It’s no secret that people have stories of constantly wasting money on trivial things like impulse shopping, eating out, bad investments, and more. Wasting money is a popular topic on Reddit’s /r/financialindependence, a subreddit dedicated to helping users learn solid financial planning and practices to achieve their own financial independence.
We decided to chronicle 20 of the most ridiculous ways Redditors have wasted enormous amounts of money. Hopefully, you don’t get too irate about some of these insane stories. On the other hand, you might strive to have this immense sense of endless spending without a care in the world.
20. Apple Watch Fixation
Perhaps one of the silliest wastes of money seen on Reddit’s/r/financialindependence was one man’s obsession with Apple Watches. /U/handsome_colon explained, “My boyfriend’s dad owns seven different Apple Watches because he didn’t want to change the bands out.” While many Redditors have stories of frivolous spending and wasted savings all over the subreddit, buying seven $500-plus-dollar smartwatches to avoid spending the 10 seconds it takes to switch out the colored wristbands is a real head-scratcher even for the most fashion-conscious.
Many Redditors in the thread shared their shock with /u/handsome_colon with one incredibly blunt user, /u/HairySquid68. The user said, “This made me say “what an [expletive]” out loud. Is your boyfriend a little more down-to-earth about money? While another raged, “What even possesses a person to think that’s a good idea?” to which a third simply responded, “Money.” Many users had a great time mocking the ridiculous expenditure. While many items on this list involve wasting thousands of dollars, it’s typically on bad investments or over long periods. Spending over $3,000 on the same watch is something else entirely.
For fans of many first-person shooter games, custom skins for your player character are a popular collectible. They can make your avatar look better while playing. However, for people who get hooked on collecting them, they can become an expensive money sink. One Redditor shared, “My roommate plays Fortnite and buys every single skin that comes out. Every. One.” Another Redditor pointed out that with the Fortnite release schedule, that means about $20 every single day and at least $600 per month. Another Redditor joked, “Be ready to cover that rent yourself.”
Other Redditor’s discussed the nature of “whales” in gaming, meaning those who are willing to spend vast amounts on microtransactions, making them the target of the developers. One Redditor referenced whales. The user declared, “Of course, you still have the crazy people that will drop $7000 on train skins in Train Simulator, but those types are a minority, I hope.” Another chimed in, “My wife and I play Rainbow Six: Siege. I don’t want to know how much money we’ve spent in the last three years.” While microtransactions are typically small, as implied by the micro prefix, they can add up to hundreds or even thousands wasted over time.
Some people choose to invest their hard-earned savings into stable long-term investment portfolios. Like Redditor /u/Chow9, others decide to invest an entire year’s worth of savings into one stock. They shared their tragic story in /r/financialindependence, saying, “I bought oil stocks with all my money that I saved during [my] first year of work after college. The market collapsed immediately in [the] following one week. Lost about 22K hard-earned money. Stayed away from [the] stock market after that.” The stock market teaches many people a harsh lesson. However, that one had to sting at such a young age particularly.
Other Redditors commiserated with /u/Chow9, with one saying, “I thought this would be one of the top ones. I lost 4k by not diversifying and not keeping my cool when a stock dropped.” Others had less disastrous stock experiences, with one Redditor sharing, “Gambled in the stock market instead of investing in index funds. Kind of no regrets taught me more about stocks and weren’t that much money in the long run.” Thankfully, at least one Redditor chimed in with valuable stock advice, helpfully stating, “Always a bad idea to not diversify your holdings, that way you can wait it a depression in the market.”
Of all of the items on this list, eating out is likely where most of us would have our own stories to share. Whether it’s our pricey morning latte or a daily lunch with coworkers, the cost of eating out can creep up on all of us. Redditors discussed this with /u/mrnahum, saying, “I think one of the big expenses that can sometimes fly under the radar is eating out. It’s easy once you start working and socializing with working professionals to go out for lunch and dinner pretty regularly without even thinking about it.”
Few Redditors had stories of huge blow-out meals that cost thousands. However, almost every Redditor on /r/financialindependence listed it as a significant contributor to their wasting money, even in tiny increments. /U/eaglessoar pointed out the odd double standard regarding eating out. The user stated, “I will hold off on buying a video game for a while and try to get it on eBay to save $5-10 but won’t bat an eye if I spend $80 a night eating out on the weekend. It’s weird how that [expletive] works.” Many of us likely give ourselves far more leeway on food and drink than we do on physical items.
It probably sounds absurd to Zoomers born after the days of physical Netflix and Blockbuster rentals. However, many of us used to have large DVD collections so that we could conveniently watch our favorite movies and TV shows before on-demand truly meant “on demand.” Of course, DVDs were expensive, so extensive collections wound up costing many a significant sum of money. Reddit user /u/a_penguin lamented their wasted money. The user said, “I used to pride myself on having a massive DVD collection, and I bought just about every movie that came out each week just because. Now they just take up space, I never rewatch them, and streaming services have killed physical media.”
Another Redditor was even blunter with the statement, “Yeah, every time I look at my shelf of DVDs and Blu-rays, I just hate myself on the inside.” Although perhaps the most brutal story of all came from the ironically named /u/DaBrainzz. The user said, “I spent $700 on the Star Trek TNG DVDs when they first came out.” It is probably worth noting that Star Trek: The Next Generation is available on Netflix in its entirety. Even with a $15 monthly subscription, it would take over 46 years to add up as much as his Star Trek DVD collection. Times have changed.
Miniatures for tabletop gaming are a booming market with many companies and independent artisans. One Redditor shared their experience selling to a collector, “A few years back, I used to make cast molded pewter figurines for DnD. I could buy $25 worth of pewter and make about 50-75 figurines, which I sold for $10-$50 each (depending on the size). I had a guy come to me, buy EVERY figurine I was able to make (I had 72 different molds) for a cost of $900. Said he was going to get deep into DnD…[a] week later he gave up on the game because he couldn’t figure out the battle system.”
Other Redditors empathized with the guy who overspent, with /u/rbbdrooger sharing, “Warhammer. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fun game, but I’ve spent such a godawful amount of money on those miniatures in my teens.”/U/Human_McNugget felt the same saying, “Warhammer miniatures. Probably around 400€.” Much like collectible card games (CCGs), tabletop gaming miniatures can quickly become a costly habit with the constant search for new and better figures for D&D or more competitive troops for tabletop wargaming. One Redditor topped them all, “I got into Games Workshop games and spent maybe $1,500 total on various miniature armies that I’ve played maybe a couple of dozen times total.”
Weddings today often cost almost as much as an entire house and leave many couples deep in debt when they start their new life together. One Redditor pointed out this waste, saying, “Weddings. Don’t get me wrong, I think having a wedding “event” is important, and sharing that with friends and family is great… But there is so much unnecessary excess that goes into it. People feel so pressured to Pinterest the shit out of the event that it loses its meaning. It ends up costing so much money that it delays other things like buying a house, traveling, kids, etc.”
Other Redditors lamented the price gouging involved in weddings with /u/Trainwreck071302 claiming, “The second you utter the word “wedding” the price of a venue around here quadruples. We have a hotel right on the lake I live on, and I booked their ballroom for a family reunion two years ago. It was $2000 on a Saturday, and we had the room for 12 hours. Friends of ours got married there last month, and the groom disclosed to me that it was $10k to rent for their wedding, which did not include the bar, dinner, or anything else, just the ballroom. I can see some flux for certain seasons, but an $8k difference?”
Keeping any pet can get expensive between vet bills, food, toys, and more. However, maintaining horses, it turns out, is on an entirely different level. One Redditor shared their experience of sinking money into a horse, saying, “I. owned. a. horse. I went back and actually calculated the cumulative cost once: $56,000+ over 5 or 6 years. I SOOOOOO wish I had been on the FI track then and had invested that instead. At least I knew enough to give the horse away rather than waiting for someone to buy it because it was so expensive just to keep it.”
Another Redditor, /u/magus44, shared the sacrifices their family makes for their horses. The user states, “This is pretty much my mum and sister… They’ve got like three horses. They’re both teachers. But one doesn’t have a car, and they live in a cheap/run-down house together. All so they can spend more money on those things. I actually get worried about where they’re going to end up, but then it’s their life!” A third Redditor confirmed the love people have for horses despite the cost. The user said, “All the people I know who are poor and show up to the stables are there because they love horses; it is not because they are trying to impress anyone ‘because it is associated with wealth.’ It is still a flipping expensive thing.”
It would be tough to find a living soul in the West that doesn’t have at least one recurring monthly subscription. Think about it whether Amazon Prime, Spotify, Netflix, or one of the countless other services available. Some people don’t keep too close an eye on how many they’ve signed up for and end up spending a fortune. One Redditor, /u/futurelookinggood, admitted to forgetting about their monthly services. The user said, “Guilty of this. I subscribed to the Creative Suite for a year because I thought I would use it a lot. It turns out I paid $240 just to use Photoshop three times. Lesson learned.”
Another Redditor shared how they followed everyone’s advice and wound up finding their own mystery charge saying, “I actually went through my expenses recently because a friend of mine was telling a story about how they had apparently been paying for a coffee subscription to an old address for almost a year and somehow didn’t notice. I learned that for almost three years, I’d had a premium membership to Chess.com ($14/month) that I just hadn’t noticed being charged because it was coming out of a checking account that I don’t use for a lot. That’s almost $500 because I never log in to review my charges.”
Anyone who has raised a child knows they go through several beanpole-like growth spurts throughout their lives in which clothing seems to barely touch them before it’s already too small or too short. So, it’s pretty surprising to find out that some parents insist on spending money on brand-name baby clothes despite children’s rapid growth. One Redditor complained, “My boss just got his 3-year-old a pair of Nike air max. The kid’s going to outgrow them in like a month, and he doesn’t give an [expletive] about brands. He’s 3.” Sounds like that boss needs to give out pay raises!
Another Redditor shared their frustration saying, “My sister did this. she would brag about the (frankly ugly) baby trainers being £80. £80 for a pair of trainers that he couldn’t even USE BECAUSE HE WASN’T EVEN CRAWLING, LET ALONE WALKING YET. And this is a woman who pretty much gets by on borrowed money.” Another said their wife has to deal with like-minded parents stating, “My wife works at a nursery. She has parents who do this, and she tells the nursery staff not to let the child ruin their clothes!” It’s kind of absurd that there are designer clothes for babies at all.
With the rise in fast fashion like Shein, clothing trends evolve faster than ever, leaving many scrambling to stay looking current. Redditor /u/vvml reflected on the money they’ve wasted on cheap fashion. The user said, “Cheap clothes and handbags. Thinking back, I bought so much random stuff from Forever 21, Wet Seal, etc. I’m not saying everything from these places is bad, but I realized it’s a lot more worth it to just spend $30 on a nice sweater from LOFT or J Crew (which have good sales too) than buy 2-3 cheap ones from F21 that will shrink in the wash.”
Fast fashion also tends to be low quality, meaning pieces don’t have the longevity of higher quality clothing. As one Redditor ominously contrasted, “I used to shop quality and loved thrift stores. Then I embraced fast fashion.”/U/miss_bonny commiserated about shopping woes while sharing a vital shopping tip, “Impulse clothing buys. I rarely wore most of the stuff. Now I go shopping with a list and a budget. In the world of fast fashion, it’s hard to avoid impulse buying cute clothes, but they rarely stand the test of time in terms of trends or physical wear and tear!
Makeup is currently a significant target of Instagram and YouTube influencers, with many influencers developing and peddling their own brands. Those who want to stay current with trends or even potentially become influencers themselves often wind up spending hundreds or even thousands. /U/a-dizzle-dizzle shared their story of the industry. The user said, “I got into one “beauty guru” on YouTube and then started watching more. I got sucked into the world of “hauls” and having ten different kinds of foundation and all that. The difference is that these girls on YouTube are getting money to buy all that stuff and receiving free products, but I was using my own money.”
They continued, “I finally ended up randomly watching some videos on minimalism and realized immediately what a waste it was. Why did I need this new $50 eyeshadow palette of neutral matte shades when I already had two others? Oh right, it was because someone on YouTube said that this palette was “AMAZING, best eyeshadow palette EVER” – until next week when she loved a different one. I recently unfollowed all those channels. A few months back, I stopped allowing myself to buy any makeup unless it was an actual refill of something I ran out of because I used it up. I’m ashamed at the probably thousands of dollars I poured into makeup in the last few years.”
Aquarists know they have an expensive habit. What starts as a simple 20-gallon tank often turns into a fish room full of expensive, exotic tanks. /U/priteeboy shared a lifetime of aquarium spending. The user said, “First thing I sunk any real money into was an aquarium. Now I’ve loved aquariums since I was a little kid. I was always entranced by the ones in the homes of other people we knew and got my own small but good quality one at 14. It was the only thing I wanted for my birthday that year.”
They continued, “After looking after this one for the next 3-4 years, I felt it was time to upgrade now that I finally had some money. Not having a job or pocket money meant the $3k worth of savings I had when I decided to upgrade were the product of years worth of being, well – stingy with whatever money I obtained throughout those years. Now I loved this aquarium and looked after it for about a decade, so I definitely got my money’s worth out of the setup itself. But man, it cost me most of the said savings to get it set up.
Going to college is still widely considered a pretty solid investment in yourself. However, many don’t feel like it when they first get the sticker shock of seeing their monthly student loan payments after graduation. That is especially true if the borrower wasn’t the most responsible with their student loans, like /u/blahblahblah8812. This user shared, “I took out extra money on a student loan to go on a quick vacation to San Antonio with my now-husband. I’m still paying for it nine years later.” Compounded interest comes at you fast. However, at least their marriage is still holding, unlike the next student loan misadventure.
/U/bart_bandy shared a truly horrifying student loan story saying, “I started college after my wife finished her graduate school programs. I took out the max amount of student loans every semester, three times what my tuition/books/living expenses cost. I then used a good chunk of my excess loan money to pay off [my] wife’s student loans and put the rest into our joint savings. Several years later, just as I was about to graduate, we got divorced. The ex-wife is now debt-free. She also got most of our joint savings. I get to spend the rest of my life paying back tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt that didn’t benefit me in any meaningful way in the first place.”
For many gamers, a high-end gaming personal computer (PC) is the ultimate status symbol. It can run the most cutting-edge games with smooth graphics and give competitive gamers an edge over the competition. One Redditor expressed embarrassment at an over-the-top PC splurge lamenting, “I bought an Alienware PC. $5500 of glorious gaming power that, in hindsight, was not that glorious. Pro tip: Build your own PC.” Others confirmed the mistake with /u/equippedchart49, saying, “Ouch… Yeah. You could build the same thing for less than half that. Might not be as pretty on the outside, but it’s the performance that counts!”
Of course, many lamented the silly, overly expensive computer purchases they themselves had made in the past. However, computer store workers also shared embarrassing tales of clueless parents overspending on children’s computers. User /u/anjinotter shared, “Dad: “Aiden here’s about to graduate second grade, so we are looking to build him a gaming computer.” Me: “Ok, what is your budget for the system?” Kid: Shrugs Dad: “We are thinking around 4.” Me: “$400 is a little tight, but we can see what kind of system we can do for that.” Dad: “No, no, $4,000.” Quite the second-grade graduation!
The scourge of parents with children on their cell phone plans everywhere, microtransactions and in-game app purchases are a major way that mobile games make their money. While they’re often small purchases starting at as little as 99 cents, they can quickly add up. /U/legochemgrad warned, “Because once you start one, the temptation is always there. The ability to become one of the best in the game with a payment of $20, and then you keep buying to maintain your power. It’s a slippery slope. All the game needs to do is either be social enough for your friends to suggest it or for it to be decently fun.”
/U/gallifreyan expanded on the intentionally risky and addictive nature of in-app purchases. The user stated, “While some are less intrusive or predatory about it than others, a lot of freemium games are essentially disguised gambling. (Especially the gacha genre, where players spend money on digital equivalents of those little plastic eggs at the supermarket as the game’s means of recruiting characters, acquiring bonuses, etc.). I’m surprised the only warning to that is the “this game has in-app transactions” on the app store page.” Others empathized with almost every poster having spent at least a few dollars here and there on mobile games.
Funko Pop is ubiquitous at any collectibles or comic shop you go to, and they will be filling our landfills for much of the future. They’re also, it turns out, costly if one gets addicted to collecting them. One Redditor said, “Omg, dude, my GF is absolutely obsessed with these. She must have a good $300-400 worth of these little things everywhere. We have a bookcase full of them. But she thinks they’re cute and has even bought a few for me. A Dark Souls one, League of Legends, and an Overwatch one. I must admit that if I find more like those, I’ll totally buy them for myself now too.”
Another Redditor, /u/rift_in_the_warp, confirmed the sneakily addictive nature of the Funko Pop. The user said, “When I first started working at a comic book/game store, I saw these and thought, ‘man, these are so dumb, who buys them?’ And then I saw a Mushu one with Cricket. And then a set of Monty Python & The Holy Grail ones. Next thing I know, I have a Bookshelf FULL of them.” With each new Funko Pop costing at least $9 and some special-editions retailing for even higher prices, not to mention the secondary market, amassing collections that can fill bookshelves cost hundreds of dollars, at least!
Anyone who has played a modern collectible card game (CCG) like Magic the Gathering or Yu-Gi-Oh! knows just how quickly the expenses can add up from buying packs of cards hoping to strike it rich with a lucky rare or buying incredibly expensive single cards on the secondhand market. Some people view it as a long-term investment and don’t have regrets, like /u/PlanetSmasherJ who said, “I’ve spent thousands over the years on Magic: the gathering (spend many more thousands of hours playing and still have a collection I could likely recoup more than I spent though so no regrets).”
However, not everyone is lucky enough to have built a collection that maintains its value, nor does everyone have the patience to let cards become rare and valuable. /U/recklessangel complained about Magic the Gathering, “4th edition, ice age-era cards, etc… 300+ cards. But then high school ended, and all my friends and I moved to different towns across the country for college/university. So I didn’t have anyone to play with. I went to trade my collection in, and the store I went to took out four cards ($20 altogether). When I got home, I threw the rest in the trash.”
Most people are aware of the typical expenses of owning a car. You have to buy the vehicle. However, don’t forget about the monthly payments, insurance, oil changes, registration, and more. What isn’t as well known is the massive amounts of money some people sink into modifying cars just for the sake of it. Redditor /u/cofonseca confessed, “I got really involved in the VW/Audi scene and spent a ton of money building a GTI and an A4. Between engine internals and parts, suspension, brakes, tuning, drivetrain, exterior, wheels, and tires, I had to have spent at least $15k over the course of a few years.”
Others commiserated, with /r/Im_Negan saying, “VWVortex ruined me. I got all the “rare” European OEM parts. The HID headlights were worth it, but all the other stuff wasn’t.” One particularly ridiculous tale was shared by /r/GodMonster, who said of a coworker, “He decided one day that he should put under-car lights on his $300, 1987 Chevy Celebrity. He spent $400 on a fancy set of lights and another $200 to have them installed. […] Then, he decided to show off his $300 1987 Chevy Celebrity with its $800 rims, $500 audio system, and $400 under-car lights, which weren’t particularly legal in our state. He concluded that the best place to do so was the local carnival, sponsored by and held outside of the local police station.”
The closest you can come to truly just setting your money on fire is likely cigarettes, given the combustible sticks’ incredibly high cost. Redditor /u/c4ndybar elaborated on this, saying, “Cigarettes. I spent about $24k on cigs between the ages of 16 and 26. Most of the things people are listing are not a total waste (Partying, alcohol, cars, eating out). But cigarettes really are a COMPLETE waste of money and then some. Redditor /u/Magic-Pool confirmed, saying, “Cigarettes. I reckon I spent over 25 grand on tobacco products over a 19 year period. That’s a conservative estimate from a time when they were cheaper.”
More Redditors chimed in, sharing stories of the expense in their areas, with /u/Zhabba_Zeeba saying, “As a former smoker, cigarettes. They were expensive when I smoked, and when I asked my brother (who still smokes), he said he was paying almost $10 a pack! Holy smokes!”/U/janga7 pointed out that some regions face even steeper prices per pack, declaring in response to /u/Zhabba_Zeeba, “That’s nothing. In Australia, they go for $30+.” The discussion was full of price comparisons and lifetime totals that ran in the many thousands of dollars spent on cigarettes over a lifetime of smoking.