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What Does It Take to Enjoy Cheap Luxuries?

By Ann Richardson March 18, 2023 Lifestyle

Years ago, I coined the term ‘cheap luxury’ in my household, but I think it is a good time to spread it around. See if you think it has meaning for you.

The term first arose, if I am not mistaken, over a jar of mustard. We were in a supermarket deciding what to buy and confronted a shelf full of mustards. Some were much more expensive than others, and we were not very well off, but we had some small room for maneuver.

How to choose? Leaving aside the type of mustard (French, German, English, with seeds etc), there was also the question of cost.

If my budget had been extremely tight, I would have gone for the cheapest, no doubt about it. In contrast, those who have no budget constraints and always want the best would choose the most expensive.

We discussed it and thought the most expensive was also notably better, I forget the reasons, and decided to buy it.

Why? Because it was basically a cheap luxury. And then I began to think about it.

What Makes for a Cheap Luxury?

Most of us like to feel cossetted now and again. We can’t afford it most of the time. But my great ‘discovery’ was that we could afford it when the overall cost was low.

The difference between the cheapest brand of mustard and the most expensive was large in relative terms, but altogether small in the scale of things.

Perhaps this is obvious. But how many people really go for it?

A little luxury now and again does us good. We feel pampered and, for no good reason, more loved. We luxuriate in it. So, my argument was, why not indulge in a cheap luxury when it is something you really appreciate? It won’t break the bank.

Examples of Cheap Luxuries

There are numerous examples of cheap luxuries, some of which most of us do without even thinking about it.

I love lying in a hot bubble bath, for instance, soaking up the heat. It eases the muscles and relaxes the whole body. As the water cools, I will often let a little out and add more hot water. I know this is not costless, but I do it nonetheless. It is a cheap luxury.

Thinking of baths, have you ever considered your bath soap? Most people, as far as I know, buy ordinary bath soap for themselves but choose expensive brands as gifts for friends and family for Christmas or birthdays.

But we decided long ago to buy the good soap for ourselves for regular use – not even keeping it for special occasions. The cost is low, and it just feels nice.

I could go on and on. So many foods and ordinary household products fall into the category of cheap luxuries, depending on your interests and tastes. So, too, do small items of clothing, such as the not-most-expensive silk underwear.

Expensive Luxuries

Lest anyone think I am advocating always buying at the high end, let me stress this is not remotely the case.

A new sports car – or even many ‘another’ car – is not a cheap luxury. It is an expensive one, as it will cost a lot of money. Hugely more than a simple car to get you around. Your bank balance will really notice.

I haven’t owned any car for years and when we did, it was a VW beetle. But I would never buy an expensive car now.

First class train or air tickets fall in the same category. You can’t even argue that they will get you to your destination any faster. Good luck to those who can afford to pay for them without holding back on other expenditure. But you know you are forking out sizeable amounts.

The same is true for hotels. You recognise the luxury and perhaps even decide to go for it, but you need to know what you are doing. In these days of inexpensive B&Bs, or even AirBnBs providing more space, luxury hotels are there for people who are not worried about cost.

I never travel first class, as it is a high price to pay for peace and quiet. And I have never liked the expensive hotels I have stayed in, as they tend to lack a human touch.

So I am not into expensive stuff – just cheap luxury.

Indulge Yourself

I am not generally one to tell other people how to spend their money. We all have different interests and financial situations, and it is up to each of us. But if you do not do so already, think about splashing out on a nice bar of soap for yourself (or the equivalent).

You will get more than your money’s worth in the sense of luxury it brings.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Do you have examples of cheap luxuries that you enjoy? Do you indulge yourself frequently? What would you consider an expensive luxury? Please share with the community!

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For me a “cheap luxury” would be: a new houseplant, a new music CD, a movie afternoon when I binge watch a short TV series, a day trip to the Gulf of Mexico (72 mi.) to sit on the beach and sip cocoa or a special coffee from a local coffeehouse, even just sitting on the front porch w/ a cup of tea and listening to the rain. Whatever, I love and enjoy.


Lovely comment.


I absolutely agree with the special soap. I went to a farmer’s market and they had someone selling homemade soap. It was such a luxury for me. I loved supporting a small business and I love the wonderful treat for myself.


Yes, great idea to support small businesses too.

Elisabeth Hazlett

Thank you for the reminder Ann! The little things can make a big difference! I feel “ indulged” when I grind fresh coffee Beans from a local roaster. Certainly pricier than the large cans at the grocer, but such a lovely and affordable way to begin my day.


Avocados. For a few bucks, or less, you can luxuriate in a healthy, creamy taste treat. Need a little pick me up? By a new bath poof. You know, those netting things that make the soap really suds? They don’t cost much, but they add a little extra to the shower or bath. How about a new note pad. I got tired of writing thing down on scraps of paper. A cute or pretty note pad costs practically nothing. It also saves space and keeps me better organized.

Cindy Miller

Thanks Roxanne, Avocados-great healthy idea! I bet it would make a smoothie creamy and rich. Rubbing the inside of the avocado skin onto yours also feels spa-like!


I agree! I love pecans in everything from oatmeal to salads but I only bought them at the holidays because of the expense. Now, I keep a freshly roasted bagful in my freezer and feel luxurious every time I enjoy them (which is frequently, and they are healthy, too).


I enjoy TASTY NITES from costco–what I consider a cheap luxury. Also Estee Lauder foundation. It really does a better job than most! Also, monthly manicures & pedicures, quarterly perms and monthly haircuts. I get great, cheap soap from Marshall’s, and buy my eyebrow pencils, wrapping paper, and greeting cards, sunblock and petroleum jelly from the Dollar Store. I use Dermablend concealer,

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The Author

Ann Richardson’s most popular book, The Granny Who Stands on Her Head, offers a series of reflections on growing older. Subscribe to her free Substack newsletter, where she writes fortnightly on any subject that captures her imagination. Ann lives in London, England with her husband of sixty years. Please visit her website for information on all her books:

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