I’d like to think that I take a lot of time to research significant purchases I make and consider the pros and cons of each purchase. Unfortunately, that’s not always true. In the past I sometimes bought things because of brand loyalty or simply because “it was time to do so.” In some circumstances, I really enjoyed the item purchased, but it was still a significantly less than optimal (i.e. dumb) decision to buy the item. Here is a recap of some of the worst purchases I have made.
1. Fenix TK-70 Flashlight – $170 ($270 including batteries/charger)
This flashlight sits high atop this list because it is a true monument to excess. The head of the flashlight is approximately the size of a Folger’s coffee can. When you consider that the best part of waking up is Folger’s in your cup (I just sang that in my head), consider yourself fortunate that the best part of waking up is not seeing the brighter-than-the-sun light that comes from the Fenix TK-70. At an astonishing 2200 lumens (!!!) this flashlight will give the user a headache if used in close quarters. I think it is designed for working as a part of a technical search and rescue team on the side of a mountain because it comes with a lanyard. Maybe it would make sense to have a guy assigned to use the flashlight in the happenstance that night time sneaks up on you. I spent way too much on this flashlight as you read above. Fortunately, I was able to recoup much of the money by selling it on eBay, though I still have a NiMH battery charger that sits empty. It was the only part of it I couldn’t sell.
End result: -$95 after accepting losses on the flashlight, batteries, and unsold charger.
2. Cheap Thermal Socks – Six Pairs for $13
This past winter I was bargain shopping for socks. I love having clean socks, especially running socks or the one pair of fancy-pants thermal socks I wear when they are clean in the winter time. I hoped to find a low cost substitute for these socks. These were highly rated on Amazon, although now Amazon does not even sell them. I thought I couldn’t go wrong on the price, so I bought them…
What a mistake. The socks arrived without any real form. They are essentially “thermal” sleeves from a softball length t-shirt someone cut off and then sewed the ends together. It would be hard to imagine a poorer quality of craftsmanship if I tried. I wore them for a few nights at work until I couldn’t stand it. They have now been relegated to cleaning cloths, a task which they are poorly suited for because of the darker color of the socks. A $13 price is still far too much for these awful socks. Maybe that is why Amazon stopped selling them!
End result: -$13.
3. Microsoft Xbox One with Kinect – $500
I have enjoyed playing video games for some time. My favorite part about it is keeping up with friends I don’t see on a regular basis while we work together to tackle some problem or puzzle presented. I greatly enjoyed the Xbox 360. I benefited from being a late adopter. Many of my friends also had a 360, so they were able to tell me what game they enjoyed the most. I then tailored my purchases to match, and we had a ton of fun playing late into the night. Naturally, when Microsoft announced their updated version of the console, I was excited at the prospect of purchasing one. I chose to be an “early adopter.” In so doing, I learned something I will always remember about technology.
Don’t ever, ever, ever be an early adopter. If you fail to heed this advice, you will make the same mistake I did. I paid an incredibly large amount of money for this frustration box, and it came with the Kinect device. Microsoft executives insisted the Kinect device was integral to the way the system functioned. “Our Xbox One won’t even work without the Kinect! You would be silly to not want to use it. In fact, the Kinect can tell you your heart rate while you are working out!”
Mind you, the above statements are actual paraphrased statements made by Microsoft big shots. The Kinect device rarely works at all, cannot take your heartbeat unless you are standing still (i.e., not working out), and leads to embarrassment at house parties when you want to show your friends the new-fangled piece of technology you bought: “Xbox on. Xbox on! XBOX ON!” Additionally, it sometimes takes 20 attempts to get the Xbox One proper to accept a DVD/video game.
End result: -$500 and continuous jokes at my expense reference the aforementioned “XBOX ON!” interaction.
4. Manduka Yoga Mat – $80
This is from the days before I began running. I had the P90x DVD set and needed something that didn’t slip on the floor. I bought an $80 yoga mat and used it exactly three times. It was a real shock to me to see yoga mats for $5 at Five Below the other day. I felt more than a bit sheepish having spent 16 times that much on a similar device. I should have simply bought a cheap one from Five Below years ago. Then I could have pocketed the difference and still had a yoga mat to sit in the corner unused.
End result: -$80.
5. 2008 Honda Civic LX – $22,000
First off, I really enjoy the Honda Civic. It matches well with my new frugal outlook on things (more on that on a subsequent post). My wife and I purchased this vehicle in December 2007, which means we bought it brand new. We financed it at 4.9%. In January 2008 I read the Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey and felt sick to my stomach. Having a car payment is almost always a poor decision. Such payments really handicap your finances and actively prevent you from accumulating wealth and working towards financial independence. We worked hard to pay the vehicle off almost three years early.
This purchase taught me something extremely important: never make huge life or financial decisions because it is “time to buy” a car, house, or any other high dollar item that you will be dealing with (i.e., paying off) for years to come. Simply because you are reaching an age of maturity or moment in your life (graduation from college, new car, kids, etc.) does not mean that it is time to sign your name to tens of thousands of outstanding debt. Your friends may buy new cars or live in fancy neighborhoods, but that does not mean you should do so. Consider all the information you have available to you, and make the best decision that aligns with your goals. Eschew new car payments (or financing things at all if you can) in light of paying for things with cash.
End result: -$22,000. This is far less than the almost $25,000 that the vehicle would have cost according to the truth in lending document.
I hope you enjoyed reading about my poor purchases. What is your worst purchase that you can remember?