Every week, I write about ways to cut costs or find a good deal. But thrift is more than saving or penny-pinching. It’s about finding a path to value and living well without overspending. There are times when spending as much as your budget allows is a good thing. In my book, there are six things to spend money on without feeling bad:
- Preventive health care
- Retirement savings
- Shoes and shoe repair
- Classes and education
- Tipping and small gifts
- Olive oil
I’d love to hear your guilt-free spending categories, too. Here’s why I don’t feel bad about the items on my list:
1. Preventive Health Care
Copays are annoying. Sometimes they’re covered, sometimes not. And when they’re not, they can be irritating reminders of the health care system’s flaws. We’re hit with costs at every turn, even as we’re working harder than ever. You may be able to whittle down copays by switching plans, but they’re not going away.
Sometimes there are areas in which you just have to take the hit to avoid something worse down the road.
So go to your preventive care appointments and pay the fee. I say this to myself every time I fork over a $50 copay to a dermatologist. It really seems like money that I shouldn’t have to spend. But I’ve already had a melanoma that required surgery, and that cost me a lot more. If I don’t get everything looked at, I could go through it all again. So here’s my money. Take it, doctor, and keep my skin healthy!
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2. Retirement Savings
Okay, so this isn’t really spending. You just won’t see your savings for a while. But it’s still important. Do it. No matter how old you are. Put away as much as you possibly can. And take advantage of every system that is designed to help you, such as corporate matching funds.
Understanding all of your options for your retirement savings is especially important in the gig economy. You may switch jobs many times or have multiple gigs that don’t have retirement plans. Take the time to set one up for yourself. And if you do land a job in a company that matches your monetary contribution, maximize that for as long as you can — you never know when that gig will end.
3. Shoes and Shoe Repair
It’s not about quantity. It’s about quality. Do your best to find well-made shoes in classic designs at reasonable prices. Properly made shoes will keep your feet and joints healthy. They’ll make you look classy.
Plus, if you repair your leather shoes or boots as they wear, you can keep them for years. I’ve been wearing the same pair of black leather boots by Frye for more than a decade, thanks to regular trips to the shoe repair guy. I fully intend to get another decade out of them.
4. Classes and Education
This is key in two areas: work and play. Keeping up with new trends and developments in your work will help you stay on top of innovations in your industry. Some professions require continuing education. In fact, some companies encourage taking classes internally or may even subsidize outside classes. Knowing all about the hot new thing will pay off, and it's definitely worth the investment.
Plus, whether your hobby is guitar playing, knitting, or tennis, getting involved in a class or a group on your own time will keep your creative and competitive juices flowing. Seeking out other people to learn from or exchange ideas with will improve your skill level. And there are ancillary benefits, like lowering your stress level, keeping you happy and laughing, and avoiding pointless shopping. All thrifty!
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5. Tipping and Small Gifts
Showing your appreciation to hardworking bartenders, coat takers, valet parkers, and anyone who lifts anything heavy for you goes a long way, especially if you return again and again to the same place.
And when people go the extra mile for you — like a nurse who takes special care of a family member — send them cookies or pizza every so often. The person will remember you and probably help you even more the next time.
6. Olive Oil
What can I say? With an excellent olive oil in the kitchen, life is good. High-quality olive oil makes everything better. My advice is to explore different brands. Buy the absolute best you can, and buy it in bulk. Life is too short for bland olive oil!
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