Money Fails: What did your most regrettable purchase teach you?
5 min | 6 November 2023
From university degrees to trending fashion items, Money Fails asks people to share their biggest money regrets, and we find out how they transformed these situations into teachable moments.
There are some money lessons that we only learn through experience, and though they may be painful and inconvenient, they help us to do better in the future. It's tempting to bury these moments deep down due to embarrassment or regret. However, through sharing these moments, we can help others learn from them or maybe even feel better about their own mistakes.
Money Fails asks people about their big or small money regrets and how those experiences changed their money behaviours for the better.
Money fail: Designer handbag
I bought an £800 designer handbag that I’m too scared to use. It was a gift to myself on my 30th birthday, and it just sits in the cupboard because I’m too terrified to damage it. I’m 32 now, and I've used the bag three times in two years.
Since then, I’ve never bought a bag for more than £40, because I’d much rather buy things and actually use them instead of leaving them unused out of fear. It taught me that things are useless if they don’t serve a purpose; it's better to buy cheaper and use the items!
Money fail: Fashion flops
Swayed by trending fashion, I spent around £300 on three items from a popular brand at the time. The items were upward of £89 each, but the materials were definitely not worth that much. I thought I’d wear the items for planned events, but I had instant buyer's remorse. I didn’t look great in the clothes and wouldn’t put myself in that position again.
After that purchase, something clicked in my head, and now I don’t purchase trendy items unless I have fully considered the number of times I’d wear them. I also look into multiple reviews and read up on how easy it is to return.
Money fail: Unhappy holiday
I spent about £2–3k on a holiday in Bali during my second year of university, and I had a miserable time; it kept me in my overdraft for the whole third year. I expected it to be just like social media, and I only cared about getting good pictures at the time.
It taught me so much about not spending money to do something just because everyone else is. It also made me realise that having ‘life-changing experiences’ is 100% about mindset rather than where you are. I’ve had trips to Scotland that felt much more meaningful to me than Bali because I was in a better headspace.
If you looked at my social media profile, you would’ve thought I had the best time, but social media can be misleading. It's OK if backpacking for months on end just isn’t your thing; you don’t have to force it.
Money fail: Investment bubble
I lost a potentially life changing sum. I invested enough to put a very decent deposit down on a house, and I’m not even on the property ladder. It all started during Covid when people were buying shares in big tech companies and were seemingly making big returns. I saw what was happening and started to invest in that.
This experience taught me an important lesson about greed. I told myself I’d stop investing when it got to a certain amount, and when it reached that point, I got too greedy and didn’t sell. Thank goodness I don't have a mortgage or dependents; otherwise, I'd be in a very different situation mentally. As for next time? I’m not sure I'd say I would never invest in a bubble again. I think I'd be more cautious by doing more research, only investing what I could afford to lose, and sticking to my plan of when to sell.
Money fail: University degree
My biggest money fail was my degree; at the time, I didn’t know I could have a professional career without one. Growing up, I was constantly told that university was the only way to get on the career ladder, and as an immigrant (arriving in the UK aged 4), I felt like I needed to catch up with peers who'd already graduated.
I studied Law before transferring to Philosophy, and throughout this time, I constantly felt like I was trying to redeem my life by going to university and becoming a 'success.' However, I wasn’t doing well at university and continually made bad decisions. Now, if I have to make a big financial decision, I will ask myself: what will you do if this goes wrong? How will you survive? Is it necessary for the comfort and safety of your future to take on this huge financial burden?
Basically, I’ve learned that it's important to give myself a big reality check before big money decisions. I hope that at 34 I can make a life for myself that I’m proud of, but pragmatism is needed.
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