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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?

-Author D. G. Mitchell
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