Tag - Dan Regan

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Small Pleasures

Small Pleasures

By: Dan Regan

It’s undoubtedly true, as we all know, that “the best things in life are free”—love, truth, beauty, honor, among them. Material things, however, do play a part in the quality and enjoyment of our lives. Our experience of the material world can contribute to a sense of satisfaction and hence of wellbeing. If you are among the many for whom this is true, I suggest that you freely indulge in small pleasures.

This message applies to people of all ages, but it is especially intended as a manifesto for older readers not enticed by calls to create a dramatic bucket list, go on a lavish cruise or round-the-world trip, or purchase a fancy automobile. I have no quarrel with those who are so compelled, but the advice about aging and retirement has overwhelmingly spoken to the true luxury-seekers among the older population. 

But what about those of us for whom joy and certainly contentment in advancing age is not found sitting in airport waiting lounges, scrambling to change planes? Or who don’t find ourselves in situations able to “get away,” perhaps because of responsibilities to kids, grandchildren, or parents? How do we find our retirement pleasure?

Of course, the “big” answer resides in deep relationships, meaningful activities, close community. But a partial – though no less compelling – response may reside in the more regular consumption of what I am calling “small pleasures.”

When you go to the supermarket, indulge a little. Purchase—and savor—that expensive chocolate instead of the cheaper variety. Or do the same with coffee. Or go to a bath and beauty store for high-quality soap. Such examples could be multiplied many times. Find your own favorite areas for occasionally foregoing your usual economy in favor of indulging in small pleasures.

The Jaguar that most of us will never own costs a little less than twice what our Toyota or Subaru does. So how do “small pleasures” compare to their more economical counterparts?

“Economy” Brand“Pleasure” Brand% Greater
Car$25,450 $44,800 76% 
Chocolate$1.99 $3.99100%
Coffee$4.35 $12.99 199%
Soap$1.65$7.99384%

As you can see, in percentage terms it’s actually more extravagant to purchase the “small pleasures.” Feel like a millionaire and enjoy all of them! You’ll still only be out a total of 25 bucks, as compared to $45,000.

So, indulge yourself a little, if you are able to do so. You deserve it.

Finally: Please remember that 68,000 Vermonters, 11.3 percent of the state’s population, live in poverty. At least 8,000 among them are Vermont senior citizens. For those below the poverty line, our neighbors among them, subsistence is the currently reachable goal, not—sadly—these small pleasures.


Dan Regan, a sociologist, is the former dean of academic affairs at Johnson State College and continues to work part-time for Northern Vermont University. He writes for a variety of publications about whatever interests him, including—recently—climate change, living with arthritis, the NFL players’ protests, and higher education.