8 Millennials On The Regrettable Purchase That Put Them Into Debt

The most money I’ve ever spent at one time was when I bought my first car at age 20. I saved up the money I was earning working as a nanny and got a $12,500 gently used Honda Civic. From my research, it seemed to be a fair price for the year it was made and the miles on the car. However, I was completely shook by the idea of spending so much money. In my mind, I should have gotten a beater and driven around in a $2,500 car until it inevitably broke down, hopefully, a bit deeper into my adulthood so I could more comfortably afford to spend money on a nicer one.

My mom, however, thought differently. She convinced me to spend my money — all of it — to make sure I got a nice, safe car that would last me many years.

At the time, I wasn’t so pleased about emptying my bank account for a car. But considering the fact that I live in a suburban town and regularly commuted to my university 30 minutes away, and to jobs all over the county, a car was pretty much non-negotiable, and although I hated seeing how low my account was post-purchase, it was definitely worth it.

Three years later, I drive the car every day for a minimum of 30 minutes (usually more), and it is in perfect condition. I’ve had no issues with it whatsoever, it does great on gas, and it is overall a huge purchase that I genuinely don’t regret.

But I do think about it a lot. When spending a lot of money on something — like a car, a house, a designer clothing item, or even something like a dog — what happens when it doesn’t work out?

What if my ~shiny new car~ shit the bed after two months, and I was left carless and $12,000 poorer? How do you know when making the huge decision to purchase something hella expensive is going to be one that you don’t regret — and what happens if you do regret it?

This kind of thinking is what prevents me from spending money on a lot of things — even small things. I’m always in fear of regretting a huge purchase the way I tend to regret smaller, more impulsive ones. Making sure bigger purchases are more thoughtful and calculated helps, but there is no guarantee that everything will work out for the best — and don’t get me started on the anxiety attack I’ll have if something expensive doesn’t have a decent return policy.

I fear regret. A lot. Especially when it comes to huge, expensive purchases.

But out of sheer nosiness, I decided to survey around and see what purchases others have made that they genuinely regretted — the huge purchases that they thought would be life-changing investments, but actually turned out to be total duds that shot them into debt.

I asked eight millennials about their expensive, regretful purchases. Here’s what they had to say.

1. “When I was maybe 24 and fresh out of college, I was living on my own (in an apartment I could hardly afford, no less), and I bought a designer dog. Spare me the lecture on how terrible it is to buy a dog — I know. But even the most ethical animal lovers will melt when faced with a puppy in a freaking window that is whimpering and begging to go home. I love my dog, she’s still alive, and I’m overall not regretful of getting her, but man, for months after I got that dog I was literally living like a college kid again. I bit off way more than I could chew with that, financially. Like, if I adopted a dog from a pound, I would have been able to sort of handle affording the monthly expenses of having a dog while keeping a little financial buffer in my account for savings/emergencies/etc. But I spent literally my savings on the dog. It seemed like a great idea at the time, and I love my dog, but looking back, I’d never do it. I wouldn’t advise that to anyone.” — Zoe

2. “I knew I wanted to move to NYC after graduating college, but I didn’t quite have the funds to, so I realized quickly after graduating that I’d need to get a car if I wanted to secure employment to save for my move. I’d always been against the idea of buying a car because I knew I wanted to live in the city anyway, so I always kind of blew through the money that most late teens/early twenty-somethings would be saving for a car because that was an expense I just never thought I’d have. Then when push came to shove and I needed one, I decided to get a nice one. Not super nice, but not one from someone’s front yard — it was a used Chevy Cruz. I liked it a lot, but I spent over $10,000, most of which I financed, because like I said, I didn’t have money saved for a car. I think I put down like two grand and financed the rest. Then — plot twist — I did secure employment and an apartment in the city a lot faster than I’d expected. I kept the car, obviously, because I knew I’d take a loss if I tried to get rid of it. I think I used it for less than six months before moving to the city with it, where it costs a ton to keep parked and I literally never drive it except for once in a while to go home and visit family. So yes, I do indeed regret that, and I’m still paying it off, and will be for a good while it seems.” –- Alicea 

3. “I bought a really expensive computer for work that I ended up not being able to use for work. It took a while to pay off, and I still feel like I need another that I can use at work, so it was a huge waste.” — Kevin

4. “Is it too cliché to say college? I really liked going to college, living in dorms, and the whole experience, so I don’t consider it a total bust. But I actually am part of a family business, so to be fair, I would be gainfully employed whether or not I completed my degree. I wanted the knowledge and the experience and the piece of paper, and I totally think it is an excellent investment especially if you’re not in my situation. But I had an excellent job waiting for me right out of high school — it is a privilege I don’t take for granted, and my loans will be paid back, but I do regret going sometimes, if only because I think I only went because everyone else was, without understanding that people go as an investment in themselves to find gainful employment with their degree and earn money post-grad.” — Sydney

5. “I bought a lot of really expensive furniture when I moved into my first apartment because I wanted to have a ~grownup home~, but I really shouldn’t have. It was true lifestyle inflation — I figured grown up me could afford all of it, when I really couldn’t, and ended up charging my credit card to furnish my new little place — and obviously, it was my first apartment, so of course I ended up moving out of it a year later to a place where none of my furniture was really compatible.” — Clare

6. “I bought an expensive Macbook when I had pretty much no money because I thought my intended career path would require one (I wanted to go into design), but then I totally switched gears and ended up on a path that wouldn’t require me to work on my own personal computer essentially ever. They’re nice computers, but damn, if you don’t have a ton of money in the bank, $1,200+ is a lot to spend on a device you’ll basically be scrolling through Twitter with. If I used it regularly for important things, it would be a different story — but I definitely regret it.” –- Liam

7. “When I graduated from college and got my first ‘big girl’ job, I decided to treat myself and buy a really expensive ($1,300) bag. I thought it was really chic at the time and had wanted it since I was probably 13, because I always saw girls carrying these expensive bags and never had one, but I never felt like I had the means. I knew it would be the perfect grad gift to myself. But as pretty as it was, it simply wasn’t a good purchase. I ended up really hating my career right after I began, I switched paths and had a little financial turmoil and I felt stupid walking around with a thousand dollar tote bag during all of it. And I don’t really find it that attractive anymore now that I have it.” — Lexi

8. “I got married at 20 and we bought a house at 22 and then divorced very quickly. It is one of those financial decisions that may have been really good if everything worked out, but the money situation just got so messy when we split up and we are both much worse off now because of it. I did everything really young and, to be honest, without a lot of thought. I had a job but not a great one, so yeah, I could get a mortgage, but paying it is a constant struggle. I regret it sometimes, because I know that the debt that comes along with owning a home is ‘good debt,’ but it definitely doesn’t feel good.” — Ashley

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!

Image via Pexels

  • Anon

    #2 is a classic case of sunk cost fallacy. You should just sell it, take the hit and free yourself of car insurance and payments. It’ll suck short-term but at least you won’t be burning money for the pleasure of owning a depreciating asset.

    • Tara

      Learning about and understanding sunk cost is so freeing. Aggravating sometimes, but also freeing. Highly recommend.

  • Eloise

    Re: the title — I think you mean “regrettable.” “Regretful” is a state of being, so it would describe a person, not an object or a decision.

  • nicolacash

    For me it was spending $100 on a FitBit last year, that ended up crapping out after 6 months and I was too lazy to figure out how to fix it. It didn’t really put me into debt because I had saved for it, but I’m still annoyed I spent $100 on something that didn’t even make it a year

    • Summer

      Did you try contacting FitBit about it? I haven’t had issues with mine (I’ve had a One for a little over 2 years now) but from what I’ve heard, their customer service is pretty good.

      • Colleen McCarthy

        Their customer service is awesome. I had the Flex die on me twice over the span of a year, and they sent me brand new ones both times, no questions asked. I didn’t even have to send back the broken ones.

    • Jack

      I didn’t go into debt for this because I ended up returning them, but THREE SEPARATE TIMES I have decided that I needed an activity tracker. And all three times after about 2 days I was like….this is doing NOTHING for me, and returned them. It’s a running joke amongst my bf and friends now.

  • Lava Yuki

    For me it was maybe all the money I spend on in-game purchases and video games. I have a lot of unplayed ones as well, and looking back buying outfits for characters was pointless and a total waste of money

  • Jack

    I have so many of these I wouldn’t even know where to start. I could definitely write a whole article.
    I guess one that stands out to me was paying $3,500CAD for a LeBaron convertible because I decided I wanted the same car Veronica Mars had (come on, she’s awesome). I had a perfectly fine Mazda protégé which I gave to my little brother once I bought the LeBaron. The LeBaron was THE WORST and broke down everywhere and I paid so much money towing that stupid thing around. I also had to replace the roof because someone cut it to break in. Oh and this is all while I was building my career and in tons of debt.
    I eventually bought a brand new Mazda after that which is another story in itself….
    years lately and I am HAPPILY car-less, walking and biking my way around the city. Phew.

  • Summer

    Where to start…

    – The numerous “project” cars I bought through the years when cars were my hobby, starting when I was 15 years old. I’ve owned 11 cars and only about 5 of them were actually practical for daily driving. I don’t own any car at all anymore and it’s honestly so liberating (though I do sometimes miss the act of driving for pleasure).

    – My on-and-off time spent at a community college over the course of probably 5ish years, with little direction or end goal, and crappy advisement. I had to take out student loans and have thus paid thousands of dollars on courses that ultimately did nothing for me.

    – The further student loans I had to take out when I finally went back to school to finish my 4-yr degree at 27. Because time had elapsed between my community college endeavors and university, guidelines had changed and courses that I’d been assured would transfer back then were no longer of use, so I had to take an extra semester’s worth of courses just to fulfill the mundane general requirements of any arts & sciences degree. Aka, more $$.

    – The fact I chose a really pointless program, European Studies, from a university in South Carolina that didn’t even take it’s own program seriously enough to appoint a formal advisor (probably because all of about 9 people were working towards the degree while I was there). Basically I took out a lot of student loans for a degree that means essentially nothing.

    – I had a MacBook Pro that lasted a solid 6 years before the hard drive crapped out. I was very attached to that computer and in my state of despair after its unexpected passing, I immediately bought another MBP that I absolutely did not have money for, to the point where I opened a new credit card specifically to buy that $1200 computer. (In my own defense, I came to my senses a few years later and sold the MBP to a friend and bought a $350 11″ Dell laptop that I love dearly.)

    – The stupid first house I bought when I absolutely should NOT have been buying a house, but did because I was selling real estate and was friends with a mortgage lender who was able to pull some strings and get me financing despite a measly 3% down payment on a $112k house and inconsistent income. Needless to say, I had no money for the vast array of updates and repairs the house needed, it became far more of a burden and a source of resentment rather than an accomplishment to be proud of. Closing day for the eventual buyer of that house years later was one of the most relieving days of my life, even though I technically lost money by selling it for $110k.

    tl;dr: I’ve done some dumb shit.

  • Hookdntx

    Race entries for anything under a 10K. The cost per mile is just not worth it and I never need another Tshirt

  • Dana Ernest

    I definitely don’t regret college, I loved every minute and I’m proud of having a degree. But, I regret not trying to keep my costs down and finding additional scholarships, etc. Even with the highest academic scholarship that my college offered, I still had to take out loans. If I had concentrated on finding more scholarships, or getting a part time job during the school year, my loans would be a lot less.

  • Mireille Cecil

    I bought a $1500 camera with a 10K windfall after gradschool that I don’t use enough to justify the cost. After a cross-country move, 4 apartments in 2 1/2 years (movers included), a few months of unemployment, a really costly break up and a really great vacation to Alaska and the PNW, I still have a little of 5K in my savings from that windfall. I have great photos, sure, but I really could have gotten a point and shoot for a third of the price and I probably would have been just as happy. I had this dream that I would become a great ~urban photographer but honestly, it’s too much camera for me even though I’ve watched so many tutorials. I can’t afford to take a class right now, so my photography has stagnated. Lesson learned.