20 purchases that buyers nearly always regret

It’s fairly predictable: There are certain purchases that buyers tend to regret. No, that doesn’t mean everyone: There are plenty of delighted boat and hot tub owners out there, and surely more than a few people count their timeshare property as true delights.

But when faced with one of the potential purchases listed here — at very least the expensive ones — take a breath, think seriously about the purchase, and then imagine the aftermath. How will you get rid of it? Will you make any money back, or will you be posting desperate FREE notes on Craigslist, or dumping the item on a corner and running. (Note: Don’t do this.) 

Purchases most buyers instantly forget
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Purchases most buyers instantly forget


There’s an old saying: The two best days of owning a boat are the day you buy it and the day you sell it. No question, owning a boat is a lot of work. If you live on a lake and have plenty of room for it, and are willing to spend the money needed to keep afloat, then ship ahoy! But most of us can get by with an occasional boat rental, or wait until our friend Gilligan invites us over for a sail.

Check out: “4 Cheaper Ways to Go Boating Without Buying a Boat.” 

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Timeshares, which give you a partial share of ownership in a vacation property, are probably one of the most stereotypically regretted purchases, and for good reason. You may love vacations, but do you always want to vacation in the exact same spot? What about those years when you need to spend your travel dollars elsewhere, such as on a college reunion or a destination wedding? Yes, you can exchange your timeshare with others, but booking a hotel or resort is more flexible, and eventually, you’ll have to unload it. There are many reasons why Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson says, “I’d chop off my own foot with a dull ax before buying a timeshare.” 

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Extended warranties

You’ve bought the product, but the sales pitch isn’t over: Now your clerk is gunning to sell you an extended warranty, just in case the brand-new product falls apart. Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson has always advised against such added expenses — although recently he’s begun to rethink that advice in some situations. Research the product you’re buying, and also check if you may have coverage through other sources, such as a manufacturer’s warranty or through your credit card. You may not even need to fork out for extra coverage. 

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Desktop computer

Desktop computers once were an amazing innovation, but few people need that kind of computing power these days. A tablet or laptop gives you the flexibility to move your home office around — you can check that recipe from the kitchen, or bring your work-at-home day to Starbucks when your home internet goes out. Think different, a la Apple’s motto, if you like. But when it comes to home computing, don’t think big, think small. 

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Movie-watching has moved online, with streaming and downloadable films much easier to handle than ever. Maybe you have Netflix, or Hulu, or your Amazon Prime membership gives you free streaming privileges. What you don’t have is storage space for hundreds of DVDs — you’re not Blockbuster Video, and look what happened to them. Plus how many times are you really going to rewatch “Pacific Rim: Uprising” anyway? 

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Giant tent or other expensive camping equipment

Sure, some folks are hardcore campers, and, for them, owning a nuclear-fueled camp stove, a three-bedroom tent, enormous inflatable mattress or a kit specifically made for roasting s’mores might make sense. But for those of us who camp maybe only once every year or two, a small tent and standard sleeping bag work just as well. And you can always just toast marshmallows on sticks, which are still free. 

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Most of us carry smartphones these days, and their video capabilities keep getting better and better. Hauling around a camcorder, storing it and getting the videos off of it is a chore we don’t need. Exceptions might be made for those who make their living off videos (hi, YouTubers!) and those who still refuse to use a smartphone. But for most of us, an always-in-the-pocket phone is available for those spontaneous times (baby’s first steps! the kitten falls in her dish!) for which no one can truly plan. 

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Home printer

Do you really print a lot of documents these days? Even those of us who run a home business are finding fewer and fewer opportunities to use our gigantic printers, as many documents can be filled out and even electronically signed online. Printers take up a ton of space and require replacement ink cartridges that sometimes cost as much as a new printer would. Those who live in a major city and really need a printer for one-time use can make the occasional trek to the public library or a business such as a FedEx Office center. 

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Counting steps to keep yourself moving is trendy again, but it’s not pedometers that brought it back. Instead it’s wrist-worn fitness trackers and smartphones and smart watches. As with the camcorder above, you have to really plan to wear a pedometer. With a smartphone or smart watch, you can track your steps almost without thinking. 

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Home exercise equipment

If you have a gym membership, there likely have been days when you wished you didn’t have to make the trek to the gym to work out. Buying exercise equipment seems like a no-brainer! Surely, you’ll work out every day with a treadmill or rowing machine right there in your own home. But the equipment is huge, bulky and expensive, and storing it takes up precious space in your home (raise your hand if you’ve ever stored laundry on an elliptical machine). And, if truth be told, you’ll likely stop using it just like you stopped going to the gym. 

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One-use kitchen gadgets

Some kitchen appliances make solid sense: Coffeemakers and toasters earn their keep every day. But appliances that are super-specific and can perform only one rarely needed task are rarely worth the money. Will you really use a juicer, a bread maker, a hot-dogger, a food dehydrator? Maybe once or twice, but enough to assign it counter space? There are always exceptions, of course, but don’t be sucked in by as-seen-on-TV displays or late-night infomercials. 

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Pools and hot tubs

Sure, some people swim every day (Phoenix residents, we hear you), and some of us, me included, can’t imagine gloomy winters without our hot tub. But for many people, there’s only a short period of time when a pool or hot tub is used enough to earn its keep, and then it becomes a huge bowl of water that needs to constantly be cared for and cleaned. 

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If you’re on Facebook, head to their online shopping section to see how many people are desperately trying to give away their pianos for free. Few things take up more space and are more difficult to move than a piano. If you truly have a junior Beethoven in your house, you may really need one, but if your kid hasn’t even learned middle C yet, maybe start with a borrowed portable keyboard and see if music lessons hit the right note. 

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Fine china

Once, fine china was on every bride’s wedding registry and broken out regularly for dinner parties and family holidays. We’re a more temporary world now, for good or for ill, and few brides are requesting 12 place settings of Royal Doulton bone china that must be carefully hand-washed and vigilantly stored. If china really appeals to you, check with the older generations in your family. Grandma might be eager to pass along her Franciscan Silver Pine from her own wedding days, and no money need change hands. 

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Extravagant wedding

A wedding lasts one day, and then it’s all photos and memories. You’ll be just as legally married in a $100 gown as in a $5,000 one, and you’ll have a lot more money left over. But no one’s saying a wedding shouldn’t be special, just that it can be pulled off simply and elegantly without going into debt in the process.

Check out: “Your Own Royal Wedding: 20 Classy Ways to Save on The Big Day.” 

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Pricey engagement rings

And speaking of weddings, consider whether a whopping diamond ring is really the best way to tie the knot. Such a small item, noticed by very few people, can easily run into the thousands and thousands of dollars — and for what? Modern jewelers can offer more price-conscious alternatives that are just as lovely, and those extra dollars will last a lot longer if they’re used for a home down payment.

These days, a real diamond may be symbolic, but most of us can’t tell the difference between a natural diamond and a manmade one. Check out: “Why Your Next Diamond Should Be From a Lab.” 

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Face facts: Those Beanie Babies that were all the rage in the 1990s are never going to make you rich. The same goes for most collectibles, from Franklin Mint collector plates to Department 56 Snow Village buildings. Yes, some people still have a yen to collect, and if it makes Grandma happy to buy a spoon or shot glass from each country or state she visits, let her have her fun. But don’t collect with the idea that you’ll make money off your collection some day — it’s unlikely to ever happen. 

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Baby gadgets

New moms and dads don’t need half of the items on many baby registries. Diapers and clothes, sure, burp cloths and bassinets, go to it. But a diaper-wipe warmer? Pricey shoes for a baby who is months away from walking? A designer stroller that costs the same as your first car? If you’re giving a present to a new parent, consider a gift card. They’ll soon figure out what’s excessive and what’s essential in new-baby land. 

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Giant desserts

Many restaurants have one on the menu — a giant, jumbo, lollapalooza, monster-sized dessert. These oversized sundaes, flaming chocolate cake towers, massive milkshakes or Texas-sized donuts can seem like fun food challenges — usually until you’ve had about a normal-sized portion. And then, well, they become regrettable. So, unless you have a soccer team or hungry family to help you eat the giant treat, skip it. 

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Putting standard items on credit

And last but not least, you’ll almost certainly regret using your credit card for everyday purchases, such as clothing or groceries. One exception: If your card is set up to earn you a true benefit, such as frequent-flier miles on an airline that you actually use, you might consider using it — but with one giant caveat. You must keep track of anything you use it for and pay it off right away. If you forget, you’ll suddenly see a giant bill and wonder how the heck it got that high. And if you’re going this route, verify that the card benefit is truly worth it. Some credit-card perks expire or have other limitations that may not even make them worth gathering. 

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What purchases have you regretted making? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

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