Marvelous Money: 10 of my favorite purchases

30 April 2019

If money doesn’t make you happy, you’re probably not spending it right.

Of course, money on its own will never satisfy, and it will never fill the deep well reserved for God and people. But spent thoughtfully, within a budget, and according to your values, I believe your purchases can and should make you happier. (After all, even the quotidian stocking up of paper towels still gives me a brief buzz of adulting joy!)

But, looking back over my decade-plus career as the manager of my own purse strings, there are certain items that I still look back on, years later, and think to myself, “I am SO GLAD I spent money on that.” Here are ten of them. I hope my list encourages renewed gratitude for your own favorite purchases, and with your list in front of you, see if you can find any common threads in what you value most highly – and then let those threads guide your future purchases!

In no particular order…

1. Our tan sofa. We bought our sofa from Macy’s in 2011 for $700 delivered, about a year after John got his job. Before that, our living room contained one seating option – our white loveseat from Ikea, purchased midway through college. This purchase represented one of our first big leaps into adulthood, and we saved for months and months to afford it. It is incredibly comfortable, the velvet fabric is impervious to stains, and the practical color hides the dust of daily life effectively. It still looks fantastic after eight years; we hope to have it for many more.

I chuckle when I think about a sweet reader’s comment I got many years ago – something along the lines of, “wait until you get rid of that brown couch – then your room will look really good!” Though you could read it as rude, it didn’t bother me at all. I just thought to myself, “sister, if only you could sit beside me on this here brown couch, you’d know why I’m never getting rid of it” :)

2. Our dunes painting. My wedding gift to John was an original painting I found in a small shop in our Connecticut hometown in 2011. It already had a lovely frame, and I think the price was about $400. It was more than I had budgeted for his gift, but the moment I saw it, I fell in love – it reminded me of his beloved Michigan dunes. I loved the idea of his wedding gift being something we’d keep forever, as opposed to a piece or clothing or an accessory he might wear out. I also felt VERY grown-up purchasing an original piece of art, and there was something sweet about finding his gift so unexpectedly in our tiny hometown, the place where our story began many years before. The painting now hangs on our bedroom wall.

3. My dresser. In 2014, I spotted a low, cream dresser an acquaintance was selling on Instagram. Maybe it was the way she had merchandised it (she’s a photographer!), but I instantly knew it was a piece I’d love for a long time. At $200, I also knew it was a steal. Taking full advantage of our fun and fancy-free pre-baby life, we rented a truck from Home Depot and drove over to Greensboro to bring it home (out-of-nowhere rain storm on the way home and all!). It took ALL of my might to get my end up our front steps (that sucker is HEAVY), and it’s lived happily in our master bedroom ever since. It’s the kind of piece that could look good anywhere, and I plan to have it forever (not the least because I never want to move it again). Peep it in the background here.

4. Our mattress. Late in 2014, John convinced me to get a King-sized mattress. I was opposed to the idea at first – why would he want to be further away from me?! – but eventually gave in. We trotted down to our local Mattress Warehouse and tried out all the options in the store, finally settling on one we both loved after a good hour of reclining on various options. The price – $1,600 – was a little more than we had been planning to spend, but we were confident this was the one for us.

We called the salesperson over. He looked at the tag, and then did a double-take. He explained that there had been a mistake, that the tag on our mattress had been switched with another one and that our mattress was actually supposed to be $2,500. After confirming with his manager, however, he graciously honored the price and let us take ours home for the lower price.

Now, I don’t know if this was some sort of elaborate sales technique to make us think we got a great deal. (Kudos to them if it was!) What I do know is that pretty much every night since, John and I have looked at each other before turning out the lights and said, “I love our bed.” Given the importance of a good night’s sleep and based on how much we love our mattress, I’d have gladly spent $2,500 on it… but I’m glad we didn’t have to :)

5. Our laundry baskets. 2014 was a big year for beloved acquisitions! There are a number of reasons that could be so, but here’s one: in 2014, we had recently paid off my student loans, were rapidly making progress on our car loans, and were looking forever to putting our full efforts toward our mortgage. Every dollar was aggressively scrutinized; if one was going out the door, you can bet it was for something we were all in on.

Which brings us to our laundry baskets. I spotted them at Home Goods on Black Friday, and even though I remember hesitating over the price ($50 for 2!), I brought the wicker pair up to the register. Like several other purchases on this list, there was just something that spoke to my soul about replacing our mismatched college bins with a matched, grown-up pair. We use and love them to this day.

6. My favorite jeans. I wrote an entire post about these jeans, so you know they’re beloved. In the throes of post-second-pregnancy life, the angels sang when I slipped them on. Great quality, the right amount of stretch, a fab high waist, denim that feels SO GOOD on, and a more-than-fair price point (I got mine for $60 on sale!). Confession time: I wear them 5/7 days a week, emailed customer service to request they make a white version, and have convinced a handful of friends and family members to buy their own pairs. Maybe you’re next? :)

7. My first car. Maybe it’s on the list because I was really hoping for an SUV but thought I could only afford a sedan. Or maybe because it was incredibly comfortable, the best road trip companion for my many trips around the South. Or maybe because it was, after all, my very first car, and negotiating its purchase on my own is one of the most grown-up things I’ve ever done. For whatever reason, my Mariner will always be one of my most beloved purchases. I would happily still be driving it today if the transmission hadn’t died the last time we were in Michigan – see above for our farewell family photo!

leopard gloves

8. My leopard-print gloves. At $5 from Walmart, purchased while still at college, these beauties win the “most bang for my buck” prize by a landslide – especially considering I’ve worn them every winter for approximately the last twelve or so years. With holes in several of the fingertips, my family likes to joke that these were my texting gloves before texting gloves existed. They’re simple, they’re chic (well, aside from the holes), and when I find something I love, I tend to wear it into the ground.

9. Our TV console. A newer addition to the family, our console joins the list because it solved a problem I had been puzzling over for more than a year. With one fortuitous trip to Home Goods, it brought style, organization, and a much-needed additional surface to our living room in 2018. I searched every retailer known to man for more than a year, almost pulling the trigger on pieces three times as much as this one ($430) multiple times, but I am SO happy I didn’t settle for something I didn’t love.

10. Our Le Creuset. Last but certainly not least is our Le Creuset dutch oven. Back in February 2012, we were throwing our very first dinner party together – a Julie & Julia themed event for four couples with boeuf bourguignon on the menu.

Needless to say, we were anxious new hosts, and in a spontaneous flurry of nerves, we decided we needed this exact pot on the morning of the party. We dropped $140 on it like it was nothing, which makes me laugh to this day – because $140 was most definitely NOT nothing at that time in our lives, and nothing but the nervous desire to have everything go right for this big event could have made us make this sort of spur-of-the-moment purchase. Happily, we have used this very pot to cook thousands of meals since, and considering it’s Le Creuset, I’m confident we’ll use it to cook thousands more – and smile every time we remember the reason it joined our family :)

What would be on your list? I’d love to hear!!

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Kelly Strawberry
April 30, 2019 9:21 am

I love this post so much!

The first thing that comes to mind for me is our longhorn steer mount. We have a rustic house and a large brick mantle. I had been at the Raleigh Flea Market on a Saturday morning and saw a longhorn steer head mounted above a shop selling cow-hide rugs. I knew I had to have it, but it was not for sell. I brought my husband back a few weeks later to show him and we asked her how much it would take for her to sell it to us. She said $2,000. We didn’t buy it, but I couldn’t get that cow off my mind. Not long after, my husband found an even bigger, better, brown Texas longhorn mount for sell in VA on craigslist for $900. We drove up, bought our cow, and it is the most amazing thing in the world to have a longhorn steer over your mantle! He was the meanest bull in the pasture. He has a story and a history and I love that we get to be a small part of it.

April 30, 2019 9:47 am

This might be one of my favorite Marvelous Money posts yet! I always love your insights.

Would you ever consider a post about investing? I know you are not officially a financial advisor, but your approach towards spending and money is so in sync with mine I would love to read your thoughts. (and John is! Guest post?! :) )

April 30, 2019 10:07 am

I also feel so much joy about our laundry basket–it was a wedding gift from our registry that came a few months after the wedding and before we got it I was already saving gift cards to purchase it myself–it’s one of my top three things we got from our registry!
My favorite purchase, though, has to be our bed. I was randomly on west elm and saw that everything was marked down 25% and this upholstered queen bed came out to $260…I was annoyed that delivery would be an extra $130, but decided to “splurge.” Literally the next day the bed was back up to it’s normal price $1,399. I think we got a “mistake” price…but they honored it and three months later it got delivered!! I could hardly believe it!

April 30, 2019 10:46 am

First, I must say that your blog is consistently the only one that I feel drawn to comment on. :) I loved this post so much! I’ve had a Le Cruset on my wishlist for some time and you have me even more motivated to keep saving with it in mind!

April 30, 2019 12:55 pm

Oh my goodness, so fun to see your leopard print gloves are still going strong! Love this list.

April 30, 2019 2:25 pm

This post was so much fun to read!! Your Le Creuset story especially made me laugh and reminded me of the tuxedo story I shared with you the other day ;)

On my list, off the top of my head:
– The white Hollywood Regency-style dresser I found after stalking Craigslist for a year (my one and only pre-loved item win)
– Anything we have ever bought from Uppababy
– Our Pottery Barn couch (our only regret is that we didn’t spend MORE by upgrading the fabric for something that wouldn’t fade…ugh!)
– Our living room rug
– Our CRV
– All our Nest products (three and counting)

April 30, 2019 3:42 pm

Joining the club it seems as I voice my love for this post! You always have the most enjoyable and interesting topics – reading your blog is like going to a fun dinner party! 2011 couch purchases represent. Ours was $1100 from ZGallerie that we bought an hour after we closed on our first house (that was quite an expensive day) but it’s still going strong!

A few of my favorites:
– A frappuccino maker bought from an online yardsale (saves us so much $$$)
– Our vehicles (both used Toyotas)
– Keypad front door lock (can go for a walk/run without keys and let family/friends in!)
– Kiss Instawave Automatic Curling Iron (the ONLY tool that curls my stick straight hair)
– Rocking chairs on our front porch
– My purse (it was a huge splurge, especially at the time, but it has been my only one for 8 years and I still love it)
– L’Oréal Age Perfect Cell Renewal Night Cream (it’s fairly inexpensive but feels so luxurious)

April 30, 2019 3:56 pm

This was such an extra fun post to read!

April 30, 2019 5:43 pm

I agree! This post was so much fun. It made me think about the things I have and love in my house and I loved hearing about yours. Some favorite purchases have been all my books, Adirondack chairs on our front porch, L shaped couch, Bubba water bottle, and Brookstone eyemask for sleeping :).

April 30, 2019 6:24 pm

Those jeans…. I also LOVE them and think they are worth every penny, even full price. They are the best, hands down.

April 30, 2019 10:44 pm

“Emmie – I like your snakes!” – Grace, upon seeing your beloved $5 gloves for the first time many years ago. A classic for sure!

Mary Kate
May 1, 2019 11:23 am

As a Le Creuset employee, as well as a Raleigh-native and a loyal reader of EFM, my heart is so happy to see #10. Great color choice on your oven, and great post overall!

May 1, 2019 3:13 pm

This is such an interesting post! I love seeing everyone’s favorite purchases, and it’s certainly making me ponder mine!

May 2, 2019 8:39 am

Original art has been one of our most grown up purchases so far, too! Last spring we got an original Emily Jeffords landscape (after several hours agonizing and taking it in and out of my online shopping cart!), and it might be the single most expensive non-essential item we’ve purchased. We’re so glad to have it, and are pretty pleased with our timing – she’s been in business for long enough to have developed as an artist, but she’s since gotten so popular that her future prices will likely be out of our range :).

May 2, 2019 10:05 am

What a fun post idea! Just as previous commenters have stated, your blog is such a refreshing and delightful space that I truly look forward to visiting each week. As our family is in the process of pinching pennies to be debt-free (hopefully by the end of this year!) I particularly love to see the thoughtfulness that goes into each of your favorite purchases and it reminds me that, while saving money is great, spending it wisely can be an equally noble investment :) The top favorite that comes to mind for me is my navy Longchamp purse – purchased on Poshmark for $75, it has held up in gym lockers, airplane storage bins, park visits, beach trips and everywhere in between for the past year….a winner in my book!

May 2, 2019 3:53 pm

I loved this post- thank you for sharing, Emily!

May 3, 2019 11:17 am

Love this post!

Blush pearl earrings – I searched high and low for the exact color I wanted to match my grandma’s necklace as well as I didn’t want them to be more of a button pearl because everything else felt like they were too big. Luckily had a pearl store in Jackson and the owner spent a lot of time with me as a local and ordered some options in. I smile every time I wear them.

Chest freezer – it made me feel like such a grown up when I bought a chest freezer for my first apartment alone in Jackson. Food costs were quite high there so I knew I had to do something to keep up. Twice a year trips to Costco to stock up on organic meat and to see family were in order. I sold it to friends when I moved, but having a spare freezer is something I think I’ll always want to have in a home!

Longchamp bag – I bought it as a commuter bag for my time in Boston and it’s lived a long long life. It has holes in it now and I really need to downsize to something smaller so I quit filling it so darn full and heavy for me. But I’m also one of those people that will invest in something and then use it until it’s no longer usable. I know there’s a company nordstrom uses to fix the holes, but not sure if it’d be worth it. Thankfully Nordstrom swapped out an original bag with the thicker material one than the standard one got holes in it very quickly for me.

May 3, 2019 12:07 pm

I would love to join you for your book swap, Em! I have been wanting to visit the Raleigh area and this would be such a fun reason to make it happen :) I’m in Charlotte but do have family in that area and have been meaning to take the train out. Would love to join if the dates align, yay!