By: Andrew Rosen, CFP®, CEP®

Amazon packages have been piling up lately, and I’ve realized I’ve been ordering a wide array of items. Some are essentials, some are bought on a whim, and some items are just toys for the kids (to keep them, and us, sane). It got me thinking though, about if these items were “worth the money” or not? That lead to a whole new thought process about the things I see clients and friends purchase. Are all these items worth the money?

I’ve polled many different people on their thoughts and I’ve compiled the below list. Here you’ll see items that, more times than not, I’ve heard are not worth the hard-earned cash. (Now a quick disclaimer: don’t hate me if you have a listed item, love it, and get lots of enjoyment out of it. There’s no one size fits all, and everyone is different.)

The below list is based on trends I’ve noticed in my polling.

My commentary (in no particular order):

1.Boats– Kicking off this year’s list is (you guessed it) boats. I can go on and on with all the cliché sayings, but here are my favorite two, ‘boat’ stands for ‘bring on another thousand’ and ‘the two best days in a boat-owners life are the day they buy and the day they sell.’ The reality is there are certainly real boat people. What I’ve found in general is boats cost a ton of money, barely get used, and most boat-owners could rent a boat for the handful of times a year they use one. This accomplishes the same thing at a fraction of the cost. There are also great boat-share programs that I’ve seen many clients utilize and love.

2. Fire Pits– I love a good fire pit. Nothing beats sitting outside and enjoying a cocktail under a starlit night. My sense is though, that these pits barely get used. They seem really cool, but most simply sit and rust.

3. Pool Tables– I have one, although I technically inherited it from the previous owners of my home (who, by the way, inherited it from the previous owners before them). In my mind, I’m running a pool hall and hustling people out of thousands of dollars like in the movies. In reality, 99.9% of the time I’m trying to keep my kids from throwing the pool balls at each other’s head. Simply put, no one takes them when they move for a reason.

4. Hot Tub– Again, I love a nice hot tub soak. It’s my favorite thing to do on vacation. Owning one, however, is a different story. They tend to break all the time, cost a lot in upkeep, and after the novelty wears off, are not used as often as we think. This is another one no one takes with them when they move.

5. Flight Insurance– An interesting one here, especially given the crazy travel restrictions out there. In general, I never buy flight insurance. I find I barely use it and, worst case, if I can’t go on a flight, I’ll just pay the few hundred-dollar change fee. The one occurrence of paying that change fee is certainly cheaper than buying flight insurance every time.

6. Top Shelf Alcohol– This one hurts. Who doesn’t love a $80 Caymus Cab or a Grey Goose martini? Now here comes the real question. Who thinks in a blind taste test they could tell the difference? The reality is, most people can’t. If you think you can, I propose a challenge and friendly wager for you.

7. Premium Gas– I know my car buffs are going to scream at me for this, but I’ve asked around about top-grade gas and if it makes a difference. I’ve yet to have a consensus on the affect it has on an engine. Maybe I’m off base on this one, but I’ve yet to be convinced.

8. First Class– Its cool if you’ve done it. (I haven’t.) I’ve heard that it makes you feel special with fun amenities. But let’s be honest, is it worth 10x the cost if you have to pay for it out of pocket? I can’t make an argument for it, unless you’re going to drink 500 of those small bottles of alcohol. (And if that’s the case, you likely have bigger issues than paying a lot for your flight.)

9. Trampoline– Let’s forget the fact they’re literal death traps, they’re also not cheap and take up a lot of space. Thinking about owning one? Let me ask this, who has jumped on a trampoline before? Now, who has jumped on one for 45 minutes straight? I thought so. Talk about an item that just sits there gathering leaves. Think twice before buying.

10. Bottled Water– Maybe it’s the tree hugger in me, but you can get the same quality water by putting in a filter in your kitchen or buying a Brita. Plus isn’t it cool to buy a fancy water bottle and bring it everywhere with you?

11. RVs– RV’s are really awesome. They’re also really expensive. I’ve certainly seen people get a lot of use out of an RV, especially in retirement. I’ve also seen many people try to unload them and their massive expense. Can you imagine which I’ve seen more often?

12. Expensive Colleges– I’m generalizing here, but the most successful people I know didn’t go to top Ivy league schools. Certainly, some of them did, but speaking from my own anecdotal evidence, I’ve yet to see a strong correlation to expensive school and earning potential. I’m a big proponent in “work hard and prove yourself,” and “it’s who you know, not what you know.” That said, I’m sure all my kids will go to Harvard (unlike their Delaware Blue Hen father).

13. Expensive Weddings– I love an awesome wedding with great, top-shelf alcohol (although can’t tell the difference), a killer band, and some sushi appetizers. Don’t you? In most cases though, that’s who’s really enjoying these big expensive weddings—the guests. In hindsight, can I get a show of hands of who would’ve taken the money to start their lives together instead of having it thrown at a wedding? Some are able to have the best of all worlds, but my unofficial poll tends to lean towards weddings are not worth all the money.

14. Time Shares– We grew up using them, they gave a lot of great memories, and I’m thankful my parents had them to use. Now, like the rest of the timeshare owning universe, my mom is trying to figure out what to do with it. It must be a dozen times a year that clients ask me how to unload their time share. Again, people like them and use them. But I don’t see them used often enough in the majority of my experience.

15. New Designer Bags– This one is simple. Walk into any high-end, second-hand store and they’re covered in expensive handbags. Walk out with one for a fraction of the price and the next date night, no one will be the wiser.

16. Expensive TV– When I graduated college, my aunt asked me if I wanted a new TV or a nice watch (which was very generous of her). My dumb, 23-year-old self said the cool, flat-screen, 10,000-pound, tube TV. It cost like $1,500 and literally was filled with lead. Six months later, it was obsolete and I could get a better, lighter, flat screen TV for a fraction of the price. The same holds true today. Wait on the new TV, and in a year, you can buy it super cheap.

17. Wine at Restaurants– Coming from a wine guy, I just can’t do it anymore. I love my wine, but when I see that $80 bottle of Caymus on the menu being sold for $450, I can’t justify paying for it myself. Even worse, when I see that $80 bottle on the menu and realize I have the same one at home (which I got for $23). I just can’t do it. I’d rather go to a BYOB and bring my $80 bottle. (Because who’ll know the difference?)

18. Expensive Vacuums– The best vacuums are ugly and look like they’re from the 1970s. I’m sure we’ve all seen hotels using them and thought about why they’d use the old thing. There’s a reason these cleaning people aren’t using the newest, chic-looking Hoover. You want cool and expensive go that route. If you want your money’s worth, go get an ugly vacuum.

19. Weights– People buy them and they collect dust. This leads me to two natural conclusions. One, don’t buy them in the first place. And two, if you do buy a set, get them used—find someone who is dying to unload their dead-weight weights. (See what I did there?)  

20. New Instrument– For this last one, I went to the Google machine to see what the world wide web had to say. Time after time, articles spoke about buying a used instrument. It got me thinking about my childhood and the three guitars, the drum set, and my dad’s old accordion. You can imagine how much fun we had making fun of my dad’s accordion (needless to say he wasn’t the stud his son is ?). There are plenty of people looking to get rid of an instrument, so if you are looking for one, get it used. (If you’re Bruce Springsteen, however, buy new one and unload your old ones to fans). As an aside, the only instrument I do own is, in fact, a signed Bruce Springsteen guitar, and it’s pretty awesome.

There you have it folks, my 2020 “not worth the moolah” blog. I bet you can’t guess what next week’s blog will be? (Ok, maybe you can guess.) It’ll be 2020’s “worth the moolah” blog.

I think I’ll keep this an annual tradition so feel free to give me any feedback on items you don’t think are worth the money and maybe it’ll make the 2021 list.  When sending that feedback, just take it easy on me, as I am currently drinking Caymus while towing my boat in my RV!

In his role as Financial Planner, Andrew forges lifelong relationships with clients. He coaches them through all stages of life and guides them to better achieve their life goals. Andrew loves helping others by spreading his knowledge on finance, investments, and the pursuit of happiness/fulfillment. He writes nationally recognized, weekly blog posts on these topics and is a regular contributor to Kiplinger. Andrew has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, Financial Advisor Magazine, US News & World Report, USA Today, CNBC, along with many other publications.

For more information or to book a consult with Andrew or the other firm partners, Kyle Hill and David Levy, click the link below.

Andrew Rosen, CFP®, CEP®
Kyle Hill, CFP®
David Levy, CFP®

Financial planning and Investment advisory services offered through Diversified, LLC. Securities offered through Purshe Kaplan Sterling Investments, Member FINRA/SIPC

Headquartered at 80 State Street, Albany, NY 12207. Purshe Kaplan Sterling Investments and Diversified, LLC are not affiliated companies.