Thursday, May 19, 2011

Budget Splurges

The Topic: Living Simply but Fabulously with VegNews Associate Publisher Colleen Holland

The Dish: I've never liked to buy stuff, unless I really need it. Having more stuff means more maintenance, more stress, and more money out the door. And then what happens? You forget about the stuff and it just clutters your space and your life. I say buy what you need, but buy quality. Then it lasts a long time and you don't need to think about replacing the (quality) stuff for years to come.

That said, I do have a few splurges that I like to partake in, but I've figured out a way to not have to spend a fortune when doing something nice for myself. Here's my list of must-have budget buys:

1) Massage. Being in a creative business with constant deadlines is stressful. Although I love it, sometimes I need a deep-tissue massage to feel refreshed and rejuvenated. Over the years I've received gift certificates from friends and family for fancy spa massages (charging upwards of $150 for a one-hour massage), but I've discovered even better massage at a third of the price. You might not be greeted with chilled mint lemonade and organic chocolate brownies (not vegan anyway!), but I can get an incredible massage at Jin Healing for Women (four locations in San Francisco) for less than $50. Chinese "Foot Spas" are all the rage in Northern California, and you can often get a one-hour body massage and foot soak for $25. Ask friends for recommendations or search Yelp for affordable spa services in your city, and never pay ridiculous massage prices again!

2) Movies. I love going to movies. It's a great way to relax and check out for a few hours, especially with a tub of 1,000-calorie popcorn (I digress). But the $10 ticket is just a hard price to swallow, so I try to hit matinees whenever possible to save a few bucks. And most independent theaters have five-ticket passes, so I always have one of those going for my favorite movie houses and pay only about $6 per flick.

3) Yoga. I am addicted to yoga, but do I really want to pay $20 a class at a fancy downtown studio? The answer is no. After a bit of research, I discovered a local yoga class with a wonderful instructor just minutes from my home. The studio (if you can call it that) is nothing fancy, but 90-minute classes are just $10 each and the small class sizes provide a really nice community atmosphere. And many studios offer weekly free or discounted classes taught by their junior teachers, so just ask around or search online for affordable options.

4) Lunch specials. Sure, nothing beats dining out with friends over an extravagant multi-course meal with wine and dessert. But I secretly have a thing for lunch specials at Thai, Chinese, and Vietnamese restaurants. For around $6, you can enjoy a plate of your favorite entrée alongside steamed rice and a bowl of soup. And then you're full for the day! What's even better? Hit a matinee, then a lunch special, then a massage, and you really have it going on.

5) Antiques. I adore antiques. And buying vintage is good on the pocketbook and the planet, as you're not buying new. Plus, those 19th century French chairs have already lasted 100+ years, so you know they're not going to fall apart anytime soon. So where do you find good deals on vintage finds? Flea markets, estate sales, and antique stores—but always remember to bargain. Shop owners expect everyone to ask for at least 10 percent off and have marked up the prices accordingly, so be sure to take advantage of the built-in discount. 

The Final Word: Living on a budget does not mean you have to sacrifice your quality of life. I enjoy the satisfaction of living within my means but splurging every once in a while on things that bring me joy without breaking the bank.

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