Frugal Fatigue? Here are Some Ideas for Small Splurges

by Miranda Marquit · 17 comments


The recession is technically over, and has been for some time, but many of us still feel the pinch of an economy recovering at a snail’s pace — and many of us are concerned about a double-dip recession. At the same time, though, it can be difficult to keep on pinching those pennies. If you are getting a little frugal fatigue, you might consider treating yourself with a little spending splurge, just to take the edge off. Here are some suggestions.

Small Splurges that Can Mean Big Pleasure

It has been said that the little things in life are most rewarding. This can be true of a splurge as well. Taking the time to provide yourself with a small treat, something out of the ordinary, can have an amazing effect on your mood. Think about what you enjoy, and what might provide a pick-me-up. Some of my favorite small splurges include:

  • Buying a new book
  • Ordering a decadent dessert at the restaurant.
  • Staying an extra night on vacation.
  • Having a pedicure.
  • Buying really good cheese.
  • Stopping at the pastry shop for something tasty.
  • Going to the movies.
  • Purchasing a new item of clothing (even better if it’s on sale).

These small purchases may not be in the regular budget, but we usually have a little left each month that can be saved up toward a splurge. My husband also uses his opportunities to splurge on purchases like video games, sports history DVDs, collectible action figures and donuts. Buying something we don’t really need, but something that is fun, adds some zest to life, and keeps us from feeling as though a frugal lifestyle is financially confining.

Enjoy Yourself Without Spending Money

Of course, there are plenty of frugal living experts that will point out that you don’t need to spend money in order to enjoy yourself, and that splurging for enjoyment is rather materialistic. And, while I enjoy spending money on occasion, I also know that my well-being and worth as a person have very little to do with the things and experiences I can buy.

Recognizing what you do have, and enjoying yourself without spending money, are two very important aspects of a well-rounded and healthy frugal lifestyle, and I do enjoy doing things without spending extra. Some activities that I enjoy that doesn’t require spending extra money include (this is my list, but you might get some ideas from this too):

  • Going for a walk (especially during the autumn months).
  • Riding bikes with my sons.
  • Popping corn on the stove top to watch a movie with my family.
  • Visiting the local zoo (we do make a small donation).
  • Taking my son to the playground.
  • Playing a board game as a family.
  • Going to the lake.
  • Having a picnic.
  • Window shopping in the downtown historical district.
  • Fishing.

If you look around your town, chances are that you can find a few activities that can be done for free. Tours of historical buildings, special exhibits and local parks all offer chances to get out and about — without spending money. And, of course, there are plenty of fun things you can do around the house as a family. There is no reason to feel deprived when you aren’t spending money.

However, as fulfilling and enjoyable as these activities are, sometimes it’s nice to just enjoy a splurge. And, as long as we have the money to do it without going into debt, I see nothing wrong with that.

So, enough about me. What’s your favorite splurge?

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Nitey says:

    Every Friday I have a vegetarian frugal feast with 7 ‘dishes’. Below is what we had to-night. Because there are 7 dishes in all, I don’t need to cook a lot of each, anything that is in larger quantities stays for the week-end. I also cook most of the dishes in a pressure cooker ( 2 whistles-2 minute- for the beans with sliced baby potatoes), 4 whistles (5 min for the pumpkin, and so on. Savings are on electricity/gas as well as pressure cooking saves energy and time). We serve the seven dishes with rice and bread, a real feast and we don’t feel the need for meat or fish as the variety of dishes makes the meal so satisfying.
    Pea potato curry
    Sauteed green beans with new potatoes
    Pumpkin puree fricasse (with onion and thyme)
    ‘Rougaille’- tomatoes cooked with onion, garlic,herbs and green chillies (optional) until fairly thick (tinned tomatoes)
    dhal with fried onions and cumin
    garlicky spinach
    mango pickle (from a jar)

  • Kristl Story says:

    I like to think of these splurges as money saving motivation. I’m motivated to save money at the grocery store, so I can splurge on something wonderful like a….

    Massage. It’s only $29 (no tipping allowed) at our local massage therapy school.

  • Matt Borack says:

    If everyone is too frugal, we all suffer from a poor economy. We need to spend our money carefully so we have extra money to (1) put in savings and (2) to splurge with (we’re human after all).

    This recession officially ended 1 1/2 years ago but things are still uncertain. The government stimulus hasn’t worked very well and businesses are hesitant to hire. It is up to consumers now to stimulate the economy by spending once again, but this time in a responsible manner. That is why my wife and I created yakatoi.com – a website that encourages consumers to do just that and gives them a place to write about it.

  • Leigh says:

    I really like the ideas shared by everyone. I’ve found that a weekend trip out for breakfast is an affordable way to feel as though I’m on vacation since we haven’t been traveling much as a way to cut back. It’s less expensive than dinners out, and definitely out of our standard routine.

  • Gail says:

    Yes, in reading these posts, it seems like a coffee out seems to be a real splurg. When I was caring for my mother in Hospice and only got out once a week for 4 hours, that is what I did to get release. In retirement, going out shopping may be one of the few things one does to get out and about. It is fun to just sit and drink coffee while watching people go walk by. Reading in the sunshine can really make one feel mellow as well. The trick seems to be allowing oneself that luxury, when there are so many things staring one in the face to be done. If one is a worker, it does not matter if one works for money or themselves. It is still hard to tear oneself away to have a splurg of time, money or calories. Cheers to those who are able to do it for themselves and not burn out on the other more important goals. These long term goals take a lot of time to accomplish and one needs to have some release to last the long striving.

  • Slackerjo says:

    Taking the dog to the dog park for a play.

    Of course I am completely bias because she is the most awesome dog in the history of dogs.

  • Stella says:

    This is tough for me–because “small splurges” can easily turn into “spending sprees” if I’m not careful. I guess my best “small splurge” would be a matinee movie. That only costs $5-6, gives me a couple hours of escapist enjoyment and I’m not tempted to spend any more.

  • Living frugally is a lot like being on a diet. It can become a lifestyle change that’s old hat and easy after a while, but sometimes, in order to stick to it, you’ve got to treat yourself. So, I couldn’t agree more that sometimes (just here and there) you’ve gotta yourself a small splurge. My decadent treat is specialty coffee. When I need to pamper myself, I head to a real coffee shop for flavored latte-macchiato-chai something or other with foam that someone makes just for me on a special machine that makes lots of noise. 🙂

  • My wife purchased new towels for us. Our old towels were pretty ratty and the new towels are so soft and fluffy.
    There are so many free activities over the summer and early falls, we are just happy to have some time to spend at home so we haven’t splurge much lately.

  • One of the ways my partner and I treat ourselves on the weekend is by cooking something that we don’t usually cook. Searching through the cookbooks is fun, then we head to the store to get the ingredients. Sometimes we even have a lot of the incredients in the house already. And its such a treat when we sit down to eat our creation with a movie from Netflix.

  • Briana @ GBR says:

    I recently bought an ereader, and I can’t begin to explain how happy I am when I buy a new book to read. Granted, some of them are free, not many are more than $10, but it’s what I call a small splurge. It keeps me happy and out of the red lol

    • mgg says:

      I totally agree. Many out-of-copyright books are free on the web to download and you will find yourself reading much more. E-books normally run cheaper too.

  • Tracy says:

    We ask the grandparents for memberships to the local zoo, Botanic Gardens and Children’s museum for birthdays and holidays. It’s great because we get to go on a nice family outing and not spend very much at all, maybe just enough to buy the kids some ice cream on the way home.

    When I go to Costco, if I’ve got enough left over in the budget, I’ll throw in a package of lobster ravioli or something like that for dinner later that night. It feels a bit fancier than our usual home cooking and is less effort for me. That feels nice after a long day of running errands.

    Miranda, I’m with your husband on the donuts. Every day I have to talk myself out of buying donuts so when I do give in, it’s marvelous. If I could afford a new, bigger wardrobe every six months I would probably give in and have donuts every day.

  • Starshard0 says:

    It’s a bummer, but there’s not really anything I can spend money on that makes me happy. I used to enjoy buying video games but they’re so expensive now I usually end up worse off.

    I’m hoping there really is a double dip so stock prices go back down, buying those always makes me happy.

  • Steve Jobs says:

    Once in a while if I can afford it or if it is really needed, I give myself a new gadget or appliance the whole family can use and enjoy. I do enjoy seeing my family enjoy the new appliance and that gives me a sense of fulfillment. I also do treat myself some moments alone on a secluded place and enjoy its peace and tranquility, wasting time and totally away from the daily hassle of life.

  • Great ideas – it is nice to do something special for ourselves every now and then without breaking the bank. I like to take a book in hand and walk the 30 minutes to our local coffee location where I get a $3 vanilla latte and sit in the outdoor patio with a view of the oak trees and wandering people. I can sit there for an hour or more, just sucking in the sunshine and enjoying the moment. Not too bad for a $3 investment (and the coffee is darn good.)

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