by Maurie Backman | Updated July 25, 2021 - First published on Dec. 28, 2020
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Many of us have spent money on needless things. These pandemic-related indulgences were, in hindsight, a bit much for me.
I generally consider myself a pretty frugal person. Sure, I spend money on things I care about, but for the most part, I stick to a budget and choose my purchases carefully.
But when the coronavirus pandemic hit, that logical approach to spending went out the window. In fact, since I was saving money by not going on our big summer vacation, not sending my kids to camp (there was no camp), and not paying for entertainment outside our home, I indulged in a few items I thought would make my days easier. In hindsight, these ridiculous purchases were a waste of money -- money I should've put into my savings account.
When you're stuck at home, it's a good idea to stuff your face with junk food, right? Well, probably not. And what made matters worse for me is that at one point, I decided it wasn't enough to indulge myself with ordinary supermarket candy. Nope -- I needed the good stuff, gourmet chocolate truffles and assorted sweets from a high-end store I'd visited that ships nationwide.
One $120 candy order later, I was up to my ears in sweets -- and regret. Not only was this insanely unhealthy (especially since this sort of candy doesn't have a long shelf life, and I had to consume it all quickly), but I've never really been much of a sugar snob. There's no reason a batch of regular old M&Ms wouldn't have done the trick -- at about 1/15 the cost.
Holding down a job while your young children learn remotely from home is stressful. I thought to alleviate that stress, I'd buy some higher-end bath products to help myself wind down after those tougher days. Ha.
I tend to be fairly allergic to scented products, so why I thought an expensive batch would negate that issue is beyond me. I did a test run by dissolving one of the products into a sink full of water. I dipped my arm in, and sure enough -- reaction central.
I can also admit that I've taken zero baths since the pandemic started. That's right -- zero. Most nights, there just isn't time. Now I'm sitting on a fancy collection of bath products I'll end up giving away.
Normally, my kids go to school for a full day, then stay busy with after-school activities. Since much of that was canceled back in March and school lasted just a few hours a day, I needed to keep them busy so I could work. I thought a bunch of highly rated art project kits would do the trick -- at $30 a pop. I was especially impressed with the (clearly fake) reviews about how easily kids can use these kits independently.
Let's just say those purchases were a disaster. My younger kids were completely lost and frustrated when they tried to tackle the projects themselves. Rather than keeping them busy, the kits created more work for me -- I had to help my kids get through the 27 steps each one entailed. The lesson? Next time, stick to a $10 investment in crayons, colored pencils, and paper.
Clearly, I made some senseless, wasteful purchases during the pandemic. But I've also spent extra on a few things I don't regret, like books. Normally, I do a lot of borrowing from the library, but since it closed, the only option was borrowing books electronically. Since I stare at a screen all day for work, I didn't want to spend my nights that way, too. I treated myself to a bunch of books and did the same for my son, who reads before going to bed.
I also spent extra on a vegetable delivery service in the spring. I was, for the most part, staying out of stores and ordering groceries online. I found that the produce I got was low-quality, so I tried a subscription service. It raised my produce spending by about $20 a week, but in return, I got a regular shipment of healthy products that fed my family well. I don't have a problem with that at all.
Some of the above items were a giant waste of my money, and it was impulsiveness that caused my spending. I've since learned to consider my purchases more carefully to avoid kicking myself for them after the fact. The takeaway from all of this? Whether it's a pandemic or another rough patch, sometimes indulging a little doesn't hurt. But if you're going to splurge, make it worthwhile.
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