The Internet – and I mean lots and lots of sites, not just personal finance blogs – is rife with opinions about what is a waste of money. Usually, these articles come in the form of a list, with titles like “Top Ten Money Wasters” of “Fifteen Ways You’re Wasting Money.” Typical items that show up on theses lists of money-wasters are things like bottled water, cable, and prepared foods. While I always like to skim over these lists, just to see if anything I hadn’t thought of pops up, I basically find these articles to be drivel.
First of all, the same stuff shows up again and again – I’m no longer surprised that my daily lattes add up to thousands of dollars over the course of the year. Second, most items on the list are obvious. Clearly, it’s cheaper to carry around a reusable water bottle than to keep buying Deer Park every week at the grocery store. Third, there’s a legitimate counterargument to almost every single money waster included in these articles. For example, most write off take-out food as a total waste. But if I want pad Thai for dinner tonight, and I don’t plan to eat it again in the near future, it’s more economical to order it; that dish requires a lot of special ingredients that would go to waste if I bought them all and didn’t use them up. See? I came up with a totally reasonable counterargument without even breaking a sweat.
In order to not be just another contributor to the “you-waste-money-because-you-don’t-spend-exactly-like-I-do” trope, I want to turn the whole cliche on its head and talk about stuff that a lot of other people seem to think are a waste of money, but that I don’t, stuff like:
Books – It seems like no one is buying paper books anymore! Did I just sound like your grandma or what? 🙂 But seriously, I love paper books and don’t mind spending extra to get an old fashioned (as opposed to digital) copy of a book. Not only to I prefer to hold a paper book, I also like the way they look in my apartment – a lot of books evoke memories for me that I wouldn’t be able to get from looking at my “library” on my iPad.
Car loans – This issue is debated ad nauseam in the personal finance community, but it seems like a lot of people in my “real” life are starting to balk at the idea of car loans all of a sudden, too. There’s no doubt that paying for anything with a loan is more expensive than buying it outright, but I am willing to pay more for reliability and the ability to buy the car I need now than having to save up for it when I’m busy saving for a zillion other things.
Pre-chopped veggies – Cooking saves money. No doubt. But chopping vegetables – which so many recipes require – sucks. I hate, hate, hate chopping. So if the vegetable I need for something I’m making is available in pre-chopped form, I buy it without feeling guilty for a second about paying for convenience. Life is too short – and my mascara is too expensive! – to chop onions if I have a viable alternative.
Bachelor’s degrees in philosophy – I could go on and on about the value of a liberal arts education and the important hard and soft skills that these degrees confer on their recipients, but if I’m being real, here’s what I think is important: being a smart, hard-working, driven individual. People with these qualities are able to find (or create) good jobs, no matter what their degree is in. So I firmly believe that a B.A. in philosophy – or any other supposedly “useless” degree – is only a waste if the person who earned the degree is wasteful with their time and talents to begin with.
Ok, your turn: what do you think is valuable or “worth it” that others deem a waste? Think outside the box, guys – I can’t wait to read what you come up with!