Let’s play a game

By Mir
August 8, 2007
Category Product Talk

The deals this summer have been fewer and further between. I am not neglecting you! Honest! There just haven’t been that many insane bargains the way there are leading up to and after the holidays. I am here, hiding out in my office, avoiding the heat outside, surfing for good deals to share. Pinky swear!

During this lull, I got to thinking about things I pay for which I probably shouldn’t. I’ve always stressed that it’s not a bargain if you don’t need it or if it makes you crazy. Certain things are worth paying for, period. Get ’em on sale, sure, but don’t tell someone XYZ is a waste of money if XYZ really enhances their life, you know?

So let’s talk about what you buy that you know you could probably do without but you feel are worth the money. Sound like fun? I’ll go first:

1) Freezer pops in little tubes (Otter Pops and various imitation brands). Yeah, I know I can make my own popsicles. Yeah, I know they’re full of sugar and artificial junk. They’re also highly portable (even if they melt, there’s no mess because they’re sealed—making them ideal for throwing in a cooler on beach trips and such) and cheap and give the kids so much joy. Plus they remind me of my childhood.

2) Spray sunblock. It’s so much more expensive than the regular goopy kind, but comes with 543% less complaining from the kids when it’s time to put it on. I buy it on sale, yes, but I buy it. Worth the money.

3) Annual plants. There’s a part of me that dies a little every year when I buy flowers that don’t come back. I know we don’t need them (and there’s really no way to get them at deep discount, either), but I like them. Here at the new house we have so many perennials I’ll be able to cut way back, but I can’t promise I won’t be wasting some money on some plants that I know are going to die. So there.

What are your slightly-guilty spending secrets?


  1. This is going to be way TMI but since you asked, there are two things that I don’t skimp on: maxi pads and laundry detergent. I only like Always thin maxi with wings because it actually sticks and stays where it is supposed to. Pads that don’t stick are worthless and drive me insane. I only like Tide for laundry detergent because it really does get out stains better (my son tested different detergents for a science fair project one year) and it is cheaper to by good quality laundry detergent than new clothes.

  2. Cheese sticks. It galls me to pay nearly 8 dollars for a bag of 24 cheese sticks and I try to get them on sale, but if we need them we need them. My kids love them; they are healthy; and they are easy. So I pay.

  3. I buy the snack-sized bags of crackers to put in kid lunches. Obviously I could buy a large box and put it into ziploc baggies, and I do that, too, when the snack-sized ones don’t go on good enough sales–but I get a happy feeling putting those little bags into lunch boxes, and I always wanted them when I was little, and the bags are opaque so I can’t see how many crackers are smashed.

    I pay separate shipping charges to have digital photos shipped directly to my inlaws instead of the cheaper way which would be to have them shipped to me with the rest of my order and then re-envelope them for my inlaws. The convenience is worth it, and so is the reduction in number of times/ways I have to think about my inlaws.

  4. 1. Huge packs of bottled water, which I keep in my trunk. The plastic-guilt alone is driving me to repentance.

    2. Pre-grated cheese. It’s so lazy/expensive (I hear the voices of my thrifty ancestors), but this year I broke down.

    3. Ditto for already-chunked melon.

    I do make my own baby food and freeze it — does this net me any points? And I don’t eat baked goods unless I make them myself. Surely this all balances out?

  5. I see a pattern of easy snacks. I pay for the snack packs of crackers, cheese, and ham because it’s so much easier to hand them a little box than to drag everything out and cut it up for them. I guess I could pre-cut them and put them in baggies, and that is definately my goal one of these days, but there are just too many things to do in the afternoons to have time to cut up little pieces of ham and cheese.

  6. I hear you on the annual plants. They’re usually all i can afford, but I should buy at least a few a year that will come back again next….

    Pre-made Pudding Cups — my kids love these, and I don’t buy them often, and only when on sale or I have a coupon, but still…. .25 for one serving of pudding (that is so much worse for them than the real thing)??? But they love the flavors, and it’s so dang convenient!

    Tubs of cake frosting — I could make homemade and it would be so much better for us, but sometimes it’s just too easy to buy it!

  7. I thought of another thing…

    those socks from TCP, Old Navy, Gymboree, or wherever, that come in individual packages with the rubber writing on the bottoms. I’m addicted to those things! The colors are so wonderful! Sure, I always buy them on sale, but I always feel a pang of guilt, because I know I could buy a multi-pack of white for so much cheaper!

  8. I’m feeling a shade guilty, and more than a shade gullible, for having bought noni juice after many of my exercise buddies gave it their endorsement. To my credit, I bought a positively-reviewed brand off of Amazon (partially paid for with credits from buying magazines, etc.) instead of the pyramid-scheme-scented Tahitian Noni International brand that’s something like four times the price. (All those exercise buddies? They were offering to sell it to me.) I think that the juice is giving me a bit more energy, helping me avoid that 4pm crash, but I won’t know for sure until I run out. I spend a ridiculous amount of money on nutritional supplements; it’s a good thing I can sale and coupon my weekly grocery bill down to about $70, it almost makes up for all the supplement-buying!

    I also grit my teeth and purchase Danimals drinking yogurts for my son. Even on sale, they’re expensive, but he loves them and I want him to have some sort of probiotic daily. (See: maternal obsession with nutritional supplements.) It’d be way cheaper and far healthier to make kefir at home and have him drink that, but he won’t touch any cultured drink unless it’s got a coked-up-looking monkey on the bottle.

  9. Hey Carrie, I LOVE those socks, too! The best are the ones from BabyGap. They last super long, so don’t feel bad at all for spending a bit more. My son is wearing a hand-me-down pair right now that has already gone through 4 (yes 4) of my nieces and nephews. No holes. And sometimes they are on sale for $0.99! A much better deal in the long run!

  10. Ditto, Summer, on the yogurt products. For my kids, it’s the Stonyfield squeezers that we stick in the freezer (our compromise for Otter Pops…) At nearly $4 a box, I cringe every week when I buy them. (They never seem to go on sale and I’m terrible about actually getting coupons to the register. If I had a dollar for every hour I’ve spent looking for, clipping, and filing coupons — well, I wouldn’t need coupons,then. Worst of all, I routinely leave my coupons behind, and then spend additional time going through them and throwing out the expired ones…sigh.)

  11. Fresh produce… LOL Seriously I need it, but really, why is it so darn expensive. And do not get me started on organic…..

    Oh and cheese sticks…. I splurge on them, because they are worth it..

    OH and shoes…. I am a shoe-addict.

  12. 1) I second the spray sunblock. it’s outrageous. I know it. I bought on sale (most of the time), but it’s still outrageous. but it takes 2 seconds!! thumbs up.

    2) bottles of diet raspberry iced tea . . . it’s such a waste. I could make it from a mix in 2 minutes and even pour into portable containers . . . but really who has 2 extra minutes??

    3) also do the snack sized bags of crackers, etc during school season. they’re so pretty in their colorful little tiny bags . . .

  13. Individual oatmeal packets. I eat breakfast at work most mornings and take a packet in a small tupperware container (that I then mix and eat the oatmeal out of). I should buy a big thing of oatmeal and just measure it into the container……but I like to vary the flavors and well, I’m bad.
    Kids? It’s the individual applesauce that takes me down. I have started re-cycling the plastic containers because they are such a great size. We use them for paint or for ketchup to dip.
    I would totally be into the spray sunblock, but my kids run screaming from it. What?!?!?!!?

  14. Good shoes, especially for my husband, who apparently walks in such a way as to destroy all cheapo shoes within a matter of months.

    But I’m worth good shoes, too (Born, Birkenstock, Clarks mostly)– and I keep mine about five years longer than he does his, so there. And Mir’s doing a great job keeping me in cheap but still very good shoes as well. (Pretty pretty Mir!)

  15. Oh another one– the pricey flea treatments from the vets (frontline, advantage). Nothing else works as well. Not even close. No matter what hype they try to sell ya.

  16. My salon haircut… $50 plus a tip. I don’t get color or any other treatment, ever. My rationale is that a good haircut looks good for longer, so I can go longer between haircuts.

    The truth is, I’m TERRIFIED of the $15/cut places. I know it’s just hair and it’ll grow back and blah blah blah. I really am low maintenance… Except for this haircut thing. It’s my one and only splurge on myself. I even cut my son’s hair myself to try to make up for it.

  17. I second the salon haircut! Is it considered saving money when I confess that I only go about once or twice a year?

    Also those Old Navy/Gymboree/Gap baby/toddler socks w/the rubber on the bottom – they need the traction!

    I’ve been a Gymboree addict on their clothes, but only off the clearance rack, I just love the better quality than the Target/Walmart brands and they’re cuter.

    Stick cheese – me too. If I had to cut it off the block, I’d more than likely pick up something unhealthy to eat just b/c it’s there.

  18. Fresh produce, I started to write that up about an hour ago. I’m spending way too much on tomatoes! I so need to just plant some next year!

    I’m also loving all these 100 calorie snacks, I have soo many 100 cal cupcakes, cookies, crackers and chips! But hey, the weights coming off and I’m not opening a big bag and finishing it off.

    I also love those oven bags for foil dinners, like I can’t just fold the foil over? But then I can just throw in a bag of already peeled carrots and beef for stew… and the baby only cries at my feet half the time then she could have.

    Michele- wow, great… thanks for the tips for the applesauce! I always use paper plates that gets so messy for finger paints and I always use a seperate bowl for the kids ketchup.

  19. Y’all, I really am saving money when I buy the stick cheese, because otherwise, my husband would put the opened block back in the refrigerator, and the next time I saw it, it would be orange and as hard as a brick (even when I get the resealable bags). ok, I could cut it up as soon as I got it and put it in ziploc bags, but somehow those things don’t get closed fully either.

  20. First of all, I have to tell you flowers (including annuals) are a necessity. They certainly aren’t something I could do without! I’d eat PB and J all spring and summer if I had to to be able to afford the food for my soul.

    I’ve been reading your site for a while now. I want to say thanks for all the bargain-hunting you share! I got the cheap chandelier you posted a while back, it looks spiffy in my kitchen!

    Feeling slightly guilty about buying:
    1. Spray sunblock. I finally bought some this summer. I don’t think I’ll be able to go back!
    2. Anything I buy at Target. I never “need” any of the things I buy from there. All the colorful hipness sucks me right in.
    3. Pre-packaged Rice Krispie treats for my kids. Have I really gotten that lazy?

  21. For me — Izze pomegranate soda. It’s just pomegranate juice, other juice and sparkling water. But, yum.

    Has anyone else bought the kids’ Smuckers frozen PB&J sandwiches? *cringe* They are really a terrible indulgence, but my daughter loves them, and they make it much easier to get a lunch packed on those mornings when we wake up a tad late, so I keep a package in the freezer during the school year and only utilize it when necessary.

    On the plus side, I rarely ever buy cheese sticks, yogurt cups, individual size chips or water bottles. I, too, am hoping my lunch carbon footprint balances out somehow.

    And I totally agree about the haircut – it makes a big difference.

  22. Guilty as charged on the Uncrustables!

  23. Professional pics of my kids. I use coupons, I go to the mall but I go practically monthly. I can’t help myself.

    All Bran Bars. The are like $3 a box for 6 bars (I once found 2/$5. Once) but they are very high in fiber and very very tasty (the honey oat ones) so everybody loves to eat them and I can feel better that they are snacking healthy(ish). Ditto for yogurt cups.

    Sad, though, I can’t say I splurge on much

  24. …the end of my comment was cut off, sorry.

    not a brag, I’m a little disappointed in myself that I have cheap, crappy shoes, goopey sunblock and beauty school eyebrows. But my children are regular and I can prove it by monthly portraits of their smily faces 😉

  25. Boy, for me it’s Diaper bags and strollers. Now that my son is two I don’t go through a stroller a month (believe it or ot I ever lost on a stroller – bought on super sale and sold for what I paid for it or more) and diaper bags/purses. I LOVE them. But ditto, I recycle them, but I have lost a “little” on those. I’m trying to be good though!

    Pretty much everything else I’m pretty good at being frugal.

  26. I love my crock pot in a way that a woman should NOT love a kitchen appliance. I hate cleaning it after making a roast, so I get those crock pot liner bags. They are like $2.50 for four (yes, only FOUR!) but they save me so much time cleaning. The pot just needs a rinse with a little soap instead of 12 hours of soaking and then a good scrub.

    Oh, and the bottles of water and tea? Always in my house.

  27. Well, I can’t resist jumping on the band wagon. Here goes…bottled water and tea. The diet Nestle white tea is fabulous. Stick cheese, individual packages of chips/cookies. I’d eat an entire large bag if I didn’t buy the small ones. Yogurt – my kids like it and it is not too bad for them, so…

  28. I buy YooHoo drink boxes for the kids. My son won’t drink milk (long story) and it’s the only thing he’ll drink that has calcium and vitamin D, so I buy a ton of them, whatever price they are. For my hubby and I, we buy the diet citrus green tea. It’s expensive, but yummy. And the other thing I’ll gladly pay for, regardless of the price, is good high-speed internet service. Because god forbid I should have to wait any longer than a second for any pages to load!

  29. Michele –
    My kids run screaming from the spray sunblock too! When I go to get the sunblock my 3 yo says “it is the reg-uh-lur stuff, or the stinky spray stuff?” LOL

  30. Juice boxes. It doesn’t seem like such a bad thing, until I calculate that we use 7 of them a day during the summer (9 a day recently, since my niece was staying with us for a few weeks). I seriously contemplated mixing up great big batches of homemade lemonade and then pouring it into reusable squeeze bottles, but have you looked closely at a squeeze bottle top after it’s been used by a toddler? *Dry heaves*

    Also? Jam. I make my own jam (couldn’t bear to waste all those lovely blackberries growing wild on our property). But I also like having at least three different kinds open in the fridge at all times, and a couple more jars in the pantry. I say it’s because there was a point in my life when I couldn’t afford any jam at all, but it’s probably more likely that I just really, really like jam.

    I’m not as bad as my mom, though (yet). She has so many different condiments in the fridge that there’s barely any room for actual food! So my jam-thing may be hereditary.

  31. My list:

    I never considered annuals a splurge. My desire for perenials arises out of LAZINESS, not frugality. But my many pots of colorful annuals make me very happy all summer. And I find it very satisfying to buy the 50% flats that didn’t get watered or sold soon enough and then see the blooming and busting out of my pots three weeks later. I love that.

    I, too, must must must have spray sunscreen. Period.

    I must have salon haircuts and I when it comes to the price, I’d pay more and pretend not to see the look at the price if I thought the stylist was great. I don’t color. But as soon as I go grey, I’ll pay for salon color. My hair has to look good in the morning without any time. That’s worth money.

    Expensive bras.

    A cleaning lady.

    Do I sound too spoiled?

  32. Individual apple sauce cups, my son takes them for everything, he even dips his chicken nuggets from McD’s into them.

    Ditto for pudding cups, although I only buy them on sale, they are still pricey for the convenience of the packaging.

    Shredded cheese, just so much quicker in getting dinner to the table with some of the work done already!

  33. Fine cheeses. It is something I indulge myself with about once a month. Do I really need the fat content found in a small little package of St. Andre’s Triple Cream? No, but there is nothing on earth that is better than that cheese coming to room temperature and lolling all around in my mouth. For $10-$15 a pop, that is an expensive snack in my household.

  34. My splurge is my housekeeper. It is worth every dime that I don’t spend my precious spare time cleaning the house. I make sure that, on purchases I make regularly, that I save as much money as possible to justify having Kimberly come once a week.

    I own a business, and I’m constantly trying to find ways for us to save money there, too. One thing that I just did was eliminate bottled water and replaced it with a water cooler. It costs me about the same, but we aren’t going through all those plastic bottles. We recycle them, but it still was getting out of hand. It isn’t saving me any money, because we’re all drinking so much more water (this is fine by me, since I’m glad to be drinking more water).

  35. Is a cleaning lady a splurge? I thought it was the definition of sanity. Eek!

  36. My husband just hired a housekeeper to come every other week…she came yesterday and OMG was that the best splurge that I ever could have imagined! Not that I don’t have to clean perse…but I won’t be scrubbing baseboards for awhile!

    Guilty with the spray sunscreen…I used to end up with more of the regular stuff on me with my wriggly children.

    Since we’ve moved to Texas, I’ve splurged big time on bottled water. The water just doesn’t taste like it did in California (before moving here, we drank from cups straight from the tap. I promise it was okay, my husband worked for the water district!)

    I second the crock pot bags…the most fabulous thing ever invented. Well maybe not ever but close. Danimals yogurt…guilty…my kids drink those like they are going out of style.

  37. I guess my splurges are:

    High Speed Internet-we’ve tried going without it and just couldn’t take it

    Salletite TV-same thing here

    Kid yogurt-my son loves the Dora and Trix stuff. We just bought Danimals for the first time and they loved that too.

    My oldest starts Kindergarten this fall so I’ll be fixing a snack and lunch for her everyday as well as a snack for my son 2 days a week. I might have to jump on some of those snack packs, but I’m trying hard to avoid it.

  38. On using Advantage from the vet: If you are treating multiple cats see if your vet will sell you the dog size. The formula is the same — only the amount changes with the size of the animal. One large dog tube will treat 5 large cats. I use a medicine syringe to suck up the correct (.8ml) dose and squirt it on the cats. It is actually easier as the syringe dispenses faster — important when treating skittish felines. 🙂 The large dog size is only a few dollars more than the single dose large cat size — a huge savings when treating cats.

    Yes, my cats are all indoor cats, but they have been known to pick up fleas from open windows and ones that we have managed to track in.

  39. The spray sunscreen is the best purchase of the summer! My 2yo used to run for the hills when he saw the bottle of lotion, now I ask him to “go get the sunblock” and he runs, grabs it, hands it to me and stands right in front of my with his arms out and eyes closed. Too cute! Even my husband doesn’t cry anymore when I make him put on the sunblock. So yes, best purchase.

  40. You know, the stuff you splurge on seems to be radically different for the kid-having and non-kid-having among us. When Mir asked the question, my first thoughts were along the shoes-and-haircuts line. The idea of splurging on whimsically-packaged yogurt would never occur to me.

    The biggest and most common one for me, though, is frozen dinners. Unhealthy, rarely satisfying, overpriced… and yet, sometimes when I get home from job #2, I just can’t contemplate doing anything more than putting something in the microwave. I don’t know how y’all with kids do it.

  41. You guys make me laugh!

    Gosh, I was thinking my Costco membership was a splurge until you guys mentioned cheese sticks (check) and spray sunscreen (guilty as charged) but then I remembered….

    Kiss My Face shampoo and conditioner. $8 A BOTTLE. And I’m all about justifying it (just like everyone else) with a $25 haircut every 6 months or so and not using any other product on my hair…. Ditto for the $21 a tube Aveda tinted moisturizer (it lasts me forever but $21???). Oh, I feel so DECADENT now….

    I also confess to loving running errands on Saturday mornings with my mother-in-law. We almost always stop for a smoothie or a coffee drink…. the definition of bliss for this tightwad.

  42. Gin.

  43. A double espresso at my local starbucks 6-7 mornings a week. I bring my own demitasse so I get a little discount, but it’s still in the range of $20 weekly. But, it gets me out of the house and my toddler enjoys eating his breakfast we bring from home there. I also skip it one week a month and donate the cash to charity. I justify it by never eating out or buying any junk food, and getting all my produce from a local farmer’s market.

    I have to say that farmer’s markets are the way to go to save money on produce. The trick is to show up half an hour before closing – most merchants are eager to get rid of unsold produce, and give it to you for a song. I picked up ~30 pounds of produce last week for $10.

  44. For me, it’s a Brazilian bikini wax every 4 to 6 weeks… how I wish there were coupons for *those*!

  45. My Matrix hairspray–always buy it on sale at Penney’s and stock up. My haircut–$40 + tip and my hair is short so I get it cut once a month. I don’t care about my shampoo though. Is that weird?

    Also buy the spray sunblock and the cheesesticks. Also will be planting my own tomatoes next year. Also will ONLY use Tide and Downy–I don’t care how much they cost. I do, however, make lemonade and iced tea by the gallon.

  46. OK, so I’m surprised that it took someone until more than halfway down the list to come up with high speed internet – I spent too long in the land of dial-up to not put that down!

    Other splurges –
    1) Sebastian brand hairspray. At $14-15 a can (it’s one of those stupid tall cans) it lasts me about 3 months, but it washes right out of my hair. I live in a humid place, so just can’t do w/o it and still have any style to my hair.
    2) Soda in cans – I know, I could just buy the big 2 liter bottle, but then it winds up going flat, etc. Somewhere always has them on sale, they’re easy to grab on the go, and I may have a little problem w/caffeine addiction so … ahem.
    3) Caesar Salad in a bag – not in the summer so much, but when it’s the school year, we’re running from one place to the next, it’s so much easier to throw the bag together in about 2 minutes. It does pain me to pay $3 a bag for us to eat salad, but I’m afraid if I didn’t do that 1-2x a week, well, we’d definitely be short on our greens!
    4) Good cheese – I was so happy to see someone else say that. It’s a little scary how happy some really good cheese makes me – I only do it once a month or so, but still embarrassing.
    5) Books – very tough for me to say no to the kids when they want books. Yes, we browse the used section of our big chain book store, yes, we buy at the library sale and yes I use coupons, but still – we’re going to run out of room soon!!
    6) Tivo – I saved Tivo for last, because, well, I’m a Tivo evangelist. I have deep and abiding passion for Tivo, and I would happily do w/o other things, including food, in order to keep my Tivo. Tivo = bliss.

  47. 1. l’occitane hand creme. It’s $35.00 a tube and I only wish I’d never tried it. I keep one in my purse and one next to my bed.

    2. Keens shoes for all my kids. Indestructible and waterproof (we live on an island).

  48. I wear glasses and have two designer pairs in the *gasp* exact same prescription!

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