Splurge or Save?

By: Jen Shoop

Which products do you splurge vs save on? Thought I’d share a few thoughts along these lines…

+Olive oil — In general, I have found that buying the absolute best quality ingredients I can find makes a marked impact (improvement) on the flavor of our food. A couple of specific ingredients that make a notable difference in our daily dining:






+Shampoo — This is an interesting one. I either go way high or way low, toggling between Oribe’s Shampoo for Beautiful Color and Pantene Pro-V. I find that a lot of the brands in the middle — around the $25 mark — are just smeh. Not worth the incremental cost compared to my tried and true Pantene Pro V. A few times a year, usually when on promotion, I will splurge on Oribe, which I believe to be the absolute best shampoo on earth. I’ve tried several of Oribe’s lines and have loved them all (especially their volumizing shampoo), but right now use their Shampoo for Beautiful Color.

+Towels — 100% worth the splurge in my opinion. There is nothing more luxurious and satisfying than drying off in a thick, absorbent, fluffy towel. My favorites are Matouk and Yves Delorme. I actually learned about the latter when I stayed at the elegant and storied Carlyle Hotel on the UES a million years ago. I got out of the shower and almost swooned at the quality of the towels in the bathroom! I immediately looked into where they were from, and — after discovering they were Yves Delorme’s Etoile — ordered them on the spot. They are so soft and so absorbent. I did find that the colored style I initially purchased (a sage green) lost color rather quickly, even though I followed their laundering advice, so have stuck with white when re-purchasing.

+Bedding — I believe Boll & Branch are the best sheets I’ve ever owned. They are pricey, but not compared to some of the old school brands, like Matouk, which I’ve also owned. The sheets are very soft and seem to only get softer with time. I’m hooked.

+Makeup Removing Wipes — I love this product category in general. Easily one of the best innovations in skincare in my lifetime — do you remember the years before Neutrogena released their novel cleansing wipes?! Makeup cleansing towelettes simply did not exist! Anyway, I’m a sucker for this product in general and find them so handy for post work-out or 5 p.m. glow up or when I’m too lazy to properly scrub my face at the end of the day. I have tried dozens of brands, and I love trying them all, but at the end of the day, if I run out of a high-end brand, I’ll shrug and return to Almay Oil-Free Makeup Removing Pads and my Billie Wonder Wipes. I will never be without either of these well-priced products. I use the former daily to remove eye makeup. They are the perfect size, the perfect saturation (not too wet or too dry), and cheap! The Wonder Wipes are absolutely magical for removing makeup and leaving a lovely glow thanks to their infusion with Vitamin C serum.

+Fitness Gear — I have been highly impressed with the longevity of my Lululemon pieces. They wear absolutely beautifully. This is one of those cases where I feel the expense is justified, especially given how frequently I wear their leggings, bras, tanks, etc. I also find the fit and materials superior to most less expensive brands. That being said, I have also had really good luck with Gap’s fitness items, which you can often find at a considerable discount. I have a few items of theirs, including a shirt similar to this, that I’ve worn since…gosh, the beginning of my marriage? Can you believe that? I am also still impressed with the quality and fit of these Amazon leggings. Those are the two best inexpensive fitness items I’ve come across since getting into a regular fitness routine.

+Laundry Detergent — It’s drugstore Tide for me. I’m something of a nut about laundry, and I’ve tried loads (ha) of brands, but Tide is consistently the best at treating stains and, well, keeping whites white and darks dark. I splurge on several other laundering items (ahem, the best starch spray on the planet, which is literally 12 times as expensive as Niagara), but Tide is la creme in my opinion.

+Peter Pan Collar Onesies — This is ultra specific but if your children are in peter pan collared onesies as much as mine were, splurge on the Kissy Kissy. No one makes them better (and I tried them all, from H&M to Primary to Babidu to Rachel Riley), and they last forever. I used all of the ones I bought for mini for micro and will pass on to little nieces and nephews.

+Eye Cosmetics — I buy mostly prestige cosmetics here — I tend to find the colors more sophisticated and the formulas longer-lasting when I spend more on eye shadow in particular. (I especially love Laura Mercier’s eye palettes. I find her formula has a nice velvety finish that lasts for a long time, and the colors can’t be beat.) However, a big revelation for me was discovering Nyx eyeliner. I had previously been a devotee of Stila’s very similar formula but I find absolutely no difference in these two products — and Nyx is about 1/3 the price. My one gripe is the applicator is not quite as high-quality as Stila’s but — eh! For the price?! For mascara (my absolute favorite, can’t-live-without cosmetic product), I almost always go with prestige brands. I cannot rave enough about Giorgio Armani’s Eyes to Kill mascara if you look a full, glossy look as I do. It delivers major results but is not hard on the lashline — since I switched to Armani, my lashes are naturally much fuller and longer. The formula must be gentler than other brands! That said, I do think very highly of L’Oreal’s Voluminous Mascara. I have purchased this a few times in a pinch and it is a really good quality mascara for under $10.

+Denim — In college, my girlfriends and I were obsessed with denim. We spent a fortune on new jeans — this was back when Seven, James, True Religion (!), Paige, and Joe’s were big. I probably had a dozen pairs of designer jeans! I’ve weeded out a lot of them since, and now I toggle between J. Crew (mainly purchased on sale — just picked these up) and J. Brand almost exclusively. In other words, I think this is a category that totally depends on which brands fit you best. I have seen equally chic women swear by and look amazing in Gap denim, and others who are most at home in Khaite. For me, the brands that fit my body best are J. Brand, J. Crew, and Paige, though I haven’t been as into the Paige styles in the last five years. I believe (sob) I have it on good authority (sob sob) that J. Brand is going out of business, so I have been stockpiling pairs. They are having a ridiculous up-to-85%-off sale and you can also find them on sale all over the web…I love this pair of white denim of theirs for only $52!

+Hand Soap — A mix. We use Mrs. Meyers at the kitchen sink since we go through it with alacrity given how much we cook and, well, COVID, but I keep all of our bathrooms stocked with these fancier brands, which I find in general tend to be much less drying (and so elegantly perfumed).

Other totally random things I save on —

+I almost always save on fresh flowers by buying bodega blooms in the same colorway and then arranging myself. They can look wonderful and cost literally 1/4th of what it would cost to have a professional arrangement.

+Simple, inexpensive white plates show food beautifully. I really like them in the square format, especially for plating a row of appetizers!

+I get creative with vases, which tend to be very pricey. Sometimes I think a little posy look best in a pretty juice glass or julep cup on my bedside table!

+I buy white t-shirts in bulk from J. Crew. You can sometimes find them under $10/pop if you wait for promotions/stack codes. These fit wonderfully and there’s nothing more classic than a white tee, great jeans, and your favorite shoes.

What about you? Where do you splurge vs save and why? Any under-the-radar bargains that I need to test ASAP?!

P.S. More affordable beauty products worth testing and some European pharmacy favorites that are less expensive than prestige brands but just as good.

P.P.S. Who else just bought new shades? Future’s looking BRIGHT!

P.P.P.S. Affordable personalized stationery and my favorite personalized gifts (most under $100).

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24 thoughts on “Splurge or Save?

  1. I agree with so many of your + the other commenter’s splurges โ€” esp. when it comes to the kitchen (EVOO, butter, meat, eggs, spices, All-Clad, etc.). I also chuckled because I am a lifelong Tide devotee as well, and also save on Mrs. Meyer’s hand soap (though I am known to occasionally dip into Aesop for a splurge!)

    Otherwise, I definitely tend to splurge on the highest-quality clothing I can afford (specifically prioritizing denim, shoes, bags + coats) and also tend to splurge on tech items and books โ€” I haven’t bought books on Amazon in years and instead make a point to buy them from my local independent bookstores, or in a pinch. (Though, I should say that I have no judgment about shopping on Amazon in general because I do have a Prime membership & order other random items from them … though I’ve tried my best to cut back!)

    In terms of other “save” items, I love Moleskine and Delfonics notebooks (though the latter is more splurge-y, though not as much as, say, Smythson!) I also pretty much exclusively use Muji pens and adore their linen 3/4 sleeve shirts for men, which I buy oversized and wear to sleep or on the beach!


    P.S. Thank you to Mrs LJ for the hot tip about ORIBE at TJMaxx … !!!

    1. Sounds like a lot of us follow similar suit here on the food front — buy the best you can and it makes a huge difference in end product. Woo!

      Love the notebooks note, too ๐Ÿ™‚


  2. Totally agree with you on the olive oil, butter and vanilla. I also splurge on fancy thick-cut bacon (I’m thinking about special ordering Benton’s bacon after David Chang waxed enthusiastically about it) and real maple syrup. Also the good cheese and the Dalmatia Fig spread, which is sooo good on top. And finally, good coffee!!! I like picking up a bag of the local roast when we travel and still kick myself for not packing our suitcase full of real Blue Mountain Jamaican coffee (at the supermarket it was a 50% discount from anywhere else I’ve seen it) on our trip last year.
    Agree on sheets splurge – when we bought our first house I used wedding gift cards to buy a set of Pratesi sheets and they are heavenly.
    Save – I use the powdered Tide another commenter recommended and like it. I find the liquid leaves a chemical-ly smell on clothes. I also use Thayer’s witch hazel rose scent toner.
    I buy the cheap “No Nonsense” brand white athletic socks at Jewel and I ALWAYS stop by the clearance section to see what they have ๐Ÿ™‚ In fact I hate paying full price for most things!

    Hot tip: TJ Maxx usually has Oribe on discount on their website. I am probably saying too much here but TJ Maxx website is a secret stash of designer bargains – I’ve bought Louboutin boots from there. They’ve got a few LoveShackFancy dresses right now that would probably be right up your alley. Bummer is you can’t search by brand but I usually just sort by Price High to Low and the good stuff comes up that way.

    1. WOW — LOVE all of these. Totally agree on splurging on good bacon (all meat, really — we don’t eat huge portions of meat, but we do buy the best best best and enjoy in small quantities). Things like guanciale from a good butcher?! Totally transforms a pedestrian pasta night. Anyway, 100% agree there.

      Thank you so much for the TJ Maxx tip!!!


  3. Totally agree on spending more on olive oil (we are in CA and I tend to use the ones from Sonoma and surrounding areas), Kerrygold butter, Nielsen Massey vanilla (I can still hear HRH Ina Garten saying “good vanilla” in my head. And you have to try Nielsen Massey vanilla bean paste, if you haven’t already!). I’m also willing to spend more on pasture-raised eggs. High quality ingredients really are the foundation of good cooking! Like you, I trust Samin Nosrat and she mentioned that Costco’s house brand (Kirkland) EVOO is good too. I’ve tried it for recipes in which I need a ridiculous amount of olive oil, like any confit-type of preparation.

    For spices — have you tried Diaspora Spice Co.? I’ve ordered turmeric, whole coriander seeds, cumin seeds, black peppercorns, and red chili powder from them and have been very satisfied with the quality.

    Thank you for recommending Afeltra pasta — I LOVE it and can’t go back to grocery store pasta now. The texture is unparalleled. I generally avoid high shipping fees but I have been happy to pay the $10 shipping twice this year and it’s only… March. I still get fresh pasta occasionally from the farmers’ market, but for dried pasta, I am now 100% sold on Afeltra. I’ve even gifted it to a couple of people who enjoy cooking!

    Other splurge-worthy items for me are All Clad cookware and Williams Sonoma “gold touch” baking pans.

    I realized a lot of my splurge items are for the kitchen… ๐Ÿ˜‰

    I splurged on sets of Lake Pajamas over the past year (though I took advantage of their sales). I dislike being too hot or too cold while sleeping and the fabric of their pajamas is just perfect for regulating my body temperature.

    This may not be considered a splurge but I suppose they are compared to regular 6-packs/12-packs of socks, but I love Smartwool socks. I hate having cold feet! I have them in no-shows, ankle, mid-calf, etc for any possible shoe situation ๐Ÿ˜‰

    A few “save” items that come to mind for me are restaurant-supply quart size plastic food storage containers for bulk storage like lentils and beans which we bought in a set of 2 dozen from Amazon — being mostly vegetarian we have a whole shelf in our cupboard dedicated to our lentils and beans (on that note, Rancho Gordo is an excellent source for beans!) and I love that these are stackable.

    Another “save” item for me is Thayer’s witch hazel toner. I also tend to save on cleansers and spend more on serums, moisturizer, and sunscreen (Biossance and Farmacy are my faves); I figured that whatever stays on my skin longer is more worthy of the investment?

    It was interesting to think about where we splurge vs save!

    1. These are SUCH great ones and I’m very intrigued by these restaurant supply quart size plastic food containers. I’ve also been wanting a couple of restaurant-grade enormous metal bowls but we just don’t have the space for extra mixing bowls. You know the banged-up kind that you can use to marinate things, mix up big salads, etc? I feel like they’d get a lot of mileage in our home…


  4. Ooh I love these columns! I have 2 items to add to the life-altering goodies! First, the Crate & Barrel Mercer 8โ€ Low Bowls. Since I bought these I have truly not used a dinner plate unless itโ€™s for a steak or a chop! I want to eat everything in them; breakfast, salads, pasta, spicy noodles, ice cream… They look amazing on a set table and equally cool stacked on my open shelving! They are so reasonably priced that I just bought another set in case one of mine breaks! My second must-have is my Comphy sheets. Theyโ€™re smooth as silk, donโ€™t wrinkle, bleach well and feel so cool to the touch! I first slept on them at a B&B and never wanted to leave my bed! You wonโ€™t regret either purchase!

    1. I stayed at a b&b in Nantucket last summer where the sheets were DIVINE. Got the info as we left, and they were Comphy! Thanks for the reminder that I must buy from this brand next time I need a new pair.

    2. I absolutely LOVE those bowls! So sleek and interesting to look at but still white and therefore generous to the food being shown. I may need to order…I’m imagining a nice big bowl of pasta in it!


  5. I splurge on denim. I love to get my favorite brands on promo. I got lucky and bought the last pair of white jbrand crops, fantastic deal! Too bad they are going out of business. Look into Mother denim. The fit, fabric and washes are the best in my opinion. They are a fun quirky company. I also use tide, fragrance free. I agree with you about olive oil and spices so important!

  6. I’m curious if you use liquid or powered Tide? I have used liquid Tide for close to 15 years now but recently felt like my clothes just were not getting completely clean, they didn’t come out of the wash with that “fresh and clean” scent. I had picked up powered Tide to try the laundry stripping process that I’d seen making its way around the internet lately and had a ton left over so I thought I would just try it out in the wash. It made a huge difference! My clothes feel and smell so clean now! I am careful with how much I use and try to follow their quantity suggestions because I’ve seen other information online that powered detergent isn’t good for HE washing machines because most people use too much, but really – isn’t that the same as liquid?! Regardless, I’ve been preaching about it since I first made the switch so thought I’d mention it here too ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. I’ve been alternating between a set of Matouk percale sheets and a set of Parachute percale sheets on my bed for about 6 months now, and I have to say that I actually prefer the Parachutes to the Matouks! The Matouks are almost TOO crispy and wrinkle so easily. Whereas the Parachutes don’t hold the wrinkles as much. We’ll see how they compare in the long run but for now, I was surprised that the ones that are 1/4 the price of the others are winning out.

    1. Hi Anna – So interesting you mention the wrinkling issue. I didn’t know whether that was user error on my part (I feel like I figured out how to iron properly just a few years ago…) or the sheets themselves, but I also found the Matouk sheets SO prone to wrinkling! B&B is much much better in this regard, too. Intrigued by Parachute, too!!


  8. Great tip on the Kissy Kissy and I agree itโ€™s the best of the best! Any ideas on where to find Pima Peter Pan collars in size 2T? Preferably a onesie style (does this exist?) TBBC has one in a woven fabric but itโ€™s not as soft, and they have Pima for girls with the ruffled sleeve but not a plain style! I still want the PP collar for under Jon Jonโ€™s but worry the 18-24 in kissy kissy will be too small.

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