Spending money on what gives you jollies

July 3, 2009

An important part of the philosophy we have been trying to promote here is that spending money is not bad in itself; rather, spending money on things that don’t give you jollies is bad, if you could be using that money on things that do give you jollies. True, this could be rather broadly defined — not having a penniless and starving old age sort of gives me jollies, but not in the same way as some really classy coffee beans, or seeing a good show — but in principle anyway we are trying to encourage applying your resources where it counts for you, whatever that means.

So I was intrigued by a New York Times article on people’s spending preferences and satisfaction.

I cannot help but feel that we are getting a view into the psyche of the New York Times reader rather than a universal guide to human happiness here, but it’s still interesting.

…we were struck by how much overlap there was between the most-expensive list and the most-happy list. People repeatedly included on both lists their homes, their college education, their vacation trips, their high-priced electronics (large-screen televisions, Blu-Ray player, audio equipment, computers) and certain models of cars (BMW 325, Audi A4, Jaguar, Subaru WRX, Toyota Prius, Honda Civic).

Personally, looking back, I would say:

Expensive but jollies-producing: musical instruments, foreign travel, books, my espresso machine and grinder.

Expensive and a big waste: rollerblades and other speculative forays into hobbies that didn’t take; the cake mixer and certain other marginal kitchen appliances; ill-advised “investments”.

Cheap and jollies-producing: musical engagements, large and small. Cooking nice food from crap ingredients. Class fees for capoeira.

Of all the material goods I own, I’d have to say that right now, my Ortlieb pannier bags are giving me the most jollies from sheer joy of possession, never mind their utility. I feel a bit stink about being so attached to such mundane objects, but I cannot help it.



  1. Expensive and a big waste: … the cake mixer

    No no no no no no no! I loves my cake mixer 4 eva. I bless it every time I bake biscuits (one or twice weekly for school lunches), or cakes, or pavlovas, or make bread using the dough hook.

    Cheap but wonderful – fees for my singing lessons.

  2. There’s something about the fresh rubber smell of a new set of panniers…

  3. I’m with Jack, you should be excited and proud about your panniers – form and function at the service of something you enjoy doing. Those are pure jollies right there. When we rail about a materialistic culture (and that includes people like Marx) we tend to recognise that some objects properly integrated into our lives, for reasons that are aesthetic or affective or of actual usefulness, are a good thing. It’s the layers of surrounding crap that kill us.

    Me, I’m after the BMW 325. Although I should probably learn to drive first.

    • I should explain that I have a mild compulsion about backpacks and bike luggage. If I had the budget, and fewer compunctions, I’d own a dozen courier bags and at least as many sets of panniers.

      Today’s tip: if you order direct from Carradice, they’ll happily take the VAT off if you’re outside the UK. 17.5% reduction at a stroke.

  4. I love a (useful) bargin. Op shopping my thing and I get a great deal of excitement about reusing something. Recent scores – 4 perfectly good merino jerseys for less than $20, a leather handbag from dump recycling shop 50c, a dresser wit mirror from the Sallies for $30 (delivered). Some call me CHEAP.

    On the reverse I went out last night for the first time in well over a year and was horrified at the drinks prices and feel awful today for spending so much on a single glass of wine (which wasn’t even that flash). NOT frugal and NOT jolly

  5. Regarding the high price of a glass of wine. I don’t mind spending money on a glass of wine, I actively enjoy it. My advice, given to me by a restauranter I used to work for, is to avoid the house wine, and go a little bit upwards of there and spend $7-10 instead of $5-6. The house wine is there to catch the stingy and those who don’t care how bad something tastes. If you’re going to spend money you might as well spend a little bit more and really enjoy it! If you can only afford to drink vinegar, save your money for the next time.

    Also very good and very cheap, my angora wool jumper I bought from a friend for only $12.

  6. It was a 12.50 glass of crap wine George. I agree with you about house wine

  7. You would hope for quality at that price… My consolations!

  8. Back on subject – food. Every cent I spend at the supermarket and other stores on food is worth it. If I want it, I buy it.

    • Interesting — I don’t. And I can’t even explain why, other than a feeling that small acts of self-denial must add up. I can be paralysed with indecision in the deli section where another person would just toss something in their trolley.

  9. Was thinking of my annual large spend on perfume. 1 bottle a year (unless I can persuade someone to gift it to me). Horribly expensive and lately a Guerlain fragrance. Worth every cent.

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