The other day I blogged about the top ten things I love that are inexpensive or even free. But today I’d like to share my top ten favorite things that are NOT cheap – but that, to me, are still well worth the (considerable) expense. Obviously, “expensive” is relative, so for the purposes of this article, I’m considering anything that costs at least $100 to be “expensive.”
When I was pregnant with my second child, my husband and I agreed that it was time to turn in one of our sedans for a minivan. Since I was the one who would be hauling the kids around most of the time, it made sense that I would be the minivan driver. I hadn’t driven a large car since I learned to drive in my parents’ 1979 Plymouth Gran Fury (which easily seated 11), and I was vaguely terrified of the idea. But after renting a minivan for a weekend trip, I gave in and bought my Odyssey. Having always owned Hondas, the familiarity of the Honda cockpit and dashboard layout made the transition easier. Now, whenever I drive my husband’s sedan I feel like I’m sitting on the ground. I love my minivan. I love how comfortable the seats are. I love the extra safety of the back-up camera. I love the CD changer. I love the DVD player. I love how much stuff it holds (right now there’s a bike, a ride-on giraffe, and a large trash bag full of clothes waiting to go to Goodwill in the back and there’s still room for a full Costco load including diapers, toilet paper, and bottled water), and I love how easy it is to fold down the seats and to pop them back up again.
Kindle Fire HD
I really didn’t want a Kindle Fire, particularly since I already had a Kindle. Little did I know how much I would come to love it. We bring it to restaurants for the kids to play with when they finish eating before we do; I’ve used it to play lullabies and induce naptime when we’re away from home; I can catch up on email and Facebook while I’m waiting for an appointment; I even play games to lull myself to sleep when I have insomnia. And that’s not even counting using it to, you know, read books.
Window Air Conditioners
I grew up in a house with no central air conditioning and only fans in most of the bedrooms, including mine – which was on the second floor and a sweltering illustration of the rule that “heat rises.” So having room air conditioners in our bedroom and the kids’ bedroom as well as the office where I spend much of my time has been a wonderful luxury during this very hot summer. And on nights like last night when we can turn them off and open the windows, they help me appreciate the joys of fresh, cool night air even more.
Video Baby Monitor
When my kids were infants, it was reassuring to be able to see as well as hear them when they were in their cribs. As they grew older, it was even more reassuring to be able to see them in their bedroom and know that they weren’t ripping down the venetian blinds or coloring on the walls with crayon or getting their chunky thighs stuck between the bed slats (or at least, if they were doing any of those things, to be able to halt it quickly). And even beyond the reassurance factor, the monitor allows me to peep in on them without disturbing what they’re doing, which has led me to see amazing moments like my son “reading” my daughter a story, my daughter climbing into her brother’s bunk and hugging him awake, and both children quietly – and peacefully – building castles of blocks together. Those precious moments are worth every penny we paid for that monitor.
Artificial Christmas Tree
A few years ago, I would never have imagined my including a fake Christmas tree on this list. But after finally giving in last year, I’ll never go back. No more spending hours making sure that the tree is straight in its stand and that the “flat side” is facing the wall. No more detangling endless strings of lights. No more scraping the skin off our fingers along with the lingering sap. No more still vacuuming needles out of the carpet at Easter. No more discovering too late that a precious sentimental ornament went to the garbage dump with the tree. Our tree is realistic-looking, and a few lengths of pine roping on the mantel provide plenty of festive aroma. Merry Christmas to us!
In-ground Swimming Pool
I’ve never been much of a swimmer. But having a pool literally in my backyard has taught me to enjoy the water, even though I’m still not much of a swimmer. Aside from the actual swimming (or, in my case, bobbing), the ambiance of the pool is a wonderful thing. My husband and I have spent countless evenings having quiet romantic dinners next to the pool, the reflection of tiki lights flickering on the water and the soft hum of the pool pump joining with the hum of summer insects. Our pool deck is our oasis all summer long. You can’t put a price tag on that kind of relaxation.
I’m not sure this actually counts as “expensive.” True, the price tag is over $100 for our annual Executive Membership, but we save well over $100 over the course of the year. Kirkland brand diapers, clothes, detergent, and even wine are staples on our shopping list, and party foods like pre-made veggie platters, gourmet meats, rich chocolate layer cakes, bulk bread and rolls, wheels of Brie, and frozen pre-made appetizers make a regular appearance at our house. Right now, I’m wearing jeans that cost me about half of what the same brand of jeans would have been at a “regular” store, drinking coffee brewed from a K-cup costing pennies rather than dollars, and planning tonight’s dinner of double-thick pork chops that cost the same as chops half their size at the local grocery store. Oh, and the computer I'm typing this on came from Costco, too!
LG Gas Range
My dishwasher died right before Thanksgiving last year, and since the broiler of our oven hadn’t worked in years, we decided to replace them both at once. And I love my new dishwasher, but I ADORE my new oven. The built-in griddle gets daily use; the “Superboil” power burner considerably shortens the time it takes to make pasta; the “proof” feature on the oven makes bread dough rise perfectly; the convection oven bakes things quickly and evenly; the oven is large enough to cook multiple dishes at the same time; and instead of having a buzzer or beeper to signal that the oven is up to temperature or that the timer is done, it plays a cheery little melody. It makes both cooking and baking a pleasure.
Sleep Number Mattress
This past spring, I was diagnosed with multiple allergies, including a fairly severe allergy to dust mites. So my husband and I decided to bite the bullet and replace our old mattress with the Sleep Number bed we’d been eyeing for a few years. Since we got it, we’ve both been sleeping better than we have in years. The ability to adjust the firmness separately on each side is great, and it still amazes me that even with a pretty significant differential between our preferred firmnesses, the mattress doesn’t feel like two different mattresses stuck together. Getting into bed every night is a pleasure, and the mattress does more than I would have imagined to erase the stress of each day and give me a new start every morning.
I am grateful that I am able to have these luxuries that make my life both easier and more pleasant. And I’m glad that I’m able to use many of them to make my friends, my family, and my guests safer, happier and more comfortable as well.