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Lighten up and order out

When times are tight, small luxuries feel -- or taste -- particularly swell.

By Donna_Freedman Nov 20, 2009 12:03PM

This week has been a series of minor irritants, including but not limited to constant rain, leaky apartment house windows, 52 pages of really dense course reading, a hot freelance deadline, and making the 50-minute trip to campus one day only to find that the class had been canceled. (It was pouring that day, too.)

Haunting just about every waking minute is the fact that the undergraduate thesis that's due in mid-December is nowhere close to being done.

Once my wet shoes squished across the threshold on Thursday evening I wanted to lie down and scream, as some of my relatives might say. Instead, I ordered takeout.

That is very unlike me. And you know what? It was sooo worth it.

I'm writing this with a belly full of pizza from Snoose Junction, a funky Seattle restaurant that makes a thin and chewy crust the likes of which I haven't had since leaving Philadelphia. The pie cost just over $20 with tax and I tipped the delivery dude $5.

(Yes, a 25% tip. I wanted to thank him not just for going out in the rain to bring me dinner, but also for not being too good to take the job.)

The pizza that I didn't eat -- enough slices for two more meals -- went into the freezer, in repurposed plastic bread bags. Even in the midst of this mad bacchanal I hadn't entirely lost my frugal edge.

Even so, the frugalists among you may be tsk-tsking right now. Why didn't she look in the fridge for leftovers? Why didn't she pull some things out of that pantry and freezer she's always yapping about?

Because, dammit, every now and then I get tired of soaking dry beans and making soup stock. Tonight I wanted somebody to cook for me.

Besides, I had some wiggle room in my budget. Giving up my car is putting me a little bit ahead each month because I don't have to pay for insurance, gas or oil. (Or, these days, new windshield wipers.)

Paradoxically, a good way to stick to your budget is to look around in it for an occasional treat. These little gifts to ourselves need not be expensive. A bottle of bath salts, an afternoon movie, a coffee away from home can all feel surprisingly luxurious.

I can't tell you the last time I ordered takeout, let alone delivered takeout. That's part of the reason that it felt like such a huge treat.

An episodic splurge is a brief respite from all that figurative or literal bean-counting. It may even sharpen your frugal focus, once you learn to connect daily money-saving tactics with the eventual manicure or matinee.

Every now and then we need to take a brief vacation from frugality. Just make sure you head on back once you've finished that coffee. Or that pizza.

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