Tiny luxuries
March 21, 2011 11:48 AM   Subscribe

What are some cheap (less than $10) but satisfying luxuries?

I like nice stuff as much as the next guy, but I am not a wealthy man, so I rarely get the opportunity to buy a steak dinner or nice shoes or a fancy car or Mediterranean cruise tickets. I do, however, like the experience of luxurious things, especially when they're so far within my budget that they don't even make a blip. I've been making a mental list of things that are less than $10 but make me feel like royalty, and I'd like to add to it.

Some examples:

- There's a coffeeshop in Chicago called Julius Meinl where for less than three dollars you get a cup of delicious coffee, cream and sugar, a little glass of water, and a ginger flavored biscuit, all on a snazzy silver tray brought to you by a remarkably attractive man or woman. This may not be much of a revelation to some of you, but I had spent my entire life thinking coffee was something that came in paper cups, or at best, in speckled concave diner mugs, before I found out how classy it could be.

- Nat Sherman cigarettes.* I'm not much of a smoker, so it takes me a few months to get through a pack of these, but these are delicious and come in a little hinged box that feels more like a cigarette case than a regular pack. I don't even really like regular cigarettes. They're a little over the $10 limit, but only in Cook County.

- The lobbies of luxury hotels are generally open to the public, and nobody will hassle you if you look like you know where you're going. Many of the older ones are absolutely incredible. This one is free!

- I got a pencil sharpener from an art supply store for around $3-4 (that is, preposterously expensive for a pencil sharpener, but not a big deal in the scheme of things). It's just a little brass cylinder, but it glides around the pencil like butter and the shavings drop away with nary a shake or flick. It's got a nice heft and coolness and overall just looks and acts like a piece of quality equipment. Using it is a simple joy.

What are some other things like this? Bonus points for non-consumables like the pencil sharpener.

* Note: if you don't smoke, please don't start just because you read this.
posted by theodolite to Work & Money (108 answers total) 482 users marked this as a favorite
My favorite is cheap red wine. It's easy to find a reliable, tasty brand for less than $10/bottle.
posted by AugieAugustus at 11:51 AM on March 21, 2011 [7 favorites]

Go to your nearest fancy bar and buy the best single of Scotch you can get for $10.
posted by komara at 11:51 AM on March 21, 2011 [4 favorites]

A single truffle from the best chocolatier in the area will set you back a pittance, but makes for an exquisite, indulgent treat.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:52 AM on March 21, 2011 [11 favorites]

Some surprisingly excellent whiskeys come in small, single-serving bottles that should be within your price range. Enough to sip contemplatively for two nights, at least.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 11:53 AM on March 21, 2011

Beer. There are literally hundreds of fancy beers you can buy for less than $8 a bottle, each more delightful than the last.
posted by saladin at 11:53 AM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Yikes, it looks like I somehow left alcohol completely off the list. I do like nice beers and liquors -- there's a renowned gastropub with a huge selection of Belgian beers near my apartment, and I go there any chance I get (which is pretty much restricted to "early on weeknights, or else you'll never sit down"). I also enjoy an ever expanding variety of whiskeys.

But I don't know the first thing about wine, so if AugieAugustus has any suggestions I'd like to hear them. I don't want to make this question about wine (or booze in general), though.
posted by theodolite at 11:59 AM on March 21, 2011

Mini bars of really good chocolate, such as Vosges in Chicago.

a single drink in a really nice bar (hotel bars in great hotels) - you can usually get a glass of wine or a non-cocktail drink for under $10 (although, that wouldnt include tip) - served in great glassware in lovely surroundings

Travel sized versions of your favorite indulgence toiletries (shower gel , shampoo, lotion)
posted by darsh at 11:59 AM on March 21, 2011

fancy bath products. Sometimes I'm just in the mood to drop $7 or so on a bath bomb and use it all for one gloriously long bath.
posted by gaspode at 12:00 PM on March 21, 2011 [15 favorites]

A small piece of Parmesan Reggiano.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:01 PM on March 21, 2011 [15 favorites]

New socks. Nothing like very comfortable feet.
posted by ambient2 at 12:02 PM on March 21, 2011 [11 favorites]

It's usually more than $10, but I love going to a department store/Sephora and buying a fancy pants lipstick.
posted by ACN09 at 12:02 PM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm all about the under $10 luxuries. I indulge too often.

- I've gotten into cigars recently. I went to my local tobacconist and had them pick out cigars within my price range. $5 will buy you a nice long smoking cigar. Also, many tobacconists have really good rolling tobacco if you are into smoking cigarettes. Rolling a nice cigarette is an art form.
- Beer (as saladin said above). If you can get your mitts on something like Kuhnhenn Raspberry Eisbock, all of your cares will melt away.
- Last drink: Dublin Dr. Pepper.
- Taco truck tacos, preferably carnitas. I mean seriously, carnitas = best food ever.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 12:03 PM on March 21, 2011 [7 favorites]

My local library. I live in a small town and they have a couple of smushy chairs with ottomans. Next to these chairs are a big table with about a dozen of newspapers and a rack with dozens of magazines.

I walk by these on my way to the childrens' room with my toddler, dreaming of that luxury.
posted by beccaj at 12:03 PM on March 21, 2011 [16 favorites]

Shea Cashmere lotion from Bath and Body Works. It's pure bliss. Moisturizes my skin and smells like a cross between sweet coconut and birthday cake icing. I have actually found myself smelling my hands and smiling afterward. What? Don't look at me like that.

Plus, you can sometimes get it for half price! They have great sales.
posted by misha at 12:04 PM on March 21, 2011 [4 favorites]

When I want to feel fancy, I go to a cheese shop and get a $2 baguette and an $8 hunk of whatever looks tasty.

Sometimes you can find small salons that do $10 manicures and often include a nice hand massage. Manicures for men don't have to include nail polish. (Though you could if you wanted, I'm sure.)

A three-pack of decent pens, like Pentel RSVP or Zebra steel rectractable ballpoints.
posted by rachaelfaith at 12:06 PM on March 21, 2011 [10 favorites]

A wet shave at a barber's might be a little more than $10 depending on your location, but it definitely fits into the "cheap decadence" category. As long as you're not nervous about cut-throat razors.
posted by holgate at 12:06 PM on March 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

Pick a lazy weekend and go see a classic movie at the Music Box Theatre.
posted by jedicus at 12:09 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Shoe care! It doesn't sound like a luxury since it's work, but polishing your shoes properly with a nice polish and then buffing them to a shine so that they look nice and new--it feels luxurious. Technically a professional shoe shine is also under $10 (at least around here) but it's so satisfying to do it yourself.
posted by Frowner at 12:12 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Fountain pen ink definitely falls in this category for me. I'm a fan of Noodler's which often sells for a couple bucks more than your $10 limit, but many of the larger brands can be had for $10 or under (tradeoff: pedestrian colors.) The colors and variety are lovely, and it makes a person feel downright civilized.

Of course, it requires an initial investment in a fountain pen. Pieritz bros. in Oak Park hooked me up with a Lamy Safari with piston converter (which lets you use bottled ink instead of cartridges) for about $35 4 years ago. It still writes quite nicely and has become an old friend in a way that a disposable ballpoint or rollerball never could.
posted by usonian at 12:15 PM on March 21, 2011 [5 favorites]

The best toilet paper on the shelf. (Subjective, of course.) But life is too short to use cheap toilet paper.

Tweezerman tweezers, nail clippers, and grooming aids. (Some items are over $10.)
posted by The Deej at 12:16 PM on March 21, 2011 [8 favorites]

I love LesseFitch Cabernet. Amazing for $10.
Or rose congou from upton tea. A loaf of ciabatta with fresh mozzarella and tomato.
posted by vaguelyweird at 12:17 PM on March 21, 2011 [5 favorites]

Maybe some fancy olives to go with your fancy cheese and bread. Mmm.
posted by mskyle at 12:17 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Smooth, rolling pens which make writing a pleasure - at art stores or good stationers

really good takeout soup from your favorite gourmet deli

If you cook at all, a set of good bamboo spoons

I've loevd this flashlight forever....
posted by darsh at 12:17 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Great cigars are often less than $10 a piece, particularly if you're shopping online.
posted by coolguymichael at 12:21 PM on March 21, 2011

Tea in a nice teahouse; very good tea at home (like the $8/50 g tea I'm drinking right now).
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 12:21 PM on March 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

If you work in an office with an awful coffee maker, you can buy a Melitta 1-cup filter cone and 40 filters for $10, and the coffee that it makes is awesome. Of course, you'll have to buy your own ground coffee, but making my own cup of delicious just-for-me coffee in 60 seconds while my coworkers drink the bitter dregs from the break room is my favorite luxury.
posted by specialagentwebb at 12:23 PM on March 21, 2011 [10 favorites]

[Usonian--my grandfather used to be a partner in Pieritz Brothers!! I used to go in there all the time as a kid to get my school supplies. I haven't been there in forever.]
posted by Frowner at 12:23 PM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

My favorite beer is Gulden Draak. It's about $5/bottle around here, so I save it for a treat. (Plus it's like 11% so, being a light drinker, it sort of kicks my ass.)

Seconding manicure/pedicure. It's been ages, and now I really want one. If you're a guy, even though it's not really considered a "guy thing", you really have to try it at least once. Heaven.

Barefoot Moscato. $4/btl at the local grocery here. Sweet but not too sweet, I throw this back like iced tea on warm days, and it really hits the spot. You mention that you don't know the first thing about wine. Here's all you need to know: Drink what you like, pass on what you don't. Wine snobs love to suggest Wine A is a good wine and Wine B is a poor wine, and Wine C isn't even fit for swine. Everyone's tastes are completely unique. I've found some $30/btl that are great and some $5/btl that are horrid, and the exact opposite as well. For some reason there's this silly obsession with being trendy and buying the "good wines" that cost a lot of money. When did we forget that we're supposed to be enjoying it along the way?

$10 should get you plenty of stuff to make s'mores. I love s'mores and a campfire on the beach.
posted by xedrik at 12:28 PM on March 21, 2011 [8 favorites]

Fresh berries in winter. There's nothing local about it, but February mornings feel so much better when fresh raspberries are available for breakfast.
posted by charmcityblues at 12:30 PM on March 21, 2011 [7 favorites]

Since you mentioned coffee, I will mention home roasting which I plug at every opportunity. I have paid $25/lb for some of the most expensive green coffee out there, but most is about $7/lb. Even at $25/lb, that's about $1/cup, for arguably some of the best coffee in the entire world. The most expensive beers and wines in the world are probably out of my reach, but every week I have interesting, different and delicious coffee for pennies.
posted by slow graffiti at 12:31 PM on March 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

Free samples from the cosmetics counter - yes, even for men, like skincare and cologne.

To get them to give me the samples, the secret is to have some objectives for what you're looking for, like "oh, I'm looking for a good exfoliator but I have reactions to them sometimes - do you have anything I can just try out?" Even Lush will give out samples of soaps and face masks
posted by lizbunny at 12:32 PM on March 21, 2011 [5 favorites]

a luxury is not part of a daily routine. So sometimes even the most wonderful chocolate, if it can be easily picked up, is not that great. Personally, pastries from a real bakery (the one in the supermarket doesn't count) are a perfect small treat. I like them best when they come wrapped up in a cute little box with a bow.
posted by raccoon409 at 12:34 PM on March 21, 2011 [4 favorites]

A peony in the dead of winter.
posted by small_ruminant at 12:34 PM on March 21, 2011 [25 favorites]

Seconding good quality socks for the nonconsumable item. My personal favorites are thick bamboo socks. My sweaty feet stay drier than in cotton, and bamboo just feels nicer than synthetics.

For a consumable suggestion, I'd go with a quality coarse salt and whole peppercorns, to be ground over food as needed. Freshly ground salt and pepper add so much more flavor than the stuff in shakers, and an easy gourmet touch to home meals.
posted by dorey_oh at 12:36 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Really high quality ginger ale. Tastes great solo (just enough burn,) tastes great in cocktails. I get a couple bottles a year. Each of them stands out.
posted by Pickman's Next Top Model at 12:43 PM on March 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

Fresh herbs or flowers.

If you're into mixing your own drinks: a new bottle of bitters (this may run just above your price range, depending on the source/maker), a glass bottle of tonic water or ginger beer that's nicer than what you usually drink, or a solid, sturdy rocks glass.

A hot bath and an Economist.
posted by rebekah at 12:44 PM on March 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

Going to a fancy restaurant that you can't necessarily afford and just getting dessert. The dessert will still be pricey for dessert (in the $6-$10 range, probably) but not a huge expense. Enjoy the fancy restaurant ambience, plus a really awesome dessert, without dropping $30+ on a meal. Protip: Do this off of peak dinner hours so the server doesn't hate you.
posted by mandanza at 12:47 PM on March 21, 2011 [5 favorites]

Unusual magazines, most of them are under $10. I like to glance through ones I've never looked at before and if they look interesting enough I'll buy a copy. Do this somewhere you can browse slowly without it being an issue.
posted by yohko at 12:52 PM on March 21, 2011 [4 favorites]

Since you're in Chicago, go to Hannah's Bretzel and have yourself a fancy sandwich. (I miss those sandwiches so much.) If you like bath-y type stuff, stop in Merz Apothecary. You can always find something neat in there for cheap, and just going in feels special. If you like tea, Argo Tea.

I recommended Marvis Jasmin Mint toothpaste in a dental-hygiene thread not too long ago; it really is good stuff. I appreciate luxuries all the more when they're incorporated into otherwise dull daily rituals.
posted by Metroid Baby at 12:52 PM on March 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: If you like bath-y type stuff, stop in Merz Apothecary. You can always find something neat in there for cheap, and just going in feels special.

Something else I accidentally left off the list: I got a $5 Swissco toothbrush there with a tortoiseshell handle and bristles made out of (as far as I can tell) unicorn eyebrows. I like to think it's the kind of toothbrush that Michael Caine uses.
posted by theodolite at 12:59 PM on March 21, 2011 [21 favorites]

A demi-baguette. I prefer baguettes with crispy, almost dangerously sharp ends. I eat those first. And butter. Beurre d'Echire. Room temperature.

I am lucky to live in NYC and I get my treat baguettes from Bouchon Bakery.
posted by spec80 at 1:02 PM on March 21, 2011 [4 favorites]

I have no idea what prompted my father to give me a fountain pen for Christmas one year -- I think he even said he thought I had one already and that this would be a new one. He was a little surprised when I said I didn't have one, whereas I was puzzled where that notion of his had come from but thanked him anyway.

Either Dad knows me better than I thought he did, or he was tapping into some cosmic "Get Your Child A Fountain Pen" drive, because damn it was a good move for him and I feel all fancy when I use it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:11 PM on March 21, 2011 [6 favorites]

Most liquor stores have a nice selection of miniatures near the check-out - one-serving bottles of liquor. Quite often a number of higher-end liqueurs are available. I've bought miniatures of Frangelico and Grand Marnier and different cognacs (usually $2.99 each or less) and such just to revel in some luxury after dinner.
posted by Oriole Adams at 1:11 PM on March 21, 2011

Find a wholesale florist that also sells to the public. Buy fresh flowers and arrange something very simple. Just by placing them yourself, you can add a lot of beauty to your life for $10.
posted by Verdant at 1:13 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

In the summer, we like to keep grenadine around. Moulin de Valdonne is our favorite (we pick it up when in Europe), but even Rose's is fun to have. It's great for alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. We make our own fresh pink lemonade, and spike it with vodka.
posted by kimdog at 1:17 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Fancy butter.

I recommended Marvis Jasmin Mint toothpaste

Me too!
posted by small_ruminant at 1:18 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

oooh - wine under $10 - look for the Bear Flag label - near me, it sells for about $7.50, and drinks like a MUCH more expensive wine.
posted by darsh at 1:21 PM on March 21, 2011

Soap, really good, handmade soap is an amazing thing, a luxury item that lasts more than a single application. I'm a bit of a soap fetishist, and always like to try out new offerings from individuals who make small batches of fine stuff that you're not about to find in local shops. Burnt Mill Soaps is one I found recently, Misty makes some of the finest soaps I've ever found (and I've been searching for years now), $10 will buy you 2 bars of insanely wonderful soapy goodness. I specifically recommend the Summer Medley and Sandalwood, they're intensely aromatic, lather up amazingly well, and will leave your skin silky and smelling divine.
posted by dbiedny at 1:37 PM on March 21, 2011 [10 favorites]

Dried porcini mushrooms and double cream (to add to white mushrooms fried in butter, with parsley and garlic, after half the cooking time)
posted by Namlit at 1:43 PM on March 21, 2011 [9 favorites]

4 oysters at the farmer's market.
posted by small_ruminant at 1:43 PM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

We recently found "Color Bath Dropz" by Crayola at a CVS. Making your bath water a fancy color really brightens up my mood. I love to make a deep turquoise bath and pretend I'm in a tropical ocean. They're in with the children's bath stuff.
posted by nakedmolerats at 2:01 PM on March 21, 2011 [10 favorites]

On a sunny winter day, I love to drive with the windows cracked open, the heat on full blast, wearing shorts, a T-shirt, and drinking an iced tea, and pretend it's summer. someplace that has summers that aren't foggy.
posted by small_ruminant at 2:08 PM on March 21, 2011 [10 favorites]

small_ruminant: "4 oysters at the farmer's market"

Yes! Do this one!
posted by Room 641-A at 2:11 PM on March 21, 2011

A cool drink in a fancypants hotel when you're backpacking in some dusty, downtrodden backwater.

The drink itself isn't worth the $10 of luxury.

The toilet you get to use, as a paying client, is.
posted by MuffinMan at 2:16 PM on March 21, 2011 [18 favorites]

Real whipped cream. Whip it yourself, adding just a bit of sugar, vanilla and nutmeg.
posted by Corvid at 2:16 PM on March 21, 2011 [6 favorites]

Hitachino Red Rice Ale. Great tasting beer that is a beautiful pinky colour and costs more than I'd usually spend. But very enjoyable.
posted by AnnaRat at 2:16 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Another fan of really good, lovely tea. I'm currently in love Paris by Harney & Sons and Brioche by American Tea Room. And if you have scones with your tea, there's nothing -- nothing -- in the world that comes close to the glorious goodness of spreading them with double Devon cream or clotted cream.
posted by scody at 2:20 PM on March 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

Go buy two boxes of doughnuts or a box of chocolates and if you are a gal, take 'em by the local fire station some morning, if you are a guy, go to the hospital and pick a nurses station and leave 'em saying "thanks for all the great work you folks do. You feel great all morning long because you did something nice for someone who deserves it.
posted by leafwoman at 2:33 PM on March 21, 2011 [43 favorites]

$8 tip on a $2 item.
posted by eamondaly at 2:40 PM on March 21, 2011 [43 favorites]

Mozzarella burrata. Like mozzarella mixed with pure heaven (actually cream); drizzle it with olive oil and put it on some toast or eat it with fresh fruit or tomatoes. Should run you about $10 if you can find it at your grocery store or cheese shop. (The Whole Foods in Lincoln Park was out of it yesterday, dag nabbit, but they said that it becomes much more easily found in warmer weather.) You can get this at restaurants too these days, usually in the appetizers, but then you kind of have to get a whole meal.
posted by wyzewoman at 3:04 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

A bunch of flowers, even just the ordinary ones from the grocery store, always feel like a really luxurious thing to buy for myself, even if they feel like a cheap thing to buy for someone else!

(Also, leafwoman, i'm pretty sure that women can appreciate the nurses, and men can appreciate the firemen! That being said, its nice to see this kind of thing suggested - giving to others can be totally luxurious.)
posted by Kololo at 3:07 PM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

An added bonus to the tea reply:

Nilgiri tea. From India (via Heaven). Get the Orange Pekoe if you can.
posted by HarrysDad at 3:31 PM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Go to the bank. Buy 10 one dollar coins. Give them to kids you know. Leave one somewhere kind of mostly a little odd.
posted by FauxScot at 4:28 PM on March 21, 2011 [10 favorites]

Look around your local imported goods shops and find yourself some treats you wouldn't find elsewhere. They may not be luxurious in the top-hat-and-monocle sense, but you can find some wonderful little exotic things for a pretty good price. Examples:

Indian/Pakistani: Soaps, incense, chutneys
Middle Eastern: Baklava/confections, olives, spices/seasonings
East Asian: Snack foods, uncommon produce (like Korean pears!)
posted by holterbarbour at 4:43 PM on March 21, 2011 [7 favorites]

A good pork pie and some cheddar.
Some cufflinks from an op-shop.
Some really lovely boot polish, and giving yourself a half hour to give your boots a real working over.
An old, old book - not going to be anything rare or collectable at that price, but just holding something that old, smelling it, slipping the paper between your fingers...
Some vinyl, and giving yourself time to listen to it.
Lemonade or a car wash from a kids stand.
A sample of some really expensive cologne or a nice moisturiser, just to wear for a day.
A magazine you usually wouldn't buy because it's too expensive.
Really good marzipan.
An Opinel folding knife - you might need to save two or three luxuries for this one, although you can get the paring knife for under a tenner, and suddenly oranges are a delight.
A really nice pencil - the sound and smell of sharpening is worth it even if you never write with it (but why not pick up a nice piece of paper and an envelope and write a love note to your neglected other half?)
A piece of an exotic fruit you've never eaten - sapote, rambutan, durian, custard apple, lychees, guava, passionfruit, dragon fruit, star fruit.
A tin of really expensive mints.
A tin of rich, raisiny-chocolatey pipe tobacco, just to smell, to use as pot pourri, and run your fingers over the embossed metal.
An old letter opener from an op shop. That telephone bill is suddenly a welcome opportunity to slice and flourish!
A 10mm LED, a C2032 battery, some tape, and a delighted child who now has a real firefly.
A Star Wars action figure.
A piece of wood and some sandpaper.
A stick of French butter.
A jar to put on your desk, so that every time you feel like a little luxury, you slip a tenner inside, and at Christmas you give it all to the Smith Family.
Two issues of The Big Issue, one for you, one for a friend.
A pumice stone for your feet.
A toast rack.
A random book for your Kindle.
A glass vessel in which to construct a terrarium.
A magnifying glass.
An old pocket watch that doesn't work, and a commitment that one day you'll get it fixed.
A Christmas ornament.
Giving ten dollars to the first person who asks you for change, along with the last luxury you bought for ten dollars, because most people don't have either to spare.
Getting a knife sharpened.
A ball of good twine.
Slut red nail polish for a lady friend.
A really nice hanky.
Something from Oxfam (like a chicken, or a mosquito net).
Some random seeds to plant and see what happens.
A block of beeswax.
The oldest coin you can buy for $10, which is now your lucky coin, and the numbers in the year will prove especially auspicious for horse racing, and be the birth date, shoe size or phone number of your one true love.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 5:10 PM on March 21, 2011 [38 favorites]

insalata caprese

a small amount of cannabis

bubble bath

indian food (depends where you are, i guess, but should be able to get a delicious meal for $10)

going out for a nice breakfast. i can't make eggs benedict or a good omelette, but i can get that at a restaurant, and it's far less pricey than a steak dinner.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:22 PM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Go visit the used record and CD store. I bought Von Karajan's recording of the complete Beethoven symphonies on CD for $9 last summer.
While you are in the art supply store, do take a careful look at the pens. Some of them are really quite exquisite. I use a Uniball Jetstream every day, and like it a lot. While you are at it, get a good sketchbook to doodle in.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 5:29 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Leatherman Micra keychain - $10 on eBay. Most useful thing I own. Need scissors? Got'em. Tweezers? Ditto. Bottle opener...you get the picture. Sturdy as hell with a 25 guarentee.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:30 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Maybe you'd like to add to your personal library with a purchase from a new to you bookseller (local, used, online, or ebook, it's up to you). Me, I've had problems giving myself permission to buy the $8.99 ebook I've been wanting for a year, so starting my own Cheap Book of the Month Club would be a definite luxury.

My biggest luxury as someone with multiple cats is stowing extra cat litter jugs around the house. ^ . . ^
posted by dragonplayer at 6:44 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Buy yourself new pillows. Wait for the $15-20 ones to go on sale for under $10. Sleeping is fun again.
posted by oreofuchi at 7:53 PM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

My current favorite small luxury is to buy a 4-pack of Q tonic and a nice juicy lime. Q is certainly expensive for tonic ($8-$9 for the four pack), but it tastes clean and wonderful, and with a squeeze of lime is really worth drinking all by itself, no gin required, and that's four whole drinks' worth. Of course a gin and tonic is a lovely thing, but I find it very difficult to find anything that feels like a real treat to drink that isn't caffeinated or alcoholic -- and sometimes I want to have the treat without the stimulation or intoxication. Q tonic to the rescue!
posted by redfoxtail at 9:29 PM on March 21, 2011 [5 favorites]

Organic milk, or milk from a local dairy. It tastes about a hundred times better than the plastic jug with the blue cap.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 9:37 PM on March 21, 2011 [7 favorites]

Some of my favourite mini luxuries:

- an iced chocolate at my local cafe, with ice-cream topping it
- 4 cheap cards, some stamps, a good pen, and a coffee at a cafe whilst I write some snail mail to my friends
- getting some digital photos printed at your local kinkos/kmart/etc
- a new pot plant - i like orchids
- a pair of cashmere socks never go unappreciated
- today I bought a 200g piece of salmon for $5 and grilled it for lunch - sure beat my usual leftovers.
- really nice body oil, moisturiser or soap
- fresh limes for an evening drink
- fresh flowers
- buying a friend an unexpected little gift like a notebook, pen, or quirky sticker even.
- going to the local pool and paying for a casual session in their sauna
- mini manicures
- new underwear
posted by shazzam! at 10:15 PM on March 21, 2011 [4 favorites]

Tea. It may be hard to find this outside of Vancouver in any good quality but get good Chinese tea. Specifically Cliff tea and Tie guan yin. Ranges from extremely expensive (you don't want to know), to very reasonable. Since tea is light you can get enough for 10 sessions for $10 of decent stuff (And each session is about 8-14 100ml cups). Southern cliff is very good as is rockmilk for affordable tea. To serve this, buy a gaiwan as clay pots don't work with the $10 budget. Learn how to make tea properly (Nobody seems to know how. The right way is to start with a very short steep (10seconds), lots of leaves (A few tablespoons) and about 100ml of water.The second steep is a few seconds. Then add 10-15 seconds to each consecutive steep. This is an estimate. Also you use hotter water for cliff, 80 degrees for tie guan yin).

If you do this right, each short steep of tea will change flavour. The same tea will change from buttery to flowery to fruity to earthy (Mushroomy/dirty like a good French red), to minerally. It is the best way get the most flavour from the tea with the most amount of water for the least cost. Compared to most other tea house teas, it's akin to drinking folgers and then trying a newly roasted quality espresso bean, ground in a burr grinder, and then expertly extracted using an Italian machine. Except good coffee and scotch and whatever has nothing on the complexity of good tea. And I absolutely love good coffee and scotch.

The other is osmanthus absolute. 1ml is $10 and that's diluted to 10%. But oh man, this is the greatest smelling thing you've ever put your nose up to. Like apricot roses from space. Keep the vile in your pocket to sniff when you're stressed.
posted by penguinkeys at 10:45 PM on March 21, 2011 [8 favorites]

Really, really good flourless chocolate cake
Lush bath bombs/bubble bars
posted by SisterHavana at 11:03 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Sturdy bamboo back scratcher.
posted by flabdablet at 11:30 PM on March 21, 2011

Expensive butter. It tastes a whole lot different to your regular supermarket butter.
posted by AnnaRat at 12:44 AM on March 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

I was feeling meta. My attempt at tabulating responses to determine just how you should spend that spare $10. (spoiler: not milk!)
posted by oxford blue at 1:15 AM on March 22, 2011 [7 favorites]

I like to get all kinds of travel-sized spa-type goodies from The Minimus Boutique.
posted by IndigoRain at 3:08 AM on March 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

Ten dollars will get you four cups of the best hot chocolate in Chicago.
posted by Iridic at 9:09 AM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

A bottle of jojoba oil is $5 at Trader Joe's, lasts forever, and is the best facial moisturizer ever. My skin looks amazing since I started using it.
posted by anderjen at 10:25 AM on March 22, 2011 [4 favorites]

For $5.50 at Rewster's Cafe in Logan Square you can get the best Pain Au Chocolat I've had outside of Paris (the Chef is French) and unlimited cups of Dark Matter coffee that I think they brew with magic.
posted by IWoudDie4U at 11:14 AM on March 22, 2011

nthing good butter (Kerry Gold is my current favorite). Add a sprig or 2 of fresh herbs and a 1/2 dozen local yard eggs. My favorite breakfast all scrambled with a dash of salt and pepper.
posted by screamingnotlaughing at 12:52 PM on March 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

card games.
posted by mecran01 at 3:53 PM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Find some good thrift stores and see what Cosmic Requisition and Supply has left on the shelves just for you. Who knows what you'll find? I'm always amazed at the awesome stuff I find at thrift stores for dirt cheap.
posted by Sublimity at 4:39 PM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Get a mango and a lime.
Cut up the mango and squeeze the lime on it.
If you want, add a little salt and chile (or Tajín if you can find it).

Then eat that.
posted by exceptinsects at 5:42 PM on March 22, 2011 [4 favorites]

When I want a little treat, I go to TJ Maxx and get myself some fancy lotion or body butter. You can usually get something lovely-smelling with French text all over the bottle for $5 or so. You can also look in their gourmet food section and find nice tea, cookies, etc.

Or look around at your local grocery stores and find out which ones have the nicest flowers. Here in the northwest US, it's Safeway and you can get lots of flowers for $10 there.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 9:36 PM on March 22, 2011

Nthing a block of cheese and bread - or maybe a good triple-cream brie and crackers. So indulgent.
posted by getawaysticks at 1:09 PM on March 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

A small bottle of very expensive olive oil.
Nthing good butter.
Sea salt.
A single flower, every week, for a bud vase you love.
Walnut raisin baguette.
A compass.
A pocketful of toys to hand out to unsuspecting children.
Boston bartenders guide.
Netflix (monthly!)
New icetrays.
A "gourmet" ice cream cone on a summer day.
A waiter's corkscrew.
A bath pillow.
2 very nice wine glasses (more than $10 but so important!)
posted by thinkpiece at 1:54 PM on March 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

A $10 massage. Now *that* makes me feel luxurious (luxuriate even?).

Asian massage studios - where I have had far better 15minute massages than some 1hr massages at other places. And for $10, you can try all the different places offering it to find out who is really good*.

*Answer - if they offer you longer for more $$ and your first impulse is to just hand them your wallet? They are good. The best massage therapist I go to, I only take the cash I can afford in, and I am generally SUCH a skintflint. Well, obviously. o_O!
posted by Elysum at 3:00 PM on March 23, 2011 [3 favorites]

When I go to the bank sometimes I get ten or twenty dollars in $2 bills. It is always a bit fun to decide who gets them. Young cashiers often look confused when they open the cash drawer - what am I supposed to do with this?
posted by Kale Slayer at 8:58 PM on March 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Lip balm is my favorite cheap indulgence. Even the most expensive are under $10. My fave is Badger Balm in Chai Rose.
posted by anotherkate at 9:14 PM on March 23, 2011 [3 favorites]

Bubble bath. My favorite is the blackcurrant bubble bars you can get in Lush. They're on the steep end of the budget at nearly exactly $10. They turn the bath purple and make it smell really nice and create a huge amount of bubbles. They're supposedly multi-use but I use a whole one at once because it carpets the entire surface of the bath with several inches of wonderful floaty bubbles. Sadly I don't have a bath in my apartment right now, but I'm moving out soon and have one tucked away in wait.

On that note I'm nthing nice soap. A bar of fancy soap seems relatively expensive, but somehow it lasts quite a bit longer anyway. It's probably because I'm conscious that it's NICE SOAP and take better care of it than I would a bar of Ivory. Plus it's bigger. Anyway, pretty much any scent and color you want can be found somewhere and it perks up the start of my day just enough.

My favorite coffee is actually homemade, I like it better than the $5 mochas from Starbucks or campus coffee shop. It's regular coffee with lots of hot chocolate in. I buy both the coffee and hot chocolate in large tins so it's about $30 for months of nearly-daily coffee. My second-favorite is the flavored coffees you can buy from gas stations and cafeterias -- the ones in the "stop when 2/3 full" machines. (Don't stop when 2/3 full, it lies.) Those are less than $4 for the largest size here. Anyway, I know some people don't think luxuries can be an everyday thing, but they still FEEL luxurious and I figure that's what counts.
posted by purplecrackers at 4:17 PM on March 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Although someone mentioned it above, new, high quality socks can make an amazing difference. Especially socks with more padding. The comfort and wicking can be life changing.
posted by veryblue1 at 6:22 PM on March 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Buying cheap flowers for my living room once a week/week and a half is a major little-luxury for me. Brightens the whole place up. I was skeptical about it when I started, and now I'm an evangelist.
posted by mishaps at 11:29 AM on March 25, 2011

Buy a little slab of real honeycomb honey from a farmers' market. And then smear it on some white bread or French baguette. So good! Like childhood sweetness with a countryside aura.
posted by honey-barbara at 3:41 AM on March 26, 2011 [3 favorites]

I love formal tea time at some fancy hotel or somesuch. It is usually affordable & the dainty little sandwiches & clotted cream make me so happy. I like to dress up a little for it. I am such a casual person usually, but for tea time I like to be fancy.
posted by Empyrean_72 at 3:22 PM on March 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

A wet shave at a barber's might be a little more than $10 depending on your location, but it definitely fits into the "cheap decadence" category. As long as you're not nervous about cut-throat razors.

Every year, my husband grows a winter beard (primarily to keep his face warm while cycling, but also by request, I love it), and every spring, I send him to The Art of Shaving for one of these. He loves it, and also loves the luxurious samples that he comes away with - so perhaps you could splurge on nice shaving accessories or lotions and potions? The Art of Shaving seemes quite nice and smells good!
posted by echo0720 at 6:19 AM on March 28, 2011

Food related items
- a nutmeg grater, I use nutmeg in cookies, cakes, gratins, nog, coffee, ect. It's a one trick pony but I do appreciate how easy it is to use & it outshines McCormicks preground stuff any day. (Granted I think the enclosed hand crank model I lifted from my sister run more in the $20 range. But we've used it for over a decade with no problems!) Link

- Fresh ground pepper. Electric salt & pepper grinders. I've looked and wished for $70 models but I actually found a really decent set from Costco. A set of salt and pepper grinders in stainless steel for about $14. I checked, Costco no longer carries it. But one of these might work? I love them when I'm seasoning a piece of protein and like to keep one hand clean whilst the other flips the meat. Link

- A steel Vietnamese coffee filter/press . Best single cup of coffee ever. $5, if you paid closer to $10 you've paid too much! In the SF Bay Area you can find these filters in almost any Asian Super Market or housewares store. Some have handles but most just have the black knobby things. Easy to use, small, compact, hard to break, dishwasher safe, DOESN'T need specialty filters, inexpensive enough you have buy two and be sociable. We currently have 5 in rotation at our house, a few are over a decade old. Uses any kind of whole bean coffee you grind yourself to a medium grind(not too fine). Or you can just buy a can of Cafe Du Monde (it has chicory added, Trader Joes now also carries a preground coffee with chicory that works great too) and have a real Vietnamese coffee you filter over condensed milk. It's wonderful in hot weather poured over ice. How to use - Pour about 2 1/2 tablespoons of ground coffee, lightly tamped down with the "press" no need to screw the press into place even though it is threaded, hot water, a lil' patience and a great thick/rich alllmost espresso extraction drips out. Americano's here we come!

- Small coffee grinder like a Krups, about $8- 15. Yes a burr grinder would be nice, but they cost more.

- Kiwi brand knives - $2-14. While you're looking at those Vietnamese coffee presses, buy some inexpensive but good knife. Mind you, I own a complete set of Henkels Pro "S" line, but I find myself reaching for my set of Kiwi brand knives quite often because they are actually very good/light in the hand...AND dishwasher safe. Wood handles with steel blades (stamped with the name & a little kiwi bird on the blade). The blades are thin but very sharp. I also don't feel afraid "ruining" these knives in my sharpener. The keep a very sharp edge. Slicing ripe tomatoes, fruit, etc is no problem surprisingly. In the Kiwi line own a 6" santouko, 6 1/2" rectangle shape that is great for julienning, a 7" machete looking knife, and a few of the different sized paring knives (which only were $2 a piece! We use them as steak knives when we have big groups). Great for camping and "lending" to folks because they are so inexpensive. They come in about a dozen sizes and shapes. You can find them where you can find the Vietnamese coffee filters, Asian markets and kitchen supply stores. The knife below is about $10.

- check out Garrett Wade. I love LOVE looking through their catalog. Beautiful woodworking tools, gadgets, house keeping tools, etc.. Here's a selection listed by price of their "Home & Office" section. http://www.garrettwade.com/home-and-office-tools/c/12383/sb/1/

- Find yourself a Japanese stationary store. In the SF Bay Area there is a big bookstore called Kinokunya...stationary supplies, pens, ink, folders, calendars to make your head explode. I found these super neat folding scissors (for right AND left-handed users). $11 http://thepennywriter.blogspot.com/2010/06/kum-pencut.html

- Real flowers or plants. I find orchids at our local farmers market for $7-12. The blooms can last 3-4 months if the plants are watered once a week (don't let the roots sit in water). Trader Joes sells miniature orchids for about $12. I buy simple IKEA plant pots in black or a neutral for around $4-7. Every home or office should have a live plant.

- If you don't like plants, how about a beta fish in a glass bowl? Link

- good vermouth or sherry for deglazing a pan, it can keep in a cabinet for months unlike wine once it's been opened. An under $10 variety, Noilly Pratt dry vermouth also makes a nice martini. It adds that special something to your sauces and stews.

Personal care

- fancy pants toothpaste - Marvis comes in different flavors like Jasmine mint and ginger mint. $6-10

- An extra battery for your favorite point n shoot camera. At weddings and on trips, while other folks have stopped shooting pics by mid-day I'm still snapping away because I had two fully charged batteries on me. $10-20 depending on make/model of camera and if you're buying a name brand or after market brand battery.

- Speaking of cameras...extra memory cards! Memory has gotten so inexpensive over the years! I carry extra EMPTY memory cards with me when I'm at an event so I won't miss cake cuttings, toasts, happy birthdays, etc.
posted by RK at 11:42 AM on March 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

I really like nice jars of honey with the comb still in it, like this one. It tastes AMAZING.
posted by powerbumpkin at 11:55 AM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Good sherry vinegar.
posted by fivesavagepalms at 7:21 AM on March 31, 2011

Royalty dines with cloth napkins. Even with a sandwich. Thicker cotton or denim napkins are less wrinkly. Linen is lovely, but you will need to hire a servant to iron them. These napkins have been good for everyday. Buy at least a dozen.

To perk up those office take-out lunches and drive-thru dinners... Make up a nice picnic set: nice flatware, cloth napkins, nice salt shaker, durable plastic plates. Keep in the office or car.

Three fresh quinces in a lovely bowl. Wonderful scent and they last a long time.
I like the astringent scent of black walnut fruit. I gather some in the Fall and place them on little dishes on my bookcases. (Dishes must be washable. Nothing stains like black walnut.)

It always feels regal to introduce friends to a new delight. Ask your wine shop, coffee roaster, and produce manager to alert you to special inexpensive wines, liqueurs, exotic fruits, etc.
posted by valannc at 11:52 AM on March 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

If you are in London, the Prince Charles Cinema - movies from gbp 1.50.

Send and receive postcards from all over via Postcrossing.

Public libraries.
posted by plep at 11:31 AM on April 3, 2011

A decent can opener. An extra USB cord to charge my phone while at work. $3 worth of seeds and a small pot to grow thai basil in my kitchen.
posted by talldean at 8:25 AM on April 4, 2011

Some of mine:
  • A Kinder Surprise Egg: around 50~70p. ($1)
  • A delicate sweet pastry from the baker's: under £2. ($3)
  • Going down to the bead shop with a friend and making a pretty bracelet for under £2, not forgetting to oooh and aaah over the lovely shapes and colours on display! ($3)
  • A box of Lady Grey (the tea): £2.5. ($4)
  • Smoked salmon (trimmings) & cream cheese bagels - £2.6 for 5 - I buy the ingredients and assemble them at home. ($4.2)
  • A day ticket for use on any type of transport to anywhere in my city: £3.5. ($5.6)
  • A new or second-hand book.

posted by fix at 8:29 AM on April 4, 2011

Kitchen related stuff:

A microplane grater. This might run you a little more than $10 but I bet you could snoop online and find one, or maybe a small one. This is a luxury because it's a really great tool and it makes grating parmesean and zesting citrus a dream.

Recreate the ceremony of drinking good coffee or tea at home. Find a tea pot and tea cup (2-4 of them, to share with friends) that you really like using. My favorite place for this is at Japanese grocery or gift shops, although I bought my nice cast iron tetsubin with a stroke of luck at TJ Maxx. Or, get a stovetop espresso maker from Bialetti (available at Target or many places) and nice containers and utensils for adding sugar and cream. Get yerself a nice platter/tray from Goodwill and take to your favorite relaxation spot.

Try enjoying alcoholic digestifs (enjoyed after the meal) and aperatifs (enjoyed beforehand). You don't drink very much at once so a bottle can last a while and it makes a meal feel special to begin or end with a special drink. My favorites include: Dubonnet Rouge sweet vermouth (aperatif, good cold, even on ice), Harvey's Bristol Cream Sherry (not actually creamy, also good cold/iced), Bailey's Irish Cream, Campari, Lillet (I like the lighter version). There's lots of a crazy herbal mixtures from all over the world that fit this bill and are lots of fun to discover.

Pens that are cheap but I really love to use are the Pilot Razorpoint II and Le Pen. The latter comes in lots of colors, which always feels impractical and therefore luxurious.

Ooh ooh, I thought of one more: Getting your own personal rubber stamp made, if possible the old-fashioned rubber on wooden handle kind. Depending on your lifestyle/line of work, you could get something formal with your name and info to use on letters or envelopes, or you could get a something with just your name in a font you like and/or an image and stamp on things to make your stationery or anything...it will be your trademark! Many rubber stamp places can also make a stamp of your actual signature, if that sounds fun. Google it, I'm sure there's a bunch of places in your area that do this.
posted by dahliachewswell at 7:05 PM on April 4, 2011

Shallots instead of onions can be a nice micro luxury.
posted by MidSouthern Mouth at 5:56 AM on April 14, 2011 [3 favorites]

New set of insoles for your shoes - even the cheap ones make them feel heaps cushier.
posted by AnnaRat at 8:45 PM on December 29, 2011

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