10/09/2013 06:46 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The 7 Best Things To Spend Money On Before You Hit 50

We all know that money can't buy us happiness, right? Even accepting that idea as gospel, there are some things that we are mighty happy we spent our money on. Here are seven that come to mind, and readers, please add your own ideas in the comments section below.

1) An around-the-world airline pass.
It used to be that airlines offered travel-in-one-direction around the world passes. As long as you kept moving East (or West), you could make as many stops as you wanted for a year. It was a great way to fill a gap year. Things have changed considerably since airlines began treating paying customers as nuisances with which they are forced to deal, but there are three airline alliances that offer something akin to the old around-the-world pass. While not inexpensive, these around-the-world tickets require intensive planning and research because available seats are sometimes restricted. But isn't the planning and research kind of the best part anyway? There are also regional air passes if you are just interested in exploring one continent. These kinds of air passes are fraught with ever-changing regulations, so do read up and ask a lot of questions before you buy. You can start your reading here. For sure, doing this again is on my bucket list.

2) A washing machine and clothes dryer.
The first purchase I made after buying my first house was a washing machine and dryer. Not having to drag my clothes to a public laundromat felt wonderful and gave me back my Saturday mornings. I can think of no modern-day appliance that beats being able to just toss clothes in the washing machine and get back to whatever else I am doing. Not even putting a Starbuck's in a laundromat would make it more palatable.

washer and dryer

3) A house.
I believe in real estate. I like living in my investment instead of getting a monthly statement in the mail about it. With the exception of one impulsive purchase of a vacation home, I have made money on every house I've owned. But a house is more than an investment. It's a reflection of who you are. I would never want a landlord to tell me I couldn't have a dog or paint a wall purple (if I wanted a purple wall). I like the tax advantages of home ownership too and knowing that my monthly housing payments will never go up, the way rents do. There is also nothing like a house to make you feel like an adult, which may be why so many stick to renting.

4) Charity.
The money I give to charity, I believe, is money well-spent. My interests and heart have been historically fickle, which is to say that different causes have touched me more deeply at different life stages. I think what you give to is less important than whether you give at all, and I believe that we can all give something. Giving makes you feel good. Helping those with less reminds you of how lucky you are to have what you do. And giving of time is just as valid as giving of money.

5) Safe cars.
Living in Los Angeles means living in your car. When you spend inordinate amounts of time traveling in a car every day, it's vital that you make sure it's safe. Stylish and fast cars may be fun, but having walked away from an accident involving a truck when I was 19 totally shaped how I view what I drive. I have always bought cars that ranked high on the safety scales and spent extra on safety features instead of vanity accessories. Substance over style is a rule in our household. I recently was stopped at a red light with my 16-year-old daughter who has a learner's permit when we witnessed a serious collision. I couldn't have asked for a better teaching moment than the one we had a front row seat to; fortunately the occupants in both cars were not seriously injured.

6) A designer handbag.
"Right," you are thinking, "She's going to say something about how great it is to overspend." So let me just say, yes it is actually great to overspend once in awhile. And it's also OK to overspend on yourself. I think we do too little of it. Splurging on yourself -- I'm not suggesting doing this all the time -- is a kind of self-validation. I bought an overpriced designer handbag years ago that I still carry. I love it. I look at it and it makes me feel good. Self-indulgence, done in moderation, is a big exclamation point in most of our lives. So, self-indulge once in a while. It truly feels good.

a designer purse

7) A good pair of hiking boots.
You may modify this to be a treadmill, a pilates class, a paddle board, a bike or any number of the hundreds of other ways you make exercising a daily part of your life. Spending money on exercise equipment, for many of us, signals a commitment to exercise. It's why we all join gyms in January after the holidays. We make a promise to ourselves that we are going to get in better shape and we plop down our credit cards to seal the deal. No, of course it doesn't always work. But maybe the next pair of hiking boots will. Keep trying.

Earlier on Huff/Post50: