I, like a lot of people, have a list of things that I would like to own. There can be a lot of fun in fantasizing about all the things you’d like to have and the fun you’d have owning them. However, the smart consumer understands that reality is somewhat different. The things that we think would be great to own may not be so in reality. The things we want may not turn out to be as fun as we thought, or they come with hidden costs that we hadn’t anticipated. Sometimes when we get the things we fantasized about, regret sets in because we realize we wasted our money.
Below are ten items that I’ve fantasized about owning (for years, in some cases) but which I know I’ll never buy. These items are incredibly tempting to me because they look like fun, or they seem like they’d make my life better in some way. Or they’re just cool. However, I know myself well enough to know that, ultimately, they will become pains in my rear end in one way or another. Every time I’m tempted to buy something off this list, I remind myself of the reasons why it won’t work for me and I pass it by. It’s hard sometimes, especially when it seems like most of the known world has the item and finds it incredible. I have to remind myself that I know how I work and that these things just aren’t for me, no matter how much they may be beloved by others. So here are ten things that I want but won’t buy, and why.
A Wii: It looks like fun, but I know from previous gaming experiences that, after about three weeks, the thing will sit on the shelf and barely get used. We just don’t have a lot of time to spend playing with it and the free time we do have, we choose other activities. I’m sure it’s fun, but it won’t fit in with our lives and would end up being a regretted purchase.
A brand new car: I like cars and I’ve always wanted a brand new one. Mostly just so I can say I had a new car. However, I cannot stomach the thought of losing so much to depreciation and paying higher insurance premiums and property taxes. No amount of “newness” can make up for those shortcomings, in my mind. I would end up hating myself very soon after buying the car and noticing the “wasted” money. I stick to used cars, but I do enjoy wandering car lots and test driving some new models. It satisfies my urge for the new car smell.
A big screen TV: When I go to Best Buy I am drawn like a moth to the TV section where I am mesmerized by the huge TV’s. The pictures are so sharp and clear, it’s wonderful to see. I think about bringing one home, but then I remember: We don’t watch enough TV to make that purchase worthwhile. Certainly the few movies and programs we do watch would look better, but we don’t spend enough time in front of the screen to give it its due. What we do watch looks just fine on our old twenty-five incher.
A big, new motor home: We have an older model motor home that I really like. It gets great gas mileage (better than some of the new ones) and has all of the features I need. But when I pick up an RV magazine, go to an RV show or campground, or go to the dealer for parts, I just can’t help wanting a newer, bigger model. I see all the new ones and they’re so pretty with their new fixtures and floor plans. Of course I’d like more space. But the reality is that a new one would cost me more in taxes, insurance, and fuel. And the depreciation when I drove it off the lot would kill me. Losing thirty percent on a $100,000 purchase would make me ill. So I keep my older motor home and spend my energy and money keeping it in tip top condition so it will serve me well for years to come.
A membership in the Disney Vacation Club (DVC): DVC is a timeshare program run by Disney. We go the Disney World a lot, so it seems like something that might make sense for us. But after running the numbers (multiple times with the same result) we’ve proven that it won’t work for us financially. The way we choose to vacation at Disney is not compatible with getting the most use out of the points. It’s a big investment with annual dues and fees that wouldn’t give us the value we would expect. Sure, it would be cool to “own” part of Disney, but it’s not the right financial decision for us so I just keep on enjoying my vacations there and “renting” part of Disney.
Stainless steel appliances: I like the look and I know they’d look great in my kitchen. But they work the same as other colors and I don’t want to spend my life wiping fingerprints off the finish to keep them looking good. The constant cleaning would quickly annoy me and once I became annoyed, I would resent the appliances rather than appreciating how nice they look in my kitchen. I’ll just stick to white and spare myself the aggravation.
A designer purse: I like handbags. All the different designs and colors are fun to look at. But I cannot justify paying $500 or more for a bag when all I really carry with me is my phone, wallet and Epi-Pen. Hardly worth the price for even a $20 WalMart bag, let alone a designer purse. I know if I bought one I would be afraid to use it for fear of damaging it and that it would sit in the closet most of the time because I work from home so I don’t go out much. My need to carry stuff just isn’t that large.
An iPhone: I am an Apple girl and have been before Apple was “cool.” Of course I drool over the iPhone. Of course I wanted it the minute it came out. But I don’t really need it. I use a basic prepaid phone because I don’t talk on my phone that much and I don’t “need” texting, email, Internet access or fun applications on my phone. Would they be fun to have? Sure. But they aren’t something that I need in order to live my life or get my work done. And I definitely don’t need or want the contract and steep monthly payment to AT&T that is required to use the iPhone. So I pass on this one, but I still drool when I’m in an Apple Store.
A subscription to “People” magazine: I love this magazine. It fills my desire for simple, trashy, easily-digested, diverting news. But the price tag, $120 for a year (give or take), is outrageous to me. I don’t always have time to read things when they come in, so I know a lot of unread issues would sit on my coffee table for weeks, reminding me of the folly of my purchase. Instead, I’ll take a lazy Sunday and read a few issues at my library for free, or I’ll wait until I’m stuck at the doctor’s office and plow through the copies in the waiting room. I get my diversion on my schedule and for the right price: free.
A “treadmill pool” Every time I see these things advertised in magazines, I think how cool it would be to have one. I love to swim and to have the ability to do laps without the hassle and maintenance of a real pools seems like a neat idea. But I have to remind myself of two things. One these treadmill pools still require a good deal of maintenance; maintenance that I don’t want to do. Two, as much as I like to swim, it doesn’t agree with me. I get ear infections and stinging eyes, no matter what kind of goggles or earplugs I buy. But man, that treadmill pool still looks cool.
I know that some people would say that life is short, that I should go for the purchases, especially if I can afford them. Many would say that I’m depriving myself of things that would bring me joy. I argue that it’s not about deprivation at all. It’s about using my money in ways that I know will leave me with no regrets. In addition to the list above, there are many things that I want and actually will buy. I will pay to travel extensively. I will buy new books and music that bring me pleasure. I will pay for experiences such as theater productions, sporting events, and adventures that I know I will enjoy. The difference between myself and others is that I know myself well enough to know what will bring me joy and what will not. I know that, no matter how appealing those items listed above are to me, they will not bring me long term happiness or even fun. They will quickly become annoying or stuffed away somewhere, never to be seen again. Instead I choose to spend my money on the things that will give me lasting pleasure.
Everyone is different and I wouldn’t expect you to have the same wish list as me. You might value stainless steel appliances, for example, and that’s fine. I’m certainly not saying that everyone should think like I do. But you should get to know yourself well enough, and be honest enough with yourself to know when something just isn’t worth it to you, no matter how tempting or desirable it might seem. Knowing this and refusing to give in to hype, gloss, or hoopla surrounding the item will save you a lot of money in the future.
So, what’s on your wish list that you’ll never buy, or what did you buy thinking it was perfect for you but later turned into a money regret?