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Friday, January 19, 2007

Luxuries Worth the Investment

After my thoughts about the nannies, gardeners, housecleaners and other help in my pre-Christmas post, I got to thinking about some luxuries that are really worth the money in my life.
First off, I had to define what makes a luxury worth the money for me? What makes it an investment rather than an expense? Each of us has a different standard for that, but I think its important to articulate it for myself. For me, it has to give me something in exchange that is more valuable to me than the money I give up to obtain it. In other words, the luxury itself isn't what makes it valuable --- its the "fringe benefit" that comes with it.
For example: I don't consider TiVo or cable to be a luxury that is worth it for me. It gives me access to a zillion channels and still nothing I want to watch. It gives me the ability to record something that I really don't want to watch, and certainly don't need to watch. It allows my family to spend hours in a zombie-like state in front of the television, not talking to one another and not engaging in any kind of real interaction. For me, there is no side benefit. Therefore, its just not worth the money for me. There are sooooo many other things that I can do with that money that are so much more valuable. For that matter, the time I spend to earn that money is so much more valuable than cable or even TiVo will ever be for me.
On the other hand, having someone come and do the deep cleaning of my house once a month is definitely worth the money for me. I'm not talking about regular housekeeping here... I mean the heavy lifting. I have someone who comes and scrubs the kitchen floor, santizes the bathrooms, deepcleans the rugs, cleans the drapery with the vaccuum attachments, and polishes my wood floors. It only takes them a few hours and it doesn't cost me alot. Okay, but the fringe benefits are out of this world. First of all, I am M-U-C-H better about regular housekeeping during the rest of the month because I know that this appointment is coming. My cleaning crew cannot possibly do the job if my house is cluttery or messy or if there are dust bunnies floating around. I have to be consistent about keeping up with my end of things. That means that my house always looks presentable -- and I'm not struggling with it. That alone as a fringe benefit would make this worth the money. But, in addition, I H-A-T-E doing that kind of housework. I don't mind laundry or dishes or even the sweeping and dusting, but I just abhor that scrubbing, moving, lifting kind of cleaning. It puts me in a foul mood and causes me to have a really miserable day or two -- and that causes the ones I love to generally experience a miserable day as well. By having someone do this work for me, I fight less with my husband, I am nicer to my friends -- its good for everyone.
Another luxury that I hadn't thought of as luxurious until someone recently pointed it out to me, is home delivery of prescriptions and of stamps. I order online and they arrive at the door. One of the reasons that I don't think of this as a luxury is that I actually SAVE money by doing this. My prescription plan gives me a discount for doing mail order service. My side benefits here: I don't run out. I'm not frantically running around, losing it because I'm desperate and the pharmacy is closed (or likewise carrying around a bill until its overdue because I can't seem to get myself to the post office during business hours to buy stamps).
I've given alot of thought to my next investment luxury --- valet parking. I don't use it often. In fact, I rarely use it. But when I do -- it is a serious investment in my night out. My condition for using valet parking is the convergence of three factors: rotten weather, glamourous clothing, and challenging parking. In other words, when I'm in the city for a big event, I've gotten myself all dolled up in my best clothes and it is practically a blizzard outside -- then I opt for the valet parking. Its generally fairly cheap -- and it frees me up to enjoy the evening. I spend less time in the ladies room trying to repair windblown hair and rainstreaked makeup. I spend less time listening to my beloved husband apologizing for not being able to find a closer parking space. I spend more time dancing, eating and enjoying. It magnifies the fancy night out exponentially. Well worth the investment for me.
Finally -- my monthly pedicure. This is one that I take a lot of teasing about in my family. Why would you pay someone else to paint your toenails when you can do it yourself for free? Well, because that person has gravity and leverage on their side and can scrub the callouses and rough spots away. And because that person can see what they're doing and can clip the cuticles and trim the raggedy spots in a way that I wouldn't dare do. And --- in terms of fringe benefits -- because it gives me an hour where no one can ask me to do anything, someone massages my feet and legs, and I am simply quiet and patient for a little while. That rehearsal of quietness is so important in our world today. We don't do enough of it. Rehearsing quietness causes it to spill over into other areas of life. And that is a fringe benefit you just can't miss out on.