February 5, 2017

My 5 Least Used Purchases


I saw a press release a few weeks ago that noted Americans spend an estimated $9.5 billion on unwanted Christmas gifts. Many are either returned or discarded. Over the years I am sure I have contributed to that problem. I remember the year I gave my wife a non-working blender. I remember because she reminds of that faux pas occasionally. I received a grey, homemade, Nehru suit from my mother-in-law many years ago. It was as ugly as it sounds. No way was that being worn!

The subject triggered a thought: What purchases have I made that I simply don't use? These were not gifts, rather stuff I bought on purpose. Either the "need" wasn't real, the product doesn't work as advertised, or that season of my life has passed. Too many end up in the garage or storage shed. Here are five that come to mind (I am sure there are many more!):



*Fitbit Heart Rate Tracker. This was one of the best selling items on Amazon this past holiday season. I know a few people who own one or want one. Shortly after my heart problem 18 months ago, I thought I needed it to stay safe.

It broke after a few weeks so the company quickly replaced it with another. No matter, I didn't wear it after a few months of obsessively checking my daily steps, heart rate, and estimated caloric burn. I just didn't think the product helped me. I knew when I wasn't walking enough. I checked my heart rate at the gym. And, the caloric burn wasn't accurate since I didn't enter everything I ate. And, it needed to be charged every few days or simply turned itself off.

I gave it to my youngest daughter who did use it, until it broke again.


*Food processor. At last count we have three of these, and can never remember how to lock the top part on the chopping section. That isn't a really big problem because our need for any one of the processors occurs about once every 4-5 months. These appliances take up too much room and are tough to clean, which is maybe why they sit unused most of the time.

A kitchen appliance tends to fall into the category of, "we don't use them much, but we might." So, getting rid of them is rarely an option.


*Laptop Computer. This is a very recent addition to the list of unused purchases. Probably 10 years old, my heavy, large, laptop sat untouched and uncharged for months at a time. It used to serve an important function: it allowed us to stay in touch and entertained on long RV trips. 

Now the smartphone, Betty's newer and smaller laptop, and a tablet that does virtually everything a laptop can at less than half the size and weight makes the old workhorse irrelevant. It has left the building.


*Bluetooth anything. These products seemed like a good idea. Miniature Bluetooth speakers, connecting to the phone hands-free while driving, even speakers for the backyard promise easy connectivity without wires. 

Maybe, but I just don't turn them on. Sometimes they can't seem to pair properly with each other. At other times, the battery drain is too high or the wireless range is not very far. Maybe I am missing something, but for me, it is a technology in search of a problem.


*Backyard Fire Pit. OK, so I live in a place that is hot 7-8 months of every year. A backyard fire is not often a welcome thought. But, there are a handful of times between December and early February when gathering around a crackling fire in the backyard would be nice.

If so, how come I have had the same three sticks of wood in the firepit for two years? Betty and I decide it is either too cold (?), too warm, too windy, to late at night, or too much trouble. So, the portable firepit sits unused in a corner of the yard.


What would you add to the list? Something you bought didn't turn out to be worth the money, or your interests have changed. An appliance that seemed a perfect addition to your life, sits ignored and unloved.

Part of living in a consumer-oriented society is owning things that become a burden, not a joy. Share your burdens!


36 comments:

  1. Hahahahaha. I can't list them all! We recently downsized. It was a 2-year process to clean out the basement and garage of all our "burdens" and there's still fully 1/4 of our bonus room filled with boxes/stuff we moved that remains unused after a year in our new home! During the 2-year downsizing process, I found myself lamenting over the money these things cost that could have been better used in our retirement accounts! Oh well, live and learn ;)

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    1. Raised in this society, I think we are taught to be good consumers. The net result is a garage, attic, storage shed, or bonus room full of unused stuff. As you note, why is downsizing all that stuff so much slower than buying it in the first place!

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  2. It is interesting how one person's discarded junk is another's treasures. Almost everything on your list I use almost daily and wouldn't think of trashing them.

    I will admit that I went through a couple of Fitbits before I landed on an Apple Watch. Yeah, I am probably unconsciously aware of when I don't get enough exercise or the exercise I get is just not cardiovascular but having that info shown on my wrist is what makes me do something about it.

    I make lots of soups with fresh ingredients, a food processor helps slice and dice them.

    My laptop is used daily especially on my many micro-RV trips.

    Bluetooth I will admit is a luxury but it keeps my desktop free of all those tangling cords

    Backyard Fire pit - Finally that is one that I would never use.

    So, in the end that is one we finally agree on. What items DO you consider essential to you life Bob?

    But we do agree on some much other things besides our stuff...

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    1. Yes, we agree on the more important things in life, RJ.

      Recently I have found my Verizon/Google tablet to be very handy. I now subscribe to 2 digital versions of newspapers that are available on the tablet. Since it is 1/3 the size of a laptop and quite portable it has become quite useful. We still have Betty's laptop and two desktop computers. But, my boat anchor laptop just needed to go away. I am very connected, but choose the laptop much less frequently.

      High speed Internet is the one thing I must have. With the computers, smartphones, Roku, and Sling TV it is essential. I hate that there is only one real choice for high speed Internet, and I think the price is too high. But, we are willing to pay for dependability and speed.

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  3. Bob, quick thought - Mike and I recently bought a propane fire pit for our patio, which we love. It's super quick to turn on in that it has a built in igniter, and we can enjoy it for 10 minutes, or 10 hours, depending.

    Oh gosh, my list woukd include:

    - a fancy pasta maker attachment for my Kitchen Aide mixer. Made pasta two times before deciding it's too much work for too little payback!
    - a couple of infomercial items from back in the day - a micro sewing machine and a Victoria Principal skin care kit. I've since learned nothing good comes from infomercials! If the items were really that fab they'd be available in stores for purchase.
    - A beautiful Bose sound system for playing our iPod throughout our home. Streaming came along shortly thereafter, i.e. Roku and Pandora, and we never looked back.
    - Two recent Vivofits, a slightly less expensive variation of Fitbit. We know from using them on some of our well established walking routes that their mileage readings are suspect, and at 54 I don't need a daily reminder of how poorly I sleep at times ( because other than drugs, what am I supposed to do about it???), so they quickly got relugated to a drawer.

    Fun exercise! I give myself kudos, though, for at least identifying and moving our mistakes into the Donate box in our garage pretty consistently.

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    1. We are having some redesign work done in our backyard. A propane fire pit is a great idea...much easier than the wood-burning one we ignore and doesn't require running a gas line.

      My iPod sits unused most of the time, except in the RV. Like you, the ease and variety of Pandora and Spotify makes a fixed choice of music much less enjoyable.

      There are two Goodwill stores within a few miles of our home. They are the recipients of stuff that has outlived its usefulness.

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  4. I use bluetooth all the time to stream music from my phone to the garage, home stereo, bedroom and the car. I love it. I have a manual food processor. It's good for making salsa and the such. I have a coffee grinder I rarely use. A blender I never use. Fortuantly I'm moving soon and lot of these unused appliances will be left behind.

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    1. I have never been tempted to grind my own coffee or make my own pasta....too much effort.

      Moving is often a good time to donate stuff, though you have to be firm with yourself. It is too easy to say, "well maybe I'll use it someday!"

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  5. Had to laugh about the fire pit! I recently fell for the hype about Himalayan salt lamps and bought not one, but two! I do use them because I think they're pretty. And because I don't want to admit that they do absolutely nothing for my health and well being. But I suspect before long they will be gathering dust on the closet shelf.

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    1. I had to look up Himalayan salt lamps..they are kind of pretty but I gather don't do the 10 wonderful things that a web site says they do. Oh well.

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  6. I bought a countertop convection oven, convinced I would not need to heat up the oven for small dishes. Problem is, I rarely heat the oven anyway. Also bought a vacuum food saver. It's messy to use and I can't remember how to feed the bags in, so it's in the garage with the unopened deep fryer. Sigh.

    I'm also trying to decide about a gift exchange with a friend. Although she can afford to, she buys dollar store type gifts without regard to the recipient's interest. This Christmas it was a box of Swiss Miss cocoa. I end up giving them to the housecleaner, but I am working up the courage to say we should stop. Oh well

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    1. We have a small toaster oven, too, that spends most of its time in a cabinet. Betty would like to use it more often but out-of-sight-out-of-mind.

      I just read that Bernie Madoff cornered the market for Swiss Miss hot chocolate in prison and sold it at inflated prices to the inmates. That may not be true, but it is a good story. Your story of the gift exchange is even stranger, and I am sure it is true!

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  7. I think we all have kitchen stuff that can fall into this category. We have all kinds of blenders and other things, along with volumes of cookbooks, that were to be used by yours truly when I retired. It's been three years and none have seen the light of day.

    Just put the category of "electronics" down and I was guilty in many, many ways. But I will research big items to death, like TVs and laptops, before purchasing (took literally two years once before buying our 60" model, which has since been replaced by the 65", which will also be replaced someday by something bigger).

    Initially started out with a Fitbit as well. Used it for running and it went bad after a few months; couldn't take the moisture (really??). After a second one gave up the ghost quickly I moved to a Garmin Vivofit, and Deb replaced her Fitbit as well. Both have been going strong for over a year.

    Definitely cutting down on impulse items as I get older. Very little would fall into that category any more. Deb, when it comes to hair and cosmetic items - eh, not so much.

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    1. Fitbits don't seem to be fairing too well in the comments. I guess my experience isn't unusual.

      Amazon makes it too easy to order something on the spur of the moment. That is my excuse.

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  8. Something else I'll never ascribe to like the hand chopper and the pressure cooker that go unused. Give me a good knife and the slow cooker. I like RJ's post - like Dean Brody's song - one man's trash is another man's gold. Members of a parenting class were divided into 2 groups. One had to list the items that they couldn't live without while the other group was asked to list the items that they didn't find useful. You guessed it - both lists contained the same items. I often ask myself - do I really need this or really love this? The answer has to be yes before I make the purchase. And when it comes to gifts, experiences are more fun than gifts.

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    1. That's fascinating that the two lists were the same, though I am not surprised. RJ described a universal truth.

      About the deleted comment: I was at a Super Bowl party and missed it for a few hours. You are so right: that garbage has no place here. Thanks for your heads up.

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  9. What a fun post! FIRST OF ALL: I need a new food processor soon.. i use mine ALL THE TIME, it is about 9 years old and the bowl has a crack in it that is gonna get bigger soon.. I would purchase one of yours if you need to unload one!!!!!!!

    Stuff we don't need:

    Hmmm..I was GIVEN a fit bit from a relative whose workplace gave them one and last year he got a new one issued and gave me his OLD one: I don't use it at all.Not sure where it is!! Lost it!!!! I walk with Ken every morning,If I don't, well, I know it without a machine to tell me!!!

    GOOGLE HOME device: Andrew got us one for Christmas and said he kept the receipt. Just in case. Well, we returned it to him after 2 weeks.No use for this whatsoever.Was pretty spooky having this THING on the counter that listened to us all the time!!!!!! No thanks.

    That's about all I can think of.We downsized twice in 3 years so I don't have a lot of excess.

    Things I have that I LOVE:

    We DO love our bluetooth speaker.I stream music, but I can't take the poor quality of the laptop or phone--I have to send it to the better bluetooth speaker and it works great.Was a bit over $100 and worth it. I love to play music while we have dinner..Pink Martini,Dean Martin, Folk music, Motown,etc...

    Love my VERY OLD kindle (another gift from our techie son a number of years ago.) I use it when traveling.. or I'd pack way too many books.I treat myself to purchasing books just for trips. Otherwise I use the LIBRARY extensively. If I had a NEWER kindle I could BORROW books from library for a short trip,and we have a couple of other trips coming up--may be more cost effective to purchase a newer kindle so I can borrow.

    Ken loves his ipad. (A retirement party present from Andrew!!) I have a macbook air laptop.Don't need new tech for a while. But I'd love my own ipad someday!








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    1. There were a lot of commercials during the Super Bowl for both the Google and Amazon voice-activated "assistants." I agree, what is to prevent them from gathering more information than I prefer to make available since they are on all the time. I don't see us adding one to our home.

      I may have to rethink the bluetooth aspect now that we are spending more time in the backyard. A higher quality music than simply through the phone's speaker would be nice. I just have to figure out how to get the speakers I own to pair up with the phone or tablet.

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    2. It was pretty easy to hook up the phone to the speaker.It's in the settings area.. you can google how to do it. The when I want to listen to music I just go to setting and tell the phone to link to the speaker. And unlink it when done.

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    3. It is very simple to hook up a Bluetooth speaker to your phone or other device. We use our Bluetooth speaker all the time and I imagine you'd find it especially useful when travelling in your RV.

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    4. I have a Jam2 and I like it but it can be persnickety about hooking up. Sometimes I have to turn my bluetooth on and off to get it to hook up after it's been away. I like to for listening to music when I'm in the kitchen, and for when I'm puttering around the house and want to know if the phone is ringing. It amplifies the ring quite nicely.

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  10. This was an interesting thought for me. I am pretty minimalist so I had to hunt in my head for things I own but don't see a lot of use. In the end, they are aspiration items:

    Pair of Huge Inner Tubes (the kind you float on in the water) - These are still in the box from 3 Christmas's ago. Someday I will get away from work long enough to drag them to the gas station and then to the river right next to my house. I can't imagine when though. I just can't commit to knowing I live on a major river and will never actually go to it.

    Elliptical (running machine) - I really only use this when I'm really 'on' my game for fitness so maybe a few clusters each year. I keep considering trading down to something that I'd feel more comfortable using when I'm feeling slow and heavy but worry that I'd be giving up the dream of being regularly athletic.

    Even for those of us who are very minimalist (and I am pretty far down the pike) it's easy to hold onto items that define who we want to be.



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    1. Interesting comment, Morgan, that even gung-ho minimalists still have some stuff hidden away that calls to them.

      Remember with the inner tubes, once you float down the river you need a way to come home!

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    2. Morgan's post reminded me we have a brand new two-person inflatable kayak still waiting to make it's maiden voyage. In that we've owned it for six months now, I'm hoping this doesn't turn out to be a regret purchase down the line!

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  11. Even though I hate to admit the waste, here's my list:
    1. I own a Keurig coffeemaker and I don't drink cofee. I guess I just like the way it looks on the counter.
    2. The garage shelf holds two unused bread making machines.
    3. My husband and I each have nice, new watches sitting in a drawer. When we need to know the time while out, we check our phones.
    4. A big, heavy Nikon digital camera that rarely makes its way out of the closet. Most of the time, I'm happy with the quality of my iPhone camera.
    5. A portable DVD player that I used twice on car trips. Now I just download movies to my kindle.
    I think a separate post listing our most used products would be interesting, but then it might encourage even more unnecessary spending on my part! Glenda

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    1. The coffee maker for someone who doesn't drink coffee is the best example so far, Glenda. That is a good case of form over function.

      My wife leaves her Nikon at home most of the time. Like you, she finds the quality of the photos taken by her smartphone are just fine.

      On RV trips we will take DVDs since WiFi connections can be spotty in campgrounds, and streaming movies is often prohibited. Otherwise, the DVDs sit unused in a bookcase.

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  12. I love this post and the comments. When we married, each of us brought our "stuff" to the marriage, so we have things I would part with in a heartbeat (hello, food processor) that he insists we keep. So they gather dust and are not used. Oh, well. He is finally purging things (LPs, VHS tapes, books, magazine collections!) and I've been doing so all along.

    Like others, I have become more minimalist in my purchases as I've aged, but I still make a few impulse purchases. And like you, Amazon is too easy. My Fitbit was replaced by an Apple watch. And we were gifted the Amazon Echo and have it on the kitchen counter, so if they're listening, we are boring them to death. But the grocery list capability is genius, and I love the hands free timer when I'm cooking.

    Things I bought, don't need, haven't really used:
    1. A polka dot raincoat. HAD to have it. Have worn it twice, three times tops. Off to Good Will soon.
    2. Hats. Cowboy hat from Sedona. Giant straw sun hat (for the racetrack? Who knows?). I keep thinking I'll wear hats, but I don't. Except the odd baseball cap or a sunhat while hiking/vacationing.
    3. Books. More books than I can ever read. New books with great reviews. Used books that catch my eye. Luckily, I've started getting my books at the library, but I still have shelves of unread books. And when my daughter moved overseas, I kept a pile of hers. I won't live long enough to read them all.
    4. A pricey piece of 3D art that we liked on vacation that didn't match our decor and never was displayed.
    5. Cookbooks and ingredients purchased for one recipe that I will never make again. Time to do a purge in the pantry, too, I guess.
    --Hope

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    1. We finally got rid of a hundred VHS tapes when the last machine that played them died. Since we hadn't watched any for quite awhile it was past time.

      I like your list of things you have bought but never used/didn't want. I think we can all relate to some of the stuff on there. I must admit, the polka dot raincoat, is probably a stunner!

      Last year I carted off well over a hundred books to Goodwill and a local organization that has a giant used book sale every year to benefit a nurses' association. None of them were unread, but they were not going to be re-read either.

      We have a "rule" about unusual ingredients for a recipe: if we can't use those ingredients in another meal within a week, they don't get bought. Most everything has a reasonable substitute. If not, we skip that recipe.

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  13. Ha. my must have list includes some of your exesses. I will not give up my fitbit, but Ihave the most dvanced model and it tracks my sleep, stair steps and non walking exercise as well as reminding me to get up and move every 30 minutes. I do use my food processor a fair amount (but use the basic chopper as well. Ilove my backyard fire pit, and we actually have an outdoor fireplace to light up. We do purchase the logs for the thing.

    On the the other hand, my laptop died and I have been happy with a tablet and keyboard and my phone. I havent used my DVD player in literally forever, since I have both Amazon Prime and Netflix and the classic movie channel is really good.

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    1. This post is a great example of how each of us has our own style and approach to things. We do agree on the need for a laptop; tdhat ship has sailed for many.

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  14. I'm with you on the firepit. It sounded like fun it isn't something we use.
    I recently got a food processor. We are on a vegan food thing and lots of the recipes call for fancy cutting of veggies. I found one in a thrift store for $12, it may be missing some of the attachments, but I kind of like it and find myself dragging it out. I feel certain if I'd paid more it would be gathering dust.

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    1. I think our toaster oven and food processor would be used more if there was a place to keep them that didn't add to the kitchen clutter but they were still easy to pull out when needed. So far, that magic combination hasn't become apparent.

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  15. I use my laptop all the time, albeit a new, lighter version than my old one. (I think it would be hard to blog from an iPad.) Otherwise, a firepit, for sure ... we've used ours exactly once. Much athletic equipment which I buy with the best of intentions but only use a few times. And, I hate to admit it, but The New Yorker which comes every week, relentlessly, and the articles are so long and often irrelevant and I just can't keep up.

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    1. LIke many others we once owned a treadmill. It quickly became a place to hang clothes overnight. We learned our lesson...no Bowflex for us!

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  16. Hmm, my purchasing excesses tend to be in low cost categories such as books and food. I have been known to buy clothing or shoes that I seldom wear, mostly because once I try wearing them all day, I discover that they are uncomfortable. Rob, however, from time to time buys more expensive items that are rarely or never used. Often they are duplicates of something he already has. For example, he has about twenty fishing rods. A couple of years ago, he bought a nice expedition backpack that I don't believe he has ever used, preferring instead the 30-year old daypack with a broken strap. I think it relates to sense of identity -- "I am an expert fisherman" (or will become one if I just buy this new high tech item).

    Jude

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    1. Rob's tendencies are quite relatable. One of my hobbies is ham radio, not an inexpensive hobby. New run of the mill transceivers (a combination transmitter and receiver) can easily cost $1,500, with the fancier ones costing between $4-8,000. At one point I owned six of them (all in the basic price range!). Each did basically the same thing with little difference in their performances.

      Why did I have six? Because that proved I was serious about the hobby and could use a different radio based on my mood, plus brag about them to other hams. After selling 3 of them I am down to three, and use one of them 80% of the time.

      Silly? Yep. Do I plan on buying any more? No.

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