Can you put a price on happiness? Sure, you can, and you did, in intriguing ways. When we asked readers to pick the one thing they couldn't live without, even in these tightwad times, we were surprised by the variety of answers and the forcefulness of the convictions.
Linda Mainquist, 56, of St. Paul is a self-described "Swedophile" who has filled her apartment with Swedish decorating books and imports found in thrift shops and on eBay. Her mini-obsession, she jokes, has prevented her from "becoming a gossip." De'Vonna Pittman, 36, of Brooklyn Park, gave up biweekly hair appointments, but she won't give up her biweekly massages. They help her relax, she wrote. And Jerry Kohl, 58, of Grand Marais, refuses to give up his daily Bombay Sapphire martini "NO MATTER WHAT!!!!" (caps and exclamation points his).
Aside from a few outliers ($300 jeans, Gucci handbags), most of your guilty pleasures hardly would be considered extravagant: A $4 bar of imported soap, a $10 bouquet of fresh flowers, three-buck Chuck. Maybe they just feel, smell and taste sweeter when you choose them so deliberately. Here are a few of our favorites.
TERESA VICKERY, 55, SHOREWOOD, PRESIDENT OF A SMALL MARKETING FIRM
Guilty pleasure: Exotic, imported handmade soaps, especially organic lavender, lily-of-the-valley and verbena.
Cost: $4 to $10 a bar.
Reason? "A chunk of plain old Ivory will get me just as clean, but doesn't give me any satisfaction. I love the scents and the suds. I justify it by saying the oversized bars last much longer, although I confess I've never tested this hypothesis."
CAROL SYLVESTER, 42, ROSEMOUNT, CORPORATE LIBRARIAN
Guilty pleasure: Silk thread for needle-working.
Cost: As much as $7 a skein (compared with cotton floss at less than $1).
Reason? "There is nothing else that slides through the fabric with such ease, and nothing else that gives me as much satisfaction from my stitching."
PAULIE BROOKS, 30, PLYMOUTH, LIQUOR STORE EMPLOYEE
Guilty pleasure: Surly beer.
Cost: $10 to $12/four-pack.
Reason? "Surly is recession-proof and it's local! I don't think twice about it."
JAN KLICK, 54, ANDOVER, MEDICAL RECEPTIONIST
Guilty pleasure: Sculptured-nail fills twice a month.
Cost: $15/visit, plus tip.
Reason? "We turn our heat down, we've stopped grocery delivery and we didn't take a warm-weather trip this winter. This is the one thing I'm not giving up. It just makes me feel good to look down and see pretty hands."
CHRIS HOFFMAN, 47, SHOREVIEW, HUMAN RESOURCES DIRECTOR
Guilty pleasure: Fresh flowers three times a month.
Reason? "They are short-lived and certainly not a necessity, but they bring life and beauty into our home and my office. I buy them more in the winter as a day-brightener. Feels downright decadent these days!"