As a frugal person, I try to keep my expenses at the lowest level possible.
That means three things. I only buy what I need.
I use inexpensive substitutes for the expensive things that I want.
And I think long and hard about the expensive things that I want but can’t find substitutes for.
That said, there have been times when I spent money on things I thought I needed or really liked, but they then turned out to be totally unnecessary.
Those were the times when I let emotions take over my decision-making process. I got blinded by my want and reasoned that it was actually my need.
I will detail below the five things that Mr. FAF and I have bought that I regret buying and just can’t help wondering why we even bought them in the first place.
1. Cocktail dresses from Amazon
My best friend from college got married in the summer of this year. It was actually my first time going to a wedding in the US. I have gotten a couple of wedding invites before. But I couldn’t go either because I was busy or the wedding venue was too far away and thus wasn’t affordable to me.
This time, I told my friend I would attend her wedding at all costs. And that also means buying a nice dress that’s appropriate for the occasion.
I sent my friends pictures of all the dresses that I had, and she said they were either too formal or too casual. I needed something in between.
I remember scouring Macy’s every weekend for about a month but couldn’t find anything I liked that was under $100. I wanted to look nice at my friend’s wedding and was willing to spend some cash to make her and myself happy.
After realizing I was wasting hours of my time at the mall, I turned to Amazon and found the dresses I was looking for.
Since each dress was only $20-$25, I bought 3 of them thinking I would like them all. And I did except for the fact that I’ve worn only one dress once at the wedding.
Basically, 2 out of the 3 dresses have never seen the light of day after I opened the Amazon packages. They’ve been sitting in my closet collecting dust, probably wondering why they have never seen a party or special occasion before.
And I have been wondering the same thing. I rarely (or never) go to any formal events like a cocktail party. I have yet to receive another wedding invitation to wear another dress.
When I go on a date with Mr. FAF, I usually turn to the most basic outfits that I have which include a $15 H&M dress that I feel comfortable tossing in the washer and drier over the past three years.
I also wear outfits that I’ve had for more than 7 years. I do have nicer dresses that I wear to work. But when I hang out with friends, I tend to go for comfort.
2. A selfie stick
After Baby FAF was born, Mr. FAF was over the moon and wanted to capture all of the special moments during our baby’s development. Mr. FAF wanted to take pictures of all of us (him, our son, and me) and thought that his arm wasn’t long enough to hold the camera and take nice enough photos.
He hopped onto the internet and one day proudly announced to me that he had acquired a selfie stick. I of course wasn’t thrilled about dropping $25 on a stick. I told Mr. FAf to return it, but he was fascinated by his new purchase and said no.
Mr. FAF ended up taking three photos with the new technology and then left it in his toolbox. I was busy with Baby FAF and didn’t remember to tell him to return it.
By the time we realized the selfie stick was hanging out by itself for too long, the return date had already passed. We still have it after almost three years and have used it twice. Mr. FAF still refuses to part with his selfie stick. I’m not sure why.
Related: Why We Sent Our Son To China
3. A convection oven
This purchase was totally my fault. At one point in my life, I thought a convection oven was a good purchase for three reasons.
First, I am not a very good cook despite lots of practice, money, and frustration involved. Before Mr. FAF and Baby FAF came back to DC, I looked up some recipes online which called for the use of an oven.
We have an electric range, but I barely used it. The size of the whole range just screamed “waste of electricity” to me. I even did some research online to see which one used more power: a convection oven or an electric range.
Armed with the finding that the a smaller sized oven can help save money in the long run, I surfed around on Amazon and found a Hamilton oven.
It ended up taking too much space on our already tiny counter. I had to put it away in our pantry. I ended up using that convection oven once since I was too lazy to even take it out of the closet and wash it meticulously to keep its shine afterwards. And miraculously (or not), it’s still sitting in the pantry today.
Related: Why We Eat Out While Still In Debt
4. Google Chrome stick
Mr. FAF and I have never had cable because we feel that the cost doesn’t justify the value of the entertainment it provides. We can get free entertainment on Youtube instead.
That said, when my in-laws came to America from China to help take care of Baby FAF, Mr. FAF wanted them to be entertained with Chinese channels, so he bought a Google Chrome stick.
I can’t even remember what channels the stick provided. I just know Mr. FAF used to play some Chinese documentaries and movies on the TV from his cell phone, and my in-laws weren’t so interested in such channels.
I’m not sure where the Google Chrome stick is at the moment. Mr. FAF since have bought an Amazon stick which I don’t think was worth $34 either. He ended up buying a Roku Sharp TV for my MIL for $210 from Home Depot.
5. L-desk from Amazon
Before buying our current home, Mr. FAF was dreaming about having his own study with a nice desk and a big bookshelf. He ended up buying a $450 L-desk from Amazon which he also spent 10 hours assembling.
After the desk was put together, however, we noticed a series of issues with it The bookshelf was too small to put all of his books.
The surface of the desk was too narrow to put both a laptop and a book in front of Mr. FAF. The rest space for his feet is small due to the two large filing cabinets on the side that are neither a bookshelf or a file dresser.
The desk was, in a word, awkward. I realized the problems right away. But Mr. FAF insisted he like it and want to keep it. I think it was mainly because he had invested 10 hours of his time putting the desk together and didn’t want to take it to return to Amazon. It would be a pain for him.
We thought about selling it but don’t like the idea of strangers coming into our house to take it away. The desk is still resting at our house.
Related: How To Save Money On Furniture
Mr. FAF and I sometimes are frugal to the max. We love eating salted duck eggs with rice porridge (Chinese breakfast) in the morning. But we rarely buy them because they are almost $0.30 each which we think is expensive for breakfast.
Yet, there are purchases that we made when we let our emotions take control and tell us what to do. If I weren’t so excited about my friend’s wedding, I probably wouldn’t buy three dresses at the same time thinking I’d wear them all.
If Mr. FAF weren’t so eager to furnish his new study room, we wouldn’t end up with a $450 desk that we now just want to get rid of but find it too troublesome.
There are many other purchases both of us thought were good ideas at one point but turned out to cause us some regret later. I wish I could go back in time and told myself not to swipe my credit card for such impulse purchases.
But I can’t, so Mr. FAF and I will just think of them as lessons for how we want to spend our money: What we need is more important than what we want. And what we think is a need at one point can turn out to be a want later.
All we need to do is to think carefully about what we want and not let our emotions dictate our actions.