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Money and value are funny things, really. Every now and again, my work sends me to trainings. Since these are national level trainings, they take place in convention centers and 4 or 5 star hotels. In my normal life, I generally eat $1-2 worth of food per meal. On these trips, I eat $7-20 of food per meal. At the end of the week, all I really have to show for all of that extra money is an extra pound or two (for a discussion of cheaper methods of gaining weight…well, $1 menus pack about as much pound for your buck as I can think of). On my grill, I can eat a $.50 hot dog. At a baseball game, I can eat a $3-4 hot dog (after coughing up $15-30 for the privilege of eating a $4 hot dog).

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We pay several hundreds of dollars per month for the privilege of occupying our home. We paid the same amount to stay in a cabin in Tennessee for a week. My work pays even more to house me in one of those 5 star hotels for a week of trainings. Value can mean a very different thing in a different context. With that in mind, I wanted to mention some of the items that for us have really carried the most bang for their buck in terms of enjoyment and impact/dollar. Gretchen and I often talk about $10 – 15 life changers; inexpensive things that provide some of life’s simple joys and comforts.

Here’s several items that fit that description for us:

  • Space Heater: The $12 that we spent on our space heater a few years ago is right at the top of the list. Now, I will concede that we also pay for the electricity to run it, but even so, it packs a lot of comfort for a little money. We keep our space heater in our bathroom and it serves two purposes. First, it helps mitigate steam from the shower and avoid mold or mildew build up. Our bathroom does not have a fan and running the space heater during and after showers (maybe 15 minutes or so) takes care of any lingering dampness. For us, this item ranks high in utility. Secondly, and far more noticeably, it makes for a great showering experience! We’re warmer while showering and do not have to dread getting out – even during the winter. Heat can really be a luxurious thing, and in a small space, it can also be amazingly cheap! Back to my money and value concept, it’s funny to think that we could buy about 100 of these for the price of our recent vacation (funny in a laugh so hard I cried minus the laughed so hard part kind of way).
  • Shower Head: We’re staying in the bathroom here. Again, it’s no secret that you can change your shower head, but it’s amazing the difference $30 can make in your showering experience. If you think about it, how many experiences do you have throughout the day that are more luxurious than your shower? The fact that a nice, big, extended shower head to improve the experience is so affordable really is great. Between the space heater and the shower head ($42 total), there are probably 1000-2000 hours of increased quality of life! Not too shabby.
  • Electric skillet: Gretchen and I eat eggs for breakfast almost every day. While we do sometimes scramble them, I usually fry them on the skillet. I can do up to 6 at a time, it’s incredibly easy and cleans up spectacularly. It’s also great for pancakes, another favorite of ours (but is there anyone who doesn’t love pancakes?). Now let’s be clear, I do realize that the space heater and skillet are quite cheaply made in another country. There are obvious downsides to this, but we have always gotten a lot of years out of even cheaply made appliances. Downsides considered, I am amazed at the amount of convenience that a $20 skillet gives me.
  • Cordless Hair Clippers/Trimmers: Gretchen cuts my hair in about 15 minutes. I haven’t paid for any sort of grooming for 10 + years and…drumroll please…we actually still like each other! Before shorter hair and clippers, let’s just say that the 45-60 minutes that Gretchen spent butchering cutting my hair provided for plenty of opportunity for unproductive discussions. We’ve probably matured some since then, but let’s not underestimate the role that clippers have played in our relationship (clearly, I am kidding here). A couple of years ago, we coughed up the $20 for cordless clippers that also serve for grooming. Seriously now, it doesn’t get any easier or convenient than that. They don’t even need to be periodically oiled!

There are, I am sure, many more of these in our household, but these are some of the prime examples. While this isn’t necessarily a tribute article to competition in the free market (we actually are trying to distance ourselves in many ways from fast-food consumerism), I really can’t complain about a product that packs a whole lot of daily-difference-making into a low price tag.

It’s funny how value works. There are some levels of comfort that take thousands of dollars to bridge and some that take $15-30. I suppose we try and find as many of the $15-30 ones as possible and then suck up some of the bigger ones when necessary. It should be obvious that the $500-1200 + per month (depending on your area) needed to bridge the gap between homelessness and shelter needs to be shelled out before any of the above-mentioned life-changers mean a thing. I’m just glad that the “next level” of relative comfort can be reached fairly inexpensively.

Such a high percentage of our spending makes such a low impact on our daily experience. Then you find some little things that make all of the difference in the world. We’ve got a love hate relationship with money, but it really is amazing what it can do for us from time to time. Try and enjoy those times as much as possible – then put your game face back on and shell out the big bucks at the pump and grocery store. Money’s a funny thing…I think I’ll ponder this some more over a nice, hot shower.

What are your low dollar life changers? I’m always looking for ideas!

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This post is linked to: Monday Mania at the Healthy Home Economist, Homestead Barn Hop at the Prairie Homestead, Mentoring Mamas at Simply Living for Him, Seasonal Celebrations at The Natural Mother’s Network, Welcome Home Link-Up at Raising Arrows,  Real Food Wednesdays at Kelly The Kitchen Kop, WLWW Link Up at Women Living Well, Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways at Frugally Sustainable, Simple Lives Thursday at GNOWFGLINS, Your Green Resource at The Green Backs Gal, Frugal Fridays at Life As Mom

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