One-Year Purchase Review: December 2015

It's time again to roll back the clock a year and see what I was spending in December 2015. That month wasn't too bad, spending-on-myself-wise! Although I did make a ton of tiny purchases.

Coffee Fund pouch - $13

This was a fun sort of present for Practical Cranberry Nut Roll and I. We buy coffee at work together a lot, and we were sick of keeping track of whose turn it was to pay, so I got this pouch that says "OK But First Coffee" on Etsy and we each put a $20 bill into each month (or whenever it runs out). Then we just pay for coffee together out of that. We also use it to store our various punch cards. I enjoy the Coffee Fund pouch. We could have just used an envelope, but I think the pouch has more durability.

Worth it: Yep, Coffee Fund is still going strong and the pouch makes it just a little more fun.

Elf Shirt mark II - $34

Once on the streets of Toronto, I was sure I saw a guy wearing a green shirt that said "This shirt is only green when I'm thinking about elves." (I probably was wrong about that.) My brother had one made up for me the next Christmas. After I shrunk that shirt, I had a new one in a mint green (True Summer appropriate). That was this one! But I had less emotional attachment to the one I had made up myself, so after I realized that the cut of American Apparel t-shirts isn't the best for me, I gave it away. I have now given two (2) custom "This shirt is only green when I'm thinking about elves" T-shirts to Goodwill, and I hope the same person got both of them.

Worth it: Nah. While the first shirt was an amazing gift, I probably should have let the joke die and not tried to recreate it.
Lesson: Replacing sentimental items is a fool's game.

9-Liter Hiking Backpack - $90

This is the backpack that I just replaced with the 20-liter version. (Which was actually cheaper, since I waited for a sale this time.) It's very hard to say if I regret this; I no longer have this instance, but I also really liked it, enough to get the exact same bag over again in a different size!

Worth it: I'll go with yes. I used it a bunch over the year, and it showed no signs of wear. I love its successor.

Hiking Socks - $53

I have really upped my sock game in the last year. When you take the effort to get cushioned hiking socks made of real wool, you really get a lot more comfort and durability from your socks than you ever dreamed possible. Sure, it's expensive. This represents only 3 pairs of socks. Still…

Worth it: Ohhh yeah.

Wallet at Craft Fair - $16

I replaced my falling-apart cloth wallet with a crunch woven Ecuadorean one from a holiday craft fair.

Worth it: Definitely, I still use this wallet on a daily basis and it is showing no signs of wear.

T-shirt - $7

The tail end of my eBay T-shirt frenzy in November. This one was an unequivocal failure, since the photos/my monitor showed the color as mint (I thought), but when it came it was really more of an olive. Not my COLOR!

Worth it: No.
Lesson: Got to check those colors on multiple monitors.

Packing cubes - $52

I got 3 3-piece sets of packing cubes (so 9 packing cubes total). I have to say I'm a packing cube convert. I love them. I think they make it a lot easier to (1) fit more into your luggage, (2) organize your items so it's easier to find what you want when you unpack or dig through your luggage. In fact, I just got more this month.

Some of these sizes definitely ended up being more useful than others. The basic 3-piece set that is the packing cube company's flagship product was overall too large. The largest one is just far too big. It's about the size of the entire inside of my backpack, so it really offers no meaningful organization. The size they call "small" is about the biggest useful size, big enough for several sweaters or a couple of pairs of pants. What I really like is the "slim" sizes, which are what I ended up getting more of. It's just a long, skinny rectangle, into which I can fit a week's worth of T-shirts or underwear rolled tight like sushi.

Worth it: Overall yes, although if I had to do it over I would only get the small ones.

Pill Boxes - $30

I was taking a bunch of pills and I needed to take doses with me for Christmas. After scouring CVS for a pill box I didn't hate, I failed and ended up getting a dumb one with a stupid sticker of a Sound of Music looking mountain on it for $23. Then, like a day later, I was in a different drugsotre and I saw a purple metal keychain pillbox that was much less "grandmotherly" for only $6. I debated since I'd already gotten the other one, but I figured $6 was worth it for something I liked. It was the $23 one that was a waste of money.

Worth it: $6 worth
Not worth it: $23 worth
Lesson: Don't buy something you hate. Just don't. I felt like I was under pressure and needed something, but honestly, worse come to worse, I could have transported my pills in a baggie or something.

Stainless steel straight straw for "to go ware" kit - $5

I guess this was a fine purchase. We used all our stainless steel straws. I don't bring my "to go ware" kit with me as much as I should, but having a straw it in it is a pretty good idea for iced coffee purposes; odd that I thought of it in December, when I usually drink my coffee hot. I guess I was just in a trip-prepping mood with the holidays.

Worth it: Sure, I use this. Not as much as I thought I would, but I think this is case where I'd rather try to use it more than get rid of it. Gotta stop using them plastic straws.

Birds compact - $18

Along the trip prepping theme, I got myself a "stocking stuffer" of a little mirror compact with birds on it. It's a reasonably useful part of my travel toiletry kit.

Worth it: Yeah, sure.

Compass - $14

While I'm sure I didn't use this compass much until summertime, it was a fun Christmas present to myself. One of my proudest moments of the year is finding my way back to the trailhead we started from in the Middlesex Fells reservation even after losing the map. The compass was actually vital.

Worth it: Yeah, using a compass is totally fun.

Baseball Cap - $15

It surprised me to see that I purchased this in December. I seem to have been on a real summer-preparedness kick. Here's what I wrote at the time:

Most of what I bought is outdoor-related, because I didn't spend enough time outdoors. It was unseasonably warm this month, but also really dark, because December. Instead of taking walks, I spent long evenings indoors shopping online, daydreaming about taking walks.

(FYI, in that entry I mention buying sneakers too, but I'm not mentioning them here because I returned them.)

I did end up wearing this cap a lot the following summer. I don't wear hats that often because I don't think I look super good in them, but I'd borrowed a basic baseball cap while visiting my aunt's cabin the previous summer, and I appreciated the way it shaded my eyes while still allowing me to see a full range of colors - useful for summer birdwatching. So, I decided it was time to find one of my own, that I looked at least okay in.

I actually got two caps in this order, but only one looked good (it turns out dark-colored hats make my head look weirdly small). It wasn't worth the shipping to return the one that didn't look good, so I just donated it. I actually am glad I got both, since the one I ended up keeping was the one I was more on the fence about. I like it a lot. It's functional and looks reasonably okay on me!

Worth it: Yes, even at the price of two. I would have paid $15 for the single cap I kept, easily.


Total: $347
Total Worth It: $283 (82%)
Total Not Worth It: $64 (18%)

Pretty good ratio this month, and I'm within the budget I set for spending on myself! Then again, it's probable that my ability to stay under $500 on self-shopping was because my shopping energy was going into Christmas shopping. I'm not sure if my Christmas presents to other people were "worth it" to them, except maybe the ones to my wife. Amusingly, she and I both gave each other identical L.L. Bean moccasin slippers! (I ended up exchanging mine for a "bootie" model because the moccasin style slips off my feet, so now we can tell them apart.) We both wear our slippers a lot, and they still look brand-new a year later, so I think we did a good job.


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