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7 things that are always worth splurging on—and 3 things that never are

A $26 cocktail involving frothed egg whites. A candy-pink mohair coat. Regular consultations with a psychic. One very entertaining part of adulthood is observing all the different things that our friends and family members deem worthy of a splurge.

On the flip side, deciding what’s splurge-worthy for ourselves can sometimes be a challenge. Deciding what’s worth paying a little (or a lot) extra for and what’s not will vary according to your values and preferences—not to mention your budget . Here are seven things that are always worth splurging on and three items that should cause you to snap your wallet shut.

Read more: How visualizing your savings helps prepare for big purchases.

Worth the splurge

1. A timeless handbag

While spending a small fortune on designer accessories might seem frivolous, and certainly can be, some bags have proven to hang on to their value over the long run. A high-end bag can instantly make your entire outfit seem fancier and it could be smart to choose something classic just in case you tire of it and want to unload it online or through a local consignment shop.

2. Quality kitchen knives

Well-made tools for slicing and dicing can come at pulse-quickening prices, especially if you aspire to fill a countertop knife block. Yet this is on the short list of items most chefs say you should always splurge on, since good knives taken care of properly will last you 10 times as long as cheaper counterparts. They’ll do a better job than bargain knives, which dull easily, cut unevenly, and can require an inordinate amount of pressure for even the simplest tasks. If you can only afford one high-end knife for now, make it a versatile chef’s or santoku knife.

3. Designer denim

Jeans are a timeless fashion staple, and if you wear your favorite pairs often, the cost-per-wear of a designer pair will still end up being very reasonable—even minimal, compared to the dress you bought for a friend’s wedding and likely won’t re-wear. Plus, the fit, feel and quality difference between expensive jeans and cheap jeans is something you notice the moment you pull them on (and even more so after you wash them).

4. A luxurious mattress

Before you impulse purchase the latest bed-in-a-box that pops up in a social-media ad, stop and consider the importance of this purchase. We’re talking about an investment in good sleep, which is the key to, well, kind of everything. Plus, there’s the fact that you’ll probably be using this item for a really, really long time. (The National Sleep Foundation recommends six to eight years, but it’s easy to lose track and keep one longer.) 

5. That fancy coffee maker

When your trusty old drip machine is still chugging away, it’s easy to second-guess investing in a machine that costs a lot. That said, if you really love coffee, it pays to make what you drink at home feel like a real treat, not to mention more convenient. For you, this is one trendy kitchen appliance that usually won’t end up gathering dust, so go ahead and get one. (Maybe it’ll even replace your drive-through coffee habit?)

6. Hair color

Not only does it define your entire look, hair color can so easily go bad. If you choose a colorist based on lower pricing or embark upon a poorly executed at-home color attempt, you’ll probably end up spending at least double to have an experienced colorist clean up the mess. Something else to factor in: A great colorist can blend and vary tones to help your hair color grow out more subtly, meaning you can visit the salon much less frequently and potentially even save money over the long term.

7. A vacation

Sure, there’s a such thing as a bad trip—those involving missed connections, weather debacles or passive-aggressive travel companions, but it’s still pretty rare to hear anyone say, “I really regret going on that vacation.” Spending money on experiences is almost always a good splurge, and even a bad trip can end up part of your relationship or friend-group lore, a tale you’ll always love to tell. Plus, we tend to look back on travel with rose-colored glasses and focus more on the memories made than the missed connection or even missing luggage. 

On the flip side, here are three things that aren’t worth splurging on: 

1. Chain-store artwork

While original art can be a great investment, unoriginal art—the kind sold by mass-market furniture retailers—can come with a surprisingly steep price tag, especially considering it has little to no resale value. If you don’t have the budget to shop at a gallery (though many have great deals, especially on smaller pieces), you’re better off scouting cool pieces at a thrift shop, local art show, art-school sale or even on social media (where many up-and-coming talents begin selling their pieces). These will cost far less, feel authentic and unique, and could even appreciate in value if the artist ends up becoming well-known.

2. The latest smartphone

If you’re a true technophile and can afford to upgrade just so you’re carrying the latest-and-greatest—or if you look at your phone as a fashion accessory—more power to you. For most people, though, it just doesn’t pay to shell out hundreds extra for the newest version of a smartphone when you can buy the previous version for a fraction of the price. These days, the upgrades from one model to the next just aren’t that significant. 

3. That trendy home-gym item

If ads for that hyped-up at-home strength-training machine in your Instagram feed have re-ignited your enthusiasm for exercise, awesome—but maybe talk yourself down for a minute. It’s still just a piece of workout equipment and doesn’t actually have magical powers. It can become a clothes-drying rack as easily as the rowing machines, treadmills and spin bikes people are selling on an online marketplace. 

If you don’t have an established fitness track record and/or don’t have thousands in your checking account to buy a fancy piece of fitness equipment totally guilt-free (and interest-free), consider a compromise. Example: Most of the companies that make “smart” screen-based exercise equipment also offer their proprietary workouts via a paid monthly subscription you can stream to your tablet or phone, meaning you can do them on even a bargain bike or treadmill (or with a couple dumbbells).

If you want the real deal, look for closeout sales on last year’s models, local gym liquidation sales, or do a quick search on the aforementioned online marketplace. You might even find one of those big-name items for a steal—and a score like that always feels infinitely better than a splurge.

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