Based on the way people talk about financial New Year's resolutions, you'd think everyone was concerned only with negatives: how not to spend, how not to indulge.
According to a recent survey by Fidelity, people's top resolutions for 2016 include spending less, saving and investing more, paying down debt, and budgeting. These all may be important goals, but it can be beneficial to remember what money can buy. Maybe your resolution is to only spend money on things that bring you joy -- not every spending decision should come tinged with guilt.
In the spirit of smart spending, we asked real people from all over the country for their "anti-resolutions," or the money they've spent that they didn't regret one whit, and that they'd readily be glad to spend again.
1. Help around the house
"The first five years of our marriage, it felt like my wife and I were cleaning the house, raking leaves or trimming bushes during all of our free time. One day, when our first son was about two years old, I was working in the yard. I looked down for what felt like seconds and looked back up to see him standing on the top of a retaining wall with a six-foot drop. After helping my son and putting my heart back into my chest, I decided at that moment that having someone else do those jobs was worth the expense. I can't tell you how much more peaceful it has made our lives.
"When we first got married, we were scraping by, so it didn't make sense to pay people to do these things. But my first business took off pretty quickly around 2004. It got to the point that it was silly to spend hours in the yard instead of doing something with the kids. Having a cleaning service come twice a month is so worth it -- it's freed up time to spend with our boys and each other. Our spending on house cleaning and yard work averages around $600 a month."
-- Bill Fish, 39, Cincinnati, Ohio
2. Books, books and more books
"I've never regretted purchasing a book. I have a rule that if I'm thinking about buying a book, I just do it. Other than the essentials (food, clothes and a gym membership), that's where the majority of my money goes, and I don't regret it. I spend about $700 to $900 a year on books... maybe more with books that I purchase as gifts. I purchased about 60 books this year, and I try to read a book a week. The books I read range from statistics and data analysis to behavioral economics to strategy and general marketing books. Lately, I've been trying to read more fiction and classics.
"Some of the top, totally-worth-it books for me this year include 'Antifragile' by Nassim Taleb, 'Predictably Irrational' by Dan Ariely, 'Words That Work' by Frank Luntz and 'The Art of Travel' by Alain de Botton. I hope to buy more books next year!"
-- Alex Birkett, 24, Austin, Texas
3. Fine art
"In July, my colleague and I went to a conference for work. After three long days and nights, we went into the Peter Lik gallery in Las Vegas and spent a few hours looking at the amazing photos. I remember my co-worker saying, 'Maybe one day ...' The next day, I went back and bought one for myself and one for her and her fianc? as a wedding gift. Both of the pieces cost $4,611. This was the first 'real' art I'd ever bought. I thought, 'Why should we delay gratification for the things we truly love?' The only thing for certain is this moment.
"I'm still extremely happy with this purchasing decision. I love my photo; it's called Iceland and it's a beautiful sunset on a lake in Michigan. It hangs in my living room. I got special lights installed and I look at it every day. This artwork ... is for enjoying every day, not just every once in a while, like clothing or a 'one and done' experience like a concert."
-- Dana Humphrey, 32, New York City
"During my freshman year in college, I was a raft guide and business manager for a rafting company on the Chattooga River. I learned to kayak and fell in love with the river. Then I gradually became distracted and stopped paddling, until this year, when I turned 60.
"I went out and spent more than $2,000 on kayaks, paddles and life vests. I spent every weekend this past summer and early fall kayaking, paddling, sailing or rafting. This involved a three-hour drive to and from the beach, since I ocean kayak. I don't regret it at all and plan to do the same next spring, summer and fall! At age 60, I'm still young. I paddle with people in their 70s and 80s."
-- Becky Blanton, 60, Charlottesville, Virginia
5. Drum lessons
"I started drum lessons at the ripe old age of 41 -- I am now 53 -- and have never once looked back. At the time I started drumming, I was working from home with three kids under 10, which was stressful enough. I was also trying to get my freelance design business off the ground, and my dad was showing signs of Alzheimer's disease. Drumming helped me deal with all of that.
"Playing the drums is the best mind-clearer. The best feeling is when you nail a particular beat. My lessons cost $45 an hour, and I have them twice a month. My drum kit was a birthday present, at $995. Drumming has changed my life and is the thing I turn to when I am feeling low or stressed. For me, that alone is a reason to keep splurging."
-- Roberta Perry, 53, Plainview, New York
6. Lasik surgery
"I wore glasses from the time I was eight years old. By the time I was 15, I was wearing Coke-bottle lenses. I was able to get contacts, but my eyesight continued to deteriorate. By the time I was in my late 20s, my vision was 20/2000. I couldn't read my watch unless it was inches from my face. Even with contacts, the best they could correct my vision was 20/30. I decided to splurge and get Lasik surgery. It cost $4,000, which, at the time, was at least a few months' worth of my salary. Now, 15 years later, I have 20/20 vision. It was life-changing. Best expense ever."
-- Lizzy Miles, 45, Columbus, Ohio
7. A family cruise
"This summer, my husband and I went on a vacation with other family members. We visited six islands in the Caribbean during the eight-day cruise, for about $1,000 per person. We have enjoyed cruising in the past, and it had been five years since we went on our last cruise. On this trip, we got to know my husband's cousins better. My husband passed away a month after the trip. Being medically retired from the military, we knew he wasn't doing great, but we didn't expect him to leave us so young. He was in his early 50s. It was a great memory to end on."
-- Andi Wrenn, 48, Raleigh, North Carolina
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