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Five frivolous items that are really worth it

For the past several years I've written articles extolling the virtues of thrift, outlining programs for sensible spending, and presenting guidelines for sound investment.

Perhaps, then, you'll understand why I found myself taken aback recently by an email that said: "You talk a lot in your content about the smart and practical things to do with money.  However, when people do come into money, they are going to 'blow' some of it.  So would you share some ideas on which items are smarter choices when it comes to frivolous spending or admittedly unnecessary luxury things that just make people feel good?"

I'll confess that I drew a momentary blank. Quoting from William Jennings Bryan's testimony in the 1925 Scopes evolution trial, "I don't think about things I don't think about."

Well, I've since thought about it; perhaps the five extravagances I've listed below are justifiable. But first a disclaimer: The thought of "blowing" money -- any money -- doesn't sit well with me. However, I suppose I can tolerate seeing up to ten percent of a windfall spent frivolously, though even that causes me to cringe a bit. You may now read on.

Number 1

You've just received an unexpected tax refund of $6,500 and want to celebrate your good fortune, even though it was your own money before you overpaid the IRS. How one-tenth, or $650 might be enjoyably spent?

Why not take a weekend vacation as my wife and I did recently? We chose Palm Desert, an easy drive from our home. Two night's accommodation at Residence Inn by Marriott at $215 per night, dining at our favorite restaurants, an afternoon spent at Palm Desert Tennis Club, and an evening stroll through the shops along El Paseo after dinner, left us still in possession of a portion of that pre-allocated $650. We returned home relaxed and refreshed. There are certainly worse ways to spend your dollars.

Number 2

Aunt Hilda just passed on at the ripe age of ninety-three, leaving you -- her favorite grandniece -- $15,000. After carefully stashing $13,500 of it into your money market account, you might choose to indulge yourself with the rest.

So where can you spend $1,500 to good advantage? Why not get rid of that old 27" television set you've stared at for the past fourteen years and begin viewing your favorite shows in somewhat grander style? A visit to Best Buy Stores reveals that you can purchase a 32-inch Panasonic LCD HDTV with HDMI Interface and Built-in Stereo Speakers for $1,330. Added tax, delivery, and installation charges still place the set in your home at less than the target figure. And with any luck, you'll continue to enjoy your acquisition for fourteen more years.

Number 3

Though it seems like antiquity, common stock in Berkshire Hathaway 'A' once commanded three hundred dollars per share, and the five shares you had the good fortune to acquire just sold for a cool $400,000. After setting aside enough to pay state and federal capital gains taxes, you're still $300,000 ahead.

Perhaps you deserve a treat, and why not the toy you've always wanted: a classic or vintage automobile that will reveal your devotion to the motoring world of yesteryear? One of the more popular vehicles fitting this bill is the Model A Ford, built between 1928 and 1932. Whether you select a nicely conditioned '28 Roadster convertible with rumble seat for $22,900 or a fully restored '31 Tudor sedan at $21,000, you'll garner attention as you cruise your neighborhood streets. Add to that a membership in one of the Model A clubs across the country and you'll meet fellow-enthusiasts with whom you can share your fervor.

As an alternative for those of you who are understandably concerned over the maintenance demands of an aged auto, here's further thought. There are now firms that manufactures factory replicas using all modern mechanical parts, but which appear to be originals. They are easily repairable and attractively priced. A '30 Phaeton convertible sedan replica can be purchased for $15,500.

Number 4

You expected it never to happen. Amidst somewhat mixed feelings, you are now a retiree. Included among the mixed blessings are two benefits: a final retirement bonus of $25,000 and the prospect of free time that you've never before experienced. What better way might you begin those leisure years than with an ocean voyage? A multitude of fine luxury cruises are available at surprisingly reasonable prices.

During seven days in an ocean view cabin on Holland America Lines' MS Oosterdam, at only about $700 per person double occupancy, you'll depart and return San Diego, visiting the Mexican ports of Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta. If the Caribbean Sea is more to your liking, Celebrity Cruises' Century out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with similar accommodations, offers a similarly-priced 7-day excursion to Montego Bay, Grand Cayman, Cozumel and Costa Maya. A somewhat more exotic 7-day cruise aboard Peter Hughes two-masted sailing vessel, Komodo Dancer, out of Bali, visits several South Sea Islands. Its ocean-view cabin prices begin at around $1,700.

Depending on the time and prudently-disposal money available to you, there is virtually nowhere on earth that is not accessible.

Number 5

My final suggestion for cash disposal may not qualify as frivolous, but it can prove personally satisfying. Your local high schools and community colleges regularly recognize exemplary students with commendations, often accompanied by monetary awards. The funds normally come from citizens in the community, where each donor designates the academic discipline to be recognized. Presentations are customarily made at formal school awards ceremonies, and offer incalculable encouragement to awardees. Amounts to recipients can be large or small. I've seen donor grants as modest as $50 as well as multiple scholarships exceeding $50,000. So, if you regard education as important, and desire to spur students to greater achievement, simply contact the school of your choice and let them know of your willingness to participate.

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