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Which expensive things are high yield?

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  • Avatar gvs.psych 
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    Thanks in large part to this blog, we are in good financial shape, with a 400k – 500k annual income, and a 50% net savings rate. Recognizing our privilege, and that we work insanely hard, we are trying to be thoughtful about which of the ‘things’ and experiences we now have access are in fact worth it, and I was really hoping to get some input. I’ll list some of what we’ve tried so far, and my reactions, but would love to get others perspectives:

    Transportation:
    – Local air travel: I have never flown first class locally, and my sense is that it seems so incrementally better, that there is no real value here. I don’t hesitate to pay the $29 to go to a delta airport lounge, but paying more than double for a slightly larger seat doesn’t seem high yield?

    – International air travel: I recently upgraded to business class for a long haul flight to South Africa, and it seems like $800 very well spent. It was both a very novel and fun experience, and got me there much more rested. So I feel this is more worth it. On the other hand, $800 is half a Disney cruise.

    Accomodation:
    – Five star hotels: I can’t really tell the difference between 4 and 5 star hotels and kinda felt like this was a waste of money on the one occasion I have stayed at a 5 star hotel

    Food:
    – I feel like there is a point of diminishing returns here, where there are many places where a $100 meal for two is truly excellent, and yet much more than that is almost never worth it, except if its like a multi-course event thats a type of entertainment in itself, and even then its more like a once a year type of experience.

    Clothes:
    – I get everything from bonobos right now and its not cheap, but seems to also be a sweet spot. I can’t think of any reason to ever buy more expensive clothing.

    House:
    – Our house was $520k and seems to be totally perfect for our needs. I’ve wondered whether it would be nice to have something with more land, or by the ocean, but have heard from others that its not worth the potentially significant extra cost.

    Other
    – Hiring some people to help with cleaning and the yard has been an obvious good use of money
    – I have a $300 TV that is 7 years old and I will only replace it when it totally stops working
    – I have no interest in funny tech gadgets or supercomputers
    – We don’t belong to any clubs or have any credit cards that you have to pay for
    – I really like McDonalds and still treat myself with a McChicken sometimes

    What have other people’s experiences been on things that they can now access, and whether these are worthwhile, or not? Its notable how 80% of what is most important to my lifestyle was also accessible to me as a resident making $55k.

    Avatar G 
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    Status: Physician, Small Business Owner
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    Joined: 01/08/2016

    Experiences and safety.

    (Purposefully vague.)

    CordMcNally CordMcNally 
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    Having an emergency fund and not having to worry about paying for unexpected expenses is a feeling that many here forget because it’s been a while since they’ve felt it. That feeling gets undervalued the longer you go making the big bucks.

    “But investing isn’t about beating others at their game. It’s about controlling yourself at your own game.”
    ― Benjamin Graham, The Intelligent Investor

    #185562 Reply
    ENT Doc ENT Doc 
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    Earnest refinancing bonus

    Price < Opportunity Cost

    #185564 Reply
    Avatar octopus85 
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    Joined: 08/13/2017

    I like this thread idea. I also recently had the thought that spouse and I’s life has changed very little since we were grad students making 25% as much income (and wondering if the change will be similarly uneventful when I finish fellowship…)

     

    Transportation:

    -Agree that domestic 1st class isn’t worth it

    -Int’l business class is TOTALLY worth it to the point I won’t ever fly int’l if I have to fly coach.

    -Cars: Having a luxury car is worth it (to me). I like the creature comforts. I like that if it needs service, the dealer will drive to me, pick it up, and leave me a brand new car as a loaner.

     

    Accommodation:

    -Five star hotels are not worth it. Don’t like getting nickel and dimed for everything and the suggestion that I need to spend more to keep up the appearance of belonging at the place.

    -I like the 3.5-ish star places (like AC Hotels by Marriott) that try to woo business travelers with free Wifi, super cleanliness, etc.

     

    Food:

    -Agree that expensive food isn’t worth it. Seems like you’re paying for the production of saying you’re dining in a 5-star restaurant. That doesn’t do anything for me.

     

    Clothes:

    -I mostly shop at Nordstrom (usually from the sale) and Nordstrom Rack. Good quality, fashionable, straightforward, amazing service. I like Lululemon gym clothes – last forever. Also recently discovered Everlane – very nice.

     

    Toys:

    -I’m into home improvement and building stuff. I buy really nice tools. They’ll last forever, are safer, and let me do better work.

     

     

    To me the “high yield” is paying to get away from the unwashed masses. I could survive an int’l flight in coach, but seems like the other passengers there are always misbehaving or making noise or whatever – none of that going on up in business. Likewise, I can barely sleep at hotels as it is – I want it to be dead quiet and not have kids running down the hallways all night.

     

    The less tangible “high yield” is comfort and security and options. If my car was totaled, I’d just buy a new one.

    #185565 Reply
    White.Beard.Doc White.Beard.Doc 
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    The only time that domestic first class would have been worth it….

    I was recently in the middle seat in economy next to a passenger with a BMI somewhere in the neighborhood of 45 sitting in the aisle seat.  I literally shared my seat with this adjacent passenger as his body and his arm was pressuring my hemithorax and my mid sternal area for the entire flight.  How do you define air travel torture?  This is how I define it.  My brain was begging for a propofol infusion throughout the flight.

    jfoxcpacfp jfoxcpacfp 
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    Joined: 01/09/2016

    Services: Hiring someone to clean my house. Can’t imagine finding the time to DIY, my home sweet home would slowly begin to look like a hoarder kingdom. Knowing she is coming forces me to straighten up an organize a bit and this is the perfect balance for me. On the days I come home to a clean house, it is heavenly. I would pay double what she charges just to keep her because we have a long and trusted relationship.

    Pets: Beau, my Aussie, is priceless. He cost $500 5 yrs ago and he has given us such joy. If he required a $5k surgery to stay alive and/or continue a good QOL, I wouldn’t bat an eye. My kids are up and out, my hubs and I were previously married and have no human kids, and he is our child. My answer would be different if he were feeble and nearing death. I would not use life-extending measures just to keep him around for us. I hope we are years away from that decision, though.

    Johanna Fox Turner, CPA, CFP, Fox Wealth Mgmt & Fox CPAs ~ 270-247-0555
    https://fox-cpas.com/for-doctors-only/

    #185637 Reply
    wonka31 wonka31 
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    Having someone clean the house.

    Nice dinners every now and then. It’s more about the experience with my wife and friends than about the actual food. It certainly costs more than McDonald’s, but every now and then it’s more than worth it to us.

    #185643 Reply
    Liked by Tangler
    Avatar Kamban 
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    Joined: 08/01/2016

    Transportation

    Domestic – I don’t think I want to pay for for business class for short flights/

    International: Many international are short haul to Central and South America which is no different from domestic. For long haul we find coach in Middle Eastern airlines like Qatar or Emirates quite good. Modern A-380 aircraft, great meals, free alcohol, much more caring and smiling stewardesses, seats wider with more legroom. The problem is that you guys equate international flying with flying on United or  the other US carriers who pack the passengers like sardines. I will absolutely avoid American carriers for international flights if I had any choice at all.

    Cars: I want reliable transportation, not low end Korean cars but neither I am willing to pay for ultra luxury. Toyota or Honda is fine. My commute is 5-10 mins to office daily. For long distance we have one Acura SUV that my wife wanted and that is enough.

    Accomodation

    We use the hotel as place to rest at night, not as places to stay put and lounge by the pool. Hate resorts. So simple Holiday Inn or Hampton or Residence Inn will do for me. Clean, standard room size and amenities. I have stayed in enough five stars free of cost to know that I don’t care for it.

    Food

    As vegetarians that thankfully excludes a lot of high end places where you have restaurants with French names that one can’t pronounce, celebrity chefs, and small meals where the herbs on top is bigger than the food item. Decoration is considered more important that the food item. I don’t usually go to hole in the wall or fast food places but a standard restaurant is fine with me.

    #185651 Reply
    Avatar IM-PCP 
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    Joined: 02/12/2017

    I often find myself particularly happy to pay more for location or time convenience.  For example, when I travel, I’m happy to pay more for an 11 AM flight than a 5:50 AM flight.  Or I’ll pay more to stay at a hotel in the central city (if that means the area with lots of tourist attractions) rather than a cheaper hotel in the suburbs.

     

    My biggest expense is my home, which is in walking distance of the hospital; I’m sure I could have paid significantly less if I were willing to commit to a 30 minute commute each way.

    Vagabond MD Vagabond MD 
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    Joined: 01/21/2016

    We never fly first class or business class, even international. We do pay up for custom designed trips, including drivers, private guides, and skip-the-lines access to places like the Louvre and the Vatican.

    We do enjoy good food and wine, but I am just as happy to eat a bowl of pasta with sauce from a jar at home.

    We love our dogs and spoil them.

    I have largely stopped buying clothes as I have too many already.

    We view cars as transportation and spend enough to have reliable and safe ones but nothing too luxurious or fancy.

    As long as I work, I will continue to spend above average on educational activities to keep me at the top of my professional game. (I know docs at our Hospital who just sign in to Tumor Board to get their CME.)

    "Wealth is the slave of the wise man and the master of the fool.” -Seneca the Younger

    #185670 Reply
    Avatar Tim 
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    Status: Accountant
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    Joined: 09/18/2018

    Actually my wife, my daughter, my son.
    I used to think it was about me. It’s not.

    #185674 Reply
    Avatar Anne 
    Participant
    Status: Physician
    Posts: 836
    Joined: 11/07/2017

    Cookware. Higher quality items yield a better result, are more pleasurable to use, and will last your whole life and then some with proper care. Don’t buy the sets that market to people making wedding registries and don’t feel the need to be loyal to one brand.

    Socks. Good socks make all the difference.

    Restaurants. As far as eating out, there are great restaurants at all price points. Many expensive restaurants are overpriced and you are paying primarily for the location or to say you went there. But there are some really outstanding restaurants in the $$$$ range, I wouldn’t write them all off unless you see food only as calories to keep you alive.

    Food. Especially in items like cheese, olive oil and olives, chocolate, etc., the difference between $ and $$$ is significant. There is a point of diminishing returns, I don’t think most people can tell the difference between $$$ and $$$$ or $$$$$ unless it’s really their passion.

    For me, I have a small fortune in knitting needles and pay a lot for yarn when I make something. This can probably be extrapolated to any creative hobby. If you are going to spend your time making something you might as well love every element of it.

    As for anyone who thinks that everyone in business class has good personal hygiene and doesn’t snore like a bear, I can assure you that isn’t true. The first time i flew business class I thought it was the greatest thing ever, and I will still admit it’s nicer than economy, but I never get restorative sleep on a plane regardless of where I’m sitting and always feel gross after 8+ hours on a flight. I’ll take the upgrade when I can get it for free or minimal cost, but I have learned for myself that even better than international business class is the luxury of having a few extra days on either end of the trip to acclimate, including paying for a hotel close to the airport to shower, change, and take a real nap as needed, as soon as you land, even if you don’t stay the night.  Also, packing light and paying to do laundry throughout your trip rather than lugging around your dirty clothes, is 100% worth it.

    jfoxcpacfp jfoxcpacfp 
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    Joined: 01/09/2016
    Cookware. Higher quality items yield a better result, are more pleasurable to use, and will last your whole life and then some with proper care. Don’t buy the sets that market to people making wedding registries and don’t feel the need to be loyal to one brand. Socks. Good socks make all the difference.

    Click to expand…

    I love my All-Clad cookware!

    Socks: Bombas and SmartWool for everyday. What are your favorites?

    Johanna Fox Turner, CPA, CFP, Fox Wealth Mgmt & Fox CPAs ~ 270-247-0555
    https://fox-cpas.com/for-doctors-only/

    #185692 Reply
    Liked by Anne, IlliniGopher
    Avatar artemis 
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    Joined: 12/02/2016

    I do get value out of flying domestic first class, as I am horizontally challenged (aka fat).  But apart from that my values are pretty similar to the OP’s.

    #185693 Reply
    Liked by Craigy, Tim

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