1 Some Small Things Are Worth Paying For | The Billfold

Some Small Things Are Worth Paying For

My mom made a bizarre comment in passing about tampons that has always stuck with me: “Don’t ever buy anything other than Tampax because you’ll be able to feel it.”

I don’t know that I (or anybody else, really) can necessarily “feel” a difference, but that’s not what matters. Buying Tampax instead of store brand tampons made my mom’s “time of the month” slightly more bearable. She afforded herself that small luxury not because she had loads of disposable income, but because she didn’t—and couldn’t—afford that feeling of luxury elsewhere in her life.

Small indulgences make budgets less bleak. I’m in the privileged position to believe that life is too short for 100 percent austerity, 100 percent of the time. My small luxuries have grown in relation to my income, but the idea remains the same.

For me, at this moment, my life is too short for:

• 1-ply toilet paper
• Store brand ketchup and mayonnaise (although mustard is fine for some reason)
• Anything from Forever 21

At the same time, I can’t get my head around certain “real” luxury spending. There are just way too many things that I could do with that extra $75 for first class train fare, for example.

For me, at this moment, my life is too long for:

• Ordering bottled water at a restaurant (tap is fine, thank you)
• Cable TV
• Shampoo and conditioner over $3

This is a fun game to play with friends, because the answers tend to be revealing, and are sometimes inconsistent. Take my list for example: It depresses me to use store brand mayo in my tuna, but I consider ordering anything to drink other than tap water at a restaurant akin to throwing money away.

What are on your lists?


Deana Burke tweets and “works” on the “Internet.” Photo: bradcerenzia


72 Comments / Post A Comment

Aunt_Pete (#693)

Single ply toilet paper is the worst!!!

@Aunt_Pete I have a new roommate. She buys that awful single-ply Scott stuff. (I shouldn’t be complaining that she buys tp, as that isn’t always a given with roommates. But.) I’m kind of surprised because in my experience, it’s always been dudes who buy single ply.

Is it totally obnoxious if I buy decent tp? It seems ridiculous to have two separate rolls going, but damn it, I don’t want to use the single ply. Will I get saddled with always buying tp? It’s not about the money but about the annoyance of having to buy the stuff (it’s bulky and I’m lazy). Ugh.

hellonheels (#1,407)

@Aunt_Pete Some people actually prefer the single ply stuff…that fancy quilted toilet paper gets used up so fast! I prefer to buy my TP monthly, not weekly…

@hellonheels But you need (well, I need) so much more of the cheapie single-ply stuff! For the record, I rather like the perfectly mid-range Target brand or White Cloud, not some über-plush stuff and definitely not Charmin. I only need a handful of squares for that. A roll lasts me, when it’s just me, over a week. (I’m not home a lot?) Whereas I keep pulling and rolling etc to get the single-ply stuff.

I will, however, say that FOUR-PLY TOILET PAPER IS THE DEVIL. Yes that required shouting. It’s just not right.

shannowhamo (#845)

@angry little raincloud My dad always bought this brand called Chomfly- we had to lay down the law…we can deal with some cheap TP but Chomfly was NOT OKAY. Also, what an awful name for toilet paper.

novembertea (#2,203)

My life is too short for:
Cheap Beer
Shampoo/conditioner that contains sulfates
Fast food
Tipping poorly
Anything from Forever 21 (I HATE YOU F21)
Poorly made shoes (bunions. They’re bad news.)

My life is too long for:
First class tickets anywhere
Living on campus when I was in college
Buying flowers
Designer anything that I didn’t fish from a clearance rack at TJ Maxx
Fancy gym membership

Deana B@twitter (#2,213)

@novembertea FLOWERS. Good one. I used to feel like they were an extravagance but now I do buy them from time to time. I’m so with you on tipping poorly. If you can’t afford to leave a decent tip then you shouldn’t be going out to eat.

theotherginger (#1,304)

@Deana B@twitter YES. I tried to explain this to a friend recently. She was like, but the dinner was so expensive, and I was like, the tip should be in your mind when you pick the restaurant. If you can’t tip decently (like, nicer restaurants with better service you should tip more % and so more $ don’t eat there.) end rant.

mangosara (#1,211)

@Deana B@twitter YOU GUYS you can get $4 bouquets at Trader Joe’s. It makes me feel so faaaaaaaaaancy and usually I just skip on the carton of ice cream (which is better anyway, right?)

PrettyNicola (#692)

For me, life is too short for:
cheap shampoo–I splurge on $6 shampoo and conditioner, and even though it still has sodium laurawhatever, I swear my hair is less greasy between washes.
HFCS ketchup and fruit cups
not having an iPhone

my life is too long for:
paying someone else to dye my hair
an iPhone 5

ThatJenn (#916)

@PrettyNicola I pay like $12 per smallish bottle of my shampoo, and the same for conditioner, and I don’t regret it at all. A wise woman on the internet once reminded me that I’ve paid $12 for shirts I’ve worn maybe two dozen times – what’s so horrible about paying that for the hair I wear every day? (This same comment also helped me decrease my clothing spending based on the number of times I would realistically wear the item in question.) If the other shampoos worked as well I’d buy them, but after extensive testing… this stuff is just better.

Pariah Carey (#2,378)

Life is too short for:
-bad hair–I spend $110 + a $20 tip on cut & color every 3-4 months, plus a $27 shampoo (but it’s a big bottle!) to protect my investment.
-bad booze–Maker’s Mark is my rail bourbon; Absolut is the cheap stuff we put in bloodies.
-not having something good to read–seven to ten bucks at the Kindle store every week, and the occasional magazine purchase (at rack prices)? Essential.
-looking tacky–I’ve tried to avoid the mall & do only occasional purchasing on sites like Gilt or Rue La La. A $300+ American-made dress for $109? Yes, that’s a bargain. It’s better than 4 $25 dresses made from shit fabric. It looks fantastic & it won’t fall apart.

Life is too long for:
-Crazy car payments. I drive a godawful Pontiac. I may upgrade to a gently used Volkswagon, but only after I finish saving a sizeable (50%) down payment.
-A smartphone. Tablet (from Santa) + dumbphone is plenty good for me.
-Bottled water. My city has great tap water.
-Cover. I hate paying cover. It KILLS ME to pay a cover just to get into a place (this doesn’t include ACTUAL events or shows, which I have no problem paying to get into if it’s something I want to do). I have to pay you to listen to a crappy dj at your crappy club? I CAN’T AND I WON’T.

bgprincipessa (#699)

@Pariah Carey Wholeheartedly agree on the cover front. This is why I don’t live in Manhattan. I balk at the concept.

szajic (#1,811)

Life is definitely too short for generic Q-tips or dental floss. The brand name versions are still quite cheap, and the generic versions are noticeably worse.

@szajic brand-name Q-tips forever.

@Anna Jayne@twitter I thought I’d save a few dollars by getting the Duane Reade brand cotton swabs. I regret this decision.

cliuless (#36)

1-ply toilet paper and store-brand tissues! i will say, though, that the kirkland brand tissues from costco are actually very good (i would say, comparable to kleenex) but puffs are BY FAR the best.

Life is too short for:
No netflix (I could probably downgrade to instant only, but I like the disc option sometimes)
Clothes and shoes from Target, F21, most of H&M, etc etc
Not having a smartphone
Crappy beer
No ice cream

Life is too long for:
Purchasing the 2-models-older smartphone for anything other than 99 cents
Brand name toiletries (dry goods, not shampoo/conditioner/etc)
Always buying books to read; I love the library
Gym membership

Complete opposite opinion on the toilet paper question! One thing that makes me glad that my roommate days are behind me is that I used to have roommates who would insist on us always getting the expensive Charmin rolls. Except that the fancy Charmin is all puffed up and fluffed up to the point where you get zero bang for your buck. We were running through a roll of toilet paper every other day. Give me toilet paper longevity any day.

Also complete opposite opinion on Forever 21! I am so grateful to Forever 21 for allowing me to find work clothes that do not cost $100. And the clothes aren’t made for giants like the more expensive clothing is, so it actually fits and I don’t look like a little kid playing dress-up. And it all lasts just as long as anything from Banana Republic (I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s all made in the same factory).

Anyway, the things I’ll pay extra for:
-Fage yogurt (instead of Chobani, the Yogurt of Disappointment)
-Good skincare products
-A halfway decent pair of knee-high boots that I can wear 24/7 for 2-3 winters in a row

The things I am completely unwilling to spend money on:
-Apple products
-fancy coffee
-bags that cost more than $50 (I swear, these fancy expensive bags look exactly like the $20 bags being sold on the sidewalk)
-taxis, unless I am going to the airport for some reason

@werewolfbarmitzvah “Chobani, the Yogurt of Disappointment” = YES. Fage forever.

I first read “Apple products” as “apple products” and thought you meant cider and pie and stuff.

Deana B@twitter (#2,213)

@werewolfbarmitzvah You had me at “The Yogurt of Disappointment”

@werewolfbarmitzvah I have to ask – I’m in the market for decent knee-high boots to wear 24/7 for 2-3 winters; what brands/price points do you recommend??

For reference, I’m in northern CA, where it gets chilly but not snowy. It does rain a bit though.

@polka dots vs stripes I go for all kinds of brands (this year I got a new pair of boots from Aldo, and they’re okay so far, but today is their inaugural wearing, so we’ll see how these work out in the long haul), but probably the best-quality boots I’ve laid down cash for were from Camper. They were comfortable, they were presentable enough to wear to work, and they lasted 3 years. At $300, that works out to $100 per winter, which is good enough for me.

@werewolfbarmitzvah hmmm okay, thanks! my budget right now is around $100, but I’ll look at Campers.

sea ermine (#122)

@polka dots vs stripes I’m seconding the Camper recommendation, but also check out department stores. I bought a pair of boots on Black Friday at JC Penneys for $50 (originally ~120) and this winter will be their 5th and it’s the first winter they don’t look really nice and presentable (because of something that happened last year, not natural wear and tear). I usually wear them almost everyday from early October to March and they’re from the American Living brand.

@werewolfbarmitzvah Yes, Fage all day everyday!

nonvolleyball (#305)

@polka dots vs stripes I recommend Merrells–the waterproof ones are actually waterproof, & they last a long time (I have one pair that I got in 2007 & they still look great–& I live in Chicago & walk a lot). not all their styles are work-appropriate, but they definitely have a bunch that could pair well with a skirt or other fancier clothes.

MissMushkila (#1,044)

My life is too short for:
Clothing made out of polyester/acrylic
Non-fancy cheese
Cheap beer
Trying to consistently exercise outdoors in MN (gym membership!)
Living without internet at home

My life is too long for:
Always buying new clothes
Professional manicures/pedicures
Getting my hair done anywhere fancier than Aveda Institute
Ordering beverages of any kind at restaurants rather than tap water

josefinastrummer (#1,850)

@MissMushkila I just started going to the Aveda Institute in my city and I love it! And I am trying to just order water at restaurants but it’s not always easy.

sparrow303 (#1,641)

@josefinastrummer AVEDA what’s up! Best city living secret ever.

TARDIStime (#1,633)

@MissMushkila Agreed with the pro manis/pedis! I do a better job at home and it’s WAY cheaper! Also, I can do it in my pyjamas! There is no losing scenario!

This reminds me of the part of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn where Katie lets everyone have one cup of coffee a day, and if Francie wants to pour it out, it’s ok because it makes her feel like they have the luxury to pour out coffee.

Also — EVERYONE’s life is too short for bottled water. It’s bad for your wallet, your planet, everything. Just skip it, yo. Reusable bottles are pretty much all BPA free now. Splurge on a nice one and you’ll save in the long run.

josefinastrummer (#1,850)

@apples and oranges Yes! Katie Nolan for Mother of the Year. Well not really but I always loved that about her. And what she could do with all that day old food.
I hate when I am somewhere and I have to buy a bottled water.

bibliostitute (#285)

@apples and oranges This is my most quoted thing from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (but I thought they had coffee at every meal? regardless of if they had a meal?). And re: bottled water, in general I’m totally with you, in practice, at the moment the super-subsidized six packs of 2L water are saving my butt.

josefinastrummer (#1,850)

I like this! I am stealing some from my fellow commenters because they are good!
My life is too short to:
tip poorly
live somewhere without high ceilings
not get good food with friends and family
buy pre-made pie crust
not travel a few times a year
not drink real sugar sodas whenever they are available

My life is too long for:
central air
a car
a fancy bike
any Apple product or fancy phone
taxis unless it’s from the airport
using the dryer
overdue library fines-I’m working on this one
paying someone to dye my hair
fancy gym memberships
pizza delivery

ThatJenn (#916)

@josefinastrummer Though I have a few things switched on my list (I love central air here in FL, and I have been known to buy pre-made pie crust due to my hatred of rolling out dough), I really should have included “tip poorly” on my too-short list. I can’t imagine being a bad tipper no matter how broke I was. I would stop eating out long before that would happen.

josefinastrummer (#1,850)

@ThatJenn I got that one from novembertea, up at the top! And I will gladly eat any pie, pre-made crust or not. I do draw the line at boxed mashed potatoes though…

Life is too short for:

Single ply toilet paper
Boring bread
Cheap shoes
Cheap bike shorts

Life is too long for:

Expensive cars
Expensive mascara – Maybelline FTW
Wasteful utility bills
Mani/Pedis- YMMV, but I can do my own well & don’t like to be touched by strangers
Trading in my phone every time a new model comes along
Musical Comedy

ThatJenn (#916)

@cinderellen@twitter Yes, I never understood how people can stand to be motionless and have a stranger give them a pedicure. And then I have to pay for this? I can hardly even manage to go get my hair cut by a stranger (I don’t have a place where I regularly get my hair cut anymore so I just make my boyfriend do it).

I dunno, maybe I’d like a manicure if I ever had one but the idea is unappealing and I kind of enjoy doing my nails on the rare occasion that I want them painted. Seven years as a chemist kept me from developing a nail-painting habit, though (nitrile gloves don’t actually keep acetone and many other commonly-used solvents out).

@cinderellen@twitter amen to the boring bread. Why waste carb allotment something that tastes like dusty wood?

glow bug (#1,606)

Tampax are the only tampons I *can* feel. I think because when they fill with fluid they go long and touch my cervix, and my cervix is uber sensitive so when I pull it out it feels like I’m yanking on an organ. Playtex and OB go wide which is much better

My life is too short for:
Iceberg lettuce
Cheap shoes
Crappy coffee
Off-brand cereal, ketchup, mayo, q-tips
Doing my eyebrows myself
Tipping less than 20% at restaurants
Not putting in $1 when there’s a tip jar
Fast food
Free versions of paid apps

My life is too long for:
Valet parking
Professional pedicures (except when I’m pregnant and can’t reach my feet)
Cloth diapers

josefinastrummer (#1,850)

@glow bug Totally agree on the $1 in the tip jar. I am always bummed when I pay with a card and don’t have $1 to drop in.

'riella (#2,067)

@josefinastrummer As one of those people with the tip jar, I can tell you it was often the high part of my day when someone dropped in a whole dollar versus change, so thank you.

ThatJenn (#916)

My life is too short for cheap reusable grocery bags. I do pay like $9 a pop for the ones I own but I actually USE them because they are light and strong and fit in my purse.

My life is also too short for bad/cheap shoes, not owning a car, not having internet at home, cheap bras, buying the cheapest (and usually most sodium-laden) food at the grocery store, not eating out for lunch once a week, and not doing some travel every year.

My life is too long for cosmetics, specialty bathroom cleaners (baking soda and vinegar FTW), four-star restaurants, dress-up clothing that costs over $60 an item, and paying someone to cut my hair on a regular basis.

@ThatJenn Yeah I should have added, my life is too short for cheap food at the grocery store (although I do often go with store brands on the basics). And definitely on the bras! But my life is too long for not buying those bras on sale ;)

ThatJenn (#916)

@polka dots vs stripes
I also buy store brand a lot of the time, but only because I shop at a chain that has a really excellent store brand. But I used to get all my food at the absolute lowest price regardless of quality and it made my blood pressure go through the roof. :(

I freaking love bra sales.

EmmaG (#1,023)

Life is too short for:

Tasteless/bitter, pre-peeled baby carrots – the moment I tasted a local, organic carrot was the day I swore off plastic bags of carrots. It’s the one veg for which I will shell out extra money.

Life is too long for:

Drinks at restaurants
Buying coffee on a daily basis
ATM fees

'riella (#2,067)

Ooo! College student edition:

My life is too short for:
Fast food
Starbucks coffee beans
Cheap shampoo
Not getting facials
produce from grocery chains that are not Trader Joe’s
fake leather anything
cheap sheets
short showers

Life is too long for:
first-hand textbooks
birth control pills (isn’t this sad and really horrifying?)
manicures @cinderellen, right there with you
spontaneous online clothes shopping

iffie (#1,911)

@’riella ACK! re: birth control pills. Check your healthcare plan, they’ll probably be covered in full when the new plan year begins.

'riella (#2,067)

@iffie I should probably be an adult and look at that thing for once, yeah.

honey cowl (#1,510)

@’riella An IUD is a much more affordable option in the long term, and you can get one without hormones!

I am an IUD evangelizer.

theotherginger (#1,304)

@’riella @Lauren if you are interested, search the hairpin. Excellent threads on the IUD, and also one on birth control bill and what that might mean for you.

sea ermine (#122)

@’riella I got an IUD from Planned Parenthood my senior year of college. It was $80 with insurance but probably would have been less without insurance because I worked part time for minimum wage. It’s a copper IUD, which is cheaper than the Mirena, hormone free, and lasts 12 years. So like $6.67 a year.

'riella (#2,067)

@seaermine Whaaaaat that sounds incredible. I don’t know, an IUD scares me a little (people shoving metal things up my vagina! agh!) but I suppose it is lightyears more affordable in the end than pills.

Stina (#686)

@’riella Check your state’s department of health to find your state program that pays for family planning expenses. Which usually means an exam, pap test, other STD screening and bc. Usually they will send you to a Planned Parenthood or a similar type of clinic but you won’t have to pay for anything.

Megano! (#124)

Oh yeah, bottled water at restaurants (and most places, if I can help it, though sometimes I do forget to bring my bottle) and cable are on my too long list.Oh, and ATM fees.
Life is too short for:
Bad shoes (but I have a condition and have to buy expensive shoes anyway, but I thought this before too)
Cheap dog food (cuz I love my doggy and want him to live forever)
Non-Heinz ketchup (there is such a huge difference in taste!)

MrCharlieBucket (#2,384)

I don’t know about anyone else, but I can TOTALLY tell the difference between Tampax and store brand tampons. The store brand applicators are some much less tapered – they hurt all the way in! Of course, I have switched to a menstrual cup, which is like a million times more comfortable than tampons. But yeah, life is too short for any products that make your vagina uncomfortable.

shannowhamo (#845)

@MrCharlieBucket I used to swear by certain fancy tampons but just gave up and off-brand Target is fine for me now- I used to be able to tell but my pussy has gotten lazy and puts up with the cheap stuff.

sparrow303 (#1,641)

My life is too short for…

…not buying coffee when I want another cup.
…make-up that doesn’t do its job (I’ll happily pay $18 for an Urban Decay eyeliner that lasts forever because I don’t have to reapply it 10 times a day).
…shoes that aren’t comfy (Tevas FTW).
…moving my own furniture (movers= best money I’ve ever spent, ever).

Life is too long for…

…haircuts not at Aveda Institute.
…getting my nails done (plus you can’t even keep the polish).
…paying anyone else to do what I can easily do myself (SEE: nails; also see laundry, simple home repairs, crocheted anything, baked goods, etc).

@sparrow303 “also see laundry”

theotherginger (#1,304)

My life is too short for…
bottled water (exception: out of Can/US travel)
uncomfortable shoes
bad haircuts
crappy apartments
light beer

Life is too long for
eating out as often as I want to (see hatred of crappy apartments)
upgrading to board early on airlines that don’t assign seats
drinking beer outside of my home on the regular

shannowhamo (#845)

@theotherginger SEE I can totally get you on “light” beer- THAT sucks but everyone else saying “cheap beer” I don’t understand, there are many times when cheap beer is the best (or only) option- monster truck rallies come to mind.

theotherginger (#1,304)

@shannowhamo yeah. sometimes cheap beer is good. say, in Texas, I bought a delicious beer for 2.50. It was amazing.
I like dark beer, and despise light beers. but that is personal…

selenana (#673)

Too short for:
With you on the tipping thing.
cheap jam
most storebought baked goods

Too long for:
Totally agree on the bottled water thing. In addition to all the other reasons, buying water makes me feel like a chump. Put some sugar or some artificial flavoring in there, geez!
Paying for something other than coach on an airline. But I’ll take a bump. And I’m lucky that I’m not very tall and don’t have any conditions that make coach more than averagely uncomfortable.
Buying new clothes, most of the time. Sometimes I see a cute dress or something for $60, but then I think – I could buy SO MANY AWESOME $3 dresses at the flea market.

Life is too short to not have:
An Iphone
Fancy hair products
Fancy bath products and lotion (I should own stock in Bath and Body works)
name brand ketchup
A decent gym membership
Cheap Wine

Life’s to long to have:
A Brand new car (my jeep is 12yo)
designer anything that isn’t on sale at TJ Maxx, Marshall’s, etc
Fancy sheets
an Ipad/macbook
weekly manicures
eating out more than once a week

TARDIStime (#1,633)

Life’s too short not to have:
- Stuff from Lush (I always consider what is or isn’t good value and weigh up what I can afford, but their shampoo bars and cleansers are a must-have, as well as their face masks (only when I return 5 empty tubs and get them free though). The bath bombs are non-essential, but are a small luxury I afford myself)
- Invisible Zinc ESP sunscreen (highest skin cancer rate in the world, Australia represent!)
- Clipper Green Chai teabags (this stuff is the SHIT and makes everyone at work jealous and is like the most ethically sourced thing ever)
- Cruelty-free cosmetics
- RSPCA-approved meat, cheese and eggs
- a smartphone
- well-made shoes
- Internet at home
- A proper, comfortable bed
- crappy nail polish
- The Good Yoghurt, museli and berries for brekkie
- nice wine (nothing over $10 a bottle for everyday drinking though)
- health tune-ups with a chiro/naturopath every month
- one bought coffee every day (my coffee lady does small and soy for $2.80. Not the best coffee, but WAY better than instant coffee which is free at work). I’m good with french press, though.

Life is too long for:
- Instant coffee
- gym membership I don’t use (I think cancelling this is going to be my 1 thing this week, Logan! [addendum: this would have gone on the list above back when I did use it])
- Clothes I will only wear once
- Eating really unhealthy, processed foods to save money (this is only applicable if you actually want your life to be long though)
- A smoking habit (see brackets above)
- a clothes dryer (you really don’t need them in Australia).

P.J. Morse (#665)

For the record, there is a tremendous difference between Tampax and off-brand tampons. Trust me, you won’t know the difference until it is too late. If you’re looking to save money this way, let me save you some trouble: Don’t.

nonvolleyball (#305)

@P.J. Morse@twitter on a related note, I’m just here to offer the obligatory DivaCup recommendation.

P.J. Morse (#665)

@nonvolleyball I have considered the DivaCup seriously, but I’m afraid that my clumsiness might lead to trouble. Maybe I’ll give the DivaCup a whirl when I really have it together!

nonvolleyball (#305)

@P.J. Morse@twitter there’s definitely a learning curve, but I can assure you that few people are clumsier than I am, & I managed to master it within the first week.

Erin@twitter (#2,395)

My life is too short not to have:
-good tea: Bonus: bringing it from home and filling my mug all day. Free tea (not really) (but kind of)
-a car. I’m so dependent on my car and driving, and part of me hates that because it has significantly contributed to my carbon footprint. But I need it for my jobs, there isn’t great public transit that would get me safely to my home, and I love love love the freedom.
- LUSH R&B. I never thought I’d spend $20 on hair product. WELL WORTH IT. Also, their Ambition lipstick.
-a good pair of boots that will last me a couple of winters.

My life is too long for:
-clothing that isn’t mostly natural fibers.
-coffee that I’m just buying because it’s convenient. On the same note: anything that gives me a stomachache.
- expensive haircuts. My hair is so curly, I can make do getting it cut when I go home twice a year. My BFF’s mom has a studio in her home, and does a great job and it’s always less than $30.

This is fun!

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