Most of the things we spend our money on are completely forgettable.
What are your top 3 favorite purchases of all time? Heck, what are your top 10?
Now look around – do you see ANY of them? I doubt it.
But you probably see tons of other stuff: you might see your desk, a TV, a phone in your hand, a couch, some shoes, some clothes, a lamp, a side table, your window curtains, or your car outside in the driveway.
You may have even purchased the paint on your walls, but how often do you think about these things?
Now try to remember experiences you’ve paid for. You can probably remember some vacation that you went on recently, only because you were prompted just now. Or you may vaguely remember that you spent 100 grand on a college degree. And if you have a huge amount of student debt, you may or may not regret that one.
The point is, if you’re like me, 95% of the stuff you have bought and done is invisible to you from day to day.
This is not a post about minimalism or asking yourself if your stuff sparks joy or not. This is about skipping meaningless purchases in lieu of meaningful ones.
This is why so much of my blog and my Instagram account is dedicated to skipping most purchases. Most purchases don’t register as meaningful even minutes after consuming them or getting them home.
In fact, skipping most purchases is mainly what I attribute my financial success to, which in turn will allow me to do the meaningful things I want to do in life. Things like raise a family in a safe neighborhood, explore the world with my partner, and give my kids opportunities they wouldn’t get otherwise.
Living below my means has and always will be my insurance against the risks of life.
Politics aside, there is a more academic discussion (apologies for the pun) to be had about student loan forgiveness and the consequences. (6 min read)
But there’s obviously a case to be made for spending money. After all, what else are you going to do with it?
Until I have that family, a house to raise kids in, or a self-driving car to travel the country, I’ll settle for these lesser (but still awesome) purchases.
Here are my 8 favorite purchases of all time:
I bought this random pair of joggers at Marshall’s about 5 years ago. They cost me maybe 15 dollars. I wear them to workout or lounge around the house at least once every single week. They haven’t deteriorated or absorbed any odors at all (thankfully)!
I have no idea how such a cheap purchase turned out so good, but they are hands down one of the best pieces of clothing I’ve ever bought.
7. Warranty on my used car
My brother can take apart a car and put it back together with his eyes closed. Even after years of working at his shop on the weekends, I can hardly do anything to diagnose and repair my vehicles.
So when I bought my 2 year old car after it was turned in from a lease, I knew I wanted an extended warranty. I don’t have the space, tools, or desire to dedicate the time to repairing my own car. For $1,000, I was able to add 75 thousand miles and 4 years to the original warranty.
The peace of mind and financial protection this provides is huge. Because I saved $15,000 by buying the car used instead of new, I only had to spend $1,000 to ensure the purchase didn’t turn into a massive liability. That’s $14k back into my pocket.
6. Apple Airpods
I stuck it out with my wired headphones for a long time after the Airpods were released. But a couple years ago, a friend convinced me to get them after I saw him using them.
Switching to Airpods was like switching from my flip phone to a smartphone. They are the only recent tech I can think of as revolutionary.
For someone who listens to podcasts all day long, the ability to have them seamlessly integrated into my routine, pause automatically when I take them out, and be comfortable enough to fall asleep with was life changing.
If I lost them today, I would drive straight to the Apple store and buy replacements before dinnertime.
5. A monthly subscription to World of Warcraft from 2006 to 2016
If you’ve never been part of a community with friends and strangers alike, it’s hard to describe how incredible of a feeling it is to grow up in and around one.
For me, that community was World of Warcraft, which has a monthly subscription fee.
It was tons of real people all working towards solving a quest or killing a dragon in some far away castle, chatting over microphones, forging friendships from around the world and it was a truly amazing thing to be apart of in the nascent days of the internet.
This was the first and purest “social media”. There were no republicans gaslighting democrats on Facebook or liberals cancelling conservatives on Twitter. There was just the Alliance vs. the Horde, dungeons to conquer with friends and loot to be found.
Don’t forget, 2006 was before Facebook, it was before smartphones, it was before most people used the internet for anything other than email. There was a sense of camaraderie and mysterious exploration that brought people together and made a lasting impact on my optimistic view of what the internet could do.
Every penny of that monthly subscription was worth it.
4. Book collection
There are very few purchases that can also be considered an investment. And very few investments that have zero risk of a negative return. Books are both.
Understanding more about how the world works and how people think can make you a better investor and more well-rounded person. Getting a first hand perspective of the thoughts and research from the brightest minds of our day is invaluable.
A widespread ownership of books only began 550 years ago. And literacy rates were only around 70% by the 1920s in America. This means that for most of human history, books simply didn’t exist. And even when they started to become more common, very few people could even read them!
This is why I never regret a single dime used on books.
3. My first house
I try to judge every purchase based on how it will educate me, benefit my family and contribute to my earning power.
As scary as it was at the time, buying my house at 23 years old taught me more about independence, delayed gratification, and sacrifice than any other purchase ever has.
I learned about debt leverage, construction practices, and general home maintenance/remodeling.
These skills and values would have been far more difficult to learn without being able to exercise them each day in the real world.
2. My cat
Using my finance tracker, I can quickly calculate that my cat has cost me $4,124.27 in total over 7 years or just about $590 per year. $50 per month on average.
The tradeoff of course being thousands of hours of companionship, love, and entertainment.
Obviously each pet is different, but I came out very far on the positive side of this use of money in terms of happiness.
1. Community college degree
Again, this article is about skipping meaningless purchases in lieu of meaningful ones. As a U.S. consumer, there are A LOT of meaningless purchases available to us. Everything from shoes and purses, to boats and snowmobiles.
But if you can afford it (or subsidize it), a college education will be an incredibly worthwhile use of your money. It won’t depreciate, it can’t be taken from you, and if done correctly, it doesn’t have to cost as much as most people think.
It will substantially increase your earning power too. Check out these comparisons I recently posted on my Instagram:
Source: 2019 Survey of Consumer Finances (this is the most recent data, released Sep. 2020)
But what about all the student debt?!
Well, aside from most student debt being carried by the highest income earners that can afford it, you don’t need to take on 6 figures of debt and go to a private college to get a marketable education.
Enter: community college. I’ve written extensively on how I graduated college without any debt and the main way I was able to do it was by spending 2 years at a community college and then transferring my credits to a 4-year university.
My community college degree is my favorite purchase of all time because it was the perfect combination of useful, affordable and sensible.
What are you favorite purchases?
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