I have waltzed with riches more than once in my life. I have tangoed with poverty a time or two as well. Usually I find myself dancing along somewhere in the middle, definitely not rich enough to spend a ton on the finer things, and not poor enough that I can’t enjoy life at all.
In 2011, I was really, really down (financially). I could not, for the life of me, figure out how to make money blogging and I had become so obsessed with my money problems that I began clamping down on everything so tightly that there wasn’t much fun to be had anymore. Things got very depressing.
I mean, I would wake up and use less toothpaste than I wanted just to save money, and then I would brush my teeth without water to save money. I would take a luke-warm shower in the morning to save money. While in the shower, I would wash my hair with the dollar per bottle shampoo, and barely use any of that so that I could save money there, too. For breakfast I’d pour myself some cold cereal from a giant bag. Getting it in a box was too expensive. Getting any healthy cold cereal was definitely too expensive. At one point, I ate my cereal with water instead of milk for a week straight before I finally couldn’t choke it down anymore. And so my day went on.
All day, every day was spent thinking about how to save money, literally worrying about how pennies here and there would stack up. I got more unhealthy, more down, and more desperate as time went on. It seemed my financial life was spinning down and down and down. I couldn’t help but go to bed at night and think, I’m too poor to even sleep.
And then one day, one of my equally poor friends started telling me about this incredible facial she had received the day before. It sounded really expensive.
“How can you afford that?” I asked her.
She just laughed. “I can’t. But I just started this thing where I’m forcing myself not to live like a poor person every once in a while so that I don’t forget what I’m working toward.”
And that’s when it hit me. I had somehow begun living the life of a chronically poor man, instead of the life I personally wanted to be living. My energy and time was being focused into making it possible to be poor, and not into making things better for myself. And for me personally, that wasn’t okay.
So I decided to follow her lead and make a list for myself. I went home and thought of all my favorite things I used to barely be thankful for when I was “rich.” Things I’d just toss money toward any time I had the chance. I came up with about fifty or sixty items, and then I narrowed it down to ten, and I hung it on my wall with the title (scribbled at the top), 10 things I will force myself to splurge on at least once in the next year.
I promised myself that I would find a way to do each of those things, even if it meant washing cars or mowing lawns or cleaning up dog crap to make them happen. And over the next year, I did them. All of them.
10 Things I Make Myself Splurge On At Least Once a Year
1. A hundred dollar pair of jeans. Having a pair of jeans that actually fits you, is sexy, and that you love will make all the difference on your tough days. And the best part is, they don’t shrink and they don’t wear out in less than a year like other pants do. Just make sure you wait to wear them for the first time until you have a day that you just don’t want to get out of bed. Then watch how quickly new, sexy jeans will turn your day around.
2. A nice steak. And I’m talking $50-$100 per head steakhouse nice. Food is usually the first thing we start trying to save money on when we’re poor, and after being neglected, your body and your tastebuds really need some love. And have you ever had a premium steak like that? The kind that is sizzling even as you take the bite toward your mouth? The kind that you can practically rest your knife on and watch it sink through? The kind that somehow actually melts against your tongue? The kind you chew incredibly slowly because your mouth literally will not move any faster? Yeah, get that kind of steak and remind your palate that the Top Ramen and canned meat is only temporary.
Full body massage - when i was really struggling with pain from a spinal injury and a neuro disorder and could afford it, I got one once a week. Now its at the top of my special list because I know what a difference it can make in the not only the way your body feels but also your emotional state. I prefer Thai massage and I recommend everyone try it.
A high quality hair cut/style/color/blow out etc - I worked at a salon in college and nothing changed my mood and outlook more than getting to be the stylist guineapig. I had more wild hair styles and colors than you could shake a stick at but changing up your look often changes your whole outlook on life and perspective of the world. Ever since then i schedule a style change with my favorite stylist at least once a year. My most recent perspective changing hair cut was actually free! I shaved my head in march, along with 3 of my female co-workers and our male boss, to raise money for children's cancer research. The event we participated in raised over $100K for children's cancer research. Ever since then, I have had a whole new outlook on life, and have enjoyed my bi weekly cleanup haircuts with my stylist as she and I continue to change my hair style as it keeps growing back out. Not every high quality cut is expensive. You just have to find the stylist you see eye to eye with and who understands what you want. It could cost $15 or $150. it just has to work for you!
An incredible new pair of shoes - this has the same premise at the jeans and underwear. Maybe it should read more like all the pieces of an awesome outfit purchased through out the year. Then you couldn't have a bad day. it would be like be covered in body armor of awesomeness!
wow!! This is great! My husband and I are engaged in debt eradication and are
constantly looking for ways to not feel
deprived or poor. A few months ago, we
"splurged" on a nice dinner and it felt so
good to "act as if" we are rich! Someday,
we will be!!
One thing people don't realize is that even if they are poor if they are an American on a pension they can afford a trip to Nepal. I am working on a project to help retired people come to Nepal and escape the harsh winter of the US, Canada or Europe. Yes, it's possible and yes if you are older and retired you should seriously consider it. http://FrugalTravelsNepal.blogspot.com
I wish I had read this blog forever ago! I was in the same boat as you in 2011. My budget is still pretty tight, although slightly better. Yet, I've still been living like that poor broke girl, only I'm actually eating more now! It gets sooooo depressing not having anything you want. Only hearing in from your self over and over....I'm going to make a list too...and by golly, I'm getting a nice pair of earrings rather than dreaming about it like I have the last 2 years! Loved your blog!
And pricey jeans last FAR longer than the ones you'll get at Wal-Mart. I'm 26 years old and still have a couple pairs of hundred dollar jeans from when I was 18...and can still fit in them :)
I think I would have to replace rental car with a full body massage. Nothing makes you feel more refreshed for the weeks to come better than a one hour full body massage. Plus, you work out all of those kinks from stressing so much. In order to be successful, you need to feel good.
You're so awesome! And I agree. I was having a hard time, going from a great paying, but mentally draining job, to a new, less-paying-but happier-place-to-be. Better hours, better benefits, new great friends, but was finding it really tough financially. To the point where I was losing sleep over being poor. Once I started letting the worry go and believing that it would get better, it DID get better. And we do splurge once in awhile & it feels great! (from New Brunswick, Canada/north east of Maine, USA)
Hell yes! Everyone needs the gift of a nice thing or a good time out once in a while and best are the ones that keep on giving ... And much like the comment from frugaltravelsnepal ~ Free Your Mind. Your @ss will follow.
This is what the metaphysical people have been saying for decades. Everything from 'Think and Grow Rich' to "The Secret.' You have to do these things, or whatever it takes to get your head out of poverty. Your life will follow. Great post!
I'm pretty surprised at some of the responses. Dan's list isn't what he's saying everyone who reads his blog should be doing. The point of this was to communicate that even when times are tough, we still need to invest in ourselves. And sometimes, that requires spending/splurging more than what we would normally allow. It's not about the jeans, or the sunglasses, or the steak or whatever. It's about spending extra on something we normally wouldn't - it's a way of saying "you're worth it".
Because we are all worth it.
Idiot. That's it....I can see splurging, but this is just wasting. $100 jeans? C'mon! A $50 pair will last just as long. $50 steak? ARE YOU INSANE???!!! I don't care what you give me, no steak is worth $50 unless it feeds me for a week. There are very few things I have found that are worth the extra dollars. If throwing money makes you feel it is worth it, then can you please throw it at me? When people do things like you do, you just makes those that overcharge feel as if it is a valid thing to do. It's not.
I'm sorry, but if you can afford ANY of this (besides maybe the laughter) I don't consider you poor. I've never gone shopping for clothes at all, let alone for $100 clothes. And how do you even find food that costs $50-$100 for one meal?
Are you serious? Maybe we have different definitions of poor, but if I spent $100 on jeans I'd starve. I've been poor my whole life. Trust me, you will learn to live without crazy overpriced stuff--and if you don't, you'll stay poor. Good luck to all.
Funny how I have been doing this most of my life but never knew it. I have not had enough, a lot, consistent amount of money for my family. But I always thought as something came up such as the new iPhone or a trip to a national park that these were my once a year or once every five years things. I knew I would miss out if I didn't do them with my girls so I did them. But I had a voice in the back of my head saying "does anyone else do this?" Good to know someone does. Cheers! Mary Jane
Yes Yes Yes to the jeans and sunglasses. I apply the same rule to shoes. Think about it, you can get away with wearing the same pair of jeans 2-3 times without washing them, sometimes longer. Might sound gross, because it may not be the norm, but unless you're wearing them in hot/humid weather where you're sweating a lot, or you're a very messy/dirty person, I promise you your jeans are not dirty after one day of regular wear. I have 3 pairs of really nice and different jeans, that are super comfortable, and fit perfectly. It's the best money I've spent. One of the pairs I've had for 5 years and still wear them regularly. Same goes for sunglasses and shoes, it's something you're going to wear almost everyday, so why not spend a little more for good quality? Shirts on the other hand, I would go cheap with.And to go along with the pedicure thing, I'd say more importantly get one good full body massage atleast twice a year, moreso if you can afford it. Same with a nice haircut from a good stylist. I typically spend ~60 bucks for a really nice haircut twice a year, and then go to a cheap ~10 dollar barber every 2 weeks in between. For me atleast, once I get my hair cut right the first time, as long as I keep up with it every 2 weeks, almost any barber can look at it and more or less "follow the lines" to figure out how to cut it right.
Yes Yes Yes to the jeans and sunglasses. I apply the same rule to shoes. Think about it, you can get away with wearing the same pair of jeans 2-3 times without washing them, sometimes longer. Might sound gross, because it may not be the norm, but unless you're wearing them in hot/humid weather where you're sweating or alot, or you're a very messy/dirty person, I promise you you're jeans are not dirty after one day of regular wear. I have 3 pairs of really nice and different jeans, that are super comfortable, and fit perfectly. It's the best money I've spent. One of the pairs I've had for 5 years and still wear them regularly. Same goes for sunglasses and shoes, it's something you're going to wear almost everyday, so why not spend a little more for good quality? Shirts on the other hand, I would go cheap with.
And to go along with the pedicure thing, I'd say more importantly get one good full body massage atleast twice a year, moreso if you can afford it. Same with a nice haircut from a good stylist. I typically spend ~60 bucks for a really nice haircut twice a year, and then go to a cheap ~10 dollar barber every 2 weeks in between. For me atleast, once I get my hair cut right the first time, as long as I keep up with it every 2 weeks, almost any barber can look at it and more or less "follow the lines" to figure out how to cut it right.
I have to say I have no clue why anyone ever needs a 100 dollar pair of jeans. Over a year ago, I went to a thrift store and bought 5 pairs of jeans that all looked new and fit me amazingly well and I LOVE them still a year later. Since I bought them, none of my other jeans have been worn, even once. Five bucks a pair for five pairs and they are all my favs that I get compliments on regularly. I do know that at least two pairs of them I would never have bought brand new given they are expensive jeans.
Now, the rest of your list, I agree with.
My husband and I are not broke but trying to erase debt, that being said we search the Internet for good hotel bargains and when we fin a two night deal by the beach we take the 3 year old, and spend a weekend away. Granted its only a couple of hours away from the house but it feels good to have a weekend getaway and it boosts our spirits
It's actually a brilliant idea. You learn to boost willpower, you learn the satisfaction of reward. It translates very well to all sorts of things.
I couldn't agree more with the people that said there are ways to "splurge" without having to spend lots of money. My hubby and I are on a very limited budget, but I am a couponer. My last big coupon trip (I normally don't do huge coupon trips, but this time there were some excellent deals to be had) I got lots of canned goods that were free, but were items that we don't eat in our household. Usually, I get these items and give them to my siblings or friends who will use them as a way to help support my loved ones. Well, we had some items that my family and friends wouldn't use, so I donated them to a local movie theater's canned food drive and ending up getting 15 free movie passes! Now, we can have a "splurge" night and go see a movie that we might not normally be able to afford. I
I can't believe where you can find hate .... Posts like this are personal, but not directed at anyone specific, or meant to judge or be negative ... Funny how people can interpret things or take it personally ... I enjoyed it :)
I actually went and did the $100 pair of jeans thing this year. I felt so poor and beaten down I was nervous walking into the specialty denim boutique in my posh town because I was sure as soon as the salesgirls saw me they'd think "rube!" or something and treat me differently. They didn't. They even tailored my jeans for me for free. When I walked back in there a couple of weeks later in my sexy new denim, I told them how those jeans made me feel powerful and fabulous, and I wish everyone could have that experience. It's amazing, the boost such a simple act gave me once I had the courage to do it!
Wow, I really needed to read that! I've been in the poverty trap for too long now...well, even though I've been spending money I am not really free to spend on fancy, super-healthy groceries like a drunken sailor, my hair it totally out of control, my clothes are falling apart, and were it not for having recently re-introduced serious, deliberate exercise back into my life after an embarrassingly long haitus, I'd be feeling like total crap. Now I realize that I deeply need, in addition to a desperately overdue trip to visit my stylist to get my hair rehabbed, a new pair of NICE, SEXY skinny jeans to show off my newly-rebuilt hot body! Oh, and I need some fresh new knickers too -- thanks for reminding me :D Oh, oh, and a manicure/pedicure!!!!
I really want to be able to splurge on some nice jeans. I always get cheap Old Navy ones. My current favorite are from Target! I think I got them on sale for $10 too.
Question, where the heck do you even find expensive underwear?
Coming from someone with relatively simple tastes, I'd like to splurge on a family vacation where we could do what we want, when we want, where we want, without any financial barriers. I'd also love to splurge on a good long 2hr professional full body massage. No, not the happy ending type, just the kind where you lay there and do nothing while you have pleasure spread over every inch of your body without any sex involved.
As far as your list goes, I like the idea of splurging on a one-day car rental, that actually sounds like fun. Will have to try it sometime. An expensive restaurant sounds good too, though I'd prefer seafood over steak. Actually, I wouldn't mind both at the same time.
Mine is a bottle of single-malt - Lagavulin or something similar. It usually lasts about a month and a half to two months. During the time that I have it, I'll get a good maduro cigar or two. Nothing quite like sitting in the shade with a glass of scotch, a book, and a good cigar.
Interesting list. It's your personal list and that's cool. Anyone can make their own list of what's important to them. My list has 1 item on it: Trip to Cancun! I've now gone 5 times and just brought my daughter there for New Year's. I can't really afford it, but I scrimp and save and don't buy crap I don't need so that I can somehow manage to go. This get-away is important to me. I don't want to wait till I'm 60 to take a holiday. On my salary I can't really afford to do anything, but life is short and where there's a will, there's a way to get something that's really special to you. Good Luck!
To each their own I guess.... We make a decent living but I still prefer a bargain rather than a splurge.
I love this post. I love that you encourage people to make their own list. If your big love is coffee, then promise yourself a coffee from your favorite coffee place, if you love clothes then promise yourself a new pair of jeans or earrings! I watched my father work himself to nearly to death to ensure that myself and my 3 siblings could have a roof, clothes and food. He wore the same couple sets of pants for my entire life, and still owns some sweaters from when I was a child (I'm 30 now). To this day, he feels bad if he ever spends money on himself. I wouldn't want that for anyone else. If you have responsibilities, take care of them, but if you can work just one odd job that will put $10 in your pocket for a new pair of earrings or a Starbucks trip, just to remind you what it feels like to earn something...that feeling when you pay for something "lavish"...I'm not into $100 jeans, but this isn't MY list, it's his. Include what you love on your list. My list (because my husband and I do this already) includes having a date night with my husband and NOT our 4 kids! It's never extravagant, but if all we can do is dress up in nicer clothes, order takeout from our favorite place and watch a movie, that is what we do. Great job, Dan. I love your blog, and you are awesome.
I don't really understand what the drama is about. You can spend your money however you want. I personally prefer to save my money as opposed to splurging on things that I can't afford. The stress that comes later on when I don't know where the money is going to come from to pay my bills isn't worth it to me. For me, I'm in the process of learning to be happy with what I do have, instead of feeling like I must spend money in order to feel rich. A long walk, in a nice park on a nice day. Lighting candles for dinner. Curling up with a really good book in a warm bed. Sleeping in for 2 extra hours and then taking the time to pour myself a really good cup of coffee. Giving myself permission to ignore the mess and play with my 2 year old instead. I'm learning that wealth doesn't mean a big bank account or big spending.
Yes. And amen. My list looks a little different but this idea is ringing so true to me right now. Thank you!
Just my opinion but it reminds me of the same kind of thinking from The Secret, whatever you focus on grows, if you focus on debt, stress, you create a state of being or feeling of lack attracting more of that in your life, if you allow yourself the freedom to enjoy life even when you think you're broke and stuck you begin to create a new pattern of thought creating a state of being or feeling of enjoyment, happiness, gratitude which in turn will attract more of the same into your life. Like attracts like...being aware of our state of being/feelings is the beginning of being able to change it. You Dan, have been a great example of this for me, you remind me to find out what makes me happy, find out what makes my life worth living and just do it....it's not about what we do...but how it makes us feel that is important, if you never pay attention to how you feel how could you ever find out what you need to do to make you happy, or what you can stop doing that makes you feel shitty??
For those of us who aren't quite up to the $100 jeans level, but are maybe hovering at the $10 dessert level, there are other intermediate things you can do for a boost.
Ten dollar ideas:
If you can cook, do this yourself and invite a friend; if you can't, then buy the ingredients and find a friend who will cook for you and share with them. Buy choice ingredients for a really nice meal. Set the table with your BEST plates and glasses. [You may find it helpful to go to the recycling store/ 2nd hand place to buy some interesting tableware cheaply. This may be a separate $10 item] But do it up fancy - candles on the table and nice music. DRESS up for dinner- nice clothes, comb your hair, wear lipstick or a flower in your hair. Celebrate YOU. You're still here, and still pressing forward. Go YOU!
Go to the dollarstore and spend $10 on random fun things as if you were ten years old. Come on, it's worth it!
Go to a nice department store on sale day, or not sale day, and look for really good items marked down. You get something long lasting out of it, and you get to shop. I like to do this at Value Village (a massive 2nd hand chain) because I once saw a silk 2 pc outfit for $8. Wrong size, but hey! you could sell this on e-bay and use the cash to buy a nice something for yourself. (whoops - now there's a biz for some enterprising person with free time and an internet connection).
Buy yourself flowers! Break up the bunch, and put some flowers in each room if you like.
Buy yourself a special food treat: mine is Eccles cakes - a big currant pastry with sugar crystals on top. NOM! Eat it slowly, with a nice hot beverage.... *le sigh!*
Go out in the sunshine and have some fun! Play tag, or run with your dog! [ dogs are always broke, and they have lots of fun]. Play frisbee or badminton. Jump around! [Remember to hydrate].
If it's winter, go buy one of those cheap circular or plastic sheet 'flyers' and go sledding. Take a friend or two and remember the camera. Go out for hot drinks after - Hot chocolate, coffee, or apple cider.
Remember to share what you do have with someone who doesn't have. Money, or time, or clothes, or food, or a personal possession. Give something to someone else - nothing will make you feel richer.
2 Bible references: Give the first 10% of everything that comes to you back to God. To the person or facility who ministers to your spiritual growth. God says "TEST ME in this - see if I will not open the windows of heaven and pour out a blessing you can't even contain (but must share with others).
God gives power to get wealth and He adds no sorrow (labour) with it.
God is really big on sharing with the poor. There is always someone poorer than you. The difference between poor and rich is knowing that God loves you.
@Shelley from Canada Maybe your thrift store jeans are $100 jeans with a thrift store price tag. It's the quality, not the price, that he's referring to.
@MelissaJewell That was the price I paid 20 years ago and I used a friend not an actual maid service..usually took about 4 hours to do it all. It benefited both of us at the time..she got money and I got a clean house. At other times friends and I took turns helping the other out with the cleaning..we got to visit and we all got caught up. Having children in the house creates more chaos than an empty nest like I have now.
@JessicaShaffer That's exactly my one annual splurge
To add another one to the single malt and the cigar - I am now saving up for a good suit. Turns out that you can get a good quality suit for 350 to 400 dollars. Why spend that much? A good quality one can last for years, it is useful (job interviews, weddings, funerals, etc) and it is amazing how differently you get treated when you are dressed up!
@Louise Ekberg Pond That's not the point. People who "make a decent living" aren't in the poverty spiral.
@dkmfirecracker Your dad sounds a lot like mine- he would have socks and underwear with HOLES in them and still wear them; he'd never get rid of them unless my mom threw them away an bought him new ones. He grew up in extreme poverty, and sometimes we weren't far behind when I was a kid. He never learned how to do anything nice for himself, so I always make sure I knit something nice for him for Christmas, b/c he deserves it. :)
You can also invite friends to a mani/pedi party and take care of each other. Esp if someone has a footbath! :D