5 Specific Things I Always Regret Spending On (& 5 Things I Never Do)

Always regret:

1. Bulk perishable food.

I live with one other person, and he isn’t home to eat a lot, so it is usually a big mistake for me to buy huge portions of food and try to convince myself that we’ll actually use it. I’ll buy certain things we go through quickly — like ground coffee and eggs — in bulk, and definitely buy things like sugar, flour, pasta, and rice in bulk bags. But for the most part, Costco-sized boxes of cereal, huge packages of meat, and bulk bags of vegetables don’t really work for me, and I always regret having purchased them when I’m throwing their moldy asses out a week or two later.

2. Gag gifts.

I think myself a regular jokester most of the time, but every single thing I’ve ever bought for someone because it seemed like it’d be ~so hilarious~ has been a purchase I’ve regretted. It is basically never a good idea to buy something for someone that they won’t actually like or use just because it’ll make for a fleeting funny moment or Instagram picture.

3. Off-brand versions of beloved snacks.

I’m a textbook penny-pincher, so I’m always trying to find a way to get exactly what I want for slightly less money. In the case of a few specific prepackaged (processed-as-heck, I know) snacks I enjoy on occasion — Nilla Wafers and Cheez-Its, to name a few — actually have terrible knock-off versions. I find that taste tests are everything when it comes to finding cheaper alternatives to things you really like. The off-brand Cheez-its I bought to satisfy a craving recently (that were seriously only a dollar cheaper than the regular ones) were soft and flavorless. I’ve also tried many Nilla brand wafer knockoffs that were too crispy and hardly cookie-like, and store brand Oreos that tasted stale and flat. Obviously, you can sometimes find good off-brand versions of snacks, but when you can’t, it is totally worth the extra few bucks to get the household name you know you’ll actually eat and enjoy.

4. A third drink.

An important part of being an alcohol-consuming adult is knowing your cutoff — mine is after drink #2. I enjoy a good cocktail, and I definitely consume my fair share of beer and wine, but I also know that on any given night, my body is really only down for two drinks. Any time I get ~loose~ at the bar and order a third, I end up feeling too-tipsy or exhausted immediately after, and then end up wasting $7 because I don’t finish the drink. First drinks are great, second drinks are better, but third drinks are my demise. 

5. Manicures.

I’ve never gotten a manicure I didn’t regret when it chipped two days later. They look so damn good and feel like the greatest purchase I’ve ever made for approximately seven hours post-manicure, and then they look like shit, and I, of course, can’t touch them up because I never own a bottle of the color I chose to have my nails painted. I gave these up a while ago (not that I ever got them regularly) and do my own nails on the reg and before every special event now because I’m so much less bummed when they chip. Exception: pedicures. They last forever somehow, and I only have regretted a single pedicure in my life, but that’s only because I chose to have my nails painted grey-purple for some reason and spent a month looking like a cadaver because I couldn’t get the polish off.

Never regret:

1. Breakfast.

I’ve had subpar lunches and dinners that felt more expensive than they were worth, but I’ve almost never regretted a breakfast or brunch. Weird, because I know people often talk about how much they regret spending on boozy brunches, but I never go overboard, don’t tend to drink a lot, and just straight up love breakfast foods. I could eat spicy, cheesy egg dishes, croissant sandwiches, and warm buttered toast for pretty much every meal and be satisfied. I love it, and never regret making the decision to spend money on it. Also, it doesn’t hurt that breakfast tends to be a cheaper meal than dinner.

2. Coffee-shop favorites.

When I get ~adventurous~ at the café, I sometimes end up regretting it — I guess it depends, but nearly every exotic flavored coffee concoction I’ve tried has felt like $3-$5 wasted. But my tried and true favorites — things like plain hot coffee, iced green tea, and hazelnut lattes — are never things I regret spending money on. It never sucks to have your favorite drink in your paw, and is almost always worth the few bucks spent on it.

3. Birthday/Christmas gifts (bonus if they’re for my mom).

I love gift-buying and gift-giving — especially when I get to search for gifts on my own, rather than pick from a registry or wishlist. It is the most fun for me to browse through shops and look for something someone will truly love, and I’ve never regretted a cent I’ve spent on giving thoughtful gifts. This is especially true when it comes to my mother. This is not to say that other extremely important people in my life, like my dad or brother or boyfriend or grandpa, aren’t important — but my mom was the primary gift-buyer and giver of my childhood, and it always made me so happy to rip open a present on my birthday that I know she spent hours thoughtfully searching for, so these days, I get a little ~extra~ when it comes to getting gifts for her.

4. White and black t-shirts.

I know this is super capsule-wardrobe-y and cliché, but I’ve never met a basic I didn’t like. As a lover of fashion, I’m smart enough to know that beautiful outfits are often built around basic, staple pieces. So, while it is a toss-up whether or not I’ll regret an off-the-shoulder top or a brown leather skirt in a few months time, I know if I buy a basic black or white tee (or tank — I’m totally a tank-over-tee girl any day) I’ll get use out of it until it is too tattered to put on my body.

5. Entertaining.

It always feels worth it to spend a few bucks extra on the ~good olive oil~ (shout-out to my girl Ina) when you’re hosting a fun event. I love entertaining, and even though I have a small apartment and busy group of friends and don’t do it often, I allow myself to get a little extra when the opportunity to entertain does come up. I love offering specialty cocktails, good wine, crusty bakery bread, and food home-cooked with high-quality ingredients when I’m cooking for and entertaining people I love — it makes it feel so much more special, even if we’re just gathering to watch a movie or get tipsy playing board games, and that is experiential spending I am totally on board with.

Bonus — Sometimes regret:

1. Movie tickets.

I love watching movies, but going to movie theaters means doing two things I don’t love doing: sitting in a dark room full of strangers, and spending money. I’m usually a “wait until it is on Netflix” type of person, unless it is something I’m really dying to see and can’t wait the extra month, or if I’m promised a box of Muddy Bears and a buttery bag of popcorn. If the movie is awesome, I feel great about having spent money to see it. If it is just okay, I spend the next four days wondering why I spent $15 to hate a movie. However, Drew loves going to see movies, and the more I go with him, the more I tend to enjoy it, so this one remains a sometimes-regret. 

2. Trend pieces.

Like I said above, I do love fashion and sometimes get experimental on top of my basic pieces. However, sometimes buying into trends means having something seasonal and hideous hanging in my closet that doesn’t get any wear past the first day of initial excitement after I buy it. I definitely don’t spend on these types of things as much as I did when I was younger, and definitely think a lot more mindfully about whether or not I actually like the item before I buy it to make sure I’m not just being trend-brainwashed into thinking I love something because it is plastered all over every magazine and fashion blog. These items remain something I sometimes regret, because although I do often end up not loving them or getting tons of use out of them, some are amazing and become personal staples in my wardrobe.

3. Breakfast cocktails.

There is definitely a Bloody Mary sweet-spot at brunch, after which I will find myself satisfied and only slightly-buzzed in a way that won’t ruin the remainder of my day. The important thing for me here is to select wisely — I’m not a huge sweet-tooth, so I tend to go for a bloody, and always regret when I follow suit with my girlfriends and order a mimosa. I also make sure to really have no more than one — having a second is never good for me personally, and usually makes it into more of a regret.

4. Fresh flowers/live plants.

I love ‘em, but I just killed a pot of herbs in my dining room, so I sort of regret them when I can’t keep them alive. I’ll keep trying. I like buying flowers from time to time, and definitely strive to have a plant-friendly household someday. Until then, this is definitely a sometimes regret.

Mary writes every day for TFD, and tweets every day for her own personal fulfillment. Talk to her about money and life at mary@thefinancialdiet.com!

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  • Carolina

    Gag gifts really suck to receive too from people you care about if they are not accompanied by a “just kidding, here’s your real gift”. For my 21st birthday, my sister bought me a children’s “Grumpy Day” book because I was moody the week prior. The worst part is that by getting upset with her, she felt it justified the gift even more (since I was acting grumpy).

    • Anon

      I hear you. My sister only every gets me gag gifts. I wish she’d stop. They’re not funny, they’re useless shit I then feel bad about getting rid of, and they scream “I don’t know you well enough to get you something you’d actually like!”

  • Adriane

    I really like the gag gift boxes to put the real gift in. Gives me a sense of accomplished hilarity while not giving a friend something too ridiculous.

  • Miss Meg

    This sounds a little crazy, but if you put your fresh flowers in the fridge at night they last a whole week or so longer! That’s why florists cases are refrigerated : )

    • Holly Trantham

      Not crazy at all — that’s a great tip!

    • Sara

      I wish I ever had enough room in my refrigerator for a bouquet of flowers!!!

  • Buying breakfast/brunch is one of those very satisfying things that you can’t put a price on. I rarely go out for brunch these days, but I still enjoy it every time I do. Maybe the fact that I rarely go out for it is what makes it even more special now, but like you, I love breakfast food. I’m great at cooking it but there’s something extra nice about going out for it once in a while!

    Life’s all about balance.