A big difference between someone who is cheap and some who is frugal is a willingness to spend on quality. Since I'm a pretty much a professional traveller, I've found that there are a few items that are worth splurging on that can actually save you money in the long run.
I've ranked them for you below on a splurge pain scale of 1 to 10, 1 being a minor irritation and 10 being a wallet-buster that really requires you to take a leap of faith but is actually worth it. These choices are subjective, of course, but they're based on my life experiences and observations. I hope that you can benefit from what I've learned along the way.
Global Entry Program
Splurge Pain: 10
If you travel through customs regularly and understand that time is money, the Global Entry program could be worth the investment. I've spent hours of my life in immigration lines and for business travelers, this program should be a no-brainer. While Joe-Shmoe like me is still standing in line to get my passport stamped, you can be back at your hotel like a superstar hustler, making money and laughing at the folks like me who never remember to get it together and apply for this program.
Splurge Pain: 8
A good suitcase set can cost a pretty penny and it's often hard to consider shelling out $400 to 600 dollars for something you can pick up at Target for $150 or even a bargain store like T.J.Maxx for $75.
Now, I'd love to hear from anyone who can prove me wrong and tell me their $75 T.J.Maxx suitcases have held up to six months of in and out of a van every day or travelling back and forth for cruise ship contracts for years absolutely crammed to the gills, but I've found whenever I cut a corner with my suitcases, I wind up paying for it. Not only in suitcase replacement costs, but in the irritation of a wheel breaking or a zipper exploding at the worst possible time.
Splurge Pain: 4
Overweight baggage fees can be budget killers, especially when you're headed out on a long trip. It's one thing to leave that pile of cute extra dresses behind when you're headed to the Caribbean for a week and another to nix your steel-toed shoes for work.
A nice, compact electronic luggage scale that fits in your bag will run you about the cost of a single overweight bag and I've found mine to be well worth the money. It lets me stuff my suitcase to the max and still feel secure that I'm not going to get dinged for it at check in.
Splurge Pain: 3
I'm a recent convert to the packing cube phenomenon and can't believe I never gave them a try earlier. For business travelers or anyone else constantly living out of a suitcase, it makes organizing so much easier. A package of eBags can be divided to hold your shirts, pants, undergarments and other items. Then, instead of digging through everything, you have neat little packets of what's clean left. I just throw the dirty clothes in the bottom of my suitcase and never have to try to figure out what's wearable and what's not.
No-Spill Travel Bottles
Splurge Pain: 1
You may think that you've successfully secured all your liquids, but think again. It's rarely the case. I've tried nearly every free DIY method to keep items from exploding and found nothing compares to an actual no-spill travel set. These items save you money not only from having to replace the exploded contents, but also on an extra laundry run to fix the clothes that have been exploded on. They can even save you from much bigger expenses if those pesky shampoos and conditioners manage to leak their ways onto something electronic.
Some things in life simplify your day so much they just become indispensible. I don't know about you, but I always consider those items money well spent. Traveling can be really stressful and ways that can make your day go from stressful to productive and even fun always make me feel good about deciding to open my wallet.
Mel Bondar blogs at brokeGIRLrich, where she explores topics including how not to totally panic over adulthood, working in the arts and retirement strategies that don't involve living in a cardboard box under an overpass.
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