3 Things You *Should* Spend Money On

I’ve developed a bit of a reputation for doing things on the cheap.  Saving money.  Being fiercely frugal.  But the truth is, I’m not.  Well … I am good with money and like to do things myself when I can, but I don’t go through life surrounding by only cheap stuff.  That would be gross.

So I spend money when I have to and save where I can.  The result is a life and a house that’s fun, practical and extravagant all at the same time.  What you decide to spend versus save on is up to your individual preferences but I have a few suggestions.  These are 3 of the things I think you shouldn’t cheap out on.


A Good Mattress

Who doesn’t love sleeping?  I love it so much I sometimes wake up and think to myself “Ohhhh … I’m so happy to be sleeping … I’m so comfortable I could cry”.  Clearly I love my mattress. About 12 years ago I bought my mattress and spent every penny I could on it.  I forget what it cost now but with the box spring it was close to $2,000 and I’ve never regretted a second of it.  It’s getting to be time for another one and I plan on throwing money to the wind again.  A good mattress is more comfortable, better for your body, allows better sleep and doesn’t need to be replaced as often.   And a mattress really does have a limited number of years on it.  Even if your mattress isn’t worn out doesn’t mean it doesn’t need to be replaced.  The mattress may not have changed, but chances are you did.  10 years ago when you bought your mattress your body might have been O.K. with a soft mattress.  Now you feel better on a harder one.  Or vice versa.  So don’t let a nice looking 10 year old mattress fool you.  If you’re uncomfortable in your bed or wake up sore … no matter what it looks like … it’s time for a new mattress.


Select Articles of Clothing


I pulled out a sweater to wear the other day.  It was the one I wore for the Will They Eat it video as a matter of fact. It’s a big black cardigan that does up with huge kilt pins.   When I took it out I thought, I can’t believe how many years I’ve been wearing this sweater.  It’s from a smallish Canadian department store called Holt Renfrew.  The equivalent of Bergdorf Goodman’s in the States I suppose, or Harrods in London.  It probably cost around $300 – $350.  Something like that.  If you did a cost analysis of (how many times I’ve worn it X how good it makes me feel) ÷ COST,  you’d see it was actually a bargain.

You’re better off buying one really good thing, than 5 cheap things when you can.  So my wardrobe is made up of a few really good sweaters, jeans, boots and coats interspersed with stuff from Old Navy, the Gap and Joe Fresh.    The expensive stuff I keep for years and it never goes out of style.   Spend money on classic or avant garde pieces that don’t go out of style.  Don’t pay a lot for trendy stuff that’ll only be worn for one or two seasons.


An Expensive Tube of Lipstick

I’ve had my make up done enough times by enough professional makeup artists that I’ve learned a thing or two about makeup.  Nothing about applying it of course … I’m pretty hopeless where that’s concerned, but I have learned a LOT about what products are the best and they’re not always the most expensive ones.  So my makeup kit is made up of random bits and pieces of different lines of mainly drugstore makeup.

BUT … I always own a Chanel or Dior lipstick or lipgloss.  I think a Chanel lipstick is around $45.  It just plain makes me feel good to have it.  I feel good putting it on, I get a thrill just opening it up. The packaging is nicer, it feels better and it smells better.  It even makes a nicer sound when you click it closed.  The colour is about the same, lasts the same amount of time, but there’s just a certain feeling of pleasure you get from owning something extravagant and beautifully packaged, even if it’s only a lipgloss.  For you it might be expensive perfume.  Or body lotion.  Whatever it is, to have something that makes you feel special (and let’s face it …companies like Chanel and Dior are marketed for exactly that purpose) is worth every penny.

Lipstick and perfume (or a really nice aftershave/cologne if you’re a guy) are the perfect things to splurge on because they stay with you all day long to remind you of  how truly special you are as you clean up cat barf,  get talked down to by your boss, fold the laundry, wait in line at the grocery store, and get cut off by a hormone with legs in his mom’s car .

Yup.  You’re special.


  1. Marti says:

    Great advice. Needs photo for anyone to PIN IT, but yep, this is the stuff!

  2. Amie says:

    Your speaking my language lady! I’d like to add underwear to the list. Why would anyone want to cover their special bits with a bad bra or nasty undies!

  3. Gknee says:

    My mom always told me to count it as one dollar everytime you wear an expensive item, in no time that item has paid for itself. I’ve had several pairs of Fluvog boots for over 10 years and they just get better with age cause they’re so well made and worth every dollar. Same goes with perfume, something I will always splurge on usually at that dump Holt Renfrew *snort*.

  4. Barbie says:

    I would have to agree on all 3 points Karen.
    A good mattress is a MUST…they say we spend a 3rd of our life sleeping.
    Some really well made clothes to mix with trendy cheep stuff,
    …And some good make up items…whatever that may be.
    I’d say your a really well rounded gal….

  5. Jenn says:

    “What’s lipstick,” asks the woman with naturally berry-stained lips.

    But oh dear, I love my orange-ginger lotion. It blows up my skirt and has for years.

  6. Trapped in Canadia says:

    My Bulgari perfume makes every day better just because I get an occasional whiff of it. My mother, on the other hand, loves her Chanel no. 5 (who doesn’t?), but liked to save it for special occasions. I’ve finally convinced her that every day can be special and she deserves it to be so.

  7. Nancy says:

    That’s funny! The one thing I will NOT spend money on anymore is expensive lipstick. I’ve never managed to not promptly lose them and the lipstick just isn’t nice enough to risk $30 falling out of my pocket (AGAIN). A gorgeous perfume though (which I can split into smaller bottles, distributed risk!), I wholeheartedly support!

  8. itchbay says:

    Ha! I’m an on-the-cheap type too, but won’t skimp on certain things, and two of mine are yours: mattress and good clothing. I know I’m going to keep something until it wears out, and so it needs to be classic and good quality, although a once-in-a-while fun items is OK too.

    Quality shoes and quality bras are a must. I remember buying a cute pair of patent leather shoes years and years ago, and they just killed my feet. It took one very long, very tiring day on my feet and I went home and literally threw them in the trash. I’ve done the same with bad bras.

    I don’t wear make-up, so that’s why my third thing is different. I refuse to skimp on food. I mean, sure I love a bargain on items I’d already buy, but I don’t shop at discount stores. Heck, I don’t even shop at regular stores. I get my veggies from a CSA, my meat from a butcher, and everything else comes from a co-op that sells locally-grown/raised/etc. stuff, with the staples coming from Trader Joe’s.

    • Karen says:

      itchbay – Food is also something I spend money on. A LOT of money, LOL. And I’m O.K. with that too. Cooking and eating are pretty much my form of entertainment. ~ karen!

  9. Gayla T says:

    You aure have amassed a lot of insight for one so young. It might not be the lipstick for all of us but there is something in every woman’s life that makes her feel good about herself and it’s priceless. I will never brag about how much I pay for something but I sure will iet you know when I’ve found a bargain, but something that’s so trendy it’s only going to make you happy for a year or so is never a bargain. I agree with you on loving your bed. I never buy cheap sheets or pillows as well as a good mattress. I have medical issues that keep me in bed more than most people so it means a lot to pamper myself there.

  10. Great advice. I agree with all three. Under clothing I’d include accessories. Cheap bags, belts and shoes can ruin an outfit. Decent one (usually bought on sale, in my case) can elevate otherwise mediocre stuff. Plus I cannot stand fake leather. If you’re not buying the real thing, go and buy something that isn’t pretending to be something else, there are plenty of great fabrics / materials out there.

  11. Liz says:

    The last comment about lipstick/perfume etc, I agree with, especially the thing about something personal. I always make sure to good underwear, pretty bras, because every time I put one on I feel so much more confident to do whatever ๐Ÿ™‚

    Love reading your blog, hi from Australia

    Liz ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. Jenny says:

    Box of hair color -$10. Wool Houndstooth coat(with satin lining)from Wally World-$35, People telling me I smell delicious in my $150 an ounce Chanel#5-PRICELESS ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. Jamieson says:

    You are just so wise!

  14. gf says:

    A second on boots. I spent about $150 on a pair of hiking boots in the early 90’s and got about 15 years of long miles out of them. I had them resoled once at some point along the way. I still have them for yard work.

    $150 is not a whole lot in the world of hiking boots, but I was driving a $500 car at the time so it was a lot of money to me.

    • Meg says:

      Hahah this comment made me remember when I bought my first Canon “L” lens. $1800. And I still drive around LA buzzing past Beemers and Maseratis alike, in my $1600 ’95 (purple) honda civic.

      I also spend money on things for my hobbies: orchids, photo gear, paint. I also like spending money on rare fun events/DOING type things. I spent $900 to take professional race car driving lessons. I’m a girl who can out-drive most dudes. Worth every penny.

  15. I would like to add to your list…I think buying good panties are a must…..and of course bra’s too…and I’m never cheap on a good pair of tennis shoes…..

  16. marilyn says:

    oh karen i’m with ya girlfriend. have always said buy the best that you can afford. i wear chanels coco mademoiselle perfume and i love it! it makes me feel good about myself, i feel naked without it and people always tell me i smell good. its expensive but worth it. my dad bought my last bottle for me, he wanted to buy me a Christmas gift and suggested i get myself some “scent”. he is so sweet..and so now i have the added bonus of smelling good and my memory of my fathers lovely gift to me. i’m making this bottle last.

  17. Nicole2 says:

    Yes, I completely agree with the expensive perfume. Please, people, if nothing else, buy an expensive designer perfume. They don’t go sour by the end of the day (or within an hour for that matter). There’s nothing more offending than a cheap perfume. They just don’t wear as well.

  18. Melody Madden says:

    Great post and I agree with every word. If it were 4 things you should spend money on I would add a great pair of shoes but it’s not so forget I said it.

  19. Debbie says:

    Great advice, I hadn’t thought of lipstick. I do have a good mattress and a few good items of clothing! Have a great day,

  20. Diana says:

    Hi Karen,
    did you know, that Dior has got their own designer for the sound of clicking the lipstick tube?
    And for cars they create the sound of closing the doors, engine and indicator ( in fact it wouldn`t make any sound!)
    Amazing, isn`t it;o)

  21. Cheryl in Wisconsin says:

    This is all great advice. Continuing on the same thread as the mattress, I’d add pillows to that as well. Really nice pillows add to a wonderful night’s sleep, I splurge on those as well.

    And as a sidenote to the perfume, I spend more on that because the cheaper stuff tends to be what can really offend the people you’re near all day. I know this more on the victim end of it.

    Your last paragraph is classic, and as a matter of fact, all of those things have happened to me already today and it’s only 8:30.

  22. Katherine says:

    Your post made me get up and go put on my expensive perfume that I only wear on special occasions. Thank you! ๐Ÿ™‚

  23. Paulina J! says:

    Totally agree about the mattress. My husband had been sleeping on a foldout cot contraption when I met him. When we got married the mattress was our biggest splurge, worth every penny! When we travel, we always say how much we miss our bed. Nothing compares.

  24. Kathleen says:

    I have to say good undies make me feel like a million $$$

  25. Amanda says:

    I totally agree with this list. I don’t actually like clothes shopping (I am a failure as a woman), so when I do buy clothes it’s usually one special piece that I know will make me feel amazing.

    I’d also add pet food to this list! I see too many people feeding their pets cheap crap, and while dogs and cats tend to prefer the cheap crap I worry it will lead to health problems down the road. I’d rather spend big bucks on a premium brand and have healthier pets. (I still treat my cats to a tin of Fancy Feast every now and then aka McDonald’s for cats.)

  26. Kate says:

    Totally agree. Perfume and boots are my spendy items. Oh, and veterinary care for the cats. They get better health care than I do.

  27. brie says:

    I would take a good haircut before the lipstick for my “girly” item! I would rather spend $80 on a great haircut where they listen to what I want, as opposed to $95 on a cheap haircut- $15 for the bargain snip and another $80 to fix it.

  28. kathy says:

    A new mattress this year for our anniversary instead of a cruise..check
    a couple of really great sweaters..check
    and always a chanel lipgloss…check

    we are on the same page!!!

  29. Jules says:

    I add one more item…large cotton bath towels. They hold up so much better than the Dollar Store type towels and the color doesn’t run either.

  30. Darby says:

    When I was between jobs I saw a Marc Jacobs coat that would literally call to me in the night. I had no business buying it but I did and I’ve worn it soooo many times and feel soooo happy everytime I do. At the time it represented the faith I had in myself that I would be alright financially (I was thank heavens) and now it reminds me to keep that confidence in other endeavors too. Plus it’s green and pretty much the most awesome coat in the world!

  31. Shauna says:

    Great advice and I follow each one. We bought a top of the line Temperpedic mattress a few years back and loved it so much, we bought one for our son and our guest bedroom (because visitors should sleep well too). I also pay the big money for the Dior spray foundation – it’s awesome and is like getting your make-up airbrushed by a make-up artist each morning. It’s $60 and lasts about month (if used 5 days/week), but I love it, love it, love it!

  32. Alyssa says:

    One thing my family does not scrimp on is bras. We don’t really have a choice, since most stores don’t sell our sizes. My Aunt got in a car accident this winter, and when they had to airlift her to the hospital, the one thing she could think was, “thank God I’m wearing a nice bra.” Yes, it is that important to us. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Alyssa says:

      My brother is a salesman for high-end mens clothing (think Hugo Boss) and the one trick he always uses for accessories is if you have $40 to buy a watch, don’t buy a knock-off that’s supposed to look like it’s $250. It’ll just look cheap. Buy a watch that’s worth the 40 bucks, and it’ll look good.

  33. Korrine Johnson says:

    Glasses. They go ON YOUR FACE and they help you see. I don’t know about you but I want my face to look good and I want to see if other people look as good as I do.

  34. cyn says:

    yes it is better to be a wiseass than a dumbass…
    I agree with you about the bed. I have not gotten expencive clothing in years.. The forever I need to loose weight so I woun’t by clothes.. of course you have to get some things.I don’t work away from the house any more so I can let things slide somewhat.
    I apply lip stick/gloss 6 – 10 times a day, there for I use Avon. The one thing I do spend some money on is night and morning face cream. I know it is not the most pricy but it is a very nice product, again Avon.. if you look like you were hung out to dry… well you do.
    You can smell like a million bucks I love the Organza by Gicenchy. Hubby and my daughter buy it for me. LOVE it. There is always something you love that makes you feel fab. do it. “If you don’t take care of your self no one else will.”

  35. Anna says:

    My list includes peanut butter, toilet paper, and bath towels (although I agree with all three of yours, as well).

  36. My entire bed cost $60 ten years ago and I love it, so I guess I just lucked out.

    I would rather buy generic than branded anything most of the time, sesame oil not body lotion, essential oils not perfume, but my l’Ombre dans l’Eau perfume by Diptyque is non-negotiable. I nearly fell over at the price of your lipstick though! I seldom get kissed, wonder if there’s a link?

    I have a great Indian book about home-made beauty products and they work, if you’d ever like me to share some time…

  37. Vicki says:

    Thank you for the great post, your points are excellent. I agree with you, although often my “expensive” clothes are purchased at resale – I got a lovely, nearly never worn leather jacket a couple of weeks ago for $20 at the Assistance League – and an older friend who has always worn lipsticks such as that you mention, discovered that Prestige brand lipsticks are made very similarly to her favored Estee Lauder – even the cases are elegant, with the subtle click you mention. They aren’t the cheapest of drugstore lipsticks, but, in my opinion, the best. Now my mother uses them, as well.

    What I have found is the key in purchasing resale is patience. You can’t shop for a specific item (a green crewneck longsleeve sweater, for example), but you can look for something of quality, which you know you will love, and if you splurge and spend $20 on the quality item, rather than $6 on the second hand Old Navy or Target item, you will have one of those items which you will wear over and over. Worrying about what is trendy this season won’t work, either. Classics are what you will find at resale, if you look hard enough, and they will endure as much as if you had found them new. I own a number of cashmere sweaters, and have never spent more than $$20 for one. Because resale garments are less expensive, I have also been able to experiment with color, and discovered that I love a raspberry t-shirt – a color I never would have purchased at full price.

    Oh, perfume – try Fracas by Piguet. I adore this fragrance, although it is very difficult to find. Try very hard not to laugh when the salesperson says, “Oh, you mean Frackus.” (I couldn’t help myself. I said, “Well yes, by Pigwot.” (rhymes with Piglet))

  38. Melanie says:

    You are the “real” deal and I love your posts/site!

    Back to it — I bought my first expensive “everyday” purse. Guilt – yes, but everyday I look at it and think, “yup, completely worth it!”

  39. kelliblue says:

    A good hair stylist/colorist. Worth their weight in gold. If you don’t look good, you don’t feel good.

    A great cleanser and moisturizer. Nuff said.

    A good mattress – I agree there. I just spent 3 nights away from home and was never so glad to get back to my own snuggly bed!

    GOOD SHOES. Much more important as I get older.

    Find “your” scent…then find a dupe for it and make your own. I can’t tell you how much $$$ I’ve saved doing just this. Scented oil + vodka = fabulosity!

    A GREAT RED LIPSTICK that’s perfect for you! I think you can skip almost any other type of makeup, but a great red lip has power! However, I don’t think you have to spend Chanel prices to find Chanel quality.

    • Karen says:

      Kelliblue – like I said .. it’s not the actual quality I’m after, it’s the nice package, the click and the word Chanel. THAT’s what makes me feel good. ๐Ÿ™‚ ~ karen

  40. VV says:

    While I can fall asleep on anything (the floor, wooden bench, upright airplane seat etc.) the hubs and I did invest in our mattress. More for his sake than mine though. I hate it most when we turn the mattress around and he gets to sleep on a magical pouffy cloud and I have to sleep in the huge dent he’s made on ‘his’ side.

    My favourite perfume is Chanel Eau Fraiche but I am considering getting Jo Malone next time round… I hear it’s worth the hefty hefty price tag?

  41. Valerie says:

    Good points in the article, but I think you want to change the equation. Number of times worn divided by how it makes you feel, assuming the better it makes, the larger the number. ” It makes me feel like a 10!”

  42. Jon says:

    I wandered onto one of my wife’s favorite sites (its pretty incredible BTW). I must add (1) coffee, (2) cigars, (3) knives, and (4) toilet paper.

    • Karen says:

      Jon. I wish I smoked cigars. ~ karen

    • Karen says:

      Oh! And welcome. We could use some more men around here. The fella gets sick of being the only one we make fun of. ~ karen

      • Jon says:

        oh my wife makes fun of me all the time. Your workshop section on your site is much more descriptive on the individual sections of projects than most I’ve found! Except I don’t think I’ll try to make the cupcake tree ornaments, no offense.

  43. Karol says:

    I’m throwing in my vote for toilet paper. I want that moment to be pleasant, soothing, and efficient. My office uses single-ply, recycled glass shards for the restrooms, and my butt does not see the humor in it. I carry TP in my purse (I swear) that I found in the $1 travel-size section of our pharmacy. A little plastic tube, ironically the same size as a toilet paper roll, with enough paper for multiple trips. Charmin’s the BEST. I have them in my car’s glove compartment too.
    Here’s a fun fact to know and tell about mattresses: by the end of their life span – 10 years – they weigh 50% more than when they were purchased from dead skin cells. Eww. I read that in Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader, so it must be true.
    Sorry for the late post. I just discovered you a few days ago and I’m catching up on all the past posts. Love you, my new sassy blogger friend.

  44. Karol says:

    … and looking forward to all of them. I like smiling. You make me smile.

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