Wednesday, December 30, 2015

One Year Purchase Review: December 2014


This is not the bag I bought, it is a stock photo.

It's time for my one-year-later purchase review for my purchases of December 2014. This includes only material items that were intended for my own use (or me and my wife's joint use). No bills, food, etc. I also didn't include Christmas presents for others, since I have no basis for telling if they were worth it to the recipients, and also I didn't write down what they all were.


Here are my December 2014 purchases:

Hemp shoulder bag - $91.95

I'd been eyeing this bag online for awhile before I took the plunge and bought it, a "you got a job!" present to myself. This was the only bag I'd found with all the specific features I wanted (large enough to carry a laptop, but not too bulky if not carrying a laptop; a large exterior pocket taller than it is wide to hold a water bottle, and ideally a second one to hold a travel mug; ideally made of a durable, environmentally friendly material, such as hemp). When I bought it the sellers included a handwritten note thanking me for the purchase and noting that this was the last bag of its kind--the product was discontinued. So I felt extra happy that I'd nabbed it! I didn't end up using it quite as much as I'd anticipated because my backpack was and is still the most practical way to carry anything heavy or bulky, but it's a great commuter bag, and I do use it a lot today. It sparks joy.


Money Well Spent? Yes.


Lessons Learned: It seems like the practice of writing down all the features I wanted and then searching for that exact thing worked out for me here. It's worth noting that if such a search turns up exactly one item from a small business with a small internet presence, it's probably worth buying the item while you have a chance.


Travel mug - $20

This was part two of my employment present to myself: a ceramic travel mug branded with the name of a local coffee shop I like a lot. I could carry this in my new bag! I used to take hot tea to work in the morning, since I love tea in the morning but didn't have time to drink it all before dashing out the door.


Money Well Spent? Hard to say, since I already had a travel mug before this, and while I have a legitimate use for one, I did not then and do not now need two. That said, I still have them both because I like them both so much that I can't decide between them! But, being completely honest, I'm goign to have to go with no, it was not worth it per se.


Lessons Learned: I'd like to say that I learned not buy something I already have, but it doesn't seem like I did learn that lesson.

Key finder dongle/iPhone app - net $1.93 (return shipping)

This was one of those sleek "internet of things" gadgets that you attach to your keys, phone, computer, etc. and you can use an app to locate the item if you lose it. I'd preordered it and by the time I received it, I no longer had access to an iPhone (the app didn't have an Android version). That made it an easy choice to return it, but really, I'm glad I did anyway. I'd ordered it pre-KonMari, and since doing a major stuff purge and reorganization, losing my things was not really such a problem anymore. At least, I still lost things, but they were no longer so hard to find.


Money Well Spent? No, that's why I returned it.


Lessons Learned: Like Marie Kondo says, you don't need organization tools/gadgets. You just need less stuff.


Yoga Mat - $12.82

I guess I'm glad I got a yoga mat in that it was nice to be able to do yoga along with my partner, but I've since replaced this particular plastic-foam type yoga mat with a much nicer rubber one. I can't praise rubber enough as a yoga material. It's naturally grippy without being sticky, and nice to touch. I hate the feel of that plastic foam stuff. This was a non-joy-sparking utilitarian purchase. I had not taken Marie Kondo's lessons to heart..


Money Well Spent? No. This is a case where I wish I'd just gotten the more expensive version instead of step-stoning cheap to expensive; if it were just about the money it would be one thing, but cheap yoga mats are made out of material that is bad for the environment.


Bamboo clothes drying rack - $22.53

I use this all the time. It's really useful to have some extra space for air-drying clothes indoors which can be folded up when not in use. It's been especially handy to have it as I increasingly own nice clothes that can't be machine dried, like wool work slacks.


Money Well Spent? Yes.


Lessons Learned: I think I hit a good medium here between going for the cheapest thing and going for something with a little style. This was about the third or fourth cheapest option for a drying rack but I liked the look and feel of wood. It's nice to have utilitarian items that are nice to handle.


Umbrella - $7.99

I got this literally because it was raining at the time and I didn't have one.


Money Well Spent? I'm on the fence because this is a pretty bad umbrella, but also I don't care about umbrellas that much. I guess I'll go with yes.


Lessons Learned: None, I am just as stupid as before.


Ankle boots - $180.31

The saga of the Perfect Work Shoe concludes. Instead of another month-plus of purchase-and-return with Zappo's, I actually went into a store. I said to the clerk, "I would like a shoe that looks good at work yet i can wear it while walking long distances. Like, three miles." (I'd calculated that it was a mile and a half from my office to the town center, and I often walked back and forth for lunch.) The clerk sized me up and said "You're used to wearing athletic shoes, right?" I nodded. He brought me two pairs of ankle boots, noting he thought the first would be perfect but pointing out some advantages of the second as well. I tried them on and walked around. The first pair was perfect. So perfect that I said "I'll take them!" without hearing the price. I'll admit the $180 price tag did give me sticker shock since I was used to considering shoes expensive that sold for half the price, but these shoes were so much better than any I'd worn before and met my qualifications so perfectly that I ended up being glad to pay the price. I still have the shoes and wear them often. They are in perfect condition.


Money Well Spent? Absolutely.


Lessons Learned: I've tried on and hated equally expensive pairs of shoes since then, so I'm not sure this is a straight-up lesson about shelling out if you want comfy shoes. (Although I have found that to be the case.) I think the real lesson here is relying on the expertise of real people who work in stores. I know that kind of expertise is getting to be more rare, but it's really worth it, even if the item is more expensive than you could get online.


Fleece-lined tights - $20

I bought polyester fleece-lined tights even though I was already pretty sure that polyester was the material that was making me so itchy. I just couldn't find any warm tights that were not polyester without going up a price point (to wool tights which can be around $100 a pair). One year later, I do not have these or any other itchy, itchy polyester tights, but I do own a pair of wool tights.


Money Well Spent? No.


Lessons Learned: When you've already decided not to buy a certain type of item anymore for legitimate reasons, it makes no sense to make an exception due to comparatively low price. Buy the thing that will truly work, or don't buy anything.


Electric kettle - $36.38

This was an "emergency" purchase when my old electric kettle started leaking. I use an electric kettle approx. 5 times a day.


Money Well Spent? Yes.


Lessons Learned: None, I learned nothing.


Christmas decorations - $74

This comes down to $30 for a tree, $40 for a wreath, and $4 for a poinsettia. I think the tree and the poinsettia were completely worth it, but the wreath was pretty expensive for the amount of value -- it was more expensive than the tree because it came pre-decorated, but we liked decorating the tree ourselves, and anyway we didn't look at the wreath that much since it was on our door. Since this was one of our first Christmases decorating as adults (as young adults we always travelled for Christmas), I certainly don't blame my wife and myself for not knowing which items were more or less meaningful to us. But now we know.


Money Well Spent? Yes for $34, no for $40


Lessons Learned: It's worth it to spend some money on festivity, even if the items won't last (real trees and flowers die!) I really appreciated having a real Christmas tree for the first time! (As a child, we always had a fake tree.) However, you don't need to get every trapping, you can be judicious.


Summary

Total Spent on Material Items: $467.91
Total Money Well Spent: $373.16

Total Money Poorly Spent: $94.75
Percent Well Spent: 79.75%

On its surface, this appears to be a cheaper month than November, though, as I noted, I didn't include Christmas presents. For what it's worth, looks like we spent $272.25 on material (non-charity) Christmas gifts. So, that would bring us up to $740.16 in purchase of items. I feel every bit of self-righteousness about not buying too many 'things' draining out me, right now.

Summary of Lessons Learned:

  • Write down all the features you want before you start shopping, then try to find something that matches (and sparks joy by KonMari standards).
  • Don't buy something you already have & are satisfied with & don't need two of. (Sounds obvious, but apparently not to me...)
  • Think carefully before buying anything for organization -- could decluttering eliminate the problem?
  • Look for even utilitarian items to spark joy and be somewhat enjoyable to handle.
  • Don't let cheapness be a reason to break your own rules (e.g. violate environmental principles or ignore practical concerns about fabric itchiness, etc.) Just pretend those cheap options don't exist and it's a choice between getting the non-violating option or nothing at all.
  • Be festive yet judicious.

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