Where I will (and won’t) spend money

purse picture

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When I shared my latest Stitch Fix last week, I mentioned that Stitch Fix prices are higher than what I usually spend on clothes, which got me thinking about where I will and won’t spend money in general.

Where we spend money indicates what we value, so looking at spending habits can be enlightening. Money is an uncomfortable subject, but I hope sharing my spending habits will help demystify it, at least on this little corner of the Internet.

One reason I’m publishing this thought process is that I think it’s way too easy and common for us to judge how other people spend money.  

Our judgments, based on partial information, lead to bitterness, envy, and even damaged or broken relationships.

I’m not saying my spending patterns are the right ones. They’re just mine, and they reflect what I value, not necessarily what others do. Money is personal and it’s each family’s privilege to choose how they spend.

Enough caveats for ya? Anyway, here’s my list of stuff I’m willing to spend more on:

bare escentuals

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Makeup: I buy almost all of my makeup from Bare Escentuals. It lasts a long time, and the cost per use is worth it to me.

Meat: I am a very picky meat eater. Since I think the protein is important for my health and my husband likes meat, I buy it, but only high quality meat.


Groceries, if it means I only have to make one stop: I used to shop around at several stores to get the best prices. I’ve learned that grocery shopping zaps my energy more than any other chore or errand.

I think it’s because there are so many decisions to make and balancing budget with meal plans is a challenge. Making the trip longer by going to multiple stores just isn’t worth it. I’d rather spend more for the convenience of one store and have energy left for more important tasks.

Clothes, within reason: I’d rather buy fewer items that will last, but I usually do this by buying quality brands at consignment stores or on sale.

TOMS shoes

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Shoes: Other than my around-the-house Old Navy flip flops, I usually buy higher quality shoes so they’ll last longer. I’m not opposed to cheaper shoes, but I’ve been disappointed with the quality often enough that I tend toward better pairs and wear them for several seasons.

Haircuts: Charleston has a Paul Mitchell school where you can get a haircut for $10. I tried it once, but I wasn’t happy. My hair is extremely fine so it shows every detail of the cut. Haircuts from professional salons are expensive, but worth it to me.

Gas: I pretty much go to the same gas station every time without comparing prices with less convenient gas stations.

Bras: I wear one every day, so…

Stuff I spend as little as possible on:

Skin care products: My skin is pretty low maintenance and I never noticed a significant difference when I used more expensive products. It’s a little embarrassing to admit, but I use Target’s Up and Up brand face wash. I use coconut oil as moisturizer.

Wine: My parents have spoiled my unsophisticated taste with their nicer wine, but I still buy the cheaper bottles. I hate to admit it, but I guess I’m choosing quantity over quality in this case.

Prescriptions: I use BidrX.com to get bids on my prescriptions. It would be more convenient to get them from the local drug store than some tiny pharmacy in Wisconsin, but since I take prescriptions every day, the cost adds up. For over the counter medicines, I buy the Target Up and Up brand.

Dog food: I would love to use Amazon’s Subscribe and Save service to have dog food shipped to me instead of hauling that heavy bag home, but it’s a lot more expensive. The cost difference is worth the schlepping to me.

free shippingPhoto credit

Shipping: Websites that offer free shipping are way more likely to get my business. I am never willing to pay more for rush shipping.

Paper products (toilet paper, paper towels, Kleenex): Target Up and Up brand again, for the win.

I’d love to hear where you’re willing (or not) to spend more.

14 thoughts on “Where I will (and won’t) spend money

  1. I’m with you on the Bare Escentuals! Although for me I have very sensitive skin, so I am picky with my products for face care, but that doesn’t mean they are expensive. I use Trader Joe’s facewash and moisturizer and they work great and are more natural than most, and a lot of times I use coconut oil too! It’s awesome! (I’m convinced it works like a primer too). I’m with you on shoes too. I think high quality shoes last longer, and won’t break your back! Plus I love real leather when I can get it :)

    1. Thanks for sharing, Angela! I’m glad you found skin care products at Trader Joe’s that are good for your skin AND inexpensive. Maybe I’ll try those next time. I suspect some of the more expensive ones sell because of marketing, not quality. I could be wrong, though.

      1. I agree! Many pure natural ingredients are actually very cheap, like coconut oil or corn starch (which I’ve started using instead of Mineral Veil and I’m convinced it works even better! And Mineral Veil is basically just corn starch anyway–amazing they charge so much for it…)

        1. Wow, great tip. I didn’t know that about cornstarch and mineral veil. The Mineral Veil adds a little shimmer. I wonder if there’s something I could add to the cornstarch for the shimmer?

          1. I haven’t looked into that (I always got the regular kind) but I did add a tiny bit of cocoa powder to mine to make it slightly tinted. It works great. I bet the shimmer is just mica–you can probably buy crushed mica online for cheap too but I don’t know where :)

  2. I totally agree that it can be easy to judge how others spend money based on almost no information. We each have to decide for ourselves and not nitpick others’ choices. (that goes for so many things in life doesn’t it?)

    I like to spend money on clothes (although I do a mix of expensive and cheaper “bargain” clothing), furniture and some housewares (like our mattress and comforter were pricy our bed was from overstock), and some skin care products (my skin can be a bit sensitive). I like to shop sales too and love free shipping! Actually, when I think about it, for most categories I do a mix of more and less expensive.

    I just remembered what my favorite thing to buy high end is…. jeans. Oh goodness designer jeans are. awesome. I finally convinced my husband that spending $150 on one pair that lasted more than 2 years was better than a $60 Gap pair that had to be replaced every 6 months. Plus they look so much better. :)

    1. Rebecca, thanks for sharing. You’re right, not judging others, especially with limited information, is generally a good rule of thumb.

      I haven’t bought much furniture in my life, but I definitely plan to invest when we upgrade. We are getting through with our IKEA stuff until student loan debt is paid off. My parents have had the same glass coffee table and living room couches for almost 30 years. They are classic pieces, so they don’t look dated. They spent a lot to buy them, but they’ve lasted all these years and still look great. We did just buy a new duvet cover and spent a little more on it. I’m really happy we did!

      You might be making a designer jeans believer out of me!

  3. we spend a lot on groceries. I am sure we could cut back by going to Food 4 Less or other stores, but we would probably we sacrificing quality.

    When it comes to clothes, I dont usually buy much for myself, but when I do i always go with quality products that will last a lifetime.

    1. Spending more on higher quality groceries is still a bargain compared to eating out all the time. Do you have any go-to places for clothes? Mike is looking to make some wardrobe updates and I’d love to give him any recommendations you have. He likes buying high quality clothes less often, too.

  4. this is such a great thing to think about! i definitely spend way more money on shoes and definitely vegetables and meat. (I go to a farmers’ market & get a farmers’ box of produce.) but i am a bargain shopper and can make my dollars stretch at the grocery store.

    I do not spend any money on makeup or hair products or bras or underwear. (ha) or furniture… (thrift store!)

    but i think the kicker is we have to spend a lot of money on housing and cost of living stuff in Seattle– so that’s, unfortunately, where all my money goes.

    1. Erika, cost of living is an important factor, one that I didn’t even address here. We live in faculty housing at the college where my husband teaches, which costs almost HALF what we paid for housing while he was in grad school and we were using student loans to pay our bills. That alone makes a huge difference in our budget. Thanks for bringing that into the conversation!

  5. I pay more for premium gasoline, because I plan to keep my car for 200,000 miles and the manufacturer and my mechanic suggest it. I am also willing ot pay more for dinner out with my med school wife.
    I won’t pay much for books, music, or movies, though, because they are just as good second hand and often get better with age.

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