Things I Bought That I Regret

The older I get, the more I realize that cost is usually inversely proportional to the pleasure derived from the cost. Perhaps I just a boring fellow, or a “lazy, middle class intellectual” as the band Bad Religion might accuse. On the other hand, perhaps growing up really does mean that we become more comfortable with what’s inside our heads and the people with whom we surround ourselves.

As I look back on the past twenty or so years, I realize that I made a lot of purchasing decisions which might not necessarily have been bad, but which were at the very least misguided. Sometimes, the purchases might have been made because I thought I was supposed to have the item in question. Other times, I might have bought something because I was concerned about what would happen if I needed it and didn’t have it. In still other instances, I made the purchase because my wife told me to do so, even though I knew that the purchase was a bad idea.

I suspect we have all made purchasing blunders that we regret, but I wish someone had warned me before I had done so. Just in case you have not made these blunders yet, here are some of the things that I really regret having bought:

A Two Year Old House from its Builder

When my wife and I bought our first house, it was two years old and it looked wonderful. Unfortunately, appearances can be deceiving and inspections do not catch every flaw. Over the first six months that we lived in our new home, we learned that it was subject to flooding during the rainy season (remedied with two thousand dollars worth of drainage) and that much of the wiring was less than perfect (fixed courtesy of about 9 electrician visits over a four year period). Later we learned that one side of the house had not been properly sealed and we had to redo a bedroom that was damaged by water. I could list many more examples of the problems with our home but, let it be sufficient to say, I wish I had purchased an older home that had already been “fixed up” by at least two owners. My wife and I once tried to figure out how much the repairs that we should not have needed to make to a new house actually cost us and we stopped counting at $20,000.

A Swimming Pool

I love to swim but we rarely have time to do so. The value in the number of days that we can actually swim is far from close to offsetting the cost of maintaining a swimming pool. We bought a swimming pool because it was already constructed at the property that we built but, if I had to do it all over again, I would look for a home that had no swimming pool.

Marble Floors

Marble floors look beautiful but to preserve their beauty, they require very expensive maintenance. Specifically, the surface needs to be shaved down and then polished roughly every 2 years. The cost for our home would have been about $2200 every two years, if we followed the recommended schedule. That is just too much money to preserve a shine!

Gym Equipment

Unless you are already working out several days per week and have been doing so for at least long enough to feel confident that you will continue to do so, it is usually a waste to buy gym equipment for your home. It was for us, at least. At the time that we bought it, both my wife and I were working 12+ hour days and weekends and we had no time to exercise. Nor did we have space for the equipment in our home at the time. Even now, when we both go to the gym (she, consistently for 9 years; me, consistently for the past 4 days!), I know that we would not use the equipment if it were in our home because there are too many distractions. I wish I had known that before we spent $1200 on equipment in 1994.

Musical Instruments that will Never be Played

I own a guitar. I have owned several guitars. I want to learn to play guitar but I have never had the time to do so. Nor, it seems, do I really have an ear for music. Over the years, I have purchased a guitar and amplifier for one of my sons and seen it used for 2 lessons and then stored away in my closet. I have also tried to get both of my sons to join the school band and incurred the costs associated with that. I should have realized that when a five year old says that he wants to play guitar, it does not mean that he will actually practice or go to lessons, and that when a 9 year old says that although he loves music, he really has no desire to be in the band, he really means that there is no way he is going to be in the band. Of course, I should also realize at this point that if I am going to play guitar, it will not happen until I reach retirement.

New Cars

Over the years, I have purchased six vehicles. All have been new, and all have seen their value decrease by about 50% as I drove them off the lot. A few months ago, I asked the head of the maintenance department at my dealership what he would buy if her were to purchase a new car. He told me that he did not know what he would buy but that he did know it would not be a new vehicle. Rather, he would buy a good used car and let someone else absorb the depreciation. I will never again buy a new car.

Recorded Media

It’s true, I will always want a copy of Casablanca and a few other movies, and there are some albums that I return to time and time again. Nevertheless, there is not enough time in the world to consistently watch the same movies and listen to the same music over and over again. When most of my collection is available for loan at my local library, the thousands I have spent over the years on recorded music and movies seems like such a waste.

I am sure I could continue to list purchasing regrets for many pages. Some are big and others small, but all are regrettable. What would you avoid buying if you had a second chance at the past few years? Where are your regrets?

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22 Responses to Things I Bought That I Regret

  1. whitestripe says:

    i agree with you on the car thing – i have never and will never buy a car new. but i could never call buying music a waste – but i guess it depends on what is important to you personally. music is a very big part of my life.

    things i bought that i regret? shoes that look nice but don’t fit that well. clothes that look nice but i never wear.

  2. spicoli says:

    I have bought so many things that my parents cautioned me not to buy that I have lost count. I don’t regret the waste, however, because I always learn from my mistakes and I would rather make a mistake on my own than make a mistake on someone’s advice.

  3. simpleyme says:

    I bought a roomba that cute robotic vacuumfor about 250 dollars I had to keep sending it back and eventually I just gave it to my son so he could play with the components

    I agree with media,about 5 years ago i gave away my entire video collection to my friends and family it consisted of practically ever cartoon movie released in the past 20 years,plus any other kid or action movie most bought new as soon as they came out for about 20
    bucks each! do to learning this painfull lesson I am proud to say I have only own 3 DVDs 😉

  4. persephone says:

    I have purchased a lot of kitchen gadgets over the years from salad spinners to lemon zesters. Some I use and others have never left the cupboard. I learned to refrain from buying until I had at least a handful of recipes that I liked and for which I knew I would benefit by having a specific tool.

  5. AJ says:

    Sometimes I regret getting a car in school. I needed it to get to my internships but once I got out of college my parents didnt pay for maintenance or anything else. They put everything on me when I could not really afford it. At least, it is about to be paid off within the next month.

  6. Ann says:

    Regretted purchases? Hmmmm.

    An excess of expensive professional clothes, when I was working downtown, that were seldom used when I moved to work in the burbs — no woman needs three packed closets of clothes! lol

    Not finding out or understanding estate sales until I already had all the furniture I needed. After paying full price for all of mine, my mom died and I found out about estate sales where like new furniture can be purchased for literally cents on the dollar. Could habve saved myself a lot of money over the years!

    I generally agree with you about cars. My second Jetta was a one year old that had been on a lease. Looked new, still had warranty stuff and I kept it for 7 or 8 years. Now my Subaru Baja I had to buy new — no one was giving theirs up! lol

    Music I have bought but I have most of what I want to suit every mood (my tastes are pretty eclectic) and am generally not adding. Owning dvd’s is handy when you can’t sleep and it’s 2am. 😉 But I’ve never been a slave to the latest and greatest gadgets!

    I do own my own exercise equipment but we’re talking a weight bench and weights and a recumbent stationary bike to increase range of motion on my knees. I’m best at doing exercises before I’m fully awake, so having them here is great! Plus, I downsized to a smaller house and with only 2 bedrooms I have a great excuse for no one being able to stay with me. lol

    Kitchen gadgets can be totally addictive! Wish I’d banked some of that money instead.

    Some power tools have turned out to not be wise purchases. After my accident last fall, I went through and took some (like a good tablesaw still in the box) to ReTool and stuck with the items that I really use…. surprisingly enough, I kept the jointer that shortened 3 of my fingers! :-)

  7. Jon says:

    My Russian bride… does none the things as advertised. What a waste of time and money.

  8. gettingby says:

    As a woman, I have fallen into the trap of buying some sort of clothing because it was “cute”. Sure, it was almost always on sale or discounted in some way, but it is that cute factor and that “got to have it” feeling that I regret giving into.

    Amazingly enough, I regret purchasing some of the Christmas presents I have in the last 5 years or so. Even though I spend very little on each person, my situation has been such that I should not have been buying for so many of my family members. Nieces and nephews in their 20’s, for example. Granted I got a lot of joy from doing so. But this last Christmas I cut back and just gave to my siblings. I also did not purchase a gift for my mother who never really wants what I give her! I simply got her little treats during the season, which she enjoyed. Well, it was so freeing to not have to worry about how many gifts and totalling up the costs.

    As for recorded music. I check out it out from the library and copy to my computer, then copy onto a CD. And I have, with no regrets, purchased CDs of artists who I have seen at free concerts who are not popular. It reminds me of a wonderful time I have had, supports the artists, and is probably only available on their website and not in a library. Music is a wonderful companion when you are going through tough times or when you need to bring joy into your life.

    I check out DVD’s from the library and set aside a special time that day or night to watch. I bought one that I wanted to see and never had – from the $5 bin in K-Mart.

    I regret spending money on going to see movies. I am picky about what I see and I don’t have an entire family to pay for, so I can see a movie once in a while. But the ones I regret are the ones I went to just to see a movie in a movie theater. Also, I hate to say it, but I pretty much regret spending so much to see one movie and not working it out so I sneak in and get a 2-fer – which I have heard of people doing.

  9. Richby30RetireBy40 Blog says:

    A $2,000 Gucci trench coat, and a $72,000 new car. What a waste of money. Never again!



  10. Richby30RetireBy40 Blog says:

    Sorry, of course…… buying stocks WAY TO EARLY during a recession. I need to be patient and let things bottom before buying.


  11. Steven says:

    Wine. I stopped drinking 12 years ago, but not until I had 23 years of serious experience.

    What a waste!

  12. I’m pretty frugal, so I don’t buy much that I’ll regret….and I have learned a serious lesson from the 2 new cars I’ve bought in my life. :(

    The 2-year-old Camry I bought right out of college….now THAT was a great deal for $16,000 and I drove it well past 100k miles. Wish I had done that again.

    I traded it for a 2001 Mitsubishi Montero because it was ‘cute.’ I hated that car….it was uncomfortable, drove terribly, and got horrible gas mileage, and so I decided to trade it in on a used Camry :) and found out it was worth less than 1/2 at less than 1 year old.

    Still, I stupidly traded it in 2006 for another new vehicle….. My biggest regret ever….a $47,000 Volvo XC90 I bought new…. its been in the shop 14 times and they STILL don’t have it fixed.

    I agree….I’ll never buy a new car again!!!! A 2-year-old Camry is the way to go. 😉

  13. Heibi says:

    I didn’t know that I was supposed to be maintaining my marble! Does this polishing process take out water stains?

  14. robpayne says:

    Hear hear what you makes very good sense although if we all did it,we would have even less of a new car industry.I have been in the motor trade all my life and at one time
    held a new car(volume) franchise-even then I bought ex-manufacurers
    (management cars) I am now retired(i thought) and living in France.keeping my brain active by sourcing and supplying used cars for my expatriate pals ,thus saving them a fair bit of cash (God knows where they get the prices from over here !!)and a lot of hassle

  15. David G. Mitchell says:

    Heibi — When we had our marble polished professionally, it looked like new when the job was done. I don’t know what results you will get but you should get several bids and talk to the people who will do the work about your expectations before you sign anyone on.

  16. gettingby says:

    When I was about to by a new car, I lost my job (1999 – company went bankrupt). I almost did it anyway, because I needed a car. However, I froze with checkbook in hand and backed out. That was a good decision. I have since discovered that Hertz and Enterprise have good deals on used cars. Hertz doesn’t usually sell any over 30 thousand miles and 2 years old. I was shopping for a car with Hertz Car Sales for a long time. They are great, at least out here. They give you the car alone for a test drive and allow you up to 20 minutes or so. Something came up and I was unable to buy. I actually don’t own a car, which is the pits in So. Cal. But I do rent and I do look for the best deals. If you have a good older car and want to drive a new one, renting is the way to go. (As long as you look for specials.) You can even rent from a “prestige” collection. That way you can drive a Jacquar or whatever for a weekend, give it back, pay for the pleasure but not for the ownership!

  17. Tightwad says:

    We bought an RV brand new and paid $15,000.00 for it ten years ago. We used it three times. Sold it for $8,000.00. What a loss! :(

  18. wandaa says:

    Jewelry. Need I say more.

    And I agree, new homes, new cars, too many clothes, movies and music…

    Yep. We’ve wasted the money too.


  19. Lou Russo says:

    While I agree that I have bought things I later regretted, I disagree about the new car thing. I have bought 3 new cars in my life. The first was a 1981 Toyota Tercel. I had it until 1991 when I traded it in on a new Camry. I kept that until 2005 when I bought a new Nissan Altima, which I still have. All of them have given me great service. I’ve had several used cars that I regretted buying, however.

  20. Susan says:

    For some reason, it’s the wrong decisions that I make on small expenditures that really get to me. For instance, I won $10 in the lottery and thought to myself, I will save this, just because it was unexpected and it was nice to win SOMETHING! Anyway,I was shopping and got really hungry. All that I wanted was a piece of fish from Luby’s cafeteria and I thought, okay, I’ll eat a whole piece and not just half like I usually do and I won’t get anything else. Keep in mind that I’m hungry and I’ve been walking a lot. So, I’m walking through the line and see these beautiful salads, sweet potato casserole, blah, blah, blah, blah. AND before you know it, I’ve incurred $10.79 at the register. If I hadn’t been so famished, I would have said, “Forget it,” but I didn’t. Later I was thinking while riding on the bus, why did I do that? Half of a piece of fish would have been just fine, but the salad and wonderful sweet potato casserole appealed to my visual as well as hunger sensations and that’s what got to me. I think that is what happens to a lot of us, it’s the inital visual or instinctual appeal that grabs us in a weakened state. I know it’s small, but I’ve done that on bigger items as well and the mindset is the same. I’m learning though. Oh yea, one more thing, the servers that work in these chain cafeterias expect tips now and for a cheerful person to refill your water glass, I guess it includes a 15% gratuity.

  21. minny says:

    How funny, I love this article. The list of things I regret buying is too long to look at and stay sane!

    It must be a rare person who has a short list!!! I have learned my lesson – pretty much – but it still happens – doh!

  22. John says:

    When Cd’s came out, I was thrilled to listen all my music in the brand new format (1984) I started buying almost every album that contained 1-2 good songs that I liked, when I got married I owned about 500 hundred cd’s but instead of keep them all I started to sort between the ones I didn’t listened anymore and the ones I continued to listen to..I sold almost 400 hundred of them in a shopping site like e-bay (I live in Mexico) and all the music from those cd’s I keep it in an external drive…so in some cases you don’t have to get rid of everything but you can sell it at least for a part of the cost that you shelled out. But I regret having to buy all that music, now I’m more selective and careful with the music I buy.

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