I want to spend $5ish every few days on a reasonable facsimile of happiness
September 5, 2012 6:38 AM   Subscribe

What small indulgences can I get for myself instead of snacks?

I'm not the biggest snack-buyer (think a few times per week, not daily), but I'd like to cut it down even further.

Knowing me, the best way to do that would be to buy myself some other immediate small indulgence instead, whenever I get the urge to buy a cupcake or mocha or whatever. I'd find it way easier to replace one indulgence with another than to just stop going for small indulgences entirely!

Problem is, I'm having trouble thinking of non-food small indulgences that I can get for myself frequently, at reasonably low cost, and with little or no lag.

(I love books, art/craft supplies, puzzles, that sort of thing. I don't think ordering stuff on the internet would feel immediate enough. The one idea I've had so far is making tiny donations to charity - would charities find it annoying to get a bunch of little $5 donations, though? (I donate in big chunks, too, but this is a specific kind of behavior modification I'm trying to do to myself that requires small, relatively frequent indulgences.))

I need small indulgence suggestions, please! When I feel the urge to get a snack, what should I get for myself instead that will give me an immediate small boost of happiness?
posted by 168 to Grab Bag (36 answers total) 57 users marked this as a favorite
Often snacking goes hand in hand with acute stress. So maybe get yourself one of those head massager things or take a few minutes and close your eyes with one of those cooling masks.
posted by greta simone at 6:43 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

I used to do this with the clearance rack at my local mega-bookstore. I could usually find something at least potentially interesting for $5 or 6.

If you have a smartphone, how about a fun little app or two?
posted by Rock Steady at 6:46 AM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: (Female here...I'm not really girly, FWIW, but whenever I indulge in something small it tends to be girly for whatever reason).

One of my favorite non-edible indulgences is to buy myself a bouquet of fresh flowers. I usually go for whatever is in season or if I'm on a particular kick (I was on a peony kick this past summer).

I love different perfumes, but the designer ones can get expensive. For small indulgences, I usually just hit the specialty bath aisle at my local pharmacy (Rite Aid or CVS) and check out/pick up a new hand lotion or body spray. I've found some pretty nice ones for less than $10.

With winter coming one of my favorite small indulgences is to get a new pair of cozy, microfleece socks. In the summer I love linen pashminas or scarves.

30-minute foot reflexologies are pretty awesome too and can run from $30 to $75, depending on where you're located.
posted by floweredfish at 6:47 AM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

I was thinking nail polish. I like the quick dry ones, so I can make quick color changes.

Eye shadow is another one that I like. Outragous colors are fun.

A new crystal, if you're into that sort of thing.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:49 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Buy some music.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:56 AM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

$0.99 music tracks?
posted by aimedwander at 6:57 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

I buy nail polish, books from Goodwill/B&N deep discount section, music or pens and notebooks for journaling. What about buying one ingredient at a time for an awesome weekend meal or dessert?
posted by peacrow at 7:01 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Donor's Choose is a neat way to give small charity donations to organizations/classrooms near you who are focusing on projects you care about.
posted by juliplease at 7:02 AM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I also do the nail polish/lipstick thing, though my crafting room is quickly being overrun by nail polish. If you're into crafting, some small item you can use there: a new tube of paint, new brush. I buy small quantities of beads since I really like making jewelry. A small scented candle or an essential oil are also nice treats. Fancy teas, like Mighty Leaf. Pretty socks or tights. A fancy pair of underwear. Bargain books are great. I also recommend a magazine you might not normally shell out for (lots of options there for crafty things, artsy lit mags, zines and the like).

If you have a Petco nearby they often have special little bags made up with a can of dog/cat food and a toy that you can purchase for a shelter animal. Those are usually priced between $2-$10, and I pick up a few every time I go in for more cat food. My local grocery store also has a bin for collecting food for the animal shelters. You can get a small bag of food or a few cans and drop them in there. I think making a number of small donations is fine depending upon how you do it. Through Credit Card or Paypal, they'll lose a chunk. If you're able to do it in cash (i.e. drop a few bills in a jar or collection box), that might work better.

If all else fails, I buy a Kit Kat for my husband because I know he likes them and I won't eat them. Somehow that soothes the "buy a treat!" compulsion.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 7:03 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nail polish is my go-to for this.

Office/school supplies, if you use them: colored index cards, a shiny silver pencil case, sharpies.

Replace something that's wearing out: a dull razor or x-acto blade, your grungy bathmat, your dish-washing brush, your tights that got a run. Fresh new versions of everyday things are so nice.

If the reason you don't want to buy snacks is the extra sugar/calories, I like getting hot tea in the winter months. Or buy some nice loose leaf tea for your home. You get twice the value: the indulgence of the purchase and the ritual of drinking it.
posted by in a dark glassly at 7:03 AM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

A shot of espresso, no sugar.
posted by Tom-B at 7:05 AM on September 5, 2012 [5 favorites]

Lush bath bombs/bubble bars, if you're into perfumey bath stuff. Unlike many other non-food indulgences, they're meant for only one or two uses, so you won't clutter up your linen closet with leftovers.

Do you want to cut out just the empty calories of snacking, or do you want to avoid food altogether? If calorie-free treats are an option, I really like trying new flavors of tea, sugarless gum, or seltzer.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:11 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Another vote for nail polish. And lately, cheap earrings. And toys for my puppy.
posted by phunniemee at 7:14 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

For what it's worth, these are what kicked off my rash of cheap earring purchases.
posted by phunniemee at 7:19 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Fashion magazine, nail polish, fancy lip balm, a really good piece of organic fruit, cheap trinket/vintage postcard/etc from the junk shop.

Also, probably an odd suggestion but it scratches this itch for me too: it is incredibly fun to buy and send random cards on occasion, as you get to buy something small and pretty plus make someone else happy.
posted by susanvance at 7:27 AM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Sugar-free mints or gum?
posted by EndsOfInvention at 7:33 AM on September 5, 2012

Maybe rent a movie (or episode) from Itunes or Amazon Instant Video you've been wanting to see?
posted by okay-quiet-time at 7:46 AM on September 5, 2012

Kindle books are pretty immediate.

I sew or crochet to keep my hands busy, so for a treat I sometimes let myself sit and watch a programme or film whilst working on my project, even if there are things to do. Or I have a bath with something lovely-smelling (£1 to smell like cinnamon cakes? Yes please!)

The internet is not immediate, but there's nothing to stop you, say, ordering a bunch of perfume samples from a decant site and trying them when you feel like a treat. Or nail polish/stationery/whatever you like playing around with. Instead of a biscuit tin, you can have a treat box with a supply of the thing you like in it. Bath bombs would work nicely for something like this too. Nail polish is a good suggestion because painting your nails forces you to sit still and relax for ten minutes - that's why mine always end up looking terrible, I'm impatient that way!

A nice cup of tea is also great. Get a diffuser and some leaves, or a teapot if you're at home. You can even get chocolate-scented tea which might help with the mocha kick.
posted by mippy at 8:16 AM on September 5, 2012

Best answer: Office supplies - I like gel pens, which are slightly spendy and feel like they run out so fast. It's nice to have a variety of little sticky bits of paper, too.

I also try to substitute doing something for buying something - make tea, take a walk to check on flowers / a tree I like, rub my hands/feet/shoulders for a few minutes.

Having my pretty things where I can see them seems to help the treat impulse. I now store all my earrings on the wall by my closet, and that's a fun little treat-picking experience most mornings.
posted by momus_window at 8:28 AM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

My favorite indulgence is a fresh new magazine! I like Martha Stewart Living, Real Simple, Kiplinger's, Bust, Self, and lots more.
posted by shortyJBot at 9:10 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

I tend to eat one or two 10 calorie sugar-free Jello cups. Sure beats a 300-700 calorie snack or mocha.

> would charities find it annoying to get a bunch of little $5 donations, though?

You can donate a share of a goat for $10.
posted by damn dirty ape at 10:07 AM on September 5, 2012

Cigarettes were so good for this (sorry!)
posted by glasseyes at 10:26 AM on September 5, 2012

US Weekly magazine. Such a guilty indulgence.
posted by jrichards at 10:26 AM on September 5, 2012

Best answer: Find a homeless person buy them a nice big sandwich and give it to them.

Go to a fancy tea shop like Teavana or some such and buy different blends of tea to try. You can get enough for a few cups for five bucks. and can pick up all sorts of tea making accessories in that price range if you hunt around.
posted by wwax at 10:53 AM on September 5, 2012

You said art/craft supplies -- maybe rubber stamps or really nice craft paper?

I'd probably buy some magazines and cool-looking notebooks.
posted by trillian at 10:56 AM on September 5, 2012

Response by poster: To answer the major follow-up question: I am trying to avoid snacking for health reasons, but I think finding entirely non-food treats would be more helpful to me than finding sugar/fat/carb-free healthy food treats.

(Except that sandwich-for-a-homeless-person idea. Brilliant! I give away leftovers, have never just bought fresh food for someone on the street. Love it.)

So many great ideas already, thank you so much! Please keep them coming - I need variety for ongoing treats for myself, after all!
posted by 168 at 11:01 AM on September 5, 2012

Wander around the local thrift shop and see what strikes your fancy. The have all sorts of stuff there. You could say that you are going to redecorate your house and you are going to buy one thing each time. A framed art piece, a book for your bookshelves, a nice pillow, a nick nack , a dress.

Outside of the thrift shop; scented candles, bubble bath, art supplies, office supplies, books.
My little treat is an Iced Americano with Stevia instead of sugar.
posted by eq21 at 11:38 AM on September 5, 2012

Best answer: If you want to do the $5 donation thing, you could look into text donation, which is explicitly set up to be done is small increments like that. This is one list of possible charities.
posted by yarrow at 11:46 AM on September 5, 2012

Where/how/when/on what do you usually snack?

Before/after/during work? When you're out walking? In your kitchen? When you're watching TV? I find it's easiest to replace habits with things that are very similar in situation.

So, if you tend to snack while you're on the internet, doing an internet dontation thing instead might be best. Or if you tend to stop in coffee shops to snack, then just getting a black coffee might be best. Etc etc.

Knowing the circumstances of your most common snackings might help us give more specific answers.
posted by Calicatt at 12:41 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

The LEGO Company has just released Series 8 of it's collectible minifigures. They are priced at $2.99 to $3.99 depending on where you buy them (they are actually lower priced at LEGO stores). They come in small packets and you don't know which ones are in which. The coolest previous ones include a vampire, hazmat suit technician, guy in a Godzilla suit, space marine, a Roman gladiator, and a Disco DJ.

There are about 14 new ones released each season. I usually pick up a couple when I'm at the store and open them later in the week when I'm bored or have an urge to open something new.
posted by FJT at 12:46 PM on September 5, 2012

Response by poster: I started marking some best answers, but would really love more ideas to add to the list if you have any! You folks are amazing, thank you.
posted by 168 at 4:44 PM on September 5, 2012

If you have a dollar store nearby, I would just go there and look around when you get the urge to indulge. They always have a vast array of pretty, useful and unexpected items and you're very likely to see something that will make a good treat.
posted by orange swan at 5:50 PM on September 5, 2012

I love a $5 5 minute neck and shoulder massage.
posted by peppermintfreddo at 6:30 PM on September 5, 2012

a pack of stickers, especially scented ones
pair of earrings
a new hair product
hair accessories
little notebooks
posted by yawper at 7:43 PM on September 5, 2012

Scratch-off lottery ticket, take your time in scratching it all the way off.
posted by CathyG at 2:20 PM on September 6, 2012

I bought small rare succulent plants in 2 inch pots for between .99p and £5 and raised them up and propagated them. This summer I moved and sold my whole collection for somewhere around ~£2-3K on about a £300-400 investment.

Raising living things keeps me sane or at least sane'ish. When I am stressed or agitated I look at my plants and fuss over them a bit and then go back to work once I am calmed. Succulents are easy so they give you a good chance of success and some of them are just incredibly cool looking and weird.

Also the best thing you can do for your happiness is to buy stuff for other people. Buy somebody you are grateful to a coffee just for them (not while getting one for yourself) - Expressing gratitude and being generous are very powerful happiness elevators (according to my social psychologist wife to whom I owe an awful lot!).

Or a twofer - raise succulents and give them away!
posted by srboisvert at 12:59 PM on September 10, 2012

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