We talk a lot on this blog and in the broader early retirement community about being deliberate about your purchasing decisions. How often do we actually measure our progress?
I was talking with a friend about it this week and did a walk-through of my apartment, grabbing things from different rooms that all cost roughly $50. You can do this at any price point, but I like $50 and $200-$300 as a few good ones. Here was what I found in my apartment.
My Own 50-50-50 Results
This thing rocks. My pillow before this had been flattened into a sad pancake. This seemed to be an unavoidable problem for all pillows because the filling eventually gets packed down. I had taken to putting towels under my pillow to get it to the right height. I found this thing on Amazon about three years ago and have been using it ever since. It has a pouch of water underneath the filling so you can adjust it to the perfect height, but it feels like a normal filling pillow since the water pouch is underneath the filling. I use this every day and have gotten more than my money’s win.
Terra Mystica Board Game
My husband and I play strategy board games. We had played this game about a half dozen times with friends and really like it, so we chose to buy a copy of our own. At first blush, this seems like a fantastic idea. Unfortunately, we hadn’t taken into account the fact that we rarely if ever host other couples in our 325 square foot apartment. The place we usually play with our gamer friends has its own copy of the game, so this copy has sat unopened and gathering dust for over a year.
Japan Guide Book
I bought two guidebooks for Japan (the other was sadly left on an airplane during our trip). I initially thought this would be a waste of money. However, when I was planning our trip, I quickly realized we wanted maps of the various attractions, particularly since we don’t speak the local language. I had this idea that I would print out a few neighborhood maps and make my own travel packet. It took me less than 15 minutes to realize that that guidebook had exactly what I needed in high quality print, and would save me easily 3 hours of trying to compile train and neighborhood information. This helped a lot when we changed our itinerary on the fly, as we were able to consult the information on the new neighborhood. I would have been completely blind if I had relied on pre-planned printed materials. Given that we spend several thousand dollars on the trip, spending $50 to make sure we had solid information to ensure the success of our trip was well worth the price.
I’m a lazy cook. I don’t want to fuss in the kitchen for half an hour and then clean for another 15 minutes. I don’t want to worry about what special ingredients I need to have in the house. I was reading about slow cookers online, and there were a ton of couples who swore by them. It sounded right up my alley; dump a bunch of stuff in, come back later and it’s all magically delicious. I didn’t account for the planning required though. You have to put the stuff in 4-8 hours ahead of time. I rarely thought that far ahead. I was planning on a drastic change of behavior. In retrospect, I would have been better served by a pressure cooker. This thing has been collecting dust on our shelf for about four years now. I don’t have the heart to throw it away because I still hold out hope that we’ll be the kind of family that eats hearty, healthy slow cooker meals every night instead of nuked Hot Pockets.
My 200-200-200 Results
I did the same at the $200 price point and the results were similar.
I have a tablet which was a major success. I use it in bed, on the couch, everywhere. I use it for at least an hour a day. I knew before I purchased it that I would make significant use of it as I had had tablets and phones in the past that I have used regularly.
Ice Cream Maker
I have an ice cream maker I’ve used exactly twice. Making my own ice cream doesn’t taste as good as the artisanal stuff I can get in the city for $4 a pop, and I don’t even enough of it to want to go about doing a batch for myself.
I have a breadmaker that cost close to $200 that has seen half a dozen uses – the problem with that charming homemade bread is that it has no preservatives and goes bad in four days. My husband and I gained four pounds each during the great homemade bread experiment before I put that thing in the cupboard.
Fancy Dinner Meant To Impress
I spent $200 on a dinner trying to impress my grandmother last month. I wanted to “spoil” her. I did zero research besides checking the average yelp rating before I booked. The food was awful, not anywhere to her taste, and I felt like a chump. That’s the last time I try to use money to impress somebody.
This exercise suggests that I do really well when I’m buying things for existing behaviors. I know I’ll need maps for my trip to Japan. I know exactly what I need in a pillow (height issues). I have a proven track record making use of the portability of a tablet. I have a less impressive success rate when it comes to purchases which contemplate new behavior. That’s to be expected, though I probably could have done better by purchasing used goods for new projects so I could ensure I was actually going to use make regular use of them.
How did you all do? Tell me I’m not the only one with a weird tech gadget that never gets used.
And anyone in the NYC area need a bread machine??