Emotional wellness is closely linked with financial security, and many self-help resources emphasize tips and tricks for saving money. But while money may not buy happiness, it can bring you some peace of mind — and spending it wisely can even help you thrive.
As income levels have risen throughout the past few decades, so have the demands on our free time. Compared to the generations before us, most of us work longer hours with less and less separation between office and home, cutting into our daily downtime between work and rest.
But some of that precious time can (and should) be reclaimed. According to a 2017 research study, buying back our free time promotes happiness. By outsourcing the most draining aspects of your routine, you can free up your available time to focus on the activities you love.
Here are eight situations where you might consider spending for the sake of your overall well-being.
Hiring a cleaning service vs. scrubbing baseboards on a Saturday morning
Researchers have found that working at a clean desk could promote healthy eating and generosity. But if chores aren’t your thing, leave your dust bunnies for someone else to wrangle; you probably won’t want to spend your precious weekend cleaning the house.
Cleaning services and housekeepers are relatively easy to find in any major metro. If you don’t know where to start, ask your neighbors for trustworthy recommendations. Many services can be booked by the hour, so you can decide whether you want a light cleaning of the common areas or a thorough scrub for the whole house.
You can even schedule recurring cleanings so that you only have to plan the initial booking.
Choosing grocery delivery vs. shopping at the supermarket
When you work as hard as you do, you deserve to rest well. And whether you love or hate the supermarket, having your groceries delivered means you don’t have to get up from lounging on the couch or change out of your sweatpants.
This splurge may not even cost you anything. Many grocery stores offer free or discounted delivery when you spend past a certain dollar amount. And beyond the gas money that you’ll save, you might also avoid buying unnecessary products that would otherwise tempt you on the shelves.
Hiring companies with good reviews vs. the cheapest rates
Sure, low rates may seem like a good deal, but the old adage is true — you get what you pay for. No one wants a contractor who skirts safety codes or an impersonal personal trainer, so it’s important not to let low costs blind you from bad reviews.
And that’s especially true for big purchases. When shopping for things like better car insurance, for example, make sure to factor quality reviews from expert-driven websites into your research process so you don’t make a decision that will cause you extra headaches down the line. Review sites like Yelp or Angie’s List can also help you get the feel for a business’s customer service based on actual experiences. Granted, you should take negative reviews with a grain of salt since people are often compelled to write them after a really terrible experience.
Ordering meals in vs. cooking at home
Whether you’re trying to save money or eat more cleanly, eating at home is definitely the way to go. Making your own meals yields bigger, healthier portions for far less money — a win-win.
But every now and then, it’s a relief to order premade food and let someone else do the food prep. If cooking stresses you out, then spending a little bit more money on food can help you eat well without leaving you miserable.
These days, your options are plentiful: You can order meal kits to cook at home, have premade meals delivered directly to your door or order a gourmet dinner from your favorite restaurant in town. You can even splurge on having a private chef come to your home instead of going out to eat. Or you could have someone design custom meal plans for you and then cook you a week’s worth of food.
Investing in quality purchases vs. springing for cheap, quick fixes
Quality is key when it comes to the possessions we use most often. The low sticker price of a cheap used car can be appealing up front but may require repairs that cost more than expected. And budget furniture becomes a burden when it needs to be replaced within a year or two.
Your wardrobe should be an important area of focus when it comes to quality upgrades. In this day and age of mass-produced clothing, many of us have no idea what it feels like to wear a piece of tailored clothing. But while you may think your outfit fits just fine off the rack, you’ll notice a huge difference in how you look and feel after a quality alteration has been completed.
Of course, not everything in your closet needs to be custom-made or tailored — just a few strategic adjustments to your favorite dress or professional suit will make a significant improvement. And if your sharp attire complements your performance at an important job interview, your investment in quality tailoring can even help you earn money by landing you your next job.
The same concept applies to shoes. Spending money on a quality pair with good support won’t just protect you from blisters: Caring for your feet will allow you to walk, stand and run for many years to come.
Booking a vacation vs. saving every dollar
Saving for retirement or a rainy day is one of the most responsible things you can do for your future self. But it’s also important to let yourself rest from time to time.
Planning time off doesn’t have to mean spending lots of money on a pricey trip. You can plan an inexpensive staycation, book a night or two at a local hotel you’ve always wanted to try, take a road trip or even just stay in with special treats and a good book or movie.
But giving yourself a break can also mean saving with a big, bucket-list trip in mind — then spending the hard-earned money when the time is right.
Splurging on private transportation vs. fighting your way through traffic
Perhaps you’re rushing to an important event, but the subway is running late. Maybe you bike to the office an hour early to give yourself time to navigate rush hour and shower before work. Or perhaps you build extra time into your schedule for hunting down parking in a busy part of town before your event begins.
As a general rule, taking public transportation is an efficient way to save both money and the environment. But when it’s important for you to get from point A to point B on time, it’s also smart to splurge on a cab or a ride-hailing service. Buying yourself peace of mind in that moment is worth every dollar you’ll spend.
And even if there’s no rush, no problem: If you’ve had a long week or you need some quiet time, treat yourself to the ride if it’s in the budget. That way, you’ll arrive at your destination just a little bit more refreshed than usual, ready to tackle the next challenge.
Signing up for expedited security status vs. waiting in a long line at the airport
Going through security at the airport is one of the least enjoyable aspects of travel. But getting preapproved for expedited security can get you in and out of line with more convenience.
Services such as TSA PreCheck, Global Entry or Mobile Passport Control allow U.S. travelers to fast-track their way through airport security. After signing up for approval and answering a few screening questions, eligible travelers can go through separate security lines that tend to move more quickly because they are less invasive.
Expedited security clearance typically comes at a cost — $85 for TSA PreCheck for five years, and $100 for Global Entry, which includes complimentary TSA PreCheck benefits as well. Many travelers find the expense to be well worth the price, especially since some credit cards cover the cost, effectively making the service free. Meanwhile, Mobile Passport Control is free to travelers who download the app.
When should I spend, and when should I save?
While this list is a starting point, it’s not a set of rules. Everyone has different priorities, and a chore that may be tedious to you could be soothing for someone else. Consider this guide a springboard to help you decide on your own set of splurge-worthy expenses.
At the end of the day, your time is your true source of wealth, and spending money wisely buys you opportunities to enjoy your hard-earned life to the fullest.