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Buyer Remorse Storytime: 3 Times I Felt it & How you can Avoid it

Last updated by on January 10, 2016

Justifying the Purchase of Stuff we don’t Need Gets the Best of us

Ever bought something that you overpaid for? Or something that you were very geeked up for, only to realize later on that you never even used it. It’s human nature to create justifications for things that we don’t really need, but really want. We become the hunter and the ‘thing’ we’re after is our prey. It’s happened to even the most frugal of us at one time or another. Here are a few personal stories of when I felt buyer’s remorse.

The TV when I was 7 that Claimed my Life Savings

buyer remorseWhen I was about 7 years old, I had saved up around $80 and thought that money would be well spent towards a small portable black and white television from Meijers. The big day came, I handed over all of my money, which had taken years to earn. I got home, excitedly unpacked the TV from it’s box, turned it on, and watched a show or two.

Then it started to sink in. I had just spent every last cent I had. The day ended with me crying to my parents, “that’s a lot of money for a little kid!”. We ended up returning the TV. Lesson learned. It was the first time I had truly felt buyer remorse. My parents still won’t let me live that one down. I still hear, “that’s a lot of money for a little kid” occasionally, always in mocking tones.

The Acoustic Guitar when I didn’t Really Care for Guitar

In high school, I started to play an electric guitar. It was a cheap one, around $150 or so. I dabbled in playing and learning a few songs with a friend of mine. The cheap guitar was a good bang for the buck, even though I was horrid at playing it and not passionate enough to put the time into becoming great at it.

Towards the end of my college years, I went looking for my next hobby. I hadn’t played guitar in a while, but thought that just maybe I would now have time to dedicate towards becoming a modestly decent guitarist and justified the thought that maybe a nice new guitar was just the kind of motivation I needed to be the next Slash. I went out to a Guitar Shoppe and found a beautiful Ibanez acoustic guitar and dropped $500 on it.

With good intentions, I took a guitar class right after the purchase. The class finished, and I don’t think that I’ve played the guitar since. Lesson learned? Don’t spend a lot of money on something nice thinking that it will motivate you to love something that you’re really not that passionate about.

The Car that we Didn’t Need

A few years back, my wife’s ’96 Chevy Monte Carlo began piling up the miles and had a few mechanical issues that ended with the car sputtering out on the side of the highway. We paid to have the issues fixed and the car was running great afterward. But I began to justify why the incident was a valid reason for me to go out and start looking for a newer (and much more expensive) used vehicle.

I quickly found a car and financed $11K to take it home. Today, I could have easily purchased that car outright, but back then we had very little savings to invest in that kind of purchase. And we were paying interest on a depreciating asset. All while giving up another vehicle (for almost nothing) that was running just fine. Not a good decision on my part. Lesson learned? There’s a lot of them, but I felt somewhat redeemed two years later when I sold the car for only $500 less than what I paid for it and started busing to work.

Purchasing Wisdom that I’ve Gained Over the Years to Prevent Buyer Remorse Later on:

1. When you start justifying why something is a good idea to purchase, you begin transforming a want into a need in your head. Slow down and rationally remind yourself that material possessions will rarely, if ever, add to your happiness level.

2. Don’t make a purchase with the intent of using that purchase as a motivator. It rarely works. You have to be passionate about something, first and foremost.

3. Never finance to purchase a material possession, other than a house. I can’t come up with a good reason why you would ever need to.

4. $80 is a lot of money for a little kid.

Buyer Remorse/Purchasing Wisdom Discussion

  • What things have you purchased that you later had buyer remorse for? Why were you remorseful?
  • What tricks/advice do you have to stem poor purchasing decisions?

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About the Author
I am G.E. Miller, & this is my story. My goal is financial independence ASAP. If you share that goal, join me & 10,000+ others by getting FREE email updates. You can also explore every post I have written, in order.

  • Paul says:

    I have to disagree with number 3 in LIMITED circumstances. For example, right now you can get a large number of financing deals for below 2%. Why would you not finance a car if you are getting that sort of rate?

    If I have 10k that can invest at a higher rate of return than the interest rate I would pay on the car, why would I not do that? Paying in cash can come with a deceptively high opportunity cost.

  • ionie says:

    Mostly, I agree that material goods don’t make you happier. There is a notable exception – your dream car. I drove a Honda Civic for 10 years. I’d paid it off 3 years after purchasing it so I’d driven it 7 years without any loan payments. It drove perfectly fine from day one to the time I traded it in, but I desperately longed for a Mini Cooper.

    When I bought my Mini in 2007, it made me unendingly happy. It still does. It will be fully paid off in July. Ok, I took on three years of car payments for the amount I couldn’t afford at the time (at a very reasonable 5.5%, $460/month) but I have absolutely no regrets.

    My new car increased the quality of my life exponentially, by adding satellite radio, heated seats (in our cold climate) and navigation – not to mention style, easier parking and fuel efficiency. Beyond all that, it just flat out made me smile. Prolonging that lump sum payment meant I could focus on building up my 401(k), improving my home (making that investment more valuable) and taking vacations to invest in my marriage.

    My three years of car payments were money well spent and categorically helped make me happy.

  • Allan @ Rich Money Habits says:

    Great stories. As for me, I am a sucker for business books and electronic gadgets.

    When I go to the mall, I’d go straight to the bookstore and check out the new titles. If there’s something I really like, specially if it’s on sale, I’d buy it immediately. When it’s already a week and I’ve not started reading the first page yet, I know I bought the book due to emotional impulse.

    A couple of years ago, my wife and I bought an LCD TV. When it broke down after a year and a half, I started to feel cheated especially when I learned that the cost of repair is more than if I buy a new set instead. After some research, I realized that a lot of my friends also encountered the same thing with their LCD TVs. One time, I asked an LCD TV salesman about this and he mentioned there’s a actually a fixed lifespan for these LCD TVs and that they are expected to breakdown after some time. And here I was thinking I would still be able to watch my favorite TV show on my LCD TV even when I’m already old. So much for wishful thinking.

    What I learned is that it’s always a good idea to wait. If after 30 days you still want it, then it’s probably a good idea to save for it before you buy. If you’re willing to save for it and pay with cash, you’ll even get a discount instead of paying a hefty interest on your credit card. That is, if you don’t pay the whole balance at the end of the month. Obviously, this is not advisable for highly priced items such as a house as you may have to wait for years just to be able to buy it. 🙂

  • bbatson says:

    If you’re curious to know what a horrific case of buyer’s remorse feels like, follow these instructions carefully:

    1) Purchase a boat.
    2) Wait 1 year.

  • Budgeting in the Fun Stuff says:

    My husband and I bought a $3000 bedroom set and a $3000 Tempurpedic mattress about a year ago…that’s $6000 for stuff I don’t really care about. After they were delivered and it really sunk in, I nearly cried.

    BUT, my husband’s back pain has disappeared. He’s also in love with it all and is perfectly happy using it forever (I made sure). So, I try to ignore the regret and concentrate on how happy he is with it all.

    Yeah, buyer’s remorse is craptastic…

  • getoutofdebt says:

    I bought an Audi A4 to really impress a girl I was dating. What I didn’t know is that I would stop talking to her in the next two month and that luxuary cars are very expensive to maintain. Every time I pay 20 more cents to the gallon at the gas station for premium gas buyer’s remorse hits me.

  • David says:

    I’m on a nostalgia trip right now and buying things that brings back childhood. I’m on a rampage. My spending on toys, games, trading cards has gone up 500% since last year. I think these nostalgic impulses will end this year, but I’ve still got 150+ bucks worth of nostalgia-merch I need to buy! It’s giving me a headache how much money I’ve spent on “nostalgia” alone, but looking at stuff that brings back childhood memories really makes me happy.


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