I guess we “financial bloggers” all have a dark past, a former self that used to buy a bunch if things we didn’t need. That was definitely my case not so long ago, in particular with electronic gadgets. At some point I even pledged insane amounts of money to some kickstarter projects for which I never received anything because I changed address 3 times by the time the project was complete, and I didn’t care enough to update my information.
I’ve become a bit wiser with my money and buying stuff that I’ll only use once then throw away, but I must admit I indulged a bit more than planned this year for Black Friday.
I bought a bunch of video games and board games that I expect to enjoy with my kids, as well as Christmas presents for them that I would typically have discarded as too expensive and/or stupid. I guess becoming financially independent lately has put me in some dangerous state of euphoria, which, mixed with black Friday deals, led to some stupid expenses.
The frugal in me also tried to fight the expenses, so I was on the lookout for some specific items at cheaper prices. Which led to a few mistakes. First of all, for some of the things I wanted to buy, I jumped the gun on the first black Friday discount I would see, getting the item at 10% off, only to see it discounted at 50% a week later… I almost lost sleep during the black Friday week, chasing deals and worrying about whether I was getting a fair price or not. It was easy to forget that at the end of the day, we’re talking of a difference of $10 or less on each item… but I guess I got into that “black Friday zone” which is what people whose hobby is “shopping” probably get into at some point.
I got reasonable, bought a few Christmas presents for the kids that they will probably not need, but nothing too serious.
My biggest mistake however was trying to cut corners on a toy for my son. He’s been asking for the Wonder workshop dash robot (affiliate link) for more than a year now. And, although I think it’s an interesting concept, I frankly don’t think the thing is worth its retail price ($150) as I believe my son will lose interest quickly. So I told myself I would buy it if I found it for less than $100. Which I did, used, on eBay. I quickly ordered the toy for $80 including shipping, only to receive something that was broken. Sneakily broken, as it cosmetically was completely fine, but after a test drive of a few minutes it was clear that some sensor or motor was broken in the toy. A shame in particular since the seller has a great score on eBay.
But by that point I was emotionally committed to getting the toy. The reasonable parent in me should have said: “let’s get something cheaper that I know the kid will actually use”. But I had internally committed to get the toy for my kid. It was too late to get it for cheap in time for Christmas, plus the experience on eBay got me to second-guess any eBay sale of the toy, so I ended up getting it on Amazon, very, very close to retail price.
I’m still in the process of a claim with eBay, so essentially, by trying to get a deal on that toy I ended up paying roughly 150% of retail price for it. This sucks, and it negates a bunch of the discounts I’ve manged to grab on some of the other stuff.
The former me wouldn’t have cared. I would have moved on. But the new frugal me is really angry at this money loss. So my brain is bubbling, looking for ways to recoup my loss one way or another. Honestly, this is way more trouble than is worth, but somehow I can’t prevent these thoughts from getting into my brain.
The same has been true for pretty much any expense lately, it’s almost as if I’m losing perception of absolute value: if I see a pack of m&m’s in a vending machine for $1, I’ll instantly think: “pfft, I can get that for half the price if I buy them at the grocery store”. That kind of thought is probably a good thing in general and contributes to our savings rate, but I feel like in many cases it’s too much pain with no real benefit (well, in the case of m&m’s I guess theere is some health benefit in holding back).
The other day, my wife was having a hard time deciding if she should be buying tickets for some zoo illumination event in Seattle, while they were discounted. This meant buying the tickets now for an event in a few weeks, committing ourselves to a specific date instead of buying it on any day we’d be ok to go. I asked her: “how much is the discount? -$4 per ticket”. She was having a hard time making a decision over a $12 total difference! And I do that too.
Yes, it’s the small penny streams that make the big dollar river, but still, I feel that I should get some sense of perspective. It makes sense to spend time getting a good deal on a house or a car. It doesn’t, however, to waste an hour deciding if we can afford $12 more for a trip at the zoo, or losing sleep over a $2 discount for some board game.
As far as the robot toy is concerned, I’m still trying to get my money back from the eBay seller.