Whether you’re trying to get out of debt or are cruising toward that 800+ credit score, it pays to be careful about how you spend your money. Even if you save up ahead of time and pay cash on the barrel, some purchases are almost never worth it. They seem like fun at the time, and you might even be able to convince yourself that you got a great deal during a sale, but you’ll never really be happy with it. As that once shiny item ends up gathering dust — or worse — you’ll also be faced with a daily reminder of just how bad a choice you made now that you’re stuck with this thing you don’t really want.
What is that thing? Bad purchases vary for different people and can depend a lot on your personality, but some things are just never a good idea. Avoid these instant-regret buys and save your money for something you actually need instead.
- The All-You-Can Eat Buffet
On the surface, this seems like a great idea: For one low price, you can have all the food you want. The trouble with that is that your stomach has a limited capacity, so you’ll get full well before you’re able to pack away enough food to come out ahead on the deal. Restaurants also have some tricks up their sleeves to keep you from getting more than you paid for. For example, the plates are probably smaller, and they’re using cheaper cuts of meat disguised by sauce or side dishes to keep their costs down.
The Lesson: Just order what you actually want to eat and be sure to box up the leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch. Leave the buffet for a day when you’re actually ravenous instead of choosing it in hopes of getting a bargain.
- A Gas-Guzzling New Car
Buying a brand new car is almost always a terrible investment, since that gleaming auto loses almost 20 percent of its original value in the first year alone. You wouldn’t put up with that in a real estate or stock market investment, so why accept it from your vehicle? Even worse, a big car with a traditional engine is going to use a lot of gas, and you’ll be paying through the nose on fuel for as long as you own it — which could be 10 years or more.
The Lesson: Choose an efficient car that’s two or three years old — something just returned from a lease is ideal. You don’t have to go electric or get a hybrid, but doing could save you a nice chunk of change over the life of the vehicle.
- A Trendy Outfit
This is always a bad idea. Sure, you might actually need a new outfit for your best friend’s wedding or a better fitting bathing suit for an upcoming vacation, but opting for an ultra-trendy item practically guarantees that you’ll only wear it once. After that, it will collect dust in your closet and end up in a thrift shop — or worse, the landfill.
The Lesson: Know your best colors and styles and stick to them. You can build a classic, functional wardrobe of items you can wear for years, especially if you opt for quality instead of filling your drawers with cheap fast fashion every season.
- Subscription Boxes
It seems like these are everywhere these days, and you can get everything from wine and flowers to clothing and razors delivered to your door on a schedule. This is a terrible idea. These items are almost always overpriced, and you’re paying for chichi design and the very slight convenience of automatic delivery. It’s notorious difficult to cancel your service with some of these companies, too.
The Lesson: Buy only what you need, when you need it. Instead of having items come to your door every month, buy a bunch in bulk and reap some real savings. You can still order stuff online and have it delivered — just look for real deals instead of locking into something that’s going to drain your checking account a little each month.
- High-Fee Mutual Funds
Choosing investments for your retirement plan can be a challenge, so it feels much easier to just pick a few that someone recommends to you. If you blindly buy without checking the expense ratios, a pricey actively managed fund could end up being a huge drag on your overall returns. If you’re paying a one percent fee to the fund manager just for the privilege of investing, you’ve cut your returns by a full percentage point, and over the life of your investment, this adds up to thousands of dollars you lose out on when you consider compound interest.
The Lesson: Index funds typically have very low expense ratios because they match the market instead of hiring a hot shot to try to beat it. A diverse portfolio of low-fee funds is your best bet for long-term growth.
- Fancy Toys
Little kids are actually pretty easy to please, and they don’t need a lot of fancy electronics to have fun. That old joke about your baby liking the box better than the present inside is funny because it’s true, and the best toys for sparking a child’s imagination are the old-fashioned ones: blocks, dolls and art supplies, for starters. All those playthings that blink and bleep are only going to drive you crazy in the end — especially if they don’t have a volume control button.
The Lesson: Don’t worry about the latest and greatest when it comes to toys. A few classics are all you need, and saving money on these items will allow you to afford lessons or fun experiences instead.
It’s always a good idea to research any purchase carefully, but no amount of research or rock-bottom pricing can make a truly bad buy better. Avoid these instant-regret purchases and you’ll feel good about your budget, with nary an over-priced paperweight in sight.
What’s the worst purchase you’ve ever made? Got a tip for avoiding buyer’s remorse? Share them in the comments!