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Splurges Vs. Steals

The Last Pair of Sandals, Ottawa, August 2014
The Last Pair of Sandals, Ottawa, August 2014

“I hate buying sandals,” I confessed to the lady behind me at the checkout.

We both eyed the customer in front of us who was buying $600 worth of shoes and counting her money very slowly.

“Why is that?” she asked distractedly.

“Because no matter how much money I spend on sandals, I never keep them long. Heals wear out, soles have holes, straps break. There is nothing I can do. This kind of shoes are not made for walking.”

Yet, I was purchasing another pair. On sale. The one I had bought in May were abandoned in France—holes in the soles, hopeless. I walk I lot, I guess.

I stopped splurging on sandals a long time ago. I have tried all the major brands, from store-brand shoes to big names in footwear such as like Clarks, Sketchers and Nike. I have spent as little as $15 to as much as $100. The result is always the same: no pair of sandals can last an entire summer.

I paid $39 for the shoes and left. We will see how long this pair last.

This got me thinking… what do you splurge on and what do you save on?

For me…


Coffee: I don’t drink enough coffee to invest in a coffeemaker, beans and filters. I buy my fix from Starbucks (or Tim Hortons if I’m desperate). No fancy concoctions, just black coffee. Brewing my own might be slightly cheaper but to me, it’s not worth the trouble. I make my own tea, though.

Winter gear: I find good snow boots do make a difference in your day (walking with wet and cold feet is just awful). Cougar is one of my favourite brands, as well as Merrell. A good winter coat is also a must-have wardrobe item in Canada.

Bread, pastries and cakes: I will never ever eat Wonder Bread. My loaf of Swedish rye bread costs a bit more and it doesn’t keep for weeks in the fridge but it actually tastes like… you know, bread. I hate most supermarket-made “sheet cakes” and would rather buy my treats fresh out of the oven at the bakery.

Pedicures: In theory, I can totally paint my own nails. But I don’t mind paying $30 for the luxury of having someone else working on my poor feet. Plus, considering the price of nail polish, it’s a good deal.

Massages: Until I find a way to rub my own back, I’ll keep on treating myself to a good massage once in a while.

Bedding: Last spring, I bought a nice set of sheets and pillowcases because I was sick and tired of our mismatch stuff. Turned out to be a great purchase. Cotton sheets are the best.

Conditioner: A friend of mine who work in a salon once told me that shampoo doesn’t matter much, but a good conditioner makes a difference. He was right. I’m very low maintenance when it comes to my hair but I do splurge a bit on conditioning products.

Web hosting: Last year I had to switch to a more reliable and more expensive hosting solution for this blog. It was worth the peace of mind—I don’t have to submit tickets every week and wait for the blog to be back online!

Traveling: While we don’t splurge when we travel (we stay in cheap hotels or hostels, use local mode of transportation and backpack), traveling is a priority for us. I don’t care much about my living space, but I can spend a lot of money on getting to a remote destination.


Clothes: Don’t get me wrong: I have plenty of brand-name items, but I never pay full price for them. There are sales quite often in Canada (not just twice a year like in France), so I regularly go to Gap or Calvin Klein to check out the “last chance” clearance rack. Otherwise, I head to Winners. Most of my jeans are either Levis or Calvin Klein (I like the fit for both brands) and the most I have paid for a pair was $40.

Produce: Bananas are bananas. I’m not paying more because they come packaged in a fancy bag. I don’t buy organic food either because I can’t be convinced the price tag is worth it.

Facials: I had a facial once, just to try it, and I didn’t find the experience particularly relaxing or the results particularly amazing. I buy “fancy” skincare products from my favourite brands when I go to France and regularly exfoliate, moisturize, etc.

Gym membership: When I first came to Canada, I bought a membership at the YMCA. Unfortunately, working out in a gym setting isn’t my thing, plus the monthly fees add up. Now I stay active by biking, walking and running after Mark (figuratively and literally).

Haircuts: I already wrote about my poor experience with hair salons in Canada. Now I only get haircuts when I really need to, and most of the time I’ll do it when we are abroad (my last one was in France).

Magazines: I’d buy them if they were cheaper. But for now, I read them at Chapters.

Cookies: I found the most expensive/fancy ones weren’t necessarily the best. One of my favourite is Food Basics’ store brand!

Staple foods: I buy cereals, oatmeal, canned tuna, rice, pasta, etc. in bulk whenever my favourite brand is on sale.

Software: I mostly use free or open-source software, plugins and apps such as Calibre (for my ebook library), Filezilla (FTP), Skype (free or very cheap phone calls), etc.

How about you? What do you splurge on? What do you buy cheap?

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