Splurge vs. Save: Are Expensive Candles Worth It?

If you think about it, burning candles is basically just lighting your money on fire.

In spite of that sobering fact, I love candles and have been obsessed with them for years. When I lived with my parents, they wouldn’t let me burn candles because my dad they insisted the smoke makes the walls/ceilings black. Instead, my mom uses wax burners and diffusers, which to me, just aren’t the same.

SPLURGE VS. SAVE

As soon as I got my own apartment I was hell-bent on burning as many candles as I could. The only problem is that candles are expensive. I would plan my purchases around Bath and Body Works’ three-wick candle sales. If I was feeling saucy, I would splurge on a Yankee Candle and if I was feeling particularly frugal, I would shop places like Home Goods, Marshalls or Target.

Fast forward about 10 years. I have evolved from purchasing candles from chains and big-box stores to dipping my toes into the world of ~luxury~ candles. That’s right—brands like Le Labo and Diptyque which charge upwards of $75 per candle. PER CANDLE. It’s insane I know. Is it worth it? Let’s discuss.

THE APPEAL

For most of my life, Yankee candles were the splurge candles. Three wick candles at B&BW are $24.50 full price but you can routinely snag them on sale for around 10 bucks—a Yankee jar candle will set you back $30. I distinctly remember a time I went to Bed Bath and Beyond and cashed in one of those 20% off coupons on a Yankee candle. I felt like the fanciest bitch in East Lansing and reveled in my ~wealth~ as the sickeningly sweet aroma of my Vanilla Cupcake Original Large Jae Candle filled my dingy college apartment.

I don’t remember exactly the first time I was introduced to luxury candles but I am pretty certain it was on Instagram (where consumerism flourishes and money management goes to die). Unless you live under a rock, you’re probably familiar with the Diptyque Baies* candle that every blogger under the sun has, at one point or another, strategically positioned in a perfectly lighted, perfectly staged photo.

I am someone who loves the finer things in life. I don’t know why I am the way that I am—I certainly wasn’t raised that way. But when I learned that the upper echelon was burning these exorbitantly overpriced candles, I immediately believed that they were somehow better and that I would die if I didn’t get my hands on one.

Now that I’ve purchased these candles, burned them and had some time to objectively think about them, I feel like I can offer some insight.

THE SPECIFICS

In case you’re wondering what candles exactly I’ve tried, I’ll tell you. I purchased the 6.5-ounce Diptyque Vanille candle, the 2.5-ounce Diptyque Amber candle and the 8.6-ounce  Le Labo Santal 26 candle. I  like spicy, sexy scents if you can’t tell.

THE SMOKE

Listen. I don’t like admitting that my dad is right but, in this instance, he is. A lot of my cheaper candles are notorious for producing plumes of black smoke either while burning or when blown out. I used always keep a three-wick Bath and Body Works candle on my bathroom sink and realized one day that there was an actual film of soot from the candles that I could run my finger through. It was disgusting and I scrubbed the wall with a Magic Eraser immediately. My expensive candles don’t put off smoke when they burn AND they don’t produce black smoke when blown out, either. That’s a big vantage point for me.

THE SCENT

The biggest difference between cheap and expensive candles is the quality of the scent. What does that mean? Fragrant oils are what make candles (and perfumes) smell good. When it comes to candles, oils can’t just smell good—they have to burn well. Not only are poor quality oils going to result in a less quality fragrance, they result in black smoke which, like my parents told me, will ruin your house (and are not good to breathe in, especially for an asthmatic like me).

THE BURN TIME

Because expensive candles use a better quality of fragrance, you don’t have to burn them for very long to fill your entire space with the fragrant aroma of your absurdly over-priced candle. In fact, sometimes you don’t even have to burn them at all! The candles that I have are actually so fragrant that they fill up my rooms with scent just by sitting on a shelf. I love that for me.

THE PRODUCTION

I recently wrote a blog about how I’m buying less jewelry but making sure it’s higher quality—the same applies to these candles, too. To be fair, I have no idea where the other candle brands I mentioned are made. However, I do know that brands like Diptyque and Le Labo are handmade in small batches. In fact, there was a notecard in my Le Labo box that said that the candle had been hand-poured by someone in the U.S. the day before it shipped to me. Buying things that are sourced responsibly and ethically—and made by someone in safe working conditions who is being paid a living wage is increasingly important to me.

THE APPEAL

Let’s be real—while the quality of fragrance does vary between cheap and expensive candles, a large part of what you’re paying for is the appeal. It’s just like buying designer coffee. Is there really that much difference between brewing a cup of Maxwell coffee in my own kitchen vs. buying it from Starbucks? Probably not. You’re paying for the experience.

THE VERDICT

Are expensive candles worth it? Yes and no. Just like everything else in life, it’s about what you prioritize spending your money on. If fragrance doesn’t matter to you, buy cheap candles and rock on with your bad self. If buying a bougie candle is a form of consumer-based self-care than that’s great, too.

TL;DR

There are definite differences between luxury candles and the cheap ones you can pick up at any home goods store. Are they worth upwards of $75? Realistically, no scented wax is worth that much money. It all comes down to what you want to spend your money on. And, after all that ~research~ my favorite candle of all time is still this cheap one from World Market. Go figure.

Do you buy expensive candles and, if so, what’s the most that you’ve spent on one? Let me know!

*Until about six months ago, I honestly thought that these candles said BABIES which I thought was really weird but whatever. It didn’t seem out of the realm of possibility for a pretentious and over-priced candle. Also, in my defense, babies do have their own very specific scent. It wasn’t until my friend Andrea casually mentioned that Baies means “berry” in French that I realized I had been hilariously and embarrassingly mistaken. 

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