Money Matters: Worth the Splurge? Maybe Not.

When shopping, I often find my wallet trying to convince my mind that the skirt, the moisturizer, or the heels in front of me are worth the outrageous price tag. But after I make the costly purchase, I wonder—was it worth it?

To help answer this question, I’ve compiled a list of things that I feel are, and aren’t, worth the splurge during our sad and painful recession. My basic rule of thumb? Things that last are worth the cash.

What’s worth it:

Jeans. I always used to laugh at the fact that my friends paid $200+ for jeans…until I tried on my first pair of J-Brands. While you can find cheaper options, the fact of the matter is, most designer jeans are better quality. Invest in a few pairs. They feel softer, they fit better, and they last longer. Your wallet might not thank you but your tush sure will! J-Brand, Hudson, and True Religions are my top picks.

The IphoneIf you can get your fam to join in. Individual plans are pricey, but with a family plan, the monthly rates are much more affordable. The iPhone beats all other cellular choices, plain and simple; it’s genius combo of visual voicemail, thousands of apps (including Shazam, which can detect any song playing nearby and tell you what it is), iPod, internet, and more makes it the clear choice. So worth it.

Haircuts/Hair dying. If you’re looking to change your hairstyle or color dramatically, please go to a salon. Now I’m not saying you should spend $200 to get a trim, but good haircutters/colorists can really make a difference on your do (mom, I hope you’re reading this—put that herbal essences hair-dye DOWN!). So when should you indulge? When you want layers, highlights, or to alter your color dramatically. Or you can get your friend to “work her magic,” just don’t come crying to me when you’re locks are purple and lopsided.

Basics. But only ones that you will use and use and use. This includes: a little black dress, a spring jacket, a few pairs of jeans (see above), a pair of STURDY flip flops–Reef, Teva, JCrew (watch out for water on those last ones–very durable, but zero traction)–etc. You be the judge of what’s a necessity…but don’t go overboard. Those Prada shoes are NOT basics.

What’s not:

Heels: While our feet are precious, you can pamper them without spending hundreds of dollars. There are great shoes out there that are well made, and bargains. I don’t know about you, but when I wear heels out to party, they are usually covered in dirt, sweat, and other people’s footprints by the time I get home. Point being, I’m not about to go throw my savings on a pair of Jimmy Choo’s. Instead, I love to shoe-shop at victoriassecret.com, shiekhshoes and DSW. To get your fix of strappy goodness, check out these (cheap!) beauties.

Manicures: Unless you’re extremely uncoordinated, DIY manicures can yield results just as pretty as those from a salon. Even better than do-it-yourself? Grab a friend and paint each other’s nails. One tip: After clipping, filing, and moisturizing your hands, buff each nail’s surface with a very rough buffer—this will help the polish stick and stay put for weeks. For summer, I adore bright shades. Try Essie, a cheap polish brand that has everything from neon yellows (great with tan/dark skin) to bright reds (beautiful on the fair).

Toiletries: Taking care of your body and face is important, no doubt, but people really underestimate the effectiveness that cheaper products can have. My $7 face cream has quenched my skin’s thirst just as well as my friend’s $50 bottle has quenched hers. And my Maybeline mascara has plumped my lashes just as well as that Dior Show I mistakenly purchased once. Until your skin is ridden with wrinkles and you need some serious skin care products, stick to affordable options.

Underwear: My opinion on undergarments? If they’re not visible, they shouldn’t be blasting your budget. And as for the claim that guys like when girls wear expensive, intricate lingerie? It’s false. I can assure you that the guy you’re sleeping with won’t care whether you’re wearing a bra from gap or La Perla–he’ll just wanna get that thing off! That said, it’s fun to feel comfy and sexy, even if you’re alone in the comfort of your own dorm room. Victoria’s Secret’s 5/25 undies deals are awesome, and they come in tons of cute styles, proving that you don’t have to sacrifice feeling sexy for staying on a budget.

Sunglasses: While designer shades can look pretty sleek, $15 ones can too. And since I lose my sunglasses about every 5 minutes, spending hundreds on them seems pretty dumb. Urban has a lot of funky choices that will fit a tight budget.

Gym Membership: Most universities and colleges offer on-campus gyms, but if you’re a graduate, or your school is lacking facilities, take the opportunity to get outside. Spending hundreds on a gym membership is not worth it when you have the great outdoors! Run, walk, hike, or do some at-home workouts—for free! Whatever floats your boat.

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