Money is now tight for many Americans, and even if you're one of the lucky few who still has their finances in order, there's no use throwing money away on a purchase you'll later regret.
Last updated: May 14, 2021
1. DVDs and Blu-ray Discs
Physical discs are relics of a bygone era, and — just like cable — DVDs and Blu-rays are now playing second fiddle to streaming services.
A movie on an inexpensive DVD at Target costs $4.99, whereas an inexpensive Blu-ray costs $10.99. Even those bargain prices are too high, however. With movie streaming platforms like Hulu starting at $5.99 per month for unlimited access to movies, there isn’t a financial reason to buy physical discs anymore.
2. Extended Warranties
Extended warranties for electronics and appliances are almost never worth the money, according to Consumer Reports.
“Today’s appliances are fairly reliable,” Dan DiClerico, a home expert with HomeAdvisor.com told Consumer Reports. “The chance that your refrigerator or dishwasher actually needs a repair during the extended warranty period is pretty low."
And in the event you do need a repair, it will likely cost about the same as you would have paid for a warranty.
The ticket price for boats is often high on its own, and that doesn't account for all the other expenses that come with a boat purchase -- taxes, transportation from the purchase point to your home or dock, maintenance and insurance. This is a purchase that can truly sink your budget.
You might think of a timeshare as an "investment" -- and if you do, it's most certainly a bad one. Unlike a good investment, timeshares do not generate income or increase in value. And they cost a lot, between the initial loan and interest, and then annual maintenance fees on top of that. Plus, you could feel like you have to go back to the same place at the same time every year to make your timeshare "worth it," when instead, you could find bargain trips to different destinations each year.
5. Over-the-Top Weddings
Weddings should be memorable and special, but it's easy to get caught up in the planning process and totally blow your budget.
“When you’re starting out, the worst thing you can do is put yourself in debt for your wedding," Kevin O’Leary, an investor on ABC’s “Shark Tank” and personal finance author, told CNBC. "I know it sounds romantic to spend a lot of money — it’s crazy to do that."
You'll likely regret starting your new life as a couple with thousands of dollars in the hole.
6. Pricey Engagement Rings
Conventional wisdom suggests you should spend three months' salary on an engagement ring, but experts say you should spend no more than 5% of your salary.
"Far too many people (spend) too much on an engagement ring, and then, they have very little money left for their other financial goals, such as home buying," Ryan Marshall, a certified financial planner at Ela Financial Group, told CNBC.
7. Desktop Computers
Unless you need the extra computing power a desktop would provide, you're likely better off spending less money and buying a laptop. Laptops are portable, often come with a webcam and other accessories included and require less power, which will save you on your electricity bill too.
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8. Camping Gear You'll Never Use Again
If you don't camp regularly, there's no point in buying a bunch of expensive gear. You can rent tents, sleeping bags and sleeping pads instead of paying a lot of money for equipment that will end up collecting dust.
9. Video Cameras
Smartphones have pretty much replaced the need for video cameras. Why lug around extra equipment when you can take high-quality videos on your phone?
Printers are expensive and take up a lot of space. And after the initial purchase, you'll keep having to pay for paper and ink. Unless you need to print documents out regularly, you're better off heading to Office Depot, Staples or FedEx for the rare occasion you do need a physical copy of something.
Nowadays, most smartphones keep track of your steps, so there's no need to buy an external pedometer. Plus, when you buy a pedometer you have to remember to wear it, whereas you probably have your phone on you at all times.
12. Exercise Machines
Going to the gym might not be an option right now -- or you might not feel comfortable using a gym -- but this doesn't mean you should spend thousands of dollars on expensive gym equipment. You're likely to abandon the equipment as soon as you're safely able to hit the gym again, and that pricey treadmill or exercise bike will just remain an eyesore in your living room. There are plenty of exercises you can do using just your body weight, or you can invest in lower-cost equipment like hand weights and resistance bands.
Juicers can be very expensive, and it requires a ton of fresh produce to make a single glass of juice. There's also a lot of time and cleanup involved. Unless you're prepared to spend 10 to 15 minutes every morning to create a cup of juice, you're probably better off shelling out the cash for an already bottled pressed juice.
14. Other Expensive Kitchen Gadgets
Juicers aren't the only kitchen gadget you'll likely regret buying. There are a number of appliances on the market that only have a single, very specific use, so likely won't be worth the investment. Do you really need an egg cooker, dehydrator or pasta maker? Probably not, and these are gadgets you'll probably use once or twice and then never again.
Pools can end up being a huge money pit. In addition to the initial cost of installing a pool, you can expect to spend $125 a week on pool maintenance, according to Home Advisor. You'll also have to pay $450 each season for opening and closing costs.
16. Hot Tubs
Hot tubs have a lower initial cost than pools, but they could still end up being a purchase you regret.
"We sold ours after a few years," one commenter shared on a Houzz forum about hot tubs. "After the first six months the novelty wore off, and we got tired of watching our money go up in steam. Even though it was 'energy-efficient' our hydro bill went down substantially afterward."
You may be tempted to buy that cheap used piano you saw on Craigslist, but you have to take into account the hassle of moving it, and also the amount of space it will take up in your home. Unless you're an avid player, this is probably a deal you should pass up.
18. Fine China
Think twice before adding fine china to your wedding registry. You likely won't use it very much, and it could take up a lot of space in your kitchen.
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If you're buying a collectible because it brings you joy, go for it, but if you're stocking your shelves with things you don't actually like because you think they'll be worth something one day, you're probably wasting your money.
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20. Unnecessary Baby Products
The baby product market is now a $73.9 billion industry, according to Statista, but many of the products out there are simply not worth the money. According to Parents.com, wipe warmers, diaper disposal systems, special “baby” detergent, baby timers, expensive crib bedding and baby food processors are all unnecessary purchases.
21. Oversized Desserts and Cocktails
Some restaurants sell massive desserts and cocktail drinks as a novelty, and you might be tempted to buy them "just for fun" -- but when you're halfway through that giant sundae, you'll probably wish you had just ordered one scoop of ice cream.
22. Your Last Drink of the Night
On that note, it's more than likely you've regretted that final drink you ordered right before the last call at the bar. Next time you're out for drinks, take a moment to think about whether you really need that last beer or if it's time to switch to a glass of water.
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23. 'As Seen on TV' Products
Some "as seen on TV" products are truly out there (does anyone really need sauna pants or mitts that peel potatoes?) but even products that are more practical are usually marked up way above their actual value. Paul Moyer of SavingFreak.com told The Simple Dollar that only about a quarter of the products you see on infomercials are worth anything close to the asking price.
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24. Products Sold By Door-to-Door Salepeople
Whether they're selling a vacuum cleaner or a magazine subscription, door-to-door salespeople can be very persuasive and may convince you to buy something you don't actually want or need. It's best to just politely say no to whatever it is they're selling.
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25. Luxury Cars
There are some pros to buying a luxury car, but they don’t outweigh the costs associated with owning one. Most luxury cars are made with higher-quality materials, have better handling and might provide a better ride than a mid-level car. However, luxury models of mid-level brands often come with the same bells and whistles as a luxury car for less.
For example, a Cadillac Escalade and a Chevrolet Tahoe share many mechanical components, but the Escalade starts at $76,195, whereas the Tahoe starts at $53,800.
There are also additional costs associated with owning a luxury car compared to a standard vehicle. Most luxury cars require premium gas, come with higher insurance rates and have more expensive replacement parts and repair costs.
26. Get-Rich-Quick Schemes
If it were easy to make a lot of money really quickly, a lot more people would be rich. So if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Russell of Unconventional Prosperity told the personal finance blog FITnancials that he once got suckered into buying a website that he thought would be an easy way to make passive income but that turned out to be a scam.
"I purchased an Amazon niche site from Flippa.com once that turned out to be a fraud," he said. "I lost $4,200. The traffic went to zero when they turned off the PBN that was used to inflate the site in the Google rankings. Whoops!"
You should also steer clear of online courses that claim they will teach you how to become rich.
"I regret buying an online course that was supposed to help me improve my mindset and create wealth," Jo of More Money Tips told FITnancials. "That was several years back. The seller is a well-known property investor. Sadly, it didn’t help at all and merely made the seller richer instead."
27. Expensive Clothes You Can Only Wear Once
Whether it's a prom dress, wedding dress or other special occasion attire that you won't be able to wear again, you'll probably regret spending a ton of money for it. And don't bank on being able to resell the garment.
"People stepped all over (my wedding dress) during my reception, and now it is ruined," Sarah of iheartfrugal, who planned to sell her splurge dress, told FITnancials. "It is hanging in my closet, taking up space."
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28. Pricey Replacement Parts
Whether it's your car or your furnace that needs repair, sometimes it's worth it to just bite the bullet and buy a new one rather than continue to pay for expensive replacement parts.
"One purchase, which I fooled myself twice into making, was a blower motor replacement for my furnace," R.J. from The Ways To Wealth told FITnancials. "Instead of replacing the entire unit, as it was near the end of its lifespan, I spent close to $500 twice trying to fix it. Each 'fix' lasted a year, and I eventually had to replace the entire furnace. In hindsight, (I) should have gone with the replacement upfront and avoided the stress and cost of the repairs."
29. Daily Grab-and-Go Meals
Grabbing a bagel on your way to work every morning might be an easy option, but it's probably not the best choice for your health or your wallet. Even healthy grab-and-go breakfasts could end up being a financial regret.
"One $5 smoothie is no big deal. But a few $5 smoothies a week over three years? That’s a lot of money I could’ve kept in my bank account, which is why smoothies are my big purchase regret," Nikayla from The Budgeting Couple told FITnancials.
Take the extra time to make a healthy, nutritious meal at home that will keep you satisfied for longer and keep more money in your bank account.
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30. Car Upgrades
Some car upgrades can lower your car's value. For example, you might think that adding a coffee-can muffler makes your car "cooler," but you'll likely regret that decision when you want to resell your vehicle.
"Coffee-can mufflers almost always have an obnoxious, raspy tone that makes you want to rip your ears out,” said Shayrgo Barazi, an automotive engineer. “From a resale perspective, installing a coffee-can muffler will definitely reduce the value of your ride considering only a small percentage of car buyers are interested in attracting so much attention to themselves.”
31. Season Tickets
Season tickets for your favorite college or pro sports team can come at a high price -- and that doesn't account for all the other expenses that come with regularly going to games.
"When I got my first job out of college, I celebrated by buying two season tickets for the Boston Bruins hockey team," Alex from FinHealthy told FITnancials. "It cost approximately 15% of my income and was an extravagance that I definitely couldn’t afford. My financial mistake was made worse by using my credit card for expensive food and drinks at every game. The games ended up being so expensive that when the team made it to the Stanley Cup Playoffs that year, I couldn’t afford to buy the playoff tickets."
32. Plastic Surgery
Although not everyone regrets having cosmetic surgery, many people do. According to the Seattle Times, "thousands of patients find themselves so displeased with the results of their surgeries that they are paying top dollar to undo what they had done. Such procedures are so high in demand that some doctors now promote themselves as 'revision plastic surgeons' and devote up to 50% of their practices to such cases. The surgeries have earned their own nickname in the trendy nip-tuck world: Undo-plasties."
33. Dramatic Hair Changes
Before you shell out hundreds of dollars for a trendy hairstyle or a new hair color, be sure it's something you really want or you could end up with major regrets.
"I was looking to change things up a bit so on a whim got my hair highlighted. It cost something like $150, and I hated it," Rae from Small Space Big Taste told FITnancials. "Then I had to spend more money to get back to my natural hair."
34. Designer Shoes
If you spend hundreds of dollars on a pair of shoes, you'll either want to wear them all the time to get your money's worth, leading to quickly wearing them out, or they'll sit in your closet because you're afraid they'll get scuffed. Either way, designer shoes are probably not the best use of your funds.
"My greatest regret is spending $700 on a pair of shoes," Janet from My Twenty Cents told FITnancials. "I had just started working, and I thought that I needed to buy the nicest and most expensive pair of designer shoes to prove that I had 'made it.' I paid $700 for a pair of Christian Louboutin pumps that I only wore maximum five times because they were a) too painful to be worn for more than 10 minutes at a time and b) too flashy for me to wear regularly."
35. Purchases From Websites You've Never Heard Of
We're constantly being bombarded with targeted ads whenever we go online, and it can be tempting to click through to purchase, even if it's from a site you've never heard of before. This is particularly true with women's clothing. Many women end up with items that look nothing like what was pictured online when they order from unknown sites.
36. Cheap Furniture
You might save money on the initial purchase when you buy cheap furniture, but you'll likely end up having to replace it much sooner than if you had just invested in quality pieces.
"I made the mistake of purchasing furniture a few years back because as a typical guy, I wanted to save money," Nick from Dollar Otter told FITnancials. "The total package was maybe $800, and while I cared more about cost than functionality, I ended up replacing the furniture several months later because of the cheap quality. So I put my cheap pride behind and purchased several quality furniture pieces that -- fast forward two years -- I still own and love."
37. The 'It' Kids' Toy
Kids tend to get bored with toys easily, so there's no point in shelling out $100 or more to buy them the "it" toy of the moment.
38. Cheap Kitchen Knives
Like furniture, knives are something that's worth investing in. If you buy a cheap set, they'll likely get dull quickly and need to be replaced.
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39. Low-Quality Appliances
Even "cheap" appliances usually cost a few hundred bucks, but they likely won't last as long as better-quality appliances. Make sure you buy a brand you trust from a retailer you trust.
"I bought all my appliances for my home at (the) same establishment," printables designer Sarah Titus told FITnancials. "Every single new appliance I’ve bought at that place has broken in one way or another over time."
40. Purebred Dogs
A purebred dog from a breeder can cost thousands of dollars. In comparison, the cost of adopting or rescuing ranges between $0 and $500.
In addition to saving an animal’s life, there are added financial benefits to adopting. Most rescue dogs are mixed-breed, meaning they are likely to live longer and cost less in vet bills than a purebred dog. Purebreds are more likely to develop health problems — such as breathing difficulties and hip dysplasia — which can be expensive to treat.
41. Lottery Tickets
While it might seem tempting to spend two bucks for the chance to win millions, the odds are not in your favor, and those dollars are better off generating interest in your savings account. Your chance of winning a Powerball grand prize is only about one in 292 million. To put that in perspective, your odds of being killed by an asteroid impact are about one in 74 million.
42. High-End Gym Memberships
A membership to Equinox costs over $200 a month at many locations, while the average gym membership is just under $60 per month, USA Today reported. Although the machines might be upgraded and the facilities might be swankier at a luxury gym, you can still get a good workout at an affordable gym and save about $140 a month.
And there's no use spending the extra money since you probably won't go to the gym as much as you think you will anyway -- 67% of gym memberships go unused.
43. Expensive Watches
If you’re thinking about buying a watch as an investment piece, don’t. The watch market is unpredictable, Money reported, so it’s better to invest your money elsewhere.
44. Trendy Fashion Items
Extremely trendy fashion items won’t get much wear beyond one season, so it’s not worth buying designer. A fast-fashion store will likely carry a similar item for much less than what you would pay for a luxury brand.
45. Premium Rental Cars
Unless you need the extra room for passengers or additional trunk space, it makes financial sense to opt for the economy class of rental cars. If you’re renting a car for multiple days, the savings you'll get from choosing economy over premium can really add up.
46. Cheap Paper Towels
When it comes to buying paper towels, you get what you pay for. You might feel like you’re saving money by buying bargain paper towels, but if they don’t work well, you end up having to use more product than you normally would have if you had just sprung for a better brand.
In a Consumer Reports paper towel test, Bounty DuraTowel — which sells for about $1.16 per roll — got the highest marks, whereas store-brand rolls like Family Dollar’s Family Values Paper Towels and CVS’s Just The Basics Paper Towels were ranked among the worst.
47. Homeopathic Remedies
Homeopathic products are now a $3 billion-a-year industry, according to NBC News. According to the National Institutes of Health, however, there is little evidence to support homeopathy as an effective treatment for any specific condition. And it's not advisable to use a homeopathic treatment as a substitute for an appointment with a healthcare provider or a proven conventional treatment.
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48. A House You Can't Actually Afford
The term "house poor" exists for a reason. This is what happens when you blow your budget on a home, and end up having to use the majority of your income to cover mortgage payments, insurance, taxes, maintenance and utilities, leaving you with little money to afford much else. Aim to dedicate just 30% of your income to housing expenses so your "dream home" doesn't turn into a financial nightmare.
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49. Live Christmas Trees
In an op-ed for PennLive.com, one writer wrote, "Last year, for the third consecutive year, our live tree was dry, brown and shedding worse than our golden retriever even before Santa arrived. We vowed it was the last time we'd chop down a real tree."
This isn't an uncommon experience -- live trees can really be a hassle. Sure, an artificial tree won't have that evergreen smell or look quite as good, but it's much easier to maintain, and you can use it year after year.
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50. Clothes That Don't Fit You
If you see a clothing item you really love on sale, but it's not available in your size, you might be inclined to buy it anyway. Clothes that are too small won't be flattering, and clothes that are too large will require tailoring, which will add costs onto the "good deal" you got by buying the item on sale.
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