10 Expensive Things Worth Buying

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Frugality has become part of my lifestyle and identity. I try to make and save money in every way I can.

I think about how to cut costs and invest for the future every day.

When I go shopping, I usually choose inexpensive items without having to sacrifice too much of the quality.

However, I don’t always go for the cheapest or stay away from expensive things in life.

While I believe that frugality is important, certain things are absolutely worth the money and will help maximize the quality of our lives.

1. Apple earphones

I have bought about five pairs of earphones throughout my 12 years of living in America.

The first two pairs were the Sony brand. I got them for about $10 each and was generally happy with the quality.

The main purpose of earphones at the time were to help me listen to music quietly not bother other people.

One time, however, my dad asked me to get him a $55 pair of Apple earpods (it was almost 9 years ago).

He ended up not needing the earphones anymore and gave them to me.

The Apple earpods lasted for almost 7 years despite being accidentally tossed in the washer and dryer twice.

One side of the earphones just stopped working one day. I tried to get a couple more months out of the other side.

During that time, however, Mr. FAF and I also purchased two pairs of what turned out to be fake Apple earpods for $7.5/each on Amazon.

I should have known better and realized that they were knockoffs. But I was blindsided by the desire to save money and the false hope that they would last.

Those products weren’t through Amazon Prime, and the cost of shipping them back to their original seller in China would be almost the same price as the products, so we let it slide.

It was a $15 lesson about investing in a quality pair of earphones that can last for years. Ultimately, I decided to upgrade to a new $29 pair of Apple earpods after Mr. FAF got a new job offer.

2. Electric toothbrush

Mr. FAF has been dreaming about having an electric toothbrush for years. For some reason, I just thought those electric devices were screaming “Expensive!” and “Money!” to me.

I were fine with my manual toothbrushes and didn’t want to use some high-end products while having cheaper options. A $4 manual toothbrush versus a $100 electric toothbrush sounded like a no-brainer to me. I’d go for the cheaper option.

Now I just wish I had been more open-minded about Mr. FAF’s wish. After Mr. FAF started his new job, I gave him the green light to buy Oral-B electric toothbrushes. We first got two for a discounted price of $65 from Costco.

The moment I started using the electric toothbrush, I just knew we belonged together. Mr. FAF bought two more: one for himself to use at work and one for my MIL.

The electric toothbrushes are one of the best purchases and investment we’ve made for our dental health.

Related: 5 Things We No Longer Do To Save Money

3. Fridge

I have learned my lesson about appliances: Don’t buy cheap fridges for long-term use. After Mr. FAF and I bought our first home, we decided to purchase a $165 fridge to put in the basement for extra food storage. The fridge worked well for a year and three months and stopped cooling altogether.

After dropping $100 on an appliance electrician, multiple phone calls, and $80 on a replacement control board which didn’t fix the problem, Mr. FAF and I decided to spend $700 on a more expensive fridge and a three-year warranty plan.

Even if the fridge breaks during those three years, we won’t have to drop $100 on a handyman here and there to get it fixed. It will also save us a lot of headache and angst in getting our lives back in order.

4. Washer & dryer

When I was growing up in Vietnam, my mom and I used to wash our clothes by hand. We were too poor to buy a washer. My parents also didn’t want to pay extra for the electricity bill and thought a washer would use too much water.

Starting in middle school, I was in charge of hand-washing clothes for the whole family, hanging them out in the sun to dry, and folding the laundry at the end of the day. It was a task I didn’t enjoy, but I had to do it. It would take me about an hour every day to finish that chore.

After coming to America, I had the joy of throwing my clothes in the washer, wait for an hour, move them to the dryer, go do something else for another hour, and have my laundry all clean and dry.

It’s a luxury that the majority of people in developing countries don’t have. When I was little, some people in my mom’s village still did laundry in a river or a pond. The water wasn’t clean, but it was what they had access to. Our family was lucky we had clean running water at our house.

I have to admit that I sometimes take for granted the luxury of owning a washer and dryer in my own home. Given that the woman in a family usually does the laundry for the family, I can’t picture myself sitting in the bathroom and hand-washing all the clothes for Mr. FAF and Baby FAF every single day.

It would mean less time for me to spend on my blog and passion projects. A washer and a dryer might cost $300-$500, but I’d still buy them in a heartbeat.

Related: When You Are Ashamed Of Being Poor

5. Amazon Prime

Mr. FAF and I have had the luxury of having free or half-off Amazon Prime accounts when when we were still students. We just renewed our subscription in May 2017 and got 50% off of the 90$ full price.

Starting in May 2018, we will need to decide whether to get Amazon Prime membership. And my current answer is a resounding yes. We love the ease of looking up items at our own home, the two-day shipping, the easy return, and the great customer service of this amazing platform.

I know some retailers such as Payless are going out of business because of Amazon. It’s not a great feeling to see a company falling apart or people getting laid off. But seeing a large and innovative company growing fast and giving more people job opportunity is also a positive thing to take into account.

6. Work clothes

I don’t own a lot of clothes. Most of my clothes are 3-10 years old. I dress for comfort most of the time, especially when I go grocery shopping or hang out with friends. I have bought some work clothes at the thrift stores.

But I have to admit that some of my nicer business attire was bought at Macy’s. However, those were one-time purchases and will last me for years to come.

Some professions (i.e. software engineer) or work arrangements (i.e. telecommuting) don’t call for formal attire most of the time. However, we still live in a society that judges a person’s expertise, knowledge, and professionalism based on what they wear.

If you are a personal finance blogger, chances are you won’t care too much about your outfits since you can blog anywhere and don’t have to answer to any boss.

However, if you are a businessman, a lawyer, or an investment banker, a suit is probably your best bet in making a good impression on your boss, colleagues, or a new client. I can’t image a lawyer dressed in a T-shirt and sweatpants defending someone in court or an investment banker closing a deal in pajamas.

I am no businesswoman, lawyer or banker, but I do believe that dressing in more expensive clothes does pay off to some extent.

7. Plane tickets to visit family

Mr. FAF’s family lives in China, and mine lives in Vietnam. A trip to Asia to visit family would mean roughly $4,500 in plane tickets (3 people) besides other miscellaneous expenses. We usually find cheaper tickets on CheapAir.com or Orbitz.

We wouldn’t spend even a dollar on something if we don’t think it’s necessary. But when it comes to family, we just can’t not see them. We might choose to not visit them every year, but a trip once every two years or so is absolutely necessary.

Mr. FAF and I try to look for deals on CheapAir.com or Orbitz. However, we usually go during the holidays to take advantage of our days off and the low workload, so the tickets are usually expensive. We choose to save up for our trips to Asia instead of forgoing them altogether.

8. Laptop

I had a $500 Toshiba laptop for almost five years. It worked fine for me until it became painfully slow and affected my productivity. The screen was so broken that I had to use a bookend to hold it up.

My immediate reaction was to get a new and cheap laptop to replace my broken Toshiba. However, when we talked to the sales rep at the store about a $250 laptop, he said that it had limited memory storage. Basically, we would get what we paid for.

After a lot of back and forth and lots of convincing from Mr. FAF, I decided to get a $935 Samsung laptop that is fast, light, pretty, and has a high quality camera. I have seen such a huge improvement in my productivity thanks to the new laptop.

I am not saying that we all need to get a $1,000 to make it worth our money. But I for once wanted to have a computer that’s not $500 or $250, and I paid cash for the purchase.

9. A good education

We definitely don’t need to go to college to be successful in life. There are multiple high-paying professions out there that don’t need a college degree.

However, studies show that a person with a college education is more likely to earn more during their lifetime than someone who didn’t go to college, all else equal.

You can choose to go to an in-state university or try to get a scholarship to lower the costs of attending college. Another option is to go to a community college for two years and transfer to an affiliated university and ultimately receive a degree from that university.

I got more than $160,000 in financial aid to attend college in America despite growing up in a poor family in Vietnam. I believe that luck is almost part of the equation, but hard work is also key.

Related: What Growing Up Poor Has Taught Me About Money & Relationships

10. House

Mr. FAF and I bought our home for under $400,000. It’s actually a good price for a house near the Metro in the DC area. We spent months trying to find our dream home and finally found a place that we were happy with.

One of the financial expectations in an Asian family is that a man needs to own a house and have a stable job before getting married. When Mr. FAF and I tied the know, buying a house was not a question of yes or no, but rather a matter of when.

The topic of whether someone should buy or rent a home can get controversial. For us, we believe in having stable housing and building equity as an investment.

Our house is by far the most expensive purchase we’ve made, but it’s something we don’t regret. We also plan to save up to buy a rental property while maximizing our 401(k) accounts.


After writing this post, I realized that I am blessed with the opportunity to afford all of the expensive items mentioned above. When we were in a dire financial situation, we’d just be happy with the very basic things that we have.

But when our income has increased, we also want to make the purchases that can improve our life quality without putting us at the risk of lifestyle inflation.

One can argue that all the 10 things discussed above are good indicators of our lifestyle creep, and that we should reassess what we spend our money on.

I would agree with that argument to an extent. If Mr. FAF and I have consumer debt or are trying to make ends meet, we wouldn’t buy a $1,000 Samsung laptop, electric toothbrushes, a washer and a dryer, or afford to fly our whole family to Asia.

But I also believe that when we prioritize the things that are important to our relationships, health, and productivity, we can save up and pay cash for them. And we will still be in control of our finances and know what we use our hard-earned money for.


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34 thoughts on “10 Expensive Things Worth Buying”

  • Great list! I am always struggling with the “buy quality vs. buy cheap” question. Mr. AR is great at doing research and finding good deals on a second-hand market, but it still is a struggle to justify sometimes. But when we look at the long-term use of some things (fridge, washer/dryer, vacuum), I start to realize the cost savings of buying the more expensive item!

    • That’s my struggle too! I always navigate towards cheap items since they make a smaller dent in my bank account hehe. But I have to remind myself that they might cost more over time. It’s really not easy. 😉

  • I’ve had my Toshiba laptop for 7 years now and it’s still going strong! Paid $450 for it in 2011. I’m good with computers and find that just routine maintenance and cleaning up old software etc keeps her running fine. Hope to get another 2 years out of her!

    And I agree about the house. I know that can be a contentious argument in the FIRE community but my house is my castle, I love it!

    • I love owning a house too (except when there’re repairs :D) hehe.

      7 years out of a $450 Toshiba is impressive! I hope it will last you 10 years. 😀

  • I think most of these are investments in yourself and future, which is always worth the extra money! I definitely don’t think that is life style creep to purchase quality items you use a lot! Plus, you guys are so frugal in every other aspect, I doubt you sweat these expenditures!

    • Thank you for your kind words, Steph! It’s great to have the option of buying more expensive and higher quality items. Many of them are definitely worth the money long-term 🙂

  • A quality mattress was one I’d add to my list. People scoff at how expensive mattresses are, but sleep is such an important part of your life – making sure I feel well-rested and energized to take on the day is key, and a mattress is a big factor in that.

    • Great addition! We did buy a $500 mattress before. But I’m now using a mattress we got from the curbside and totally fine with it. Good thing it didnt have any bed bugs when we brought it home!

  • Now you see why it is so expensive to live in the US. Even frugal people like us needs to buy some expensive stuff. Having a house isn’t cheap. There are a lot of extra expenses.
    I’d add prescription glasses to this list. I wear my glasses every waking hour and I need a really good pair.
    A good mattress sounds nice too. Our mattress is too old now, but I don’t want to buy a new one yet. We’ll get one after we move.

    • Oh yes! Prescription glasses aren’t cheap either. I even use contact lenses and they cost me hundreds of dollars a year (I’m a bit ashamed to admit it. It’s purely for cosmetic reasons >_<)

  • Your husband needs to dream bigger than an electric toothbrush!

    We’re going to buy new appliances when we build Groovy Ranch. I don’t relish the thought of doing the research, especially for a washing machine, as well as the costs. The builder may have a package deal on stove, refrigerator and dishwasher but we’ll see.

    Would you mind sharing the model of your laptop? We’re in the market for a new one and even if we don’t go as high, it would be helpful to compare specs with a cheaper one. Thanks!

  • I’m with you on most of these and second Dave’s comment about the mattress above. Just yesterday I wondered why Amazon charges annually for a Prime membership instead of monthly. The answer: because they can!

    The trips to meet distant family are tough in terms of expense and travel time. We’ve been trying to encourage our parents to meet somewhere in the middle, but they are aging, and it’s not the same experience as seeing all the extended family in the home country.

  • I totally agree about the washer. It’s probably my favorite household appliance. I recently moved to a condo with in-unit washer, and it’s a game-changer. I tend to disagree with you about the headphones – twice, I bought expensive headphone and promptly lost or broke them. I went back to cheap (but well-reviewed) headphones after that.

    I’m kind of curious about one thing you mentioned – how did you receive undergrad financial aid as a foreign student? I also came to the US for school, but I found the vast majority of aid was restricted to US citizens.

    • You might want to check out private liberal arts colleges. They are the ones with endowment funding and have financial aid for international students. Good luck!

  • Good lessons. When you factor in how long something will last/replacement value, then it can be better to purchase the more expensive brand and save money (not to mention time) replacing it.

  • I agree with everything on this post. You need to buy quality items that will last. I’ve purchased cheap items to save money and I’ve always had to spend more money replacing them in the end.

  • I would definitely add a great bed and mattress.

    We spend about 1/3 of our lives in bed for sleep and other fun activities. It is totally worth the money. You cannot put a price on good sleep and is it affects your mood, happiness, wellbeing, and productivity.

    And you’re really hardcore, invest in a bed made of organic and non-toxic materials that have less potential for being hazardous to health. (That’s what my wife and I did!). 😀

  • I am always so inspired by your posts. I’m working to focus more on quality not quantity. When I make sure to purchase quality products I know they will end up lasting much longer. Thanks for sharing!

  • Great post – I totally agree with you! Speaking of appliances, I could not live without a washer and dryer in my house. I grew up in a lower-middle class family, and we did not have a working washing machine during my teenage years. It was a power struggle between my parents, but I had to go to the laundromat 2x/week to wash laundry. I was ashamed and worried that kids from my school would see me. So, I can live without a microwave, even a dryer, but I must have a washer! We have also bought fake earbuds on eBay. We contacted the seller, in China, and demanded a refund. They didn’t argue and gave a refund immediately; they are afraid of having their account suspended. It also helps to pay with AmEx, as they will credit our account for this type of thing.

  • This post reminds of something Brad from Choose FI encourages his listeners to be. He says you should be a valueist–someone who is frugal toward the things he or she doesn’t value and extravagant toward the things he or she does value. So if you don’t care about cars, buy a used functional “beater” that will last for ten or more years. If you love clothes, buy clothes that are fashionable and well-made. This is the best way to maximize your happiness and be kind to your finances. Love your style, Mrs. FAF. You strike me as a true valueist.

  • I’ve heard so much about the electric toothbrush pair from costco. Seems like every software engineer couple/family has one . Do you feel different after using it compared to a regular toothbrush?

    • Yes, there’s a huge difference! I’m now a strong advocate for electronic toothbrushes. The dentist also said there’s a noticeable difference!

  • A great post, I’d also add there is a degree of personalisation needed here. Some things are worth it for one individual, but not for another. Laptops and me for instance, have issues. I’ve dropped or spilled coffee and broken all my laptops to date. Hence I’m more comfortable with cheaper laptops.

    But I’d consider an electric toothbrush an essential, not a luxury. Dentists have been recommending them for over 10 years here in the UK – the teeth cleaning is so much better.

  • 100% agree with the electric toothbrush!

    I also struggled to justify a $100 expense on something I technically didn’t NEED (we were looking at the Philips Sonicare DiamondClean). But one day it dawned on me that a crown or cavity would cost substantially more.

    Buying the toothbrush could actually make financial sense because it could lower future dental bills.

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