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Four Expenses I Couldn’t Dream of Having Ten Years Ago

This article was written by in Frugality. 16 comments.


Having my own business, and an eventually successful one at that, has changed my life — but it hasn’t changed it much. I was forced into frugality by necessity in 2001, a few years after I graduated from college and was growing deeper into debt. I needed to fix my finances for the sake of my future, so I started spending less than I was earning, got a new job, saved money on rent, used a budget, and entered the most frugal phase of my life.

I got rid of my car, opting for the bus and the train to get to and from work. I relied a little on my roommates for transportation, too. My share of the rent, with three other people in a three bedroom apartment, was about $350. This was my life for about a year. I hadn’t started earning any money from my side business yet, but I was earning enough from my day job that I could move out, live without a roommate, and have a car again.

Since then and over the last decade, I slowly learned to accept the fact that a website I created and community that surrounded it could be a profitable business. Even when I started receiving impressive checks each month, I maintained my attitude that it could all end suddenly. I didn’t count on this income for anything important; it remained in savings, and I based my spending on money earned only from my day job.

Eventually, I felt comfortable enough with the business that Consumerism Commentary had become, and I began focusing more of my time growing that business, and I allowed myself use of its revenue. I didn’t even quit my day job until my own business was earning three times my day job salary. From there, revenue skyrocketed, and while I let the principles of frugality remain inspiring most of my decisions, I gave myself much more latitude.

As a result, I now have a number of expenses that I wouldn’t been able to afford at the low point of my life. I’m still saving a great deal of the money I earn. My goal is to leave my nest egg, boosted by the sale of the business, alone, and base my spending on only new income. That income is not exactly where I want it to be, though. I can avail myself of the income generated by investments, but I’m reinvesting dividends and interest as much as possible.

But of the income I do have, I’m spending more now than ever before in taking care of myself.

1. I pay a cleaning service to clean my apartment every two weeks. I’ve never been a fan of dusting, vacuuming, and cleaning. I guess most people aren’t fans, but left to my own devices, my apartment can get a little cluttered. Hiring a maid service has been great because not only is my apartment presentable to guests almost all of the time, but the knowledge that the maids are arriving gives me motivation to keep the apartment presentable.

The service costs about $150 every two weeks. I could probably save a lot of money if I cancel the arrangement with the national chain and looked for an independent cleaning service. At one point, one of the employees of the cleaning service company seemed to offer to clean the apartment outside of the franchise, on her own, for a lower price, but I didn’t even consider it.

2. I pay a personal trainer on top of my gym membership. I’ve had my gym membership for about two years, and used it actively for the first few months. The winter weather in 2012 resulted in less motivation for getting to the gym, so I stopped. I started again early in 2013, and decided to take advantage of the gym’s personal training options. I’ve been much more motivated to get into shape, and working with a trainer has been much more rewarding than spending my time running on the treadmill.

The gym membership fee is about $20 a month, and in addition to the membership fee, I pay about $30 for a training session. The sessions are supposed to be a half hour but they sometimes go as long as an hour. My goal is to attend personal training sessions three times a week, but it often works out to two due to travel or, recently, roads that haven’t been plowed or de-iced. The training is styled like Crossfit, but I get to avoid some of the more cult-like attributes of a program like that.

3. I get weekly massages. This is one way to treat myself a little bit, but it’s also therapeutic. I started just recently; the personal training I was working with a few months ago suggested it. The massages help my muscles, many of which get a lot of use during the personal training sessions, and at the same time, it keeps me feeling relaxed and is a healthy way to deal with stress, both physical and emotional.

The best option I could find was a nearby location of a massage therapy chain, but the company isn’t as important as the quality of the masseuse. This started as a luxury reserved for every other week, but I liked it so much, I increased my attendance to one week and the length of the sessions from 60 minutes to 90 minutes. The one annoying aspect of the arrangement is the complexity of the membership.

The monthly plan has a maximum of two hours a month, but I’m looking at spending three hours on the massage table every two weeks. As a result, I pay additional fees in addition to the monthly plan. The cost is an average about $40 an hour.

4. I spend a lot of money on photography. I have a pretty strong photography habit. I’m just about done buying equipment, though. I bought a new lens at the end of last year, and I bought a new camera in 2012, but that’s all in terms of expensive equipment.

My current photography expense comes from materials other than equipment. I’m working mostly with film instead of digital, so I need to buy film and photographic paper. Because there are so few people who do this kind of work today and demand for the materials is so low, the prices are high. I could easily spend between $500 and $1,000 a year in film, paper, and other materials related to film photography. It would be nice to start making some money with photography to justify these expenses from a dollar-for-dollar perspective (it’s already justified from a self-fulfillment perspective), but I haven’t put much effort into being a photographer-for-hire, and I don’t see myself doing much of that in the future.

I used to take photography classes, enrolling in the local non-profit organization for about $300 for an eight-week session, but now I have private lessons with an experienced photographer for about $75 a session. The sessions should be an hour each, but they often go as long as two hours. I think it’s a good deal, especially when you consider I have use of the studio, darkroom, and all the chemicals necessary for developing and printing film.

I feel comfortable with these expenses today. I’m in a different spot financially now than I was ten years ago. People often ask how my life has changed since I sold my business. It hasn’t changed much; if anything, my life changed slowly as I began accepting that the money I was earning on the side was safe to touch. I don’t travel extensively, I didn’t buy a nice car or a big house. I still live a pretty understated life, except perhaps for these luxuries.

Published or updated January 6, 2014. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes, also known as Flexo, is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about him and follow Luke Landes on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar DonnaFreedman ♦80 (Newbie)

Amen on the massages. I aim for at least one per month (before MSN Money fired us all, I was doing two to four per month), considering it preventive medicine. No machine runs for 56 years without some maintenance issues.
But ask around in your area for masseuse/masseur recommendations. You might find someone you like better vs. dealing with the chain store’s rules and regs.
Also for cleaning: Your time is better spent on other projects or just relaxing, and you can afford it. Plus you’re making a job for someone else; I have a cousin who cleans houses and drives a school bus. Not many other jobs in her area.

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avatar Ivan Widjaya

I think an even better maintenance is good food and some exercise. It helps to take care of your body to begin with. Though I love massages. I still find acupuncture and a chiropractor more beneficial.

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avatar DonnaFreedman ♦80 (Newbie)

Um….I never said I didn’t eat well or exercise. But the nature of my job plus a couple of health issues make for cumulative creakiness. Massage helps me with that.

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avatar Ivan Widjaya

I see. I guess it really is a must nowadays. It is just an expense that is not that common in the previous years.

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avatar Ivan Widjaya

It’s nice that you are now able to pursue your dream. These expenses are not ordinary expenses for some people. Some people could not even afford these. But the problem for me is maintaining my simplicity and frugality even if I earn a lot. For me, it is still important to cut on unimportant expenses.

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avatar One Frugal Girl

I think this is a great list. Interesting that three of the four are experienced based and actually the first frees up time so you can perform other activities. My list of splurges is similar what is the point of money if not to enjoy some of it.

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,485 (Platinum)

Absolutely. But had I been taking this approach to life ten years ago, when I was on a much tighter budget, it would have taken more time to get to the point where I could start using money for more than just basic living expenses.

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avatar Chuck@Tortoise Banker

Lifestyle creep…? OR… necessary expenses to keep on your current torrid rate of success!?!

Methinks #2. I could go for a massage once a week!

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avatar DonnaFreedman ♦80 (Newbie)

Ah, but “lifestyle creep” is one of the benefits of success and smart money management. You can afford a massage or a housecleaner and still keep the lights on.
Enjoy the fruits of your labor, Luke.

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avatar John S @ Frugal Rules

My wife and I have been discussing this very topic the past few months. As our business grows we find ourselves with a deceasing amount of time and wanting to find ways to relax and enjoy our little bit of free time wisely. I think the massages are a great way to do that and we look for ways to get them for my wife without breaking the bank. The house cleaner is totally worth it in my opinion as your time can be better spent on other things – that’s something we’re seriously considering hiring out ourselves.

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avatar Insourcelife

Given your history, there is no doubt in my mind that you can afford these expenses. You obviously thought each one of these through and even published this post to summarize the thought process. That alone is much more than what 99% of people do, blindly spending money without any regard to their financial situation. While I can’t see myself ever getting a cleaning service your other expenses sound nice, but I can’t justify any of them just yet. Enjoy it!

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avatar Martin

Massages are usually free for me.

I hear you on the personal training. I recently hired a trainer to coach me on my BJJ. I attend classes at my gym and do pro wrestling. So having a private grappling coach is really helping my progress. I was fortunate enough to make money from the sale of my rental.

Congrats on the progress!

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avatar Yo Yo Mama
avatar jd wolfe

HMMM. 10 years ago – no ipad, no ipod, no smart phone, no cable tv (for me)

3 kids at home, full time job for husband, part time outside of home job for me (actually 2 of those), much larger house

i am a rotten housekeeper but have never had any luck with housecleaning services, go to the gym regularly and walk daily but got no benefit from personal trainer, having a massage would be akin to a trip to the dentist for me, still spending lots of money on books and yarn and lots of ethnic groceries (DH is from India).

lots of changes in 10 years. yours were not what i had in mind!

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avatar Miranda

I love that you can set your priorities and enjoy yourself a little! I’m almost to the point of hiring a cleaning service, and we already hire yard service. It frees up time to do other things that I enjoy more. If you can afford it, and it enhances your life, I say go for it, especially since you are smart money manager who also gives to worthy causes and charities.

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avatar Shannyn @frugalbeautiful.com

I know when I signed up for a massage membership program, I really struggled with the decision. On the one hand, it made my monthly migraines less frequent and helped me recover from half marathon training, but on the other it felt like a selfish use of my cash that should have been put aside for investments or an emergency fund.

I saved by doing it monthly, but overall, I spent more on massages since it went from every 2-3 months to every month but making health a priority instead of relying on painkillers to curb the pain has been worth it. Glad you are taking care of yourself!

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