5 Situations When It's Smart to Splurge

Sticking to a budget is great, but sometimes it's wise to spend a little.

Credit: Alamy
Credit: Alamy
Written by Joanna & Johnny, Daily Finance

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.
Vincent January 29, 2014 at 07:35 AM
Anna Miller: My previous comment about the children was actually directed toward T. Smith. Wonder if he picked up on it?
T. Smith January 29, 2014 at 10:29 AM
Vincent: Yes, I did indeed 'pick up on it'. I just find it amusing you are expecting me to comment on such an amazingly simple example of common sense: little children should NEVER come close to broken glass, be it from an incandescent light, a CFL, or a glass-top coffee table. Are you expecting an argument? If so, I'm sorry to disappoint you.
Vincent January 30, 2014 at 07:48 AM
T. Smith: Truthfully I didn't expect you to comment no less start an argument with me.
Vincent January 30, 2014 at 08:16 AM
Francis Soyer: Point of information if you will. When one is going to install the new LED light bulb which would be the preferred choice? The MiracleLED Un-Edison 60W Equivalent Frost or the Samsung A19 60-Watt Warm White. From the knowlege you demonstrated above I thought I would ask an expert.
Francis Soyer January 30, 2014 at 10:27 AM
Vincent - Honestly I'm not too familiar with either product. Neither is an "industry standard" name brand. Samsung is obviously know for their electronics, I don't know if they are actually manufacturing their LED's or using somebody else's, but Samsung generally has good products. MiracleLED, unknown??? However I did a quick search on both. Samsung: 10.8 watts, 810 lumens, 27,000k, 15,000 hrs, 130 degree beam angle. MiracleLED: 5 watts, 500 lumens, 27,000k, 30,000 hrs, they claim "360 degree lighting" but do not list an actual beam angle, but it would certainly be much greater then the 130 on the Samsung. I would look at application first. Can you see the bulb in the fixture you are putting it in? If so the Samsung's heat sink is very visible and if it were in a glass fixture that I could clearly see the bulb I wouldn't want to see the Samsung bulb, I would pick the MiracleLED even though just by first appearance the Samsung looks like it is made better. I think the only application I would use the Samsung would be in a can light as the light output is more directional especially if I needed more light as the Samsung puts out 60% more light. Both seem to be priced at about $16 each. The more recognized LED name brands are Cree & Nochia, also, GE, Phillips & Sylvania make them as well. I like the "Cree 60W equivalent soft white (2700K) A19 dimmable LED light bulb", sold at Home Depot & Lowes.


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