I’m willing to bet that each and every one of us has something expensive that they save up for and purchase, and are proud of or happy about. I get that; I really do. But what I don’t always get is the reasoning behind some of these choices, and with that in mind, here are six of the best expensive things I refuse to spend money on.
6. Sneakers — Every now and then, a TV show will do an episode about sneakerheads — people who treat new sneakers like Apple fanboys treat new iPhones. They’ll line up around the block, buy the sneakers, and then not wear them except on special occasions. I just don’t get it; to my mind, that’s not what sneakers are for. I usually wear a $40-$60 pair of walking sneakers because they are comfortable and I’ve been wearing the same brand and style pretty much nonstop for the past couple of decades. They’re just fine, thank you. And if I want to wear nice shoes somewhere, I’ll put on my nice shoes. “Dress sneakers” isn’t really a thing.
Except… I did get caught up in the sneaker phase in elementary school. I’m pretty sure I begged my parents to buy me this pair of David Robinson shoes because air-pump sneakers were all the rage but this one had two different air pockets that you could control via a little switch. The nerd in me found this to be awesome. I think at the time they were about $150, which is a hell of a lot of money for a fifth-grader’s shoes, especially given that most fifth-graders are still growing and said shoes will only last a year at most. My parents did buy them, and I did love them, but as an adult I kind of wonder why they didn’t just say no.
5. Clothes — Sticking to the wardrobe for a moment, let’s talk about clothes. Specifically brand-name clothes. I have friends who will only wear shirts that have logos on them, or only shop certain expensive clothing stores, and while the garments certainly look nice, I just don’t see the point. You’re paying $50 for a collared shirt just to advertise the brand. Yeah, okay, maybe they’re a little better-made, but to be fully honest with you the collared shirts I get from Amazon for half that price or less are just as good. I wear generic polos and whatever jeans or pants I can find on sale. And when it’s time to dress up, I don’t go to Men’s Wearhouse or a specialty mall store; I find a discount outlet that sells a nice suit for maybe a third the price and no one really knows the difference.
Except… I do own a lot of Chaps-brand polo-style shirts, but only because my in-laws get a huge discount at a certain department store. Otherwise I’d never wear them. Funny story — I have so many of them that my daughter saw me wear a polo without a logo and asked why I didn’t have my uniform shirt on (my company name starts with C). It took me a minute to figure out why; I honestly never made the connection.
4. Cars — I am not a car guy. I can just about change a tire, and I could maybe change my oil. I don’t care about horsepower or torque or acceleration beyond “the car has to have those things”. What I care about can be boiled down to three things: fuel efficiency, comfort, and price. I prefer hybrids or alternative-fuel vehicles because my commute each day is 30-plus miles round-trip. I prefer cars with comfortable cabins where I can reach all the buttons and said buttons make sense. And I won’t spend more than $30,000 on a car — truthfully I’d rather spend much less than that, if I can get away with it. I just don’t understand people who buy or lease expensive cars, only to trade them in for other expensive cars. What’s the point? Why are you spending good money on what is essentially a status symbol?
Except… My dream car is a 1980s-era Mercedes four-door. My grandmother had one almost exactly like this model. It was a tank, and it was still done in mostly the German style, so the interior didn’t look like any other car I’d been in. The door controls were cool, the gauges were cool, and the fact that there was so much backseat room was cool. (She also had a really neat coupe at one point.) For a while I entertained getting a used one from a local dealer for about $6000, but a friend of a friend is a Mercedes master mechanic and he said they’re extremely expensive to maintain unless you can do it yourself — which I can’t do. Alas.
3. Jewelry — Maybe it’s because I’m from a different generation, but to me, jewelry as a status symbol doesn’t make a ton of sense. It’s expensive, easy to steal, and requires people to get close to you if you want to show it off. Sure, there’s less expensive stuff, but you can tell (usually). I’d rather have no jewelry at all than buy cheap stuff. I wear exactly one piece of jewelry — my wedding band. I have a few things in a drawer somewhere but I rarely put them on because I just don’t feel the need to be ostentatious. Look, wearing a few pieces of jewelry is fine — earrings, a necklace, a bracelet, a ring or two. But when people overdo it, or they buy into the advertising industry’s artificial need for some expensive bauble every birthday, anniversary, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and winter holiday of choice… that’s what I don’t get.
Except… My watch wasn’t exactly cheap when I got it. It was a gift, which I appreciate greatly, and I do love it, but not because it was expensive. It’s unique — no one I know owns one of these — and it is an actual watch. That is, it’s a thing I wear on my wrist that tells me the time. It also tells me other things, like when I have a text or an email, but it’s not interactive — not like an Apple or Android watch. And if there ever was a status symbol watch out there, it’s the Apple watch. They all look the same, and they all do the same things, they all get the same terrible battery life, and they’re all going to be replaced by their owners just as soon as the next model comes out. My watch was designed and built in 2015, I got it in 2016, and it’s now the end of 2017. The company that made it was bought by Fitbit so there won’t be any new ones. Oh, and the battery lasts thirty days on a single one-hour charge. Just saying.
2. Computers — I realize there are sometimes reasons to have more expensive computers, but for the home user, just how much power do you really need? I’m not a gamer, so I understand some people want to try to get the most they can, but that stuff isn’t cheap. Fortunately, a lot of people now build their own gaming PCs, and that saves a lot of money, but if you want to buy one pre-built from a company like Razer, you’re looking at $1000 or more. And then you look at home users who go to big box stores to buy computers with power they’ll never need or features they’ll never use. My wife has a 17-inch transforming Windows laptop that we bought for $500, but other people might buy a Surface that’s smaller, weaker, and yet somehow cooler. The same with those who buy the iPad Pro and aren’t professional users of any of the software or features. When it comes to a big purchase where you want to save money if possible, computer shopping while avoiding salespeople makes it really easy.
Except… I do prefer Macs over PCs, and they are usually more expensive, but I don’t buy the top-end version because that’s just ridiculous. Each Mac I’ve owned has been about $1200, and I think that’s a fair price for a device I use every day.
1. Food — Want to know a secret? House brands often are just as good as name brands. Costco vodka is reportedly as good as Grey Goose (I’m not a big drinker so I’ve never done a taste test). Aldi milk is the same as Kroger milk is the same as Publix milk. And some stores have multiple levels of house brands — Kroger has Psst, Kroger, and Private Selection, and to be honest, I rarely can tell the difference between them. Trader Joe’s products are good too, and not super-expensive. With these kinds of offerings, there’s no reason not to comparison-shop for groceries (look for price-per-ounce, or use your phone’s calculator) and buy the best-value item, even if its net cost is a little higher. Oh, and by the way, organic vegetables taste about the same as non-organics (in most cases), except for that bad taste in your mouth you get from paying more for them.
Except… Two food items I’ll always spend the extra money on: mayonnaise and yogurt. I’ve tried a lot of mayos but I keep coming back to Duke’s as my personal favorite, and when it comes to yogurt, I prefer Australian-style, which is more expensive but the taste makes it absolutely worth it.
Speaking of food, I get really annoyed eating at expensive restaurants because often the portion size is very small. Look, I get it, you’re making me something amazing and the ingredients could cost more, but I’m already spending a lot of money on your food; give me enough to actually get a feel for what I’m eating and fully enjoy it. I’m not saying a giant plate, but more than a couple of bites, right?
When I go out to eat, I try to figure out the food offering that will give me the most value for my money, regardless of whether I’m going to the neighborhood burger joint or the most expensive seafood place in town. For a while, a nearby seafood restaurant would give you a seafood dinner with the fish of your choice, two sides, bread, soup, and salad for $16-$20… but if you add $3 you get a whole second serving of fish which you can eat later or the next day. And they have a diner-style restaurant where some days you can get two stuffed chicken breasts, sides, soup, salad, and bread for $22, and these are some big-ass pieces of chicken; I’m never able to finish both in one sitting.
All of that said — I like good food, and I’m sometimes willing to spend more for it. I just get grumpy when I lay out the money and I get a plate where the actual square-inches of food is smaller than the card I’m going to use to pay for it.
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