Friday, December 15, 2006

How the Little Luxuries Add Up, and a Detour Into Gendered Luxury

I've been thinking all day about today's Purchase I Don't Regret, and nothing's jumping out at me. Mostly (I must confess) this is because I'm a recent graduate not just of college but of parental welfare, and it's a lot easier not to regret spending someone else's money. To the point that it really doesn't count. So I thought I'd take a look at where I let little luxuries into my budget--that is, when I choose not to buy the cheapest available. I think this tells me something about your priorities, and I'd encourage you to try this exercise with your own spending:

My "little luxuries" include:

Salon-brand hair products
According to my credit card statement, I spent $46.60 on two bottles of hair product on October 27. It's special curly-hair stuff, free of the gross chemicals (as opposed to the non-gross chemicals) that I don't put in my hair, ever. I am not even halfway done with either product, even the one that I use every time I comb my hair. So let's assume that these bottles last me through February. That leaves me with a monthly cost of $11.75 for two great products, or $5.88 each. I'm willing to accept that. It's also not that much more than I pay for my cheapo conditioner (let's not go into my complicated hair-care routine, okay?), of which I probably go through two $2 bottles a month.

I don't mess around with my hair. Although I've been thinking about getting myself one of those special scissors to do some maintenance to extend the time between haircuts, I'd never go to the local Supercuts. The person who cuts my hair will always be a trained professional who specializes in curls, and in New York, that will always run me somewhere close to or north of $100.

M.A.C. makeup
Lately I've been using a drugstore foundation, but pretty much everything else I use (except for mascara) is M.A.C. I spent about $80 on makeup when I got this job three months ago, and since then have only spent $14 for a new compact of (drugstore, as aforementioned) powder foundation. The nice thing about M.A.C. is that the color payoff is so huge that one eyeshadow lasts two years, easily. I also bought the palette (cheap, on eBay) so that I can buy $8 pans of eyeshadow rather than $12 pots. It saves money and space. But the point is, I don't buy Wet 'n' Wild.

Skin care
No, I don't use $45 face creams. I do, however, use Proactiv. Without it, my skin wouldn't be gross, but it wouldn't be great. Pure and simple: I'm willing to pay for great skin.

I tried to eat ramen. I did. I bought a bunch of Cup-O-Soups to take to work. I can't do it. It's too gross, and it has enough sodium to bring down a camel. I don't mean I don't bargain-shop, but there are things I won't do to save a buck in this department. I will eat mediocre sushi instead of the amazing stuff and deli sandwiches instead of fancy wraps, but I won't buy lackluster produce, and I won't eat ramen.

This is more a matter of finance than a place in which I disregard finance, but I'm always willing to pay more (within reason) for quality. The cost-per-wear is way lower.

It's interesting to me that my luxuries cluster around personal appearance. I kind of hate to confirm that girls-and-their-luxury-spending stereotype. I'd venture that these things feel more like "needs" than "wants" to many women because personal appearance is a point on which women are often judged. Look up some statistics on the pay gaps between women identified as attractive versus women identified as unattractive, hm? In women, "well-groomed and attractive" means "smart, competent, organized," and a hundred other things besides. I also have to work doubly hard, because being over a size 12 often means that I have some serious bias to overcome. In short, I have to wonder why these are the things I'm willing to pay for

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