Research roundup: guilty pleasures

Happy Monday!

This is a different kind of research roundup post, inspired by the new “$mart” section in The Denver Post. If you’ve seen past research roundups, like this one, this one or this one, you’ll know I usually try to decode or opine (look it up, Mikey) on current health and fitness research. This morning, however, I was struck by a table accompanying this article about guilty pleasures.

Please forgive my clumsy re-creation; WordPress just doesn’t want my table to look pretty:

Consumer spending on “cheap” luxuries (average total per person in 2010)

Expenditure                           $ Spent

Alcoholic beverages                  $412

Cigarettes                                     $362

Coffee (at home)                         $60

Coffee (out)                                  $1,092

Eating out                                    $2,505

Junk food                                     $301

Sweets                                           $404

Total                                             $5,136

Notice anything about that list (other than wondering what is the difference between sweets and junk food? Cheetos vs. jelly beans, perhaps?) In addition to a significant amount of money, that list adds up to a lot of extra calories.

I like my guilty pleasures as much as the next person, and probably more than some. I’ve even written about them here, a time or three. And as I’m reading in a book that I’ll likely share at some point, it’s important to treat yourself to small rewards for accomplishing goals. If your bank account and your calorie budget can handle a coffee drink or some junk food on occasion, go for it. But if you’re worried about your waistline or your wallet, you might swap out some of those guilty pleasures, for some of these:

  • a hot bath with scented candles and bath stuff
  • a trip to your favorite bookstore or library to browse magazines or books
  • a dollar movie date with a friend or your sweetie (most cities have a discount theater. Obviously this isn’t free, but at $2 or $3, it’s still cheaper than happy hour or cupcake. Of course you’ll have to skip the movie treats!)
  • a fresh, new nail polish color (again, not free, but that one $8 bottle of polish will take you through a lot of at-home mani/pedis)
  • a pot-luck dinner with friends, or a babysitting swap so you can share an adults-only dinner at home

Guilty pleasures are all about treating yourself when you need a mood boost, and often that revolves around food or alcohol. But think about it–doesn’t relaxation also involve friends, experiences and downtime?

One woman interviewed in the newspaper article mentioned that she finds a way to get her special coffee drink fix, even though funds are tight. She budgets and makes sacrifices in other areas. For example, she doesn’t often visit a close friend who lives about 45 minutes away because the cost of gas is too high. I’ll bet she doesn’t even realize that if she gave up the coffee drinks, she could save that money for gas, and visit her friend. Just like snacking on small bites of extra food here and there doesn’t always register in our brains as a significant amount of added calories, spending $4 or $5 extra a day doesn’t register as the $5,135 a year it adds up to.

Decide what extras are non-negotiable (I need to buy magazines, I just can’t help it), and then try trading out some of the others. Then maybe you’ll have some extra money to spend on the new clothes you’ll need to buy . . .  in a smaller size!

Definitely one of my guilty pleasures!


3 thoughts on “Research roundup: guilty pleasures

  1. Papa says:

    Wonder how much of the cost of sweets/junk food/eating out is caused by made-up holidays like Valentines Day, Arbor Day, Take Papa to Cheesecake Factory Day.

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