Spend

A $600 espresso machine, $175 desk lights—and 6 other items shoppers say are actually worth buying now

Twenty/20

Tori Dunlap, owner of financial coaching site Her First 100k, has made a career from guiding women toward responsible spending decisions. But when the coronavirus pandemic hit, she decided she needed a Snoogle, a $70 pillow intended for pregnant women. 

"I'm not pregnant," she says. The splurge was purely for comfort, and she had been eyeing it for a few years. "It is life changing, but I couldn't condone spending $70 on it until the pandemic."

Dunlap is far from the only one justifying splurges made while in lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic. Americans spent about $183 on impulse buys during April, after shelter-in-place guidelines were implemented in most states, according to a Slickdeals survey taken in April of 2,000 shoppers. That's up from a pre-pandemic monthly average of $155 in January. 

While the top impulse purchases were cleaning supplies and food, 22% of respondents said they impulse-bought clothing, 21% said they gave themselves "a treat" they've had their eye on for a while, and 20% bought a video game.

Here's a snapshot of what some shoppers are splurging on while in quarantine, and why they think what they bought was worth the money. 

1. A professional lighting setup

"I bought really expensive lights for my desk, because I'm a professional speaker and I'm speaking from my desk," explains Robbie Kellman Baxter, author of "The Forever Transaction." The payoff: "When I do Zoom calls, I don't look shadowy. It's the best $175 I've spent in a long time."

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"My whole family laughed at me because I have the best lighting of anybody," she says. "If I'm on my family cocktail hour or High Holy days, I have very good lights. Sometimes when I'm talking to someone, I literally want to say, 'Why don't I send you a better mic and some good lighting?'"

2. Decorative nails

Keita Williams, the owner of career coaching company Success Bully, also bought some high-end lighting for her video calls. Her smaller indulgence: press-on nails. "I refuse to have less-than-decorative nails during the pandemic. Refuse," she says. "Fancy nails helps normalize things for me. It also helps boost my confidence during webinars, virtual group coaching, and live videos on social media."

Her press-on nails are about $10 to $15 per set, and she swaps them out one or two times per week. 

3. A $600 espresso machine

"I'm not a coffee person, but I love espresso," says Dhairya Dand, an inventor and artist in Brooklyn, New York.

"I think of it more as a 'food' taste profile-wise, rather than a 'recharging' drink," he says. "So a week before official lockdown began, and knowing that it was on the horizon, I bought a $600 espresso machine. Sans the quarantine, I'd have continued with our local coffee shop for everyday espresso. The machine makes cafe quality espresso, but I miss the ritual of the cafe."

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4. A mixologist set

"I bought a mixologist set, which I probably wouldn't have cared about having if restaurants and bars were open," says Margaret Craig, an interior designer in Denver, Colorado.

She initially looked on Amazon to see if she could get a more affordable set, but because delivery dates were so delayed, she found one elsewhere.

"I ended up buying a fancy one from Pottery Barn instead, because why not," she says. "I believe it was $70 total. I have used it a good amount, actually. I've made margaritas, but I haven't tried anything else which would actually utilize the tools. I'd say it was worth the money for something to do during quarantine, and it looks great on my shelf." 

5. Natural deodorant 

Bernadette Joy, now a money coach, paid off $300,000 in three years by adopting a minimalist lifestyle. Still, she was not immune to the temptation of a pandemic splurge.

"I bought a natural deodorant kit for $40 because I decided I wanted to start moving to natural products and thought this would be a good time to convert," she says. "Have I used them yet? No. I kind of forgot about it until just now, so tomorrow I shall start."

I refuse to have less-than-decorative nails during the pandemic. Refuse.
Keita Williams
owner of career coaching company Success Bully

6. Better Wi-Fi (to watch Netflix)

Once the stay-at-home order started for California, Chris Browning, founder of the podcast Popcorn Finance, began working from home. That's when he bought a new mesh router system for his apartment.

"I never really had big issues with our internet, but I guess being at home so much and working here the majority of the day, I began to realize how bad the internet coverage actually was," he says.

The router was about $250, and Browning says it's well worth the cost. "I figured if I'm going to be at home for a long time, I might as well have reliable internet coverage," he says. "I value it because not only can I now work without randomly dropping my internet connection, but because Netflix now works in every room."

7. Fancy sunscreen

"I bought camping chairs to bring up to the roof and stupidly expensive sunscreen to go along with it," says Morgan Green, a theater director in Brooklyn, New York. The camping chairs were $52 each and the sunscreen was $45.

"Looking ahead to a summer of staying put in Brooklyn, I figured that lounging on the roof with something cold — and maybe a spray bottle of ice water — is the replacement beach," she says. "And then I just wanted to pamper myself with fancy sunscreen that is light and fancy and smells like flowers." 

I just wanted to pamper myself with fancy sunscreen that is light and fancy and smells like flowers.
Morgan Green
theater director

8. Professional pajamas

"I got a set of coordinating loungewear to wear as a sort of work uniform," says Natalie Parker, an investment analyst in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. "It cost $50. I typically just go for comfort when at home and lounge in T-shirts and leggings or sweatpants, but I'm on camera a lot for my job and needed to find something that looked nice enough, wasn't clingy, and made me feel good."

"I would not have spent this much on loungewear before the pandemic, but I have always enjoyed dressing up for work and have found that the lines between work and leisure time have blurred a lot since I've begun working from home," she says. "I intend to invest in one or two more 'work from home' outfits like this that I will either repurpose as pajamas when I head back into an office or save for days when I need to work from home again." 

The article "8 Pandemic Splurges Shoppers Say Are Worth the Money" originally appeared on Grow by Acorns + CNBC.

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