Living/Shopping Smart

5 Things I Thought Would Change My Life — But Were Huge Wastes of Money

By | Thursday, August 05, 2021

“I’m a sucker for an aspirational purchase; I used to think I was one consumer good away from having my life together…”

I’m a sucker for an aspirational purchase. Before I got my finances in order, I used to think that I was one consumer good away from having my life together. These are just a couple of the hundreds of purchases I made in the desperate pursuit to be a better version of myself and why they were actually a massive waste of money.

Expensive Notebooks

I used to have extreme jealousy (and honestly still do a little bit) for those girls who looked so cool and effortless while they journaled. In my mind I had this picture of myself, wistfully staring out a rain-streaked window while I poured all my most profound thoughts onto paper. I thought if I could commit to a consistent journaling routine, I would have perfect mental health. Every self-care listicle on the internet espouses the healing power of journaling, and I assumed it was the key to unlocking my highest self.

But honestly, it’s not for me. It took dozens and dozens of aesthetic journal purchases for me to realize this. Without fail, I will write one entry and then completely forget about it until I drop the journal into a puddle or spill a cup of coffee on it. I’m just not a pen-and-paper kind of gal, and that’s okay. 

My digital version of journaling is my painstakingly curated Notion workspace. Notion allows me to organize my headspace in a way that I assumed journaling always would but never did. I may not look cool anesthetic while updating my Notion, but at least it works. 

A Second Bachelor’s Degree

In my experience, wanting to change your job is not a good reason to go back to school. I decided that I wanted to switch up my social services career, and I figured out the best way to do that would be to go and get an entirely new degree. I’ve been through college before. I could do it again, right?

This was a costly and ill-advised mistake. You don’t necessarily have to go back to school to switch fields, and now I believe most people don’t need two bachelor’s degrees. I ended up changing careers, but I did not need the second bachelor’s at all, and it ended up being thousands of wasted dollars. It may have made sense if I had wanted to go from education to STEM, but that isn’t what I did at all, and I regret it. 

Expensive Subscriptions I Never Use

Subscription services are the definition of “aspirational purchases”. It’s signing up (with the best intentions) to use a service that we have no guarantee we will use for the next month or even year. This rarely works out for me. Whether it’s environmentally devastating makeup box subscriptions, gym memberships, various software, or warehouse memberships, I just won’t use them most of the time.

A tricky thing about subscription services is you have no real way of knowing if you will use them or not until you subscribe. Trial memberships are not always a reliable indicator of the actual usefulness of the subscription either. I have had subscription services that I used religiously and got every penny’s worth out of (YouTube Red and Spotify, for example). But then there are others that I have spent tons of money on and seldom used but was locked into paying for (I’m looking at you, Sam’s Club). 

Whenever I start a new subscription service or trial, I set an alert on my phone to remind me a few days before the subscription is set to renew. This gives me the chance to evaluate whether to cancel or to keep it. 


Makeup is another one of those “if I buy it, I’ll officially have my shit together” purchases, or so I thought. The money I spent on expensive luxury makeup that I didn’t know how to use is a tragedy. I would browse the aisles of Sephora and Ulta, thinking that I could buy social acceptance and beat my ever-present imposter syndrome through blush or concealer.

I have nothing against anybody that uses makeup. However, after being an official adult for over a decade now, I have given up trying to be a makeup person. I’ll put on basic black eyeliner maybe once a year, but I have no need whatsoever to own something called a “palette”. This does not make me less professional, less powerful, or less feminine, as these are qualities that cannot be purchased in a tube. 

My Own Apartment 

Finally renting my very own apartment with no roommates was supposed to be the ultimate glow-up. I would finally have my own space, I wouldn’t have to share anything with anyone, and I would finally be the adult I wanted to be. I had visions of my perfectly curated space, cooking myself elaborate meals, and hosting game nights for my cosmopolitan friends in my gorgeous apartment. I was going to be the perfect adult. 

But that’s not what happened at all. I hated living alone, absolutely hated it. It’s hard for me to quite articulate how unbelievably lonely, depressing, and bad for my mental health it was. Not only was my space not beautifully curated, but I also struggled to keep it even somewhat clean and organized. I avoided going home like the plague. I slept in the living room because my room creeped me out; it was too quiet. 

I ended up breaking my lease (another expensive choice) and moving back in with friends after only a couple of months. I now live with my husband, and I just have accepted the fact that living alone will likely never be good for my mental health. And that’s okay. Knowing your needs and limitations is part of being a fully actualized adult.

Kate Sortino is currently a full-time writer and digital nomad, living and working internationally with her husband and bichon puppy. Her hobbies include reading, exploring, and googling “how to get your bichon to stop destroying things. You can follow her adventures here.

Image via Unsplash

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