What Do You Splurge On?

by Amy Azzarito

My past few essays have been all about the things that I don’t buy, so I thought it was about time to come clean and talk about what I do buy and what I splurge on. I love the delayed gratification that comes from the plotting, waiting and then finally enjoying a good splurge. In fact, I actually have found that by carefully planning on what and when I’m going to splurge, I’m able to live more in the present. There’s something about that focus that keeps my attention on what I’m doing at the moment and at the end of the day, it’s all about trying to live consciously rather than living by habit. So rather than ordering delivery every night because I’m not really thinking about it, I’ll do some pre-week planning (aka grocery shopping) so I can splurge on a fancy restaurant in a couple weeks time. So today, we’re asking what do you splurge on? And because fair is fair, I’m going to come clean about my recent splurge in Peru. –Amy

Before we get started, I want to share one caveat: I’ve learned that with delayed gratification, you have to be careful not to turn it into future-living (If you buy me a drink, I’ll tell you all about how I learned this one the hard way). For a stretch of time otherwise known as my twenties, I was so focused on what my life would be like in the future, that I wasn’t living in the present. I was just waiting for that ship to come in. I put off making changes to my apartment because I wasn’t going to be there for long or taking trips because they were too expensive. To make sure I don’t fall into that future-living mistake again, I’ve devised a simple solution: I must have a specific splurge in mind and I need a calendar date for that splurge. Having those specifics in place will let you focus on the reward and not get lost in endless “one day” living.

All images by de la Barra Photography

Learn how I planned for – and enjoyed – my splurge night in Peru after the jump!

For my most recent splurge (a night at an amazing hotel in Peru), I definitely had a date on the calendar because my splurge was actually a splurge within another already-planned splurge. Usually when I travel, I don’t stay at fancy places. I want to be out exploring and seeing things and the hotel is just a place to crash at the end of a long day. But this spring, my boyfriend and I went to Peru and in the course of my trip research, I found a hotel where I was dying to stay. This wasn’t just any hotel. This was one of the Inkaterra hotels in Peru. It’s a small, national hotel chain of hotels that are not only beautiful, but each hotel also has a nonprofit component that is committed to preserving local natural resources.

This was an experience that I just felt would be worth it, so to make the splurge night happen, we were extra careful with our budget pre-splurge hotel. Rather than staying at mid-range hotels for the entire trip, we decided to stay at lower budget hotels so that we were staying comfortably within our hotel budget for the entire trip. Not only did this make things easier on my wallet, but it also meant that when it came time for the splurge night, we were really looking forward to it. (That delayed gratification thing!)

Upon arriving at Inkaterra, after a full day at Machu Picchu, we wound our way around the property to our own little Casita, with its own fireplace and gigantic bathroom. After days without a reliable hot water shower, I can tell you that I enjoyed every minute under that luxurious rain shower. In fact, because our stay at this hotel was so highly anticipated, I felt like I was present for and enjoyed every minute of my fancy hotel experience in a way that I might not have had every hotel in our stay been the most luxurious. But by shaking things up, traveling cheaply in some ways and ultra luxurious in others, we were able to experience the full travel spectrum. That night, we made the most of our dinner (included in the hotel package!) in the dining room by heading to the restaurant well in advance of our reservation so that we could enjoy Pisco Sours in the lounge. And the next day we woke up early so we could explore the hotel before we had to take the train to our next destination.

That next day was absolutely magical. Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo has an Orchid Walk with a collection of over 372 species of orchids all native to Peru. It is one of the largest orchid collections in the world. Many were rescued as a result of local building projects encroaching on native habitat, so locals brought the orchids to the hotel. Some are so tiny that you need a magnifying glass to really appreciate them. The orchids and other flowers have created an environment perfect for birds and the hotel welcomes them by putting bananas in trees and hummingbird feeders throughout the property. Inkaterra also provides a safe haven for mammals like the critically endangered Spectacled Bear. The hotels have committed to rescuing and hopefully reintroducing this native Andean bear into the wild (Paddington Bear was actually a Spectacled Bear, coming from “Darkest Peru”). I was certainly sad to leave the Inkaterra and its luxuries, but because I felt like we made the most of our experience there, I felt completely satisfied. (The hotel has two properties in the Amazon. Can you guess where my next splurge is going to be?)

The lesson that I learned on my splurge night was that, for me, I’d rather scrimp in lots of areas, allowing me to afford an experience that I really treasure. For me, the saving is also part of the splurge adventure. I enjoy finding ways to cut costs, treating that as a fun part of the splurge. And I don’t have to go to South America to do it. Sometimes, the experience is a restaurant that I’ve wanted to try or a play that I’d like to see. And by living consciously, I can make these experiences part of my reality. I know that I’ll enjoy them all the more when I don’t have the headache of worrying about how they are going to effect my bottom line.

5 Splurge Travel Tips

If you’re new to the vacation splurge night (like I was!), here are a few ways to get the most out of your fancy stay.

  • Schedule your splurge toward the middle/end of your trip. For obvious reasons, you’ll appreciate it all the more after you’ve been roughing it for a bit. For example, go camping for a week and then plan a hotel stay for the last night of the trip. But it’s nice if you still have the excitement of new destinations so you aren’t just leaving your hotel to go home.
  • Research your destination’s offerings and amenities and pick a place that offers something special. A great pool, beautiful grounds, a fantastic restaurant – be sure that there’s a reason why you want this travel experience.
  • Treat your splurge destination as you would any site on your sightseeing list and make sure you schedule enough time to enjoy it. Don’t just check in and check out. You can even stay longer than the checkout time by asking the hotel if they can store your bags. Use that time to enjoy the common areas, lounge by the pool, walk the grounds or have lunch at the restaurant.
  • Eat your meals at the hotel. If you have a great room, get room service! Why leave your fantastic hotel when you can save that night on the town for the evenings that you can’t wait to get out of your room?
  • If the hotel has a concierge, make the most of it. Ask for sightseeing tips and restaurant recommendations. You can even ask for the concierge to make you a restaurant reservation on another night in town. The concierge might have more pull at getting you into that fantastic restaurant in town.


Suggested For You


  • Traveling is a splurge, especially when you have to deal with those expensive plane tickets, but it is really worth it. I’m about to buy some tickets for the holidays and that’s going to be our splurge. We used to go back home, Madrid, and rent apartments. This time will stay with family and splurge in some great restaurants and things like that. We are three now!

  • I grew up blue collar/working class so it doesn’t take much for something to feel like a splurge now! (Ignoring the lifestyle creep of course – I’ve never felt “poor” no matter how small the number is/was. It’s all relative, eh?).

    For me splurges are about experiences. I go to NYC 2x a year for the museums and theaters and galleries and restaurants. I go to TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) each September to get my foreign film fix. I also buy books and visit bookstores every other week. I love to read.

    I rent a cottage for a few weeks each summer on a remote lake. It’s pretty rustic – 100 years old with an outdoor shower. And tiny! The kitchen is maybe 6′ square. And I have no desire for a fancy cottage with all the bells and whistles that would cost a lot more.

    I don’t buy much in the way of fancy jewelry nor do I lust after it. It does nothing for me. My car is 14 years old – in great condition but I have no desire for a new one. It’s a way to get around.

    I don’t have a ton of new clothes and have been paring down over the past few years to what I really need and wear.

    It’s about the experiences and making good memories – those are my “splurges”.

  • Great post Amy, I really enjoyed and have a similar view on how I spend money. Thanks!

  • I love your writing style, it’s sweet, concise and moving. I went and reread the “future living” post, something about turning 30 next month is making me concentrate on living in the present.

    Also, the hummingbird photo- squeal!!!

  • Traveling with a combination of saving and splurging is indeed the way to go. My boyfriend and I just went on our first ever vacation to New Orleans this summer, and that was our strategy for the whole 3 days. We got an amazing hotel deal using a discount site and used our Student IDs to get discounts on things like walking tours, but then we splurged on one fancy dinner and nightly fancy cocktails. It made for a fantastic and memorable trip, and we can’t wait to go back! While not on vacation, my splurges include…. more cocktails (ha! I’m a big craft cocktail enthusiast and don’t mind paying a little extra for a drink with complex ingredients I don’t have at home), nice textiles for our home, a pedicure at my local spa every couple of months, and good quality shoes.

  • I have a healthy recognition of the difference between my needs and wants and enjoy living frugally because of the financial security it gives me. Consequently I’m also guilty of future-living because I really don’t need that much. To temper that – I do write wish lists of my wants (furniture and other large expenditures) and try to check one or two items off annually. Having done this for about 5-years – the list is pretty short now and I don’t have any really big wants that I’m excited about. A funny situation that I never envisioned in my mid 20s. Regarding clothes, I allow myself to buy one piece of clothing from my favorite designer each season – which works out to 2-3 pieces yearly at sale price or regular. It just has to be something I LOOOOVE!

  • really interesting topic and the post was a delight to read. inspiring. thank you. :)

  • Grace, I just wanted to say I love you ) You’re such an endless inspiration in so many ways, well beyond design related topics.

    I’ve recently watched this insightful little documentary about runners (casual runners, not professional olympic competitors), where one of the interviewees said: “don’t let your past and future rob you from your present.” It’s so precise I made a print out of it and hanged it on my inspiration board. So important. Thanks for reminding me yet once again )

  • We love to travel and stay in nice places. Ialso love shopping for our home when we travel, and I always try and splurge on one nice thing to take back. When we were on our honeymoon in Italy, I brought back a pair of vintage floral prints. In Argentina I brought back vintage shoe forms, London antiques, France more antiques and prints and just recently linens from Spain. I never mind splurging on these items because a beautiful home to me, is a collected home that reflects the owners experiences and life.

  • A good thought, me and the hubs are moving around the world as expats, always saving for a future home and retirement….however our house looks like students live in it and we never go away! Partly it’s having young kids but it would be such a pleasure to have small bursts of splurge like this, things to remember. Also…a somber thought that who knows when health runs out and you cannot do the things that you dream of? Carpe Diem! The most valuable thing you have is not money, it is good health.

  • I rented a cottage on Edisto Island SC for a week- since it was rented a year in advance I started a couple of loose change jars – this was to be all my spending money and by the time July rolled around I had plenty of $ stashed away and my splurge rental cottage became that much more enjoyable.

  • Good food. I love to eat out, get takeout, order in, you name it.

    I actually kept a Google spreadsheet of my expenses last month which confirmed that, yes, I do spend most of my money on food. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    Even when I do book myself a trip somewhere, most of my travel expenses go towards, you guessed it, trying out local restaurants.

  • Great photos! I save up for and splurge on trips to Colorado to ski during my birthdays. I appreciate the distinction you made between delayed gratification and future-living. I tend to want to live in the future, but I started enjoying meditation and prayer to keep me present and content! Thanks your post!

  • My husband and I splurge in similar ways: comfort when we’re traveling and excellent food always. But I also splurge on massages because they are such effective self-care for me. I have found lately that we naturally have a tendency to scoff at others for the ways they splurge, but truly it’s a very personal thing. We all value different things. I have a friend who is always going out to bars and clubs and spending loads of money. My mom is always buying little gifts for her grandchildren. My father-in-law maintains a nice sailboat even though he’s retired and they don’t have tons of money coming in. I think it’s important for us to understand this about each other and not judge. We’re all different and enjoy and value different things. We shouldn’t tell other people how to spend their money.

  • I loved reading these posts following the initial piece about Peru. Put me in mind of the old adage that money can’t [necessarily] buy happiness. But also good to be reminded that people attach value to such a wide range of things and experiences. For me right now a splurge would be staying in bed in the morning for an extra hour, snoozing with my little rescue dog curled up next to me. She’s come such a long way in the few months I’ve had her. We’ve worked very hard together, so relaxing together = the best treat in the world right now!

  • I just booked a 3 week trip to Peru for Sept-Oct. This place looks amazing and I might have to add it to my itinerary. Any other insight on what you did/saw while in Peru?