Each is under the most sacred obligation not to squander the material committed to him, not to sap his strength in folly and vice, and to see at the least that he delivers a product worthy the labor and cost which have been expended on him.”  -Anna Julia Cooper


Potholes on the Road to Financial Independence

I used to trade away my time for money without giving it a whole lot of thought, but luckily I have been on a steady path to fixing that problem for quite a while now.  The following expenditures are just a few of the things that I think a person who values their money as representations of their time should not make the mistake of spending on.  I will freely admit that I’ve spent my money on most of these items, but it is now very rare for me to fall into any of these traps.  I am working very hard to align my life with my goals, and one of my primary goals is the achievement of financial independence.  As you might suspect, pissing away money on items like the ones listed below runs absolutely counter to that goal.

  1. Unnecessary upgrades to your car.  I love cars.  In fact, I’m a bit of a gear-head, but if I could turn back the clock and invest all of the money that I’ve poured down the drain by customizing and upgrading various parts of different cars, I would be much closer to my goal of financial independence.
  2. Gambling.  I’ll admit to this one as well, I used to really love throwing my money down in a casino and hoping for the best.  However, I finally realized that placing bets where the odds are against me runs completely counter to my goals.  I’m not sure why that wasn’t completely obvious from the beginning, but given the popularity of the lottery, I guess I’m not the only one who ignored basic math.
  3. Yard “art.”  I don’t mean landscaping.  Landscaping can add value to your house, and I think it’s important to improve one’s dwelling.  What I’m talking about are the concrete animals, Greek gods, and tiny bridges, that I see cluttering up people’s lawns.  Rather than neglect them for several years while they make your lawn look like crap and you finally decide to throw them out, you could just skip buying them in the first place.
  4. Fancy cables for electronic equipment.  I almost fell for this one once.  The sales guy waxed poetic about the difference in video quality if I just opted for the super duper quality gold plated $80 HDMI cable, and how without the upgraded audio cables my surround sound wouldn’t even be worth having.  Lucky for me, my eyes and ears are not as discerning as my bullshit filter, because while I can’t tell a difference in the audio or video quality with my cheap cables, I can tell when someone is trying to sell me something I don’t need.
  5. Interest.  I think that most of us are guilty of pissing away hard earned dollars on interest, and sometimes I think it is justifiable.  However, most of the time it is a complete waste of money.  With today’s interest rates, it does make sense to me to hold some debt at a lower rate than some of my safest investments are paying, but if that wasn’t the case I’d be trying to get rid of my debt immediately, if not sooner.
  6. Fast food.  Of course I’m guilty of this, but if I’m 100% honest with myself, eating just about any meal you can buy at a fast food restaurant runs counter to my goal of being the best, most healthy person I can be.  Most fast food is garbage, and some people claim that it is the only inexpensive option, but I have to adamantly disagree.  It isn’t really that cheap anymore, and when you factor in the long term health effects of eating too much of it, the costs add up.
  7. Bottled water.  It’s water folks, that’s been filtered and put in a bottle.  It’s not magical because it has an exotic name like “Dasani.”  It’s still just water.  Buy a filter and a bottle; BAM, make your own.  (I still buy bottled water fairly often when I stop for gas and I didn’t plan ahead.  My hypocrisy knows no bounds).
  8. Extended warranties.  OK, this one requires doing a little math to really make an educated decision on, but the majority of the time an extended warranty is a poor financial decision.  I have bought them on large ticket items, when the cost of replacement or repair was much larger than the price of the warranty, or when it also covered user damage.  It’s rare to find warranty deals like that though, so as a general rule of thumb it is best to avoid them.
  9. Bargain-bin DVDs.  I have bought movies out of the $5.00 and exclaimed “this is a classic, what is it doing in here?”  Well it’s in there because, it being a classic, everyone has already memorized every line of it and they still show it on network TV every week or two.  Don’t buy it, you won’t get $5.00 worth of enjoyment back out of it.
  10. Almost anything that Hallmark sells.  (Or greeting cards in general).  They have created cards with quasi-heartfelt platitudes for almost every occasion, special or otherwise, and managed to market them in a way that makes you the asshole if you don’t spend upwards of $4.95 on them.  For that outrageous price, the receiving party can say “oh that’s so nice” and then be burdened with the decision of keeping them forever or throwing them out a couple of years later.  If you want to really put your feelings down on paper, write a nice letter.