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ROI on the 10 Best Purchases that I Ever Made

Woman Sitting on Boat Traveling

I’ve purchased a lot of things in my three-plus decades on Earth. But the return on investment (ROI) isn’t always monetary. Here are some of the most impactful ways that I’ve spent my money—things and experiences alike. Hopefully, you can learn something from this list about how you would like to use your money.


Travel is one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had and one of the best uses of my money. You get to explore an unfamiliar place, taste different cuisines, hear (maybe even speak) another language, and experience an entirely new way of life. My wife and I spent a year-long “career sabbatical” teaching English part-time in Spain and traveling Europe. I got a tiny monthly stipend and dipped into my savings, but it was worth every penny. I wouldn’t trade that experience for any amount of money.



Outside of the times when I suddenly have an extremely expensive repair that I have to make, I love being a homeowner. There’s something incredibly satisfying about doing yard work, making improvements, and making it distinctly yours.



The adoption fee I paid for my dog Buddy, along with all the other expenses (and they do add up!), have been repaid many times over. Not in money (Buddy is still looking for work, three years later), but in wet noses, sloppy kisses, couch cuddles, tug of war, and greetings at the front door.



Weddings are expensive. Or at least mine was. But I would pay for it all over again. There aren’t many times in life where you get to have all your friends and family in one place, let alone to celebrate you in a giant party. There is something to be said for having and sticking to a wedding budget, though. Costs can get out of control quickly!



Gift giving doesn’t have to be reserved for the holidays. The small, random gifts to friends and family over the years are the ones that have felt the best to give. Here are a few ideas to get you started, but really anything goes as long as it makes you think of the person you’re giving it to. They don’t have to be expensive!

  • A button or sticker you happen upon while window shopping.
  • The book you just finished reading and loved.
  • A bouquet of flowers (preferably not from the supermarket, but that still works).
  • Earrings from the farmer’s market.
  • A home-cooked meal.
  • A gift card to their favorite coffee shop.
  • A fake tattoo.
  • A house plant.


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I know that drinks, appetizers, and desserts are where restaurants make their money. But that’s precisely why it feels so rich to buy them. Ordering a cocktail, getting a starter, and finishing with a sweet treat is a small investment with a huge return in happiness.



This should be higher up on the list, honestly. There is nothing quite like getting to spend time with old friends. You fall right back into the rhythm of your friendship without missing a beat. It’s like being nostalgic and present all at the same time; you’re reliving and making memories at the same time, almost like time travel.



My physical health has a huge effect on my mental health. I need to do some sort of exercise each day in order to feel like myself. So, investing in free weights, a medicine ball, yoga mats, a gym membership, a rowing machine, a stationary bike or treadmill, and the like have a major impact on the quality of my life.

Mental health apps are another excellent investment, in my opinion. I personally use Headspace to practice meditation, but there are countless apps, as well as classes. There are even plenty of free resources out there!



I was a late convert to coffee. But once I discovered it’s delicious AND powerfully caffeinating, I found myself spending way too much money at coffee shops. So my wife and I bought an espresso machine and haven’t looked back. Yes, it was an upfront cost, but one that has paid for itself over time since I was saving money on lattes I no longer needed to buy. It’s also fun and rewarding to pull your own espresso shot and fiddle with the settings until you get it just right.



We recently bought one of those digital picture frames that rotates through whatever photos you upload to it. It’s such a joy to look over and see different memories as they cycle through, from our daughter’s early days to our travels abroad. It’s like a more cost-effective version of seeing friends and family—suddenly they’re right there in the frame, and you’re flooded with memories of them and the day that the picture captured.

For instance, right now I’m looking at a photo of my wife and I standing in front of the Parthenon in Athens, Greece. I’m suddenly thinking about that trip to Greece and simultaneously wondering where we should go on our next trip (with our one-year-old!). It’s not a photo I would ever print out and frame. But with the digital frame, it’s easy to upload and makes me happy to see and be reminded of those memories.


Hopefully, this list has spawned a few ideas for ways that you can spend money (guilt-free!) and look for ROIs that are more than just dollars and cents.


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Nick Bohlen

About Nick Bohlen

Nick Bohlen is a communications strategist at VSECU, sharing ideas and information with staff, members, and Vermonters. When he’s not writing, he enjoys reading, traveling, and exploring Vermont’s great outdoors with his wife, daughter, and dog.
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