When I reached out to financial experts with the query, “What holiday splurges do you think are worth it,” I expected some of their responses to be, “none” — or lengthier ways of essentially saying “none.” I’ve covered personal finance for years, but never in an economy this fragile, with more people slipping into poverty each day. The idea of splurging seems ridiculous when you consider that the pandemic is still wreaking havoc on the nation and that a full economic recovery is still a ways off.
But, with unemployment down from 2020 and many people ready to rejoin family celebrations, financial experts were effusive in their recommendations on what to splurge on. While none advise spending on something you can’t afford, they generally champion buys that will pay off in the long run, and that give you a sense of normalcy during this abnormal time. Here’s a look at the items and experiences that they think are worth the splurge.
Last updated: Nov. 1, 2021
1. A Getaway Weekend
“In behavior economics, there’s what’s known as the peak-end rule, [which] explains how we tend to recall past events by the experiences that occurred towards the end,” said R.J. Weiss, a certified financial planner and founder of the personal finance site The Ways to Wealth. “For example, we often judge how well our vacation was by the experiences of the last day or two. It’s no question been a hard year for a lot of families. But, ending on a high-note could be just what a lot of families need. As such, one expense worth splurging on is a weekend getaway with the family — staying in a vacation rental to remain safe.”
2. Home Gym Equipment and Mental Health
“I think one of the best purchases anyone can make right now is something that will help their physical or mental health,” said Zina Kumok, a financial coach at ConsciousCoins.com. “Yes, buying a Peloton is expensive, but if it’s the only way you’ll work out this upcoming winter then it may be worth it.
“A subscription to Calm or BetterHelp may also be worth it; it’s always important to prioritize your well-being, especially in a pandemic.”
Anna Barker, personal finance expert and founder of LogicalDollar also supports a splurge on wellness.
“Even if you don’t normally pay for a gym subscription, it’s getting harder to head outside for some exercise, both due to the pandemic and the dropping temperatures,” said Barker.
“This means that whether it’s some at-home exercise equipment, a bodyweight workout plan or even an online yoga course, paying for something that will help to keep you moving will do wonders both for your fitness and your mental health during this time. Some of these courses and plans can be found for free online, but you might be the kind of person who needs the extra motivation to know you’re paying for something in order to actually do it. In that case, this kind of splurge is more than justified.”
3. Quality Kitchen Appliances
“For me, items whose quality justifies the prices and that meet your needs are holiday splurges worth taking,” said Bella Wanana, a personal finance and lifestyle blogger. “Kitchen appliances fall into this category. I have made the mistake of getting the cheap versions, only to have the items break within a year or two. It is much more time-efficient and financially-efficient to purchase high-quality items from the beginning, if you will use them on a regular basis.”
A recent consumer poll conducted by MassMutual found charitable giving is top of mind this season, with the average consumer gifting $1,205 this holiday season. This is a splurge that financial experts generally can get behind — since individual taxpayers can claim an “above-the-line” deduction of up to $300 for cash donations made to charity during 2021.
If you’re crunched for cash and need to get a gift, consider shopping with a retailer that is committed to giving a substantial percentage to a charitable cause.
“Perhaps you’ve been looking for a new piece of jewelry, and a retailer is giving 10% of the proceeds to a special charity,” said Josh Stomel, founder of Turbo Finance. “Or, maybe you’ve been wanting to plant a tree in the corner of your yard, and can donate to a foundation and receive a free sapling as a ‘thank you.’ The possibilities really are endless.”
5. Streaming Services
With movie theaters closed or at limited capacity, Americans have been tuning into streaming services in droves. Ilian Georgiev, CEO and co-founder of Charlie, a personal finance app, supports the splurge on Netflix, Spotify, and so on — if you make good use of them.
“The only question is: do you use them at least a few hours every month? If not, cancel them. If yes, then this is likely some of the smartest entertainment spending you are doing and you should definitely keep it.”
6. Professional Photos
“Holiday family portraits are definitely not a necessity which makes them a splurge, but I approve these because it’s something that will be treasured for a lifetime and you can use the professional photos to decorate around your home — make a wall collage of oversized photos of your children or turn them into photo gifts for family,” said Andrea Woroch, money-saving expert. “Just try to find a photographer who gives you access to all the digital photo files for one flat fee to make it more affordable and then print pictures on your own via sites like Snapfish, where you can almost always find a coupon code and get free shipping. For instance, CouponFollow.com has a deal where you can get 70% off holiday cards and 40% off other purchases at Snapfish.”
“I think it’s important to splurge on tradition. Especially when we are spending the Holidays apart from our family we need to make sure we are spending time and energy on keeping our family traditions alive,” said Robyn Saves, blogger at A Dime Saved. “Whether it’s a long-standing custom or just a recent family quirk, if it’s important to you then you should spend the money on it. This can be giving a certain gift, or buying a nice menorah [and so on].”
Whatever Your Splurge Is, Be Sure You Can Pay It Off Within 3 Months
Your perfect splurge might look different than what’s on this list. As such, it can help to think less of what the “right” splurge is — and whether or not financial experts endorse it — and more about whether you can financially justify it in the long run.
“To me, a justifiable splurge is one that you know you can realistically pay off in less than three months,” said Josh Simpson, a financial adviser with Lake Advisory Group. “If that means buying extra gifts for family that you won’t see this year, or perhaps a more extravagant gift for those you will see or even gifting a little more than normal to help people less fortunate, then that is alright. The process for all of us should involve a quiet moment of self-reflection to determine what/who are most important to us and will make us feel the best about spending a little extra money.”
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