I feel like in my last couple of posts I may have given the impression that I think it's wrong to spend more than the minimum on anything, and that when I do it is only out of weakness, ignorance, or ineptitude. It's easy to slip into that mindset of self-flagellation, but it's honestly not my goal to spend as little as possible on everything. There are some things where I cheerfully spend more than I need to because I feel like I get value for that extra money. For example, let's talk about bras.
Time for a joyful unfrugal confession: in the last two months, I spent $316.87 on bras.
That's real money! At that rate, I'm spending $1901.22 a year on bras alone. That's 4.7% of my target yearly spend! But, of course, I'm not buying bras at that rate. I don't expect to buy any more bras for another year. And, actually, one of the six bras I bought was the wrong size, so I sold it on Bratabase for about what I paid for it. My net spend was actually $267.71. I expect to spend about this much every one to two years to replace worn-out bras.
I spent more last year, because I didn't know my correct size and style yet--I needed to do a lot of experimenting. My net spend on bras was probably on the order of $500 but I probably spent another thousand or so which I recovered in returns or resale. But now that I've found the perfect bras for me, it's much easier. I just have to re-up every so often and hope that the company never goes out of business!
I'm not going to buzz-market the company in part because I hate posts that start out being about frugality and end up tempting you to buy something but also because the perfect bra for me is not going to be the perfect bra for you. Everyone's size and shape is different, yet most bra companies in the U.S. offer a startlingly small, similar, and limited pool of options. That's what makes it so hard to find a bra that fits. I now special order my bras from Poland.
Special ordering European lingerie makes me feel like a real fat cat! But I have no regrets. Since I upped my bra game, I spend each day wearing a comfortable bra that looks nice under my clothes and doesn't give me a backache. I spend less time thinking about my bra because I spend less time being annoyed or uncomfortable in it. The money is totally worth it to me.
Joy versus Shame: Telling Ahead of Time
It's been a struggle for me to determine ahead of time which unnecessary spends will bring me shame, and which will bring me joy. Here's what I've figured out so far. It's worth it to spend on...
- My priorities. A lot of spending decisions come down to priorities. The reason I feel bad when I spend on lots of "in the moment" things is not because of a pointless Puritan anti-joy mentality (I hope), but because one of my priorities is saving for the future. I would describe eating a decadent gourmet lunch each day as a medium priority for me. Comfortable boobs is a high priority. Some things are low priorities and I don't spend on them at all, like cars and makeup. Another person might have completely opposite priorities. Maybe you are totally happy with a "good enough" bra but you demand quality from your lipstick. Whatever your priorities happen to be, spending in line with them is satisfying, and spending in opposition to them is a recipe for regret.
- Purchases with long-term benefits. The bras fit the bill because, once I have them, I can keep wearing them for one to three years before the elastic stretches out. The lunch upgrades don't, because by the end of the hour, I've practically forgotten what I ate. Eating a packed lunch would solve the problem of midday hunger just as well.
Despite the two examples given here, I do not interpret this to mean that physical things are better investments than fleeting experiences. I've certainly paid for fleeting experiences that pay long-term dividends in the form of happy memories: dinner at a pleasant restaurant with my wife, taking my niece to the zoo. And many physical things do not provide long-term benefits--I've bought many H&M tops that I can't distinguish from my other tops and don't improve my life in any appreciable way. The "thing" purchases that I'm happiest with tend to be ones that improve an everyday experience: comfortable clothes, useful kitchen tools, a nice water bottle.
- One-time, rather than habitual purchases. I definitely prefer making the choice to buy something once rather than simply upgrading my lifestyle with something I have to keep paying for again and again. I hate subscribing to things (although I do have Netflix and, like, an electric bill and stuff). Ideally, I'd like to keep my everyday obligatory expenses as low as possible, and then I can afford to be extravagant every once in awhile, at random intervals.