3 Things You Shouldn’t be Afraid to Drop Cash On

If there’s anything we tend to have a hard time spending money on, fellow geeks, it’s our appearance and our diet. Granted, not all of us have this problem – in fact, it’s taken me a lot of work to overcome some of the old mantras about not really blowing money on the “superficial” things in life, but I think there’s something to the advice that you should make sure that when you spend money on some of the so-called “finer things in life,” you make an investment that will keep for a while.

That means ditch the old plaid button-downs that you had in high school and are still wearing at your third professional gig, and it’s time to up the ante from that cabinet of Lipton. And yes, I’m also trying to say that there’s more to the coffee world than the airtight-sealed plastic tub of Folgers. If you don’t enjoy these things, that’s well and good – don’t bother sinking a lot of money into them; but think to yourself: do you not enjoy them because you’ve experienced them and don’t have a taste or desire for nice things, or do you not enjoy a well made dress shirt because you’ve never worn one, or don’t like tea because you’ve never had anything better than Nestea?

With that being said, I’m going to introduce you to three things you really shouldn’t be afraid to either drop some cash on in order to experiment with something good and possibly develop a love affair, or just to experience on a regular basis. All of these things are things I make a point to budget for because once you’ve been spoiled by something good, you really don’t want to go back to the rough stuff.

  1. Clothes – This, without a doubt, is probably the hardest thing for most of us to get over. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on your clothes; I mean I’m not about to tell you to run out and get a custom Armani suit (although if you can afford that easily, I wholeheartedly suggest you do it) since most of us don’t need that level of formality on any occasion, much less our day to day lives.

    What you probably could use in your wardrobe though, are a couple of pairs of jeans and dressier pants (even slacks) that actually fit you, as opposed to what you very well may have in your closet: pants from your glory days when you were likely thinner and younger. Trust me, I’m not saying get rid of them (wait for next week for that column) but I am saying that when you’re squeezing into something that clearly doesn’t suit your measurements and you marvel at how “well” they still fit? Let me clue you in: they probably actually don’t.

    Go to the store and start trying on clothes. I know it’s a heartbreaking experience, but when you’re wearing clothes that actually fit you – and I mean fit, not too big or too small – you’ll feel worlds better. This applies for pants, but it also applies for shirts, sweaters, sweatshirts, jeans, and so on. I mean, you wouldn’t Moncler outlet wear underwear that doesn’t actually fit you, right? Right. Don’t do the same thing for jeans or button-down shirts. Go get yourself fitted and buy something appropriate for your shape and size. You’ll thank me for it.

    And while you’re at it? Don’t cruise the clearance rack for something close to your size. Buy something nice, crisp, new, and that looks good. This is where not being afraid to drop a little cash comes in – if you see the raggedy, pilly wool-blend on the clearance rack and the crisp cotton or microfiber button-down for five bucks more? Drop the five bucks. I promise your long term dermatological health will benefit, and you’ll understand the first time you can stand up straight in the mirror without scratching an itch or tugging at your shirt to get it to rest flat against your body. In some cases, you really do get what you pay for – and while it’s not universally true for clothing, it’s pretty close. Even the difference between the sale house brand and the premium house brand can be stark.

  2. Alcohol – This is firmly in the “if you don’t like it, it’s probably because you’re either a: not drinking something that suits your palate or b: drinking bottom shelf crap” category. I’m dead serious. Not everyone likes scotch, not everyone likes bourbon, not everyone likes Irish, not everyone likes tequila. Hell, not everyone likes Cabernet, not everyone likes Merlot, not everyone likes Pinot. Here’s the problem though: I hear people say things like “I don’t like wine.” When I ask them what it is they don’t like about wine, the flavor notes they mention tell me that they’ve probably been drinking over-oaked Aussie Cabernets or super-buttery Chardonnays out of boxes in the fridge that have probably been open for years.

    Perfect example: “I don’t like wine.” “Why?” “It’s too dry and really harsh and bitter!” “…so you’re saying you don’t like Cabernet. Have you tried a Pinot Noir?” “A what?” See what I mean? A Pinot Noir generally goes lighter on the tannins than something bigger and bolder like a Cab. But too many people have been exposed to too much crap to really be able to tell the difference.

    And this is where our collective geekiness comes in: take that innate hunger that I know you and I share to know things, to learn about things, and apply it here – maybe the reason you’re having a bad experience isn’t because you dislike the genre, but perhaps the product – or even the product type. You wouldn’t say you hate motherboards because Gigabyte screwed you over once, would you? Of course not – you’d move on to Asus, or go with a nice safe Intel board. The same is true for just about every type of alcohol, from Tequila to Beer to Whisky. If you don’t like Anejo, try a Reposado – it’s a little lighter without losing the strength. If you don’t like wheat beers try a stout – drinks like a meal. If you don’t like the smokiness of Scotch Whisky, try the sharpness of Irish Whiskey or the smoothness of a Bourbon Whiskey.

    Now that you’re willing to apply a little knowledge and experiment with different flavors, don’t be scared off by the price tags. Buy yourself a nice, affordable 750ml bottle of something new and pour yourself a shot. Sip it – don’t toss it back, and see what you like and dislike about it (don’t get turned off by the heat if it’s there – see what else you taste!) and then decide. If you have to experiment with different brands and styles, go for it! It’s not going to be cheap, but once you’ve found something you really dig (and that may not be top shelf – trust me, I’m the type who thinks Grey Goose is overrated and will take Skyy‘s smoothness or Stolichnaya‘s clean body any day over it) you may be able to say confidently “I’d rather mix Beefeater in a martini, but drink Bombay with tonic.”

    The only way to get there though is to be willing to drop the cash to explore, find something you like, and then keep buying to suit your preferences. The first step though is to make sure you actually have preferences, dig?

  3. Tea and Coffee – This is also in the same category as alcohol to some extent, but the problem is that most people already like tea and coffee – I mean, everyone likes a good cup of joe, right? Or when you’re tired or want to relax, everyone enjoys a cup of tea, right? The difference between Tea and coffee (which really could be separate items but I’m lumping them together because my advice here is going to be similar for each) and alcohol is that Moncler outlet most people already like what they’ve tried – the problem is that what they’ve tried is probably pretty bad by comparison to better stuff that’s likely available….for a price.

    This is the differentiator for tea and coffee though – you really won’t understand how awful Folgers really is (sorry guys, you make a really nice vanilla bistro blend, but your standard barely holds me over when I’m out of the stuff I really like) until you’ve had a locally roasted Sumatra that’s been ground specifically for your pot of coffee. The same applies to tea – actually I think it applies moreso. You’ll never drink Nestea again once you’ve had Revolution or Zhena’s. Even then, when you have a good loose leaf that you’ve pressed yourself? Sure it’s less convenient than bagged tea, but it’s a world apart. Look around, and in this case it’s all about trying the so-called “premium” teas in your grocery store, or exploring sites dedicated to tea, like Teanobi (these guys will dispel any notions you’ve ever had about what real tea is – as in the plant, and the differences between white, green, and black) or Teavana. (these guys will help you understand the differences between teas, herbals, and infusions – they are different, and thanks to the evil of Celestial Seasonings, people think they’re all “tea.”)

    Again, the key here is experimentation to find blends, flavors, and types that you like, and applying your thirst for knowledge to help you find something that’s good and not just marketable. A number of popular teas and coffees are over-roasted, made from low-quality/high-yield ingredients, and no matter what the commercials try to tell you, they’re beloved because they’re convenient and available everywhere, not because they’re actually good. If anything, some people cling to them even after they know there’s better out of a sense of nostalgia (which is the only reason I’ll occassionally brew a drip-pot of 8 O’Clock Coffee or Chock Full o’ Nuts.

    When it comes to coffee though, look for a local roaster that makes their coffees in batches and is willing to ship directly to you – that is if they’re not close enough that you can walk in and pick up a couple of bags. And remember, the good CoffeeGeek himself says (and I completely agree) that coffee is a small-batch, highly perishable item. That means those massive tubs of Folgers on your pantry shelf? Yeah – those “stay fresh” lids are nice and all, but the stuff is already so over-roasted as to kill half of the flavor the beans may have ever had at their peak of freshness that by the time you’ve finished the top half of the tin, the bottom may as well be well ground sawdust. Ever hear the term “browninated water?”

    You can avoid this problem by looking for small coffeeshops in your area – they likely source from small roasters that also need the support of fellow small businesses, and if you’re lucky, they may even roast on site and are willing to sell you some of what they roast. If you’re super lucky, you can get it on the day it’s roasted! Check the bag for a roast date – if there’s a “use by” on it, be wary that the roaster doesn’t want you to know when the coffee beans were actually roasted and are instead telling YOU how quickly you should drink it. If there’s nothing at all? Yeah – you’re flying blind my friend. Hope your palate serves as good instrumentation, because it’s gonna be a rough landing.

I could have gone on here into other things like your diet (put the Cheetos down and pick up a Gruyere for crying out loud) or a good laptop bag, but those could be topics all on their own, and I think they need to be. I also think all of the above deserve more attention, but if there’s any part of your life that I would say could see it’s quality seriously improved by throwing a little cash at it, those are the top three.

Seriously, once you’re wearing a shirt you love not because it’s the shirt you love but because you love all of your shirts, and once you’re sipping a coffee that has a body you can actually discern and a nose that you really like to just sit and smell – not because it just wakes you up in the morning, and once you can close the day with a scotch that’s noticeably different from the one your best friend opened at their housewarming party, you’ll realize that not only do you have a taste for some really nice things, but you have the knowledge to back up that taste.

You’ve got preferences now, tastes – and they don’t have to be champagne tastes either – when I stock my bar, I do it when the county liquor stores in the county over are having sales on the stuff I want. And when I do go shopping, I hardly ever spring for absolute top shelf unless I know it’s exactly what I want (or it’s a gift.) You don’t have to break the bank, but making sure to set aside a little cash to treat yourself right and explore the things you like and dislike will go a long way to adding a little class to your inner geek.


4 responses to “3 Things You Shouldn’t be Afraid to Drop Cash On”

  1. sjon Avatar

    But … I do wear undies that don’t fit … (unless I wear my kilt but that’s a different story) …

    Nah, I do go cheap on clothes. I don’t care how I look I care how I feel. Problem with shirts and me is that as the day wears on the shirt gets wrinkles and as it gets wrinkles I start to fee lired and wasted (and wrinkled). I don;t have that with tshirts.

    I am fully with you on the drinks, especially the coffee. ^_^
    I have a vacuum packed emegency stock But I get freshly ground black gold every week. I even got my own coffee machine at werk. 10000x better then the free coffe we get there.
    Just made a quick sum. I do spend about 500€ per year on coffee …

  2. Rachel Avatar

    For tea and especially coffee, I think the mode of preparation makes the biggest difference. With a nice enough espresso machine, even bad coffee beans can taste good! But I agree with you – it’s worth the extra money to get the good stuff, and if you pre-grind your beans they don’t last long. I buy whole beans and grind only as needed.

  3. Tea Lover Avatar
    Tea Lover

    I came across this article after recently discovering (Costco) Kirkland’s Green Tea. It is made in conjunction with ITO-EN and it is really good (who knew?).
    It reminds of the the teas they serve in tiny, 6 table tea houses in China Town in San Francisco. I heartily recommend it to tea lovers.

  4. Alan Henry Avatar

    Thanks for the comments everyone! I’m especially intrigued by the fact that Kirkland’s Green Tea is made in conjunction with ITO-EN. That’s just amazing, and I’m absolutely sure it must be good then. Thanks for the tip Tea Lover!

    And Rachel – don’t worry, we’ll get to some interesting methods of coffee preparation in a future post. I’m totally with you though – buy whole bean and grind every morning for your coffee that day, don’t grind and let set. Also, no more drip coffee makers for you if you can help it!

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