on vegetables and nightwear. No net change in spending, massive increase in happy.

So, my question is, what purchases do other Homies consider to have the highest happy-for-money rating? What can we spend proportionately MORE on, to make sure our money’s working for us, and where can we cut back without noticing even a dint on our happy-ometer?

Comments on Spending for happy: What purchases give you most joy?

  1. Office Supplies! I know it’s ridiculous, but I get so much happy out of post-it notes and cool pens, but I love writing with good pens and especially ones that come in fun colors! Of course, I tend to pick some up whenever I go out, so now I have an absurdly large collection and my husband has forbidden me from buying any more (until I actually use the bulk of what we have).

    Also good books and experiences. I buy a lot of my books from used bookstores, so it’s always fun to get something amazing you weren’t expecting for $2 and enjoy the read so much, you find yourself hooked on a new author or series. I also rarely regret going to museums or shows even when they are expensive. My absolute faves are the Cirque du Soleil performances I’ve been too. I’m on a high for WEEKS afterwards because of the amazing things I’ve had the opportunity to see.

  2. Food. Oh my gosh food. I had an on-again/off-again relationship with food for much of high school and college; I even used to think that I didn’t like eating, that I just did it because I had to, until I spent a summer with my aunt and realized that I just had expensive taste. (Here’s looking at you, J. Alexander NY strip). I was then flat broke for all of grad school and buying food was almost always anxiety-provoking. It wasn’t until I started working full-time and married before I felt comfortable spending however much I wanted on groceries. I make a grocery list based on what I want to eat- quinoa and tilapia and fresh cheeses and steak for my salad baking ingredients for lemon scones- and now I LOVE eating. My delicious roast beef and roasted tomatoes sandwich today made me so very happy, and I am so grateful to have the money to do that now.

  3. Honestly, lately it’s been clothes! Goodwill to pinupgirl.com, I’ve really been enjoying buying clothes. A lot of this has to to do with the fact that I was a hand-me-down kid with little choice in what I got to wear and only very recently have I started to feel really beautiful in my body. I still wear little to no make up and hate to spend money on shoes but I love to have foufy pretty dress with leggings, even if I have to wear sneakers with it!

  4. This is a great question and is making me sit down and make a list of all the things I buy that actually make me happy. Hopefully this allows me to feel better about how I spend my money which seems to for the most part, come down a few necessary purchases for me, some high quality food and tons of money on pet food, pet furniture, toys and treats. Nothing makes me happier than seeing how excited my dog is by her new toy or my cats fighting over who gets to sit on their new window perch. Other high qualities purchases include black tea – nothing can compare to the feeling of warmth and relaxation that a high quality black morning tea can provide, kitchen supplies (LOVE my Vitamix), facials (it’s like a massage but without the greasy icky feeling afterwards), and travel (just got back from a so-so trip to NYC but still excited to have gone).

  5. Lately it’s been yarn for knitting baby things. I got really lucky with sales and coupons some weeks back and got a giant bagful for $20. Also anything fun for my kitties (toys, new treats, etc). I love trying new food, so when I see something like a tropical fruit I’ve only seen in pictures I have to try it. My best happy-to-money purchase ever? A tiny little drawing of my cats done by an artist for $5. I can’t look at it without feeling complete and utter delight.

  6. Hello everyone! I’m the OP, and just popping by to say I’ve SO ENJOYED reading all these comments – it’s really made me smile. I love how many teeny tiny things have made it onto the list (yay for buying graph paper!) and also some really great thoughts of things to bite the bullet and splurge on.

    I’m completely with the people who’ve mentioned good bras – I *just* found my first amazing bra last week, and am genuinely wondering how I can bear to take it off for long enough to put it in the washing machine – ever!

    I’m going to go back and read all the comments again now – so happy that so many people *got* the idea. Love OBH&L!

    • Don’t do it! Don’t put it in the washing machine!

      No, but really in all seriousness, despite the convenience, you’re better off hand washing them. They stay much more happy-inducing that way. Even if the washing machine isn’t as bad as the dryer, it still causes them to distort.

        • I haven’t used one of those things, but (and granted, this is unscientific) I’ve noticed that washing them drastically reduces the life of the bra… like, within 6-8 months, it’s a weekend bra, and after a year or so, it’s trash, vs. a year or so of good wear, and another 6-12mo of weekend/after work wear.

          I have big boobs and am also lazy, and probably don’t wash my bras as often as I should, but especially if they are expensive, I personally find that hand washing them more often than not (okay, so they do get thrown in the washer like every 2-3 months) seems to keep them clean and not all stretched out.

      • Really?! Well, of all the things you didn’t know…

        I’ve honestly never noticed an issue with washing bras in the washing machine – Rae, how / why does handwashing make a difference? Megan, I’m also a lazy-ass with big boobs, added to which I have very questionable standards of hygiene when it comes to washing bras (once a fortnight is plenty, right?!)

        Thinking of which, maybe that’s why I never noticed an issue with machine washing bras…!

  7. My best spend is going out for breakfast with the boy. We walk out, we take our time. The whole day starts right. It feels indulgent but I love it.

    I hate spending money on mobile phones, clothes and dinner food from restaurants I haven’t chosen, when I could make better at home. At the risk of sounding like a food snob, I would rather go out once and have a glorious tasting menu than eat once a month at a place that makes worse pasta than me.

  8. I love the lists of what makes folks happy! I love the idea of a price vs happy ratio and how high price does not equal happy.
    The wife and I are in the process of slowly replacing our hand-me down/start up house stuff with things we love. We have made due for years and are now carefully and thoughtfully replacing things, sometimes with handmade new items, sometimes with vintage. We have come to the conclusion that just because someone gave us something…chair/bowl/blanket…we don’t have to keep it if we don’t need/want/love it. It can go to someone else!
    We bought a ‘too big for our house now’ 8 ft farm table from reclaimed wood from a local guy and it was the best purchase ever! It makes me happy every time I sit at the table! It now fits all our friends for dinner parties too. It was a splurge but we saved for it and it was totally worth it!

  9. I have a massive list! I just love shopping in general – as long as I have something in mind that I like. I LOVE researching for decor and fashion items, then spending time searching for the perfect ‘thing’. Then every time I see or wear said item I get a ginourmous sense of happiness 🙂 once that super happy/styling/fuck-i-feel-awesome-with-this wears off I know it is time to pass it on – usually this is around the 5 – 7 year mark of owning something..
    Favorites: Perfume and gorgeous skin care, decor items, Books, and lingerie. Seriously, if you get me anywhere near an amazing bookstore (particularly in the coffee table section) or lingerie store I can spend hours looking.

  10. Sounds silly – but the thing you’ve been looking for for ages – kitchen gadget – pair of trousers that fit great. Last thing was a belt tidy for the wardrobe. Makes life so much easier in there now. cable headphones tidy, spoon measuring set. stool for the bathroom with inner storage.

  11. We tend to get the best Happiness for Money with experiences; whether it’s travel or trips to Museums/fairs/amusement parks.

    Clothing is our trade-off; I own a handful of clothes and probably have a $50-$100 annual budget for clothes total for our family of 3.

  12. This is something I tend to think quite a lot about. I love buying proper fresh veg, books, quality shoes, silly presents, good chocolate, clothes that make me look good, any little things like that. Some more expensive things too, like our mattress (which is amazing), my laptop, my kindle.

    One of the most important things that I like to spend money on is “not -stress”. Like, £50 to replace the fan belt in my car because the whistly noise it was making made me tense every single damn day. Totally worth it. £100 to hire a car for my husband to drive to Wales to help his grandfather move up here, because he’ll feel better about it if he helps out, and his family is really important to him. Likewise, when we can afford it, a cleaner every couple of weeks, in order to not spend time cleaning. I don’t think people put enough value on not being stressed out. Things that save you time and brain space, if you can afford them, are definitely worth it.

  13. lol I don’t have to worry about pjs since I sleep in de nekkie.haha

    But things i spend money on that make me happy… books…a fancy coffee somewhere and if me an my hubby are doing really good, we do what all locals around here do.. get a couple hundred bucks and go gambling in Biloxi, MS. if we win well, we stay an extra night at the hotel, if not we come on back home. Its a lot of fun and I’ve won two jackpots so far doing it and we go all out and get a fancy dinner when that happens. The most expensive meal I ever had was at one of the hotels with a king cut steak.. nearly a foot wide and 3-4 thick. Fried strawberries with glaze. I’m sorry for the vegs out there who arent a fan of meat. But the experience in itself was awesome. its like a mini-vacay of feeling like rockstars. ^_^ But thats like a twice in the year if we are doing well.

  14. I like owning books as well, although recently I have been minimizing. Still brings me joy if I have a gift card to spend 🙂 Fuzzy blankets always make me happy, as well as buying treats for my dogs. I usually make treats at home for them (which they like), but they looove store-bought treats even better. Their joy is my joy! I also love buying stickers and clearance craft supplies. I can relate to the hair cutting scenario — not my favorite. I also don’t like buying ziploc bags and paper towels. I avoid using them as much as possible, but still have to buy them every once in awhile. Seems like such a waste because they get thrown away, even if you maximize their use.

  15. A recent purchase that made both my husband and I very happy were mugs purchased at our local potters’ guild. We had a great time picking them out and chatting with the artists. While he had some sticker shock ($134) for four mugs they make us so happy. Every day. He makes the coffee and has a system of varying the mugs depending on the weather and our moods.
    Something that I have stopped buying is books, either in print or digital form. I love books and read voraciously. But, for the last five years almost all of my books have been digital borrows from my library. Not buying books has made me very happy because I no longer have to figure out how to budget $200 for reading material, nor do I have to read books I’m not interested because of their low cost. Sometimes the library’s wait list is a while, but when it is my turn it is soo exciting. And, any of the books I do purchase are the real special ones. I keep track of everything I read on Goodreads.

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