What Do You Splurge On? Where Do You Save?

by Vered DeLeeuw · 11 comments

As a reader of MoneyNing, being frugal – certainly not being wasteful – is probably important to you. But even if we’re trying to be frugal, we all have things we save on and others we splurge on. For many of us, it’s a matter of priorities and what we ultimately deem important.

While our first priorities must be having a well-funded emergency fund, saving for retirement and saving for our children’s college education, assuming we do all these and have some discretionary income left, it’s completely legitimate to spend this money on the things that give us pleasure.

After all, being frugal can’t work long-term unless we find that delicate balance, that personal “happy place” where we manage to save, yet don’t feel deprived. It’s just like going on a diet: if you’re too extreme, if you deprive yourself, you won’t be able to stick with your diet long-term. The only successful diets are those that can be maintained for the long haul, those that allow you the occasional splurge.

Of course, what exactly to splurge on and where to save is a very personal choice. Here are a few of my own choices. I would love to learn about yours.

Food: a definite SPLURGE!

I splurge on food. I try to buy mostly organic, especially meat, dairy and certain produce items. This raises my grocery bill by at least 10%. While we don’t eat out often with the kids, my husband and I do go out frequently, and we almost always choose high-end restaurants. We love gourmet food and we are willing to pay for it.

Cell Phone: SAVE

I’ve had the same cell phone for the past ten years, and my plan is also the most basic, cheapest plan I was able to find. I don’t own a smart phone and don’t plan on owning one in the near future. This is a matter of priorities: I view my cell phone as an emergency-only tool. I hardly ever use it. And I don’t want to have Internet access outside my home – I am way too connected anyway, so time spent outside is a great opportunity to disconnect.

Clothes: SPLURGE

Splurging here is relative. I like designer clothes, but I almost never pay full price for them – I shop at bluefly.com for discounted designer clothes and scour the sales racks at department stores for finds. I still consider this as a “splurge” item, because my annual clothing bill would definitely be much lower if I were not into designer clothes.

Cable: SAVE

My husband and I are very happy with the basic cable plan and don’t feel any need to upgrade.


We still own the same CRT television we bought for $120 ten years ago. We haven’t ruled out upgrading to plasma or LCD at some future point, but frankly, it’s just not a huge priority for us. We don’t watch that much TV anyway.


We love to travel, and are willing to spend a fairly large percentage of our income on travel each year. It’s not just that we love to travel, but we enjoy high-end travel, including nice hotels and good restaurants.

Cosmetics and Skin Care: SAVE

After doing some research, I’ve decided that department store brands are simply too pricey. I now use Paula’s Choice skin care line, which is quite affordable – and effective.

Insurance: SAVE

I refuse to pay too much for car and home insurance. A few years ago, after overpaying for several years, I finally did my homework and have ditched my old insurer in favor of a new one. We now have a high-deductible auto policy, are enjoying a good driver discount, and since we buy all our policies from the same insurer (a home and 2 cars), we get a discount for that too. I still comparison shop once a year to make sure staying with our current insurer makes sense.

What about you? What do you save on, and where do you splurge?

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Jacob @ My Personal Finance Journey says:

    I also am in the save category when it comes to cable (I am an avid netflix user), but I tend to splurge when it comes to good local, Virginia wine.

  • Wenchypoo says:

    I splurged on an $800 electronic sewing machine, because I wanted it to be the LAST sewing machine I ever bought. After years of buying cheap machines that become useless after a couple of years (due to high-volume sewing), I just got tired and threw in the towel.

    A year after buying it, my reasons for sewing suddenly began dying off: hubby got medically discharged from the navy, meaning no more sewing rank patches and embroidering his name on shirts and pants, and we also left our medieval re-enactment group, which meant no more Medieval and Renaissance costumes. Maybe I shouldn’t have spent the money, but who knows what we’ll get involved with next that requires sewing? In the meantime, I’m making quilts again because the TV programming is so bad these days, there’s nothing to watch (and nothing worth continuing to pay for satellite)–besides, there’s always Hulu for free.

    As for LT clothes, I bought Hubby some L.L.Bean flannel shirts 11 years ago (another splurge), and they’re still alive and kicking–no fading, no shrinking to fit the dog, and no thinning of the material.

    I also buy stuff by the dozen (or however many colors it comes in) when it goes on sale: polo shirts, t-shirts, sweat pants/shirts, socks/underwear packages, shorts, tank tops, etc. Me go shopping for clothes? I did it years ago, and learned to make elastic my friend. I also learned to buy some of the stuff in sizes that we both can fit into, making his and hers duplication unnecessary.

    One more splurge: Birkenstocks for my bad feet. I’ve had the same pair for about 8 years now, and have had them re-soled once. I’m going to wear them until either I die or they can no longer be saved. Prior to that, I had a pair of Land’s End knock-offs that lasted a decade until the leather soles began to curl, making the shoes resemble rocking chair runners. I tried to get some more, but they quit making them, and I had to move up to the real thing.

    If you’re going to splurge, IMO, make it a one-time thing that’s going to be with you a good long time, so it pays you back. Otherwise, stock up on the cheaper stuff on sale to avoid repeat purchasing (for a while)–like food. Dried products (beans, grains, etc,) can be bought in 50-lb. bags and will last months (maybe a year or two, depending on family size)–this frees up more money for meats and fresh produce for after the purchase, and before the next one is made.

    Keeping the credit cards paid off frees up money to make extra principal payments on a mortgage.

    I could go on, but you all know the rest.

  • Pat Chiappa says:

    It’s so interesting to see a similar response in these posts – I can pretty much duplicate Vered’s post – except for the clothes, I’m not into fashion. (thanks for the Paula’s cosmetics tip)

    My trick is simply not to consume as much – and that can go for food and drink as well as having a small carbon footprint.

    As an aside – I recently started using Groupon – now I can splurge and save at the same time. And I still ask myself before I buy – “do I really need/want this?”

  • Wealthy Immigrant says:

    I am saving a lot on cable thanks to Hulu and Netflix.

    I prefer organic/natural skincare, so the items end up being a “splurge” even when they are on sale.

  • Jenna says:

    Food: Save – bring lunch to work everyday.
    Cell Phone: Save – still on the parents plan.
    Clothes: Save – hello sales rack.
    Cable: Save – hello Netflix and Hulu.
    TV: I don’t really have a TV
    Travel: SPLURGE.
    Cosmetics and Skin Care: Save – Clinique free gift, baby.
    Insurance: Save.

  • Briana @ GBR says:

    I save on clothes, save on food for the most part, splurge on cable, splurge (in a savings way) on travel

  • Vered DeLeeuw says:

    Very interesting to read different people’s views on where to save/splurge. Thank you for your comments.

  • LoveBeingRetired says:

    Yup – Miranda summarizes it for us. When it comes to food, we cook mainly at home so we are actually saving a lot by not eating out. We buy good ingredients, leaning toward organic, and enjoy ourselves. And for travel, we like to take more extensive trips but while there have no problem staying at affordable digs. We spend on the trip to get there and what we do once there, not so much on where we sleep at the end of the day.

  • Miranda says:

    We are all about splurging on food as well. And I like to splurge on travel. For me it’s all about the experience. Most other things, we look for ways to save.

  • The Financialite says:

    Interesting article. I like to see what others consider to be a “splurge” and what they can just get by on. While I agree with you on some things, my biggest disagreement is with the cell phone. I do like to be connected and having the latest technology is key for me. I have a smart phone and all my emails/side projects are accessible that way. I am by no means always on my phone, but I like to be able to see what is going on and then slip it back into my pocket unless there is an emergency somewhere. I would suggest looking for discounts on the cell phone rate if you ever upgrade. I have a deep discount on my phone through my job, but know that other companies like AAA have great discounts as well. I pay about $70/month for my phone and love it. Just an idea 🙂

  • KM says:

    I try to find savings even in the splurge items. Food and travel are the two things that I won’t deprive myself of if I can afford it. I like going out to eat once in a while (although I prefer home-cooked food most of the time), but when I do, I try to use coupons and sometimes use the availability of coupons to help decide where to go if there are several places in mind (it never overrules being in the mood for something though).

    I also travel cheaply and try to find deals and discounts when I can. But I haven’t traveled on a full-time salary yet though, so maybe when that time comes after graduation, I won’t be as frugal and will indulge myself in a bit more luxury at the destination. I haven’t had to stay at a hotel in Europe yet though, since I have so many friends there that I just crash on their couch for a while. I just don’t have that need for a fancy hotel at another place since I spend most of the day out exploring anyway.

    Technology is another somewhat splurge. I don’t mean fancy phones and plasma TVs, but I want to make sure I get what I “need.” I don’t watch TV (except the few shows I can watch on Hulu) and I only got my new smartphone because my camera has been broken for a while and I found myself in need of one that is convenient, and it was getting cumbersome carrying a bunch of things like PDA, mp3 player, camera, etc. that a single gadget would replace. But my plan is the most basic they had because I just don’t talk on the phone much. And I recently splurged on a DSLT camera because my DSLR was also broken (it’s all this sand in the desert that kept breaking my cameras) and I needed a good camera for my photography hobby and because I have a new baby. But I shopped around for both of those and made sure to get the best value model and the best deal for it.

    Everything else is a save, especially clothes. I shop at Ross and I don’t even like spending more than $15 on a dress or $10 on a shirt. Some may argue that the quality isn’t as good, but that just means I get an update more often and I can wear more different things instead of the same thing over and over.

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