Thursday, July 21, 2011

Luxuries on a small budget

As I've mentioned before, I'm on a tight budget trying to pay for my MBA in cash.  However, I don't usually feel deprived on my budget because all my basic needs are met and I have a little wiggle room for small indulgences each week.  I use that wiggle room to hit some of the occasional cravings I have and to feel self indulgent while still keeping my budget intact.  I find if I'm proactive with this and am a little looser with small purchases I never find myself with a hundred dollar or more spending spree.  Here are some of my luxuries:
  • Small plates - We turn clearing out the fridge into something fun instead of dreaded by making a few small plates out of the leftovers.  Artfully presented and with a little extra sprucing up it's not a problem to finish what's left.
  • Fresh herbs - We lucked out with a neighbor who loves to garden but can't keep up with the enormous container garden she's created with herbs.  So we've been welcomed to take a few snips here and there just to keep things tidy.  Fresh herbs can make any meal feel a lot nicer or fancier than it might otherwise feel.
  • Call your food fancy names - I don't do this literally.  I would have had a hard time keeping a straight telling my SO that last night's dinner was going to be "herb encrusted roasted eggplant over a bed of fettuccine with an olive oil garlic sauce" since it was eggplant we got as a steal but was going bad in our fridge that I threw on the grill, neglected to put enough marinade on, and later added whatever looked good in the herb garden, garlic powder, and extra olive oil with on top of the pasta we had on hand.  But it was pretty good and it's better than many meals we've had out.  I try to give myself credit where credit is due and feel good about what I put on the table so sometimes my SO and I will come up with the restaurant name for what we've just made.  It's entertaining and reminds us that we really do eat well.
  • Buying what I want - On occasion I make sure to satisfy a craving.  Most nights when I want dessert I'll ignore the feeling, but sometimes I'll go out to a store near us which sells small chocolates for $.25 each and buy two.  The walk is good for me and the serving size makes it hard to overindulge in cost or consumption.  
  • A mug of something hot - Coffee with milk or tea with sugar and mint feels like manna from heaven on a cold winter day or when you're a little sleep deprived. Giving myself the space to sip from a mug without stress or distraction until I'm done feels very civilized and wealthy.  I actually don't get the same level of calm or enjoyment at a coffee shop that I do at home since Starbucks and the like tend to be busy, loud, and have terrible taste in music. 
  • Doing something cliche - A typical dinner and a movie date can run you over $50 after tickets and without even ordering wine with dinner.  Instead, we opt for romantic cliches like long walks holding hands, picnics in the park, watching the sun set over the water, or splitting an ice cream cone together. 
  • Trying something new - We found pluots on sale 8 for $1 and bought them to have something new to try.  (For those of you not in the know, a pluot is a plum apricot hybrid) They replaced our usual apple, orange, banana or strawberry mix for the week and helped make things feel fresh.
  • Letting something go to waste - This isn't the best advice, but being able to just hand wave and let something go to waste without worrying makes me feel like Marie Antoinette, completely isolated from financial reality.  Those pluots we bought?  They were okay, but after six I was sick of them.  When I found the other two in the back of the fridge a week later into the trash they went without regret.  At $.25, it was a small price to pay to feel rich.
  • Being lazy - Cutting myself a break in other areas helps my overall stress level and makes me feel self indulgent without spending any money.  So if I don't want to do dishes one night and feel worn out, I won't do dishes.  They can wait until the morning.  Like everything else this isn't a regular habit but an occasional indulgence.  Usually in the morning after a good night's sleep I'll tackle them without a problem. Plus I've found that being lazy can save me money.
What are some of your frugal indulgences?

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  1. Ah, ice cream, of course. Totally decadent and a disaster on the waistline. And good cigars.

    Relaxing with a fine cigar and letting the mind roam stimulates good blog topics. I've taken to sometimes sitting out on the back porch in the evening with the blog journal close at hand, jotting down notes when inspiration strikes.

  2. My not so frugal indulgence is getting a Starbucks latte once a week. By limiting it to once a week, I'm saving money and then I use the rewards card to get my shot of flavoring for free.

  3. Wow, paying for an MBA in cash. That's impressive! I got lucky and had an employer pay for mine. Good tips!

  4. 101 Centavos - Ice cream is definitely a weakness of mine too. Haven't tried cigars for post ideas yet, but if I get desperate I'll let you know ;)

    Bucksome - That's less than $250 a year, not so un-frugal if it's your big indulgence of the week!

    Darwin - Smart guy! I'm self employed so the employer is picking up the tab...

  5. My luxury is expensive shampoo and conditioner. I will let myself save up to buy it and then I make sure that it lasts. I love the way my hair smells and feels when I use it, so I let myself indulge.

    Also, Sabra hummus. I let myself buy that when it's on sale for a good price. I've tried to make it; disaster is a nice word for the end result. I'd rather just wait for the sale price and buy some.

  6. I'm starting to drink V8 Fusion. I never eat vegetables, but those crazy V8 people snuck veggies into my juice. It's a little expensive, but I think it's worth it for me to actually get some of that good stuff in my body.

  7. Letting something go to waste could be a good idea, it's in the same category of being lazy. I do get stressed about throwing food away. We had a surplus of Romaine from the garden and you can only at so many salads before your whole family stages a coup. Might be worth it to let it go in the compost pile.

  8. This is a great list.

    I do like my loose leaf tea. It's more expensive per cup than bagged tea, but so much better.

  9. Awesome list and advice! My indulgence, every once in awhile is a good chocolate chip cookie. Just picks me up and not too heavy on the wallet!

  10. Jana - I also can't replicate store-bought hummus; I can't bring myself to put enough olive oil in it ;)

    Niki - At least if it's being composted it's not completely going to waste. I wish I had your garden problem.

    mbhunter - I'm too lazy to use loose leaf regularly, but it does taste a lot better.

    Buck Inspire - Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies are a favorite around here.