If you spend any time on websites dedicated to the frugality side of personal finance, you may get the idea that it’s bad to ever spend any money. The truth is that its all about surplus money – how much you are earning beyond what you are spending. This surplus is what allows you to get rich, retire, or do anything beyond simply paying non-discretionary bills. You can affect this equation on either side – by raising your income, lowering your expenses, or both.
The frugality blogs and websites tend to focus mostly on lowering spending, because anybody can do it, and most people have some easy low-hanging fruit in their monthly spending.
The problem is that a constant focus on lowering spending can lead to an attitude where spending almost any money is painful, and this can handicap your ability to be truly financially independent. The solution is to not ONLY focus on cutting costs, but also to figure out what things you SHOULD spend money on. Sometimes these items might have a positive net cost (meaning they bring in or save money beyond what you spent to buy it), or they provide utility that is disproportionately large compared to what it costs to procure.
Sort of the opposite of buyer’s remorse, sometimes you will buy something that you use so often, or performs so well, that you feel like you got an incredible deal. These items will be different for each person as our interests, needs, and lifestyles are all unique.
Following are a few completely random items where I feel I’ve got way more than my money’s worth over the years:
– Ice Chest
I’m not suggesting everybody should run out and buy a $300 Yeti cooler, but there are not many things I own that I have gotten better value out of than my ice chest. Parties, beach trips, camping, and traveling – I have used it many times. I got a simple one, nothing fancy; just your basic plastic cooler. I believe it was around $25 or at the time. Hard to remember exactly because I bought it about ten years ago. That brings my cost to less than $3 a YEAR. and that goes down even further every year I keep it. I certainly don’t baby it, but I don’t abuse it either, and it has lasted just fine with no issues. I can easily see it lasting another 10 years, no problem.
I frequently shop at multiple grocery stores to get the best deals on various items, and it’s great for putting cold or frozen items in while I go to the next store.
The only thing I would change is that I would probably buy one with wheels, like this one: http://amzn.to/2iHJt5Y
you may find that you don’t use one as often as I do, but my cooler is one item I am very pleased I bought. Well worth the small amount of money I spent a decade ago.
– Black Leather Jacket
I have a Marc New York black leather jacket which is very similar to this one: http://amzn.to/2iZFvnV
It was actually purchased for me as a gift, which makes it even more enjoyable. But even if I had spent the money on it myself it would have been a very worthwhile expenditure. I have a motorcycle, so it is functional, but it is also super durable, warm, and very versatile when it comes to style. You can wear it with almost anything and it won’t look out of place. Do yourself a favor and get real leather. If you take care of it it can easily last well over 10 years. Even here in Florida where the weather is not cold enough to justify jackets very often, I get a lot of utility out of this jacket.
– Anson Calder minimalist Wallet
A few years ago I decided I wanted to drastically reduce the amount of shit I carried in my wallet. I didn’t quite have a “George Costanza Wallet“, but it had gotten to the point that it was uncomfortable to sit down for long periods of time with my wallet in my back pocket, and it was too bulky to carry in my front pocket.
The first step was to get rid of most of the stuff I carried in my wallet. All reward program cards, library card, etc got replaced with the Keyring app on my smartphone. I can’t recommend that app enough. It’s free and there are no real downsides.
With the help of that app I winnowed my wallet contents down to where I could use most ‘minimalist’ front-pocket wallets. The first one I got was a cheap, generic brand wallet very similar to this one. It worked ok for a while, but the metal clip would dig into chairs when it was in my back pocket. Also the when there where multiple cards in the wallet it could be very hard to pull them out, leading to some embarrassing struggles at the register.
I stumbled on a Kickstarter campaign for the Anson Calder wallet, and their design had solved these issues. I contributed to their campaign and got the wallet a few weeks later and have been using it ever since. It wasn’t cheap, but it is almost exactly what I was looking for. And I got it for around $75 for being an early adopter (they are now $125). It has a cut-out that allows you to push up the cards to get them out easier, and a slot for cash. The slot can’t hold a lot of cash, since you have to tri-fold it to get it to fit, but many minimalist wallets don’t have ANY way to hold cash. Since I use mostly reward credit cards for all my spending its not a big deal, but I always like to carry at least SOME cash for preparedness purposes. It comes in handy more often than you might initially think.
Their wallet is very slim but can hold at least 11 cards in 3 separate compartments. I have had it and used it daily for many months now, and it is holding up just fine, and I recommend it to people all the time.
– Dash camera
The constant increase in technology has made things that would cost hundreds of dollars a few years ago available MUCH cheaper today. One of those things is cameras. a couple years ago I found this shockingly cheap dashcam, and have been using it ever since. Now keep in mind this is not really a GOOD camera, but it is totally serviceable, and could easily make the difference in a legal issue or insurance claim. In fact, a few months ago I was rear ended and caught the event on this very dashcam:
The camera records continuously for a few hours, then starts autooatically recording over what is there so you don’t have to do anything. It also records audio as well, as you can see in that video.
I am in the process of choosing a better camera, since this one is cheap. This is the one I have my eye on now. It is higher quality, has a second camera that films inside the vehicle as well, has settings to film while parked, and has a sensor to lock and save recordings if there is an accident. I will do a review of this camera when I end up getting it.
If you can’t afford one like that, there is no reason why everyone should not at least have this camera. Especially if you are driving for Uber or something similar. $20 is nothing, and it could prevent a lawsuit or capture something awesome that you can put on Youtube and get millions of views (and thousands of dollars)!
– Electric Griddle
This item isn’t as exciting as the last few, but it is useful and can save you money. It can be used almost anywhere, and can cook all sorts of foods. Uses much less electricity than a stovetop. I like it because you can fit almost an entire pound of bacon on it at once. It is easy to clean and prevents you from having to use a bunch of pans, because you cook right on it like a hibachi grill. These can be found almost anywhere, and are usually less than $50.
Your power bill will be lower, your sink will have less dirty dishes. Benefits all around. Great for minimalist living situations like RVs and tiny homes, small studio apartments and dorms, cooking in hotels while traveling, etc.
Post in the comments what items you own that you feel are well worth the money.