There are some things in life you just can’t put a price on—like your health, happiness and sense of self-worth.
But you can pay for certain luxuries that can help make achieving those things easier and more convenient—say, a personal trainer who can improve your health and happiness.
The catch, of course, is that these plum perks can set you back a pretty penny, especially when there are cheaper DIY alternatives.
Which raises the question: Is indulging in premium and concierge services ever a smart money move for the average person?
In short: yes.
“What can seem like a luxury at face value can potentially save you money down the line, and [positively] impact your overall happiness,” says Regina Novickis, a California-based consumer savings pro.
Curious which services make the cut?
From concierge doctors to home stagers, we’re examining seven premium services to discern what is—and isn’t—worth the inflated price tag.
Premium Service #1: Home Cleaners
Grueling work schedules, kids’ after-school commitments and life’s unexpected surprises can leave precious few hours in a week for anything else—including keeping the house clean.
But a tidy home is a happy home, right? Perhaps it’s time to call in some reinforcements.
Worth It? Yes, especially when you consider that the average person devotes about four hours per week to housework.
“That’s half a workday,” Novickis points out. “If you calculate your hourly wage, in many cases, you’ll come out ahead using a cleaning service because they get the work done quickly and thoroughly.”
How to Get the Most Bang for Your Premium Buck Cleaning services generally range from $25 to $35 per hour, so do your research when comparing companies to ensure you’re getting the best deal. A cleaner who charges a cheaper per-hour rate, but quotes you a longer work time, can end up being more expensive.
And a word to the wise: While some eco-conscious consumers may be tempted to upgrade to a green house cleaner—a service that Novickis says typically runs $5 to $10 more per hour—that’s when this service crosses into “not worth it” territory.
“If you’re hiring someone on a regular basis, this adds up,” she says. “Just provide green products to your regular cleaner for a more cost-effective option.”
Premium Service #2: Private Chef
Who wouldn’t love to hire a cook to whip up healthy meals every night—and finally convince you to take that go-to Chinese restaurant off your speed dial?
The only thing keeping you from pulling the trigger: the $300 per week bill.
Worth It? No. “It’s too high a price, considering there are so many [healthy] food subscription services now,” says Janel Funk, a Boston-based registered dietician. “Even Whole Foods delivers.”
How to Get the Most Bang for Your Premium Buck While they don’t quite offer the same level of convenience, companies like Blue Apron send fresh, premeasured ingredients for healthy meals right to your front door for around $60 per week—that’s an 80% savings over an at-home chef.
The only caveat? These gourmet delivery systems still require you to do some prep work, like chopping and assembling.
Premium Service #3: Home Stager
In today’s often competitive housing market, a professional stager can relieve some of your stress by making your home look like something a buyer can’t live without.
Worth It? Unless you’re a die-hard DIYer, yes.
“It’s difficult for homeowners to view their space objectively,” says Brad Malow, a real estate agent in New York City. “But a professional stager has the ability to declutter, depersonalize and highlight the strengths of the home.”
Plus, well-staged homes sell faster and for more money, Malow says. “If you’re hemming and hawing over the few thousand dollars it costs,” he adds, “just compare that to a potential future price cut after your home sits on the market without offers.”
How to Get the Most Bang for Your Premium Buck Staging options range from pros at furniture rental companies who might charge $600-$900 a month to stage a one-bedroom apartment, Malow says, to independent professionals, whose rates start around $4,000.
Your agent should be able to help you determine which route is right for you. Oftentimes, big real estate companies will have a list of vetted professionals they can recommend.
Premium Service #4: Concierge Doctor
It’s an all-too-familiar scene: A strange ache has surfaced, but you can’t get a doctor’s appointment for three weeks. And even then, you’ll likely only get 10 minutes on the exam table before being shown the door.
So you’re wondering if concierge health care—a service that, among other benefits, offers same-day appointments and unfettered communication with your PCP—makes sense for you.
Worth It? Well, it depends. If you’re relatively healthy, and already have a strong relationship with a doc who returns your calls and can squeeze you in for emergency appointments, this potentially $200-plus monthly service is superfluous.
However, if you’re proactively seeking a personalized health care plan, this service could be a life—and budget—saver.
How to Get the Most Bang for Your Premium Buck “If you have a family history of illness, for example, insurance plans may not be as cost-effective [as concierge doctors] for early screenings,” Novickis says. “Of course, you’ll still pay for such services as specialized lab tests, but you may pay a lower rate that’s been pre-negotiated by the practice.”
It’s especially worthwhile, she adds, if you have a high-deductible insurance plan that would require you to pay thousands out-of-pocket—a sum that would exceed the cost of a concierge service—before receiving benefits.
Premium Service #5: Wedding Coordinator
From menus to seating charts, there’s no doubt that juggling wedding planning to-dos can be stressful—and the last thing you want is to miss out on all the fun because you’re fretting over logistics on your big day.
If there were ever a time for a fairy godmother to swoop in and save the day, this could be it.
Worth It? Yes. In fact, this average $3,262 expense sometimes even pays for itself.
“A wedding planner can negotiate better rates for you, thanks to long-term relationships with vendors,” Novickis says. “In some cases, you can actually make up what you shell out for the wedding planner with that savings.”
How to Get the Most Bang for Your Premium Buck The key to finding the right planner is to understand exactly what the person offers, and make sure that jibes with your needs.
“Ask how many hours their estimate includes, whether day-of coordinating is part of the equation, and what happens if the work goes significantly over the initial estimate,” Novickis says. “If it’s not spelled out in your agreement, don’t assume the planner will throw in extras to be nice.”
RELATED: 10 Questions for … a Wedding Planner
Premium Service #6: Concierge Travel Adviser
Gone are the days when travel agents merely churned out flight and hotel reservations for their globe-trotting clients. Now, well-connected travel advisers are more like magicians, procuring exclusive experiences and plush perks.
Worth It? Yes—but only if you’re arranging an expensive, and somewhat complicated, getaway.
Take a luxury cruise, for example. If you want help discerning the right cabin in the best part of the ship, priority disembarkation, a private driver and an English-speaking guide at every port of call, that’s a situation that requires a lot of knowledge and contacts most people just don’t have, says industry veteran Wendy Perrin, TripAdvisor’s travel advocate.
How to Get the Most Bang for Your Premium Buck Perrin notes that concierge travel advisers come in many forms, including such tour operators as Abercrombie & Kent, destination management companies and hotel specialists—and the benefits of their services vary accordingly.
The good news is that, typically, their services are flexible, so you can work with your agent to tweak your itinerary if the first pass triggers sticker shock. “You can always take bits of the itinerary out to bring the cost down,” Perrin says.
Premium Service #7: Personal Trainer
Ralph Waldo Emerson wisely said that the first wealth is health—and yet those carefully planned healthy dinners at home, spin classes and go-get-’em commitment are often the first things to go when busy schedules take over.
That might leave you wondering whether some guided gym time is in order.
Worth It? Yes. If you’re the type who will purchase a fancy gym membership only to never use it, a trainer can provide the accountability you need to hit the pavement.
“The right trainer will be a cheerleader, motivator and a knowledgeable individual who can help identify and move you toward agreed-upon goals,” says Meg Stone, director of the Center of Excellence for Sport Science and Coach Education at East Tennessee State University.
How to Get the Most Bang for Your Premium Buck While personal trainers average about $50 per hour, most trainers will allow you to buddy up for semiprivate sessions and reap the benefits of splitting the costs, Novickis says.
But no matter how much you fork over for training, Stone underscores that commitment is key: “There is no point in paying a personal trainer unless you’re motivated to do the work. Otherwise, you’re wasting your time—and the trainer’s.”