One of the small benefits of the last 18 months is that a lack of things to do and places to go has meant it’s been a good opportunity to save money. Steve and I have been busily building up our savings for our wedding next year and for a deposit on a house, so we’ve been doing what we can to avoid unnecessary expenses. We’ve been lucky enough to be able to live with his parents since moving back to Ireland, so that’s also helped a lot, but in the day-to-day the lockdown has definitely made a difference in not spending money on travel and bars.
Still, even when saving as much as possible for important things, it’s good not to deprive yourself entirely of little luxuries, if you can swing it. And there are a couple of things I’ve bought in recent weeks that are well worth the money.
Sleeping Eye Mask (€3) I’m a super light sleeper. I don’t nap, I don’t doze off on the couch, etc. For me to fall asleep, I have to be laying down in bed, the room has to be quiet, and most importantly it has to be dark. One of the great things about Ireland is that in the summer the sunset isn’t until 10pm, and it doesn’t get dark until at least an hour after that. When I was younger, this would have been ideal, as I’d often stay up until dawn and then sleep until the afternoon if I didn’t have other obligations. But these days I actually love to go to bed early and wake up early (it’s Saturday morning when I’m writing this and I’ve been up since just after 7), and having light coming into the bedroom until nearly midnight makes this slightly difficult. We don’t have blackout curtains, so I started using a sleep eye mask I got on an airplane trip, but it was slightly scratchy and not super comfortable so I upgraded (to the tune of three whole euros) to a thicker, softer one that even has lavender in it for a better sleep. It works like magic — I fall asleep faster, don’t wake up as much during the night, and feel more well-rested in the morning. Probably the least expensive game-changer I’ve ever bought.
Electric Toothbrush (€40) I hate brushing my teeth. I know nobody loves it, except for dentists, I guess, but it’s really my least favourite daily chore. Obviously I do it, because I have to, but I really can’t stand it. I had a lot of trouble with my teeth when I was a kid — once I had nine cavities at once, and it wasn’t for lack of brushing (the hygienist said it was probably due to hormones and would go away once I finished puberty, which it did, but would probably start up again if I ever got pregnant… so great, that’s something fun to look forward to, I guess). I also had braces for years, teeth removed because my mouth was too small for them, and just all kinds of hassle. A few weeks ago I bought an electric toothbrush, something I’d been thinking about for ages, and I really wish I had done it sooner. My teeth feel way cleaner with way less effort. Sometimes if you can afford to pay a little bit of money to make some part of your routine that you hate a lot easier, you should do it. Whether it’s a dishwasher or paying someone to mow your lawn or an electric toothbrush, sometimes the money is worth it in happiness to just take the unwanted chore off your plate.
New York Times Crossword Subscription ($26.50) I’ve gotten really into crosswords over the last couple of months. There are actually a lot of free ones you can do online every day — the Washington Post has one, Merriam Webster has one (although I generally find it too easy), the New Yorker has one Monday/Wednesday/Friday. However, the big one, the New York Times, does not allow you to access their daily crossword without a subscription (although they do put up five archival puzzles each week. I was satisfied with this for a while, but then I discovered Spelling Bee. If you’re not familiar, each day you’re given a set of six letters plus a seventh, central letter. You have to come up with as many 4+-letter words as possible using the letters, and each word must contain the central letter. You get extra points for finding the panagram(s) (the word using all seven letters). While you can play Spelling Bee without the subscription, you’re cut off after a certain number of letters. Between the allure of the daily crossword and the spelling bee, I decided it was worth the equivalent of 50 cents a week to pay for the subscription. I really enjoy it as a way to wake my brain up in the morning.
Flight to Philadelphia ($576) Having travelled around and lived abroad so much over the last decade, I’m used to not going home frequently. Between October 2017 and March 2020 I wasn’t back in the States at all, and I didn’t think anything of it since I was on the other side of the world. But now that I’m “only” a short 7-hour flight away (nearly as close as when I lived in Seattle!), it’s felt weird to not even think about a trip home over the past year. It’s not that I expected to be jetting back and forth all the time, but I was expecting to at least be able to plan a trip (or have my parents be planning a trip over to me), so being in limbo all year not knowing when or if I’d be able to even start thinking about a flight home has been weird. Even as people at home got vaccinated and the case numbers dropped, the slow rollout here has meant I’ve been hesitant to plan — I knew I could get vaccinated once I arrived, but that would mean waiting two weeks for it to kick in before I felt safe to go meet people, which would take up pretty much my whole trip. But in the last couple weeks I’ve finally felt optimistic enough to book my flight home, and now for sure that I’ll already fully vaccinated by the time I arrive (getting my jab this afternoon, actually!). Definitely looking forward to it.