Although we both love to save money and normally don’t buy a lot of expensive goods, there are times when we decide that a larger purchase is worth it, whether it’s to save time or money, or to meet a very specific need. Our list may be a little tech heavy, but because of our downsizing and getting rid of so much stuff, we have thousands of digital files to organize and use. Here are a few of our favorite pricey frugal purchases.
Pressure Cooker – $50
Not many people have pressure cookers these days but I think they are a great way to save both time and money. The pressure cooker lets me cook beans and whole grains in a matter of a few minutes. For example, black beans take just 10 minutes instead of needing to simmer for 1-2 hours in a regular pot. So I save on natural gas, save on the cost of beans (you can buy them dry in bulk for less than $1/lb), and the food comes out tasting much better than from a can.
Unlocked Smartphone – $350
In the past, I’ve spent a lot of money on my cell phone including buying the original iPhone for $600 and then signing up for a $70/month voice & data plan (roughly $2300 over two years). After I realized how much I was paying for my phone, I wised up and purchased an unlocked Android smartphone (I was very sad to lose my iPhone but it wasn’t worth the monthly cost). I’m now on a prepaid plan with PTEL that costs 5c/min for voice and 10c/MB data. Since I’m a light voice user and generally use wifi my phone bill is only $5/month. (Update: You can now purchase unlocked iPhones, unlike when I first bought an Android phone. I may switch back to iPhone whenever my current Android phone dies.)
Travel and Hiking Clothing – $50-100 per item
I’m a big fan of the clothing designed for hiking and extended travel that you can get at outdoors stores like REI. Generally, the clothes are made of synthetic materials like nylon and polyester and are breathable, lightweight, dry quickly, don’t pill, and last forever. I have a pair of convertible pants that are nearly 10 years old that are still in good shape. Plus they tend to have lots of pockets which is convenient for holding a lens cap or other accessory while I’m taking pictures.Folding Bike – $300
When we first moved to Silicon valley, we had only one car but we both worked on Stanford campus. Initially this seemed great as we could carpool but we ran into problems as our schedules were often different and I would have to work late. Instead of getting a second car, I purchased a folding bike. We would carpool in together and then I would bike home whenever I was done for the day. You might ask why not just bike both ways? The ride was about six miles one way and I didn’t have easy access to a shower at work.
Gym Membership – $75/month
We are temporarily living in Boulder and the first thing we did when we moved here was join the YMCA. It costs $75 a month for both of us. A gym membership is a terrible investment if you aren’t going to actually go, so think this one through carefully. We’ve been going five days a week, which is about $3.75 per visit (about $1.88 per person). In addition to all the equipment and a swimming pool, they also offer all sorts of group exercise classes at no additional cost, so I’ve been going to wonderful dance classes three times per week. When I think about what we are doing for our health by being dedicated gym goers, I think $75 per month is a bargain.
Netflix Streaming – $108/year
We don’t have cable TV. At the moment, we don’t even have a TV. We rarely go out to the movies. So Netflix is wonderful, cheap entertainment for us. It’s true that they do much better with offering television programs than with good movies, new or old, but I do feel like we get our $9 worth each month. We don’t keep our subscription active year round. We tend to activate when a tv show we like releases a new season. We just reactivated our subscription so we could watch the previous season of Walking Dead.
Document Scanner – $400
Before getting our document scanner, we had one big lateral filing cabinet and several two-drawer cabinets filled with papers. We’re now down to one small box of original papers we want to keep (like Stephen’s naturalization certificate). While this makes our life simpler, it’s a little harder to figure out how much money this saves. But in San Jose where we used to live, housing was easily $500/sq. ft. So our filing cabinets probably cost several thousand dollars on a pro-rated basis. We also used the Fujitsu ScanSnap scanner to digitize our books so this also eliminated a few bookcases. We’ve scanned well over 200,000 pieces of paper, so I consider this scanner to be one of our best purchases ever.
Kitchen Aid Mixer – $250
Even though I enjoy cooking and baking, at the time we got married, I was pretty short on useful tools in the kitchen. One thing I didn’t own was a mixer, and I was getting tired of mixing batters and doughs by hand. KitchenAid mixers aren’t cheap, but I knew that was what I wanted. Even the consumer models are workhorses and practically indestructible. A friend of mine had her KA mixer fall off a shelf onto a concrete floor. And although it was not a pretty sight after the accident, amazingly it still worked. So getting a Kitchen Aid mixer was definitely not a regret for me. My mixer is 11 years old now, and it still looks like new.
Desktop Computer – $2000
In December 2012, I bought a high-end 27” iMac, which is not cheap. However, in addition to using my computer for basic tasks like word processing and updating spreadsheets, I also use it for much of my entertainment. We haven’t had cable (or even network reception) for more than 10 years, so I like to stream Hulu and Netflix when we want to catch up on tv shows or movies. I also use my computer to play World of Warcraft, which provides a lot of entertainment for around $10 per month. Now that we are on the road, the computer will double as our home entertainment center, since we got rid of our TV.
Wedding Dress – $125
As important as our wedding was to me, I also felt that it was a one-day event and I didn’t want to break the bank on it. I’m also a fairly low-maintenance person, and I knew I wasn’t going to have to look at hundreds of wedding dresses to find the “perfect” one. I wanted a wedding dress that looked good on me and wasn’t ridiculously expensive. My Mom and I went to a little bridal shop and looked at the sample dresses. I probably tried on less than 10, and my favorite was actually one of the first ones I tried on. The awesome part was that it was from the previous year’s Alfred Sung collection, so they were selling the sample dresses. It fit me almost perfectly, was in excellent shape, and best of all, it was only $125. I think it was around $1000-1200 new. For me, $125 is more than I would ever spend on a single article of clothing, but for a wedding dress, I felt like it was the bargain of the century.
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