5 Situations When It's Smart to Splurge

Darth Vader and Luke sky walker light saber battle
The term "splurge-worthy" is one we sometimes use to help us feel better about a not-so-guilt-free purchase. It's like when your coworker tells you about the amazing "Star Wars" action figure collectible he bought on a whim over the weekend. After emphasizing what an enormous nerd he is, you ask how much it cost. And then the splurge-worthy convincing begins: "I mean ... it was a lot. But this thing is one of a kind. And in great condition. Super shiny. Authentic sound effects. It was such a splurge-worthy buy."

But deep down? He's feeling the guilt for going over budget on his very cool plastic doll. (And for all you "Star Wars" fans, I apologize for my poor job of channeling my inner sci-fi geek. Forgive me, you will?)

The truth is that very rarely is something legitimately splurge-worthy. But when those occasions present themselves, you should be able to splurge your heart out without feeling a drop of guilt. So without further bad "Star Wars" figurine hypotheticals, here are five splurge-worthy moments to anticipate:

Purchasing it will help make you money. If you have a solid framework for making money from an item,
by all means, buy it. Case in point: When my husband, Johnny, was doing freelance graphic-design work right out of college, he needed a new computer to keep up with the kind of work expected of him. So we splurged on a new computer, which was also an investment in his career. If you have a side business that requires nicer equipment in order to take your income to the next level, buying that equipment could be well worth the temporary extra expense.

When your FSA deadline is just around the corner. American workers lost millions of dollars last week thanks to use-it-or-lose-it flexible spending accounts. While the tax advantage that comes with an FSA is pretty sweet, if you don't use that money by the end of the year, it dies and goes to money heaven. (Actually, it's worse than that: It goes back to your employer!) So you best use that money while you can. You might not normally consider spending a lot on a blood-pressure monitor or an electric nursing pump. But using your FSA account, you could buy the item and resell it online. Or you could become the owner of a really nice blood-pressure monitor that's the envy of all the neighbors. Either way, it's better than letting the money go to waste. You may even still have time to spend that cash: Some companies give employees a two-and-a-half-month grace period after the year ends to use up their FSA dollars. You may just have some time left to splurge!

(Next year, though, it may not be so bad. The Treasury this fall changed the rules on FSAs: Companies are now allowed to let you carry $500 over into the next year -- but it's up to your employer to make that benefit available to you.)

Buying an everyday item in bulk for cheap. Optimizing on a deal is totally worth it if it's a non-perishable item that you'll be buying in the future anyway. Some of these items include diapers, wipes, soap (can you tell there's a dirty little toddler running amok in our house?), shampoo, toilet paper, paper towels, canned food essentials, etc. You get the idea. For some reason, many people (including me) have a really hard time laying down a bunch of dough all at once. They'd rather spend $30 each month rather than $200 in one transaction for the entire year because it feels like less of a blow. But in this case, splurging is the smarter move.

Buying quality Is a better investment. When faced with buying two similar items, the more wallet-friendly option may seem like the right choice at first glance.
And many times it is. But sometimes the more expensive item is cheaper in the long run because it'll last longer. At the beginning of our marriage, Johnny and I learned the hard way that a $30 particle-board table has a short lifespan. So rather than buy a $30 table every couple of years, we splurged on a solid wood table that will last forever, with the occasional fresh coat of paint. Other times to consider quality are when you're buying cars, electronics, and appliances. So the next time you scoff at a $20 light bulb that lasts several years, you might want to think twice.

Budgeting for the item in advance. An around-the-world cruise might look like a splurge to some. But if you've saved up each month for three years, it's in your budget, and you can make it work, that's well within the realm of a healthy splurge. Any item can go from not-splurge-worthy to definitely-splurge-worthy if it's been calculated and planned out within a balanced budget -- no matter how seemingly unnecessary the item. We work hard, and we all deserve a good, planned splurge every once in a while. Yes, even your Star Wars-obsessed coworker who's now the proud owner of another plastic doll.

Joanna and Johnny are the writing duo behind OurFreakingBudget.com, a personal finance blog documenting the joys, pains and realities of living on a budget.

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Good Basic Ideas.


January 11 2014 at 2:47 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Maybe the government could learn to live within it's means like we do and stop increasing the debt!

January 09 2014 at 1:36 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply

Actually, money is a very serious affair. Impulse buying, splurging, panic buying, and spending without a plan is a feature of people that are always broke. I know this because I was one of them. I blaimed my employers for not paying me enough, but it was all me.
Here are some tips worth a fortune, and I don't usually give them away but it could help some people especially those that are bashing their head against a wall.

Before you buy anyhthing, think it through - the entire life cycle of it. To start with I never buy anything I can't resell at some point. If I no longer have a use for an item, I want it to have enough re-sale value so I can sell it on Ebay, etc. and recover some of my original investment.
In the case on here of buying a better table, power tools would apply. Power tools last almost forever, are easily re-sold, and can be used to make a solid wood table out of real wood bought by the sheet for $8.99 at Lowes.
If you buy in bulk, check the expected shelf life of the item. Twenty pounds of cheese puffs is great, but if they go stale in two weeks, they are not cost-effective.

As for Warren Buffett, he made it selling insurance, not investing. Did you know that less than 1% of all life insurance is ever collected ? The top reason why ? Most simply stop paying.
Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway empire resulted when Buffett kept looking for places to park the insurance money, not investment savvy. Few people ever become wealthy in the stock market.

January 09 2014 at 7:50 AM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply