Frugality is always a strong topic in the Financial Independence /Retire early (FIRE) world, and it seems to me that we sometimes forget to spend a little money on the luxuries of life. Spending a little more on products you use every day is NOT a waste of money. In fact it’s the smart thing to do, and it should be considered inexpensive. We should be measuring the cost of something in cost per use, and additional happiness it brings us, not the dollar amount we spend on it today.
Here’s a list of things you should consider buying to get the most out of a luxurious life.
1). A Comfy Bed
2.5 years ago, I went to Ikea to get my furniture and just bought my mattress there as I just graduated college. My job was starting in 5 days and as I moved to Manhattan and just got an apartment, I needed inexpensive and convenient furniture, so I picked up everything I needed there. The mattress was great at first, but it’s not as springy anymore and I suspected it was making my allergies act up, even with a dust-mite proof cover. When I moved, we used FireBear’s bed, but it’s a bit small (his feet kind of hang over the bed as he’s 6’2″, but it’s his bed!) and not as comfy as mine, but at least the allergies were gone! We’re both decently frugal now, and so we didn’t want to spend money on a new bed. A few weeks in, I realized we were being ridiculous. We spend 1/3 of our life sleeping! What is an extra few hundred dollars to get a mattress that feels like we’re in a hotel everyday?
So I ventured forth to find a plush new bed. I nixed the idea of going in person to a mattress store because I didn’t want to deal with the markup and salespeople. Did you know that brick and mortar mattress companies create labels just for their store, so that you can never price-match or compare? Bleh. Prices are also negotiable, and anytime that’s the case, it has the feeling of going to a car dealership. You wonder how much you can negotiate and if you’ve ever gotten the bottom dollar. So, I decided to comb through the 20+ online startups that are vying to sell me a new mattress, as they usually had free shipping to/from, free trial periods, and they had easy delivery. I finally settled on two.
Nectar is the one we ended up going with. It had a great sale of $125 off and two free memory foam pillows (sale still going on, but not for long :D!) and the mattresses themselves were some of the cheaper of the 20+ startup bunch, even before the sale! The bed has cooling gel memory foam and protects against dust mites (I’m allergic so this is an extreme plus) and seriously feels like heaven when you’re laying on it. In addition, they offer a 365 day trial period. So you get 365 DAYS to try out the mattress and you can send it back any time if you’re unsatisfied! For free! Shipping is free both ways, both getting the bed to you and if you decide to return it. That shows me they believe in their product. Most mattress startups “only” offer a 100 day trial. It takes real guts to offer a trial 3x as long. Needless to say, I ordered and am incredibly happy with what a deal I’ve gotten and how comfy it is. Like sleeping on a little wonder-like cloud.
The two free memory foam pillows are $75 each retail. They have 3 layers of memory foam, along with a quilted exterior, and come overstuffed so you can decide how flat or fluffy you want your pillow to be. With the sale above, it’s like getting $275 off of your new bed. For the Queen size, that’s around 40 percent off at $675 + tax, and for the King it’s 30 percent off at $775 + tax. The Twin, Twin XL, and Full are also included in the $125 off + 2 free pillows sale. The Nectar bed has a forever warranty, so let’s say that we live with our mattress for 10 years (maybe new bed/memory foam technology will come out in a decade or something and we’ll decide on a new bed, who knows). That’s around $70/year for our mattress and 2 pillows. Cost per sleep is about 20 cents. That’s like 2 cents an hour. Sure, we spent a lot on the bed, but hey, way worth it.
The second product I debated on was Kutson, the only mattress company I found that could create 2 different softnesses on a single bed. If you’re a couple and both of you like different firmnesses, you should check it out. I bookmarked this in case FireBear wanted a different firmness to the bed (he weighs 2x what I do), but he loved the Nectar bed.
For example, if you’re from Asia and came to the US for school, you usually like more firm mattresses (at least my Asian friends who fit that profile do, don’t mean to stereotype, just an example!). Westerners usually like more plush mattresses. What’s a couple to do in that case? Well, now you can just buy a bed that caters to both of you.
What happens if you hate the mattress? There’s a 100 day free trial and there’s free shipping when you order it and if you decide to return it, Kutson comes and gets the mattress from you for free for a full refund. It’s a little more pricey than most startup mattress companies, but it’s the only one that offers two different firmnesses.
2). Soft Sheets and a plush comforter
Though Airbnbs are cheaper, we usually stay in hotels for free still (due to points) and I also like hotels better some times. Why? Because the beds are like little clouds of heaven. They’re so soft and plush, and it just feels so luxurious. If the Airbnbs had more comfortable beds, I’d probably reconsider, but it’s usually hit or miss if no review mentions the bed, and I’d rather not bet on my sleep!
So, why can’t we all have hotel-like clouds of comforts for beds? Why am I buying cheap sheets that pill after 1-2 years? I’d rather buy expensive sheets that last long with high thread count. So buy yourself a fluffy comforter and sheets. After reading through an absurd number of reviews, we got the below items, and yes, it does feel rather like heaven!
I originally tried to hack getting the cheapest sheets by going to Amazon and buying sheets with a few hundred 5 star reviews and high thread count. They would come in great, but after a couple of washings, they’d pill, so I went and bought a electric shaver to shave the little pilling off. Every year, I’d buy a new set ($75+) and then have to deal with the pilling. The same thing would happen with comforters. They’d be fluffy for a while, and then lose their fluffiness. I’ve since learned that Amazon is basically a dumping ground for private labeling from China/Alibaba and so the materials usually won’t last for long.
So, I gave up on Amazon for my bedding finally after buying from multiple sellers, and tried to find another seller. In came Brooklinen, which offers free shipping to you, and if you’re not satisfied within 60 days, they offer a full refund (if you wash the sheets/comforter they’ll offer free shipping back, but charge $9.99 for being used/laundered). The hotel sites I researched didn’t offer free shipping and cost thousands for a set of sheets/pillowcases/duvet cover, which I felt was insanity. They also didn’t take back used/laundered sheets (who sleeps on sheets before they wash them?!). Also, Brooklinen makes their products in Israel, Portugal, and Oregon — no developing countries here!
I got the Luxe Hardcore Sheet Bundle and the Natural All-Season Down Comforter, and they make me feel like I’m sleeping on a hotel :). Get white if you want your bedroom to feel clean and airy like a hotel.
3). A better Showerhead
Low water pressure in your building? Feel like the showerhead uses too much water? Want a rain shower? Want an adjustable showerhead or a hand-held one? Well, buy your own then! These things are usually under $100, so even if you just live in your new apartment or house for a year, the cost per use comes to less than 20 cents each time. Our rental has a very nice showerhead, so we haven’t replaced it, but if yours is not as nice, consider updating! You shower everyday, unless you like baths, so spending a little money to make an everyday experience better should be well worth it!
Here’s a rain shower that’s decently priced and has high reviews. Here’s a high pressure showerhead. Don’t know how to install it? There’s instructions in the packet, or you can watch a Youtube video. DIY, DIY, DIY!
4). A Robot Vacuum
Let’s face it, life is incredibly busy. Do you really want to vacuum every other day? Hate the loud sound it makes? Worried it spits out dust? I need to vacuum at least twice a week or else my allergies act up. Not sure where the dust comes from, but it just seems to exist.
Introducing, the robot vac! A smart little thing, it maps out your layout and vacuums for you. You push a button when you leave, and it gets to work. You never hear that annoying whirring sound because you can turn it on just as you leave for work, and you never have to vacuum again! How much do you value your time? If you vacuum even twice a week, it probably takes at least 15 minutes to vacuum your space. In a year, you’ve spent 13 hours vacuuming. Considering these robot vacuums last 3+ years (we got the warranty for $17), you’re hiring a little robot at $3/hr to vacuum for you. Worth it to me? Absolutely. My time is MUCH more valuable than $3 an hour. And the little Robot does a better job than me.
This is the one we have, and it’s done very well for us. We considered a Roomba, but it was 3x the price (it had the same 3 year warranty, no longer).
5). A Dishwasher
Every rental we’ve been in has had a dishwasher, but if you don’t have one, get one now! We have enough plates and utensils to last us a week, so we run the dishwasher just once a week. We scrape off food, but we’ve never rinsed the dishes or anything. Most dishwashers get really hot, up to 60 degrees Celsius! If you still don’t have a dishwasher, you’re probably spending 10-30 minutes per day washing dishes, which adds up to 1-4 hours a week! Plus, dish soap isn’t the best for your hands, and if you’re washing dishes frequently, soap isn’t good for your hands, no matter what it says on the bottle!
At 1-4 hours a week, if you consider a dishwasher that’s $400 with an average life of 9 years, your dishwasher’s hourly cost is between $.25-$1/hour. Yeah, I’m going to outsource work at that rate.
The best way to get one for cheaper is to buy it at the end/beginning of the year when stores tend to get new stock. Be sure to buy gift cards to the store to save an additional 6 percent, and use your new credit card on it for the minimum spend bonus points/miles. If you’ve got a contractor friend who buys containers of last year’s appliances for 10-20% of retail price, ask them if you can buy one.
6). Comfy House Slippers
I’m Asian, so we’ve never worn shoes inside the household. Instead they go in the closet nearest the door, or on a little shoe rack for our most commonly used ones. It makes it easier for the robot vac to clean if there is no mud/snow being tracked inside the house, and even everyday shoes leave behind dirt and dust! Instead we change into our comfy slippers and walk around with those inside the house. It’s just like a hotel where you get those fuzzy slippers :).
We tend to buy 1 pair per year, as they do get worn out as we wear them whenever we’re home.
Here are mine: I chose the pair with sleeping bunnies. They make me happy, okay? Size up, because I had to.
FireBear’s: He has a pair of French Charentaises for more manliness than my animal slippers. Apparently this is what old French people wear around their house, but they’re super comfy!
Get a candle to brighten up the room and calm your senses. A friend gifted me a roses Diptyque candle a while ago, and it was the most heavenly scent. But it’s $60 for 60 hours of burn time, so it makes me feel slightly guilty every time I burn it. I’ve switched over to Yankee Candle after the Diptyque candle burned out. They have a similar smelling roses candle — can you tell I like roses?
8). A Small Herb Garden
I was extremely tired of paying $1.99-$2.99 each for a small portion of fresh rosemary, thyme, oregano, etc. If you cook at home, you know how valuable these are for making delicious meals. If you don’t, add some herbs to your next meal and try it out! Considering I bought a few portions a week, that adds up! At $6 a week, that’s $300 a year! So, I decided to grow my own. I got these small herb pots and just bought supermarket herbs that look like a “cutting” of the plant. This blog post by preparednessmama explains what to do. The ROI on free herbs (after I bought the pots and herbs 1 more time) is probably 10,000%+.
9). Coffee/Tea Steeper or Instant Brew Machine
I used to have a Keurig and would pick out a coffee pod from an assortment. It saved me a ton as I used to buy coffee from Starbucks or another hipster coffee shop every day. Then, I decided to just get a French Press and picked up one for $8 at one of those consignment stores. I then bought another one on Amazon so that I could have iced coffee and iced tea/fruit infusions from David’s Tea whenever I wanted. FYI, if you’re ever in the vicinity of a David’s tea, there is always 3-4 flavors they let you try for free that day (in small cups). Also, there’s a twice yearly sale on tea, which is when I tend to get my stash. $100 on tea every year is not breaking the bank and not adding to my weight either! After all, luxury is sipping fruit-infused water on a beach. I just do it at home :).
10). Scented Oils
Having your home smell like a heavenly spa when you get home de-stresses you and allows you to decompress after a long day. I got this set and then rotate the oils so that I’m not used to the scent. This is the diffuser I use for the essential oils. Spa day is now everyday.
11). Bath Bombs
Bath bombs always soothe me after a hard workout or difficult day. But paying $8 for just ONE PLUS TAX at Lush hurts my wallet and heart. Instead go on Amazon and get ones for ~$2 per piece. I’ve gotten this assortment before and was pretty happy. For a product that costs less than $1 to manufacture, you shouldn’t be paying such a huge markup for the ones at the fancy beauty/spa stores. If you love bath bombs a ton like me, you can eventually end up buying them wholesale for $1.5 each. Buying in bulk always lowers your cost. Having a year’s worth of bath bombs is not bad if you use them every other day. Unfortunately Costco doesn’t offer them so I just get them wholesale.
The point here is, there’s no need to be frugal with absolutely everything. Be frugal with the things you can optimize, and then spend a little on the luxuries. Most of the things above are fixed cost and will last you years. The small things like bath bombs, candles, and essential oils aren’t reusable but can be bought for much cheaper than what the big brands sell for. How much more productive and happy would you be if you just spent a tiny bit more on your quality of life? If you optimize your life to be luxurious for a small price, the journey to FIRE can still be enjoyable while you save. Just spend on reusable things and find the best quality items for cheaper.
How about you? What are the things you spend on that might seem un-frugal but are absolutely important to you?