Holiday Shopping: 4 Splurges Worth the Price

On a recent episode of Parks & Recreation (a show I have grown to adore), Donna and Tom indulged in "Treat Yo Self 2011," an annual day of total self-pampering: clothes, fragrances, massages, mimosas, fine leather goods, you name it. (You gotta watch the clip.)

In fact, more Americans also plan to break up their gift shopping this holiday season with some indulgences for themselves. Roughly 60% plan to splurge on non-gift personal purchases this year, spending an average $130 (up from $122 in 2010), according to the National Retail Federation's annual survey.
I understand. You're at the mall, surrounded by shiny objects and discounts galore -- sometimes it's tempting to put the gift list aside for a moment and treat yourself. The trick is to splurge right, ensuring you get the most bang for your buck. There will be plenty of inventory on sale in these next two months, but only certain items will be exceptionally discounted and/or considered "investments."

Here are 4 selfish, but oh-so-worth-it holiday gifts ... for yourself.

A Vacation
Money may not be able to buy happiness per se, but certain purchases -- like a vacation -- do offer more emotional gratification. While on vacation you meet new people, experience new sights, sounds, music and food, and leave with memories that will last a lifetime. The purchase has residual value.

In fact, a study shows that spending on "leisure activity" -- like a trip or yoga lessons -- can in fact increase happiness. A $10,000 increase in spending on leisure goods is associated with a 0.17-point increase in life satisfaction; a $20,000 increase in leisure spending is, according to the study, "roughly equal to the happiness boost one gets from being married."

So while you're thinking about that: JetBlue is currently advertising a major cruise sale and Expedia is offering up to 50% off some resort stays.

Televisions
According to this Google Insights chart, November and December are the most popular times of the year to search for TVs online. My guess is that the Black Friday blowouts get many in the buying mood. Researchers at FreeShipping.com also say the best days to find TV deals are Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
And remember: Newer LCD TVs, with their special LED backlight, consume less energy than plasma TVs and older CRT models.
NFL Tickets
FreeShipping.com also says NFL tickets are hot to buy in December, thanks to a shift in supply/demand. By this point, few teams will be in the running for the playoffs, so fewer people will be attending the games.
Tickets for playoff-bound teams will be hard to get, but other tickets may be available for a fraction of the price. Once again, this is a leisure activity you can share with friends and family -- a good way to boost your happiness!
Cookware
Cookware -- a popular gift for married couples and college graduates -- also tends to go on sale around the holidays. Buying high-quality cookware (when it's on sale) is also a worthwhile investment; it should last you several years. It can also encourage good money-saving habits -- such as cooking at home, rather than eating out or ordering in.
Farnoosh Torabi is a personal finance journalist and commentator. She is the author of the new book Psych Yourself Rich, Get the Mindset and Discipline You Need to Build Your Financial Life. Follow her at www.farnoosh.tv and on Twitter/farnoosh
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