The Seven Worst Purchases I Made in My 20's

Don’t fall into the same traps I did and blow your hard-earned cash.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

I recently turned 30 and have been reflecting on the past decade, mainly indulging myself in self-pity by believing that Covid stole the last year of my twenties from me. Despite not having the thirtieth birthday I had once envisioned, I have also never had so much expendable income in my bank account.

I have always considered myself to be intelligent and frugal when it came to my finances but in fact, I wasted a hell of a lot of money when I was younger.

I lived at home for the first few years of my early twenties and the idea of saving money and budgeting my expenditure was non-existent given I hadn’t thought about a budget since I dropped high school accounting at fifteen. I didn’t have any debt to worry about but that shouldn’t have been an excuse to blow every penny I made. Thankfully, through experience, I have learned to be more mindful of how I spend my income.

Here are seven of the worst purchases I made:

1. Diets

Oh boy, if I had a dollar for every time I tried to lose weight in my twenties. I spent hours watching videos online becoming obsessed with the latest fad diet, and micromanaging my weight and measurements. Then came the bulk orders of protein powders, superfoods, and blenders only to realise a week later that I cannot bear drinking chalky shakes and don’t enjoy chowing down beetroot. That was all quickly forgotten and within days I would move on to the next diet craze.

Life is too short to be tricking yourself with gluten-free, fat-free, sugar-free, and wheat-free pasta. I wince at the thought of all the perishable foods I stocked up on only to throw in the garbage when they went mouldy and stale before my lazy ass actually planned a meal. I also can’t forget all the tiny bikinis I bought assuming I would strut down the beach wearing them when I slimmed down — never happened.

We hear it constantly but honestly, it is so worth learning to love yourself from the inside out rather than spending money on trying to achieve the unattainable body social media promotes.

2. Taxis

This one is painful as I could physically watch the meter increase every trip. Dublin doesn’t have a particularly sophisticated public transport system so I spent stupid amounts of money traveling from one side of the city to the other. I wouldn’t plan my journey home and often approached the bus stop, saw a bus wasn't due for twenty minutes and hopped in a taxi instead. A little bit of forward planning would have saved me so much cash.

It got even worse as more taxi apps became available meaning I could charge my unnecessary trips to an account and never had to think twice about the cost. That is until I was left with ten euro to see me through to the end of the month. Don’t get into this bad habit; walk partway, wait for the bus and make the subway transfers — unnecessary taxis are not worth draining your account for.

3. Clothes for Socialising

In my early twenties, I went out socialising about twice a week. It was a time where we millennials brought a digital camera out everywhere we went — what were we thinking? — and uploaded an entire album of photographs to Facebook the next morning. Thanks to this added pressure of needing glamourous photos for social media I probably bought a new outfit every fortnight. I easily went through twenty dresses a year wearing each a maximum of three times. Asos was gaining popularity and I had never experienced getting clothes shipped to my house so quickly before.

I can’t fathom the thought of how much money was wasted on fast fashion. I was blinded by online sales, buying items I thought were a good deal but that I never actually ever wore. Impulse buying at its finest. I was a devil for purchasing clothes that did not flatter my body because I thought I would be considered fashionable in them.

Nevermind the alcohol and bar cover charges, spending hours scouring the internet only to throw my money down the drain? Regret. Learn what looks good on you and buy basics that you can mix and match. In reality, everyone is too focused on what they look like themselves to care about you.

4. Lunch

I do not care that I spent scandalous amounts of money dining out for dinner with my girlfriends but do you know what I do regret? Lunch. No one needs to drop €6 on a sandwich every day. If I'd made the time to make my own veggie-filled baguette it would have been just as tasty and a lot cheaper. Lunch is easy, you can have leftovers from the night before or can make a nutritious soup that lasts for days within minutes at home. Do not waste your money on what everyone knows is the least enjoyable meal of the day.

Treat yourself to lunch on occasion but take note that spending €6 a day midweek quickly turns into over €1,500 in a year — on sandwiches.

5. Gym Membership

I am not against gym membership; in my late twenties, I spent hours going to classes I loved at the gym. In my earlier twenties, however, I joined a gym that cost me €60 a month. The gym wasn’t within walking distance of my house so I had to make the effort to get there and did not own a car. I put no effort into learning about the weight machines, didn’t want to ask any of the trainers for help and so I spent every visit on a treadmill. €60 a month to run a few times on a treadmill? Dumb. I also didn’t realise I had to give three months' notice when I quit so when I moved abroad in the summer of 2011 I continued paying the membership fee from another continent.

Gym membership is great but be smart about who you sign up with. Ensure you live within close proximity and feel completely at ease in the complex.

6. iPhones

A big sarcastic thank you goes to Apple for dropping a new iPhone model every freakin’ year. Peer pressure is the worst and I could not see that it was completely unnecessary to upgrade my phone each September. I wasn't on a decent bill plan so I spent hundreds of euro buying the phone outright only to sell them for a third of the price eleven months later.

Any friend who is going to judge you based on what technology you own is not a friend worth keeping. You don’t need to constantly be upgrading, put your money towards more important expenses. Also, get out of the Apple bubble, there are so many impressive phone options available now that are better than iPhones particularly when it comes to camera quality.

You need a phone that can call your mom and text your friends — job done.

7. Not Knowing My Worth

My final worst purchase isn’t actually a purchase at all but the regret that I spent too long in jobs that didn’t value my time. We all have to start out in low-paying jobs but you can’t get too comfortable and not challenge yourself. A job should be more than just a way to make money; invest time in yourself and know your worth.

Ask for a raise if you know you deserve one and move on elsewhere if you are not being appreciated. I always believe in taking risks no matter your age but do not know one person who has looked back on a job they had at twenty-three and really regretted leaving it.

Time is money — don’t let anyone else waste yours.

Occasionally I do lament spending all the money that I could have been investing back when I didn’t have a mortgage or loans but your twenties are a time for experimenting and doing stupid things so we can't be too hard on ourselves. We grow from our mistakes and I don’t think making daily sacrifices in your twenties will necessarily lead to a happier life as you get older.

Saying that, please try to learn from the seven worst purchases of my 20’s and think twice before reaching for your credit card.

Living in Dublin, Ireland and working in film & television. Writing about lifestyle, experiences and my night-time thoughts. I love travel, health and puppies.

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