These are my worst purchases. Admitting mistakes is the first step in fixing them.
5 Minute Read
Scott here. Saving money for this trip was no joke. We tightened our belts in a lot of places, found joy in simple things, and were fortunate to have a beneficial housing arrangement. Still, with all that in place, I found a lot of ways to spend money that were, frankly, a mistake.
I want to share with you some of the worst purchases I made over the last two years that put the biggest damper on my saving skills. I think it’s important to admit when a purchase was not helpful or just plain dumb. At the very least they were purchases of passion – never a good idea. This is a reminder that your spending habits, no matter how small, all impact your bottom line. And if you want to pursue your purpose in life, you’ll need to make sure your money is going to the right places – like your savings account.
My 5 Worst Purchases Since 2015
Random Amazon Purchases
Here’s a humbling experiment. Go to the Orders tab in your Amazon account and start clicking through each year’s purchases. Does a lot of it look familiar? Maybe you’re wondering what happened to that gadget or gizmo? Things just disappear, don’t they? You realize quickly how fleeting these purchases have an impact on your life. You spend your money and your purchases vanish.
I’m sure there are some purchases in your Order History you hang onto and continue to use. Good for you. That’s the main goal with shopping, especially on Amazon – a place that makes buying stuff as easy as clicking a single button. If you’re anything like me, though, your Order History is a graveyard of failed and forgotten purchases, a few of which I’ll highlight below.
Too Many Tools
This is another hard one to admit: I don’t need as many tools as I have. I’ve gotten rid of a lot of them, but it bears repeating: I don’t need as many tools as I have. We have a reliable car and most maintenance can be done with simple tools. Same goes for house repairs. Wrenches, bit drivers, drills, circular saw, hammer, picks, tape measures, voltmeter – these are the tools I use most often, and they are just as useful around the home as they are on the car.
All those other tools: specialized pry bars, swivel t-bevel, slag hammer, a zillion different fasteners, one use sockets, and a bevy of other tools just makes me regretful. I would see the tools and envision my future self performing a task or finishing up a project. What I’ve learned is that I’m so busy that the only tasks I will complete are ones that need to be done, and those generally only require basic tools.
Too many tools is the most masculine purchase out of my worst purchases. Having tools is great, and it makes you feel handy, but they quickly overwhelm and strike me with guilt. I made it easy on myself and gave many of them to friends and family. Then, if I ever need to use the tool, I can go borrow it from them.
I thought I wanted to can my own food. Turns out I only just like the idea of it.
This was a tough one to admit because it wasn’t cheap. It’s over $200. That alone is one of the best reasons to be considered one of my worst purchases. It’s perfect for people who need to do this type of work. I, I learned, wasn’t one of them. I ended up feeling guilt ridden because I thought I wanted it. In the end, I got zen with myself and choose to let the canner go and help someone else. I’ve never looked back. In fact, it’s a great relief and my anxiety level is much lower.
I’ll start by saying these books are amazing. The Amazon reviews speak for themselves. The reason these books made this list is because I half-convinced myself I was ready for this lifestyle. I enjoy DIYing a lot of stuff, but I’m just not ready and willing to deal with the responsibilities of chickens in the backyard, tilling up the lawn to plant potatoes, and make home made laundry detergent. If you are, great! Consider these books. They can help with everything from raising bees to composting toilets. Me – I just wasn’t ready.
These books would sit on my shelf and guilt me into leafing through some pages. I’d do so and then put them back, promising to give them an honest look “later”. Later never came – I knew it wouldn’t. I knew I had no real desire for the books and kept them around so I didn’t have to make the decision to get rid of them. All because, “What if I need them later? Just in case?”
What made these books some of my worst purchases was the intention I had. I wanted to be more self-sustaining and ready to garden. They’re all great ideas in theory but they were fueled by guilt.
Eventually I took them to the library. They’ll live there and help more people through their wisdom. If the books in my life aren’t serving their purpose, I let them go. If they’re really worth having, I’ll find them again in the future. I’m not telling you to get rid of your books. I’m just saying don’t feel guilty for hanging onto books that you don’t love or use – instead, donate them to the library or a 2nd hand shop.
I, like many other ambition backyard chefs, decided to buy a portable wood-fired pizza oven with the intent of using it every week. Long story short: I didn’t want to dedicate the time to it, so it ended up failing me. More like I failed it. Between setting up a decent stand, getting the fire going with crappy wood, and prepping pizzas, once was enough. Eventually I got the oven lit and slid a pizza in. I think the pizza was too big because no matter how often I rotated it, the edges burst into flame. And if charred logs rolling on the pizza wasn’t bad enough, the middle of the pizza was still cold. For $80 I learned I was not a backyard pizza maestro.
1984 VW Convertible Rabbit
Let me help you jump to a conclusion by saying that out of all of my worst purchases, this was the worst. Ever. I bought this car right before Hayley and I got married in 2015. It was super cool. It had a fun orange paint job, nice top, and the clunky cool 80s interior. I bought the thing for $1250 with the intent of driving it most summers and fall, but that’s where my plan fell apart. The car started and ran okay, but I now realize in my test drive I was wearing rose-tinted glasses. What appeared to be a smooth running vehicle was really once suffering from some sort of vapor lock. Once I got it home I realized it wouldn’t start after running for even for 10 minutes. I had to wait the next day to get it running again.
And then I noticed it was leaking coolant, and there was a vacuum leak somewhere, and the battery was pert-near dead, and a hundred other tiny things. I honestly had fun working on that car but when I think about the time I spent browsing web forums and buying car parts I shake my head. For all my effort, I managed to tear apart the AC unit, the alternator, multiple brackets, and replace that faulty water pump. I was very proud of that. Other than that, the project came apart at the seams. I just became involved in other things in my life because I didn’t value this car like I once did. But even then, I couldn’t admit defeat – even though I had no interest in the car.
After 2 years of feeling guilty every time I walked into the garage, I sold it to a VW enthusiast in Green Bay. I definitely didn’t get back what I put into it but I sure learned an important lesson: resist the urge to impulse buy and only spend money on something that aligns with your purpose in life. Clunky cool, half running cars don’t align with my purpose in life.
Those are my greatest financial blunders. They certainly induce remorse, but I understand in the grand scheme of things I haven’t spent my money on brand new cars, luxury play vehicles, houses, expensive fads, botched surgeries, or poor investment opportunities. My worst purchases are relatively benign, but that doesn’t change the fact that I want to avoid those mal-purchases in the future.
Being frugal is a constant practice. You are never there, you just keep working at getting there.
Got some horrible purchases that load you with guilt? Tell someone about it and get it off your back – it feels great.