Because it seems to be generating a lot of interest, let’s continue with this theme of things you should never spend your money on. I talked about bottled water last week and cigarettes and tattoos the week before. The list also includes the following:
Leaf blowers: A large, annoyingly loud, gas-powered machine that you use to blow leaves in the general vicinity of a pile? Really? Whatever happened to the good old-fashioned rake? You know, that simple tool that allows you to enjoy simple exercise while gathering your leaves directly into a neat pile or bag, as opposed to chasing them about the yard, into the street, and cluelessly into the path of motorists? Rakes do a better job, a healthier job, a quieter job, and a far more frugal job of this autumn yard task.
Classified ads: With the advent of Craigslist, paid classified advertising has been officially rendered obsolete. Okay, obsolete might be a little too harsh since some smaller community settings still rely on the old-fashioned means of advertising. But why anyone would pay for a newspaper classified ad, without first giving Craigslist a good, long trial run is beyond me. For those who don’t know, Craigslist is free, with only limited exceptions for employment ads in some large cities. If that were not enough, with the tremendous popularity and prevalence of the internet, Craigslist has arguably become the preferred method of advertising. It also allows you to post color photographs of the item, along with as much narrative description as you please.
I will never forget my first experience with Craigslist five years ago when I was looking to unload two vending machines. I ran a couple of three day newspaper advertisements, at a cost of seventy dollars, and received no inquiries at all. I then turned to Craigslist, posted a free ad, and within two weeks the machines were sold. I’ll never run another paid classified ad again.
Travel agents: The need for this service provider was never entirely clear to me, but for quite some time travel agents enjoyed a wonderfully cushy existence. Buy airline tickets and tack on a hotel for the lazy business traveler, and voila, a fifty dollar fee was earned.
With a variety of Internet sources such as Expedia available for free today, the travel agent is another senseless waste of money.
Premium gas: Isn’t gasoline expensive enough these days without voluntarily imposing an additional per gallon tax for higher octane? I realize some people will insist that their cars run better on premium fuel, but my bottom line is this: use the regular octane fuel unless the owner’s manual for your vehicle says words to the effect of, “Warning! Failure to use premium gasoline will destroy this vehicle’s engine.”
Personalized license plates and bumper stickers: I’ve never understood the desire some people have to waste money by junking their cars with tacky bumper stickers. Occasionally I see a humorous one, but is it really worth defacing what is probably your second most expensive investment to share it? As for serious messages, does anyone truly believe that a bumper sticker will cause unknown passing motorists to change their political or moral beliefs? It won’t. Worse, these messages often do annoy those with opposite opinions. It therefore follows that by proclaiming your allegiance to a particular candidate, you are gratuitously subjecting yourself to a higher risk of pissing off the policeman who stops you for a traffic violation, the driver who decides whether to let you over in traffic, and the kid who walks by your parked car with nothing better to do than key or stone it for the slightest perceived provocation.
As for personalized license plates, why voluntarily pay government an additional tax?
Lottery tickets: Speaking of voluntarily paying additional taxes, that’s exactly what you do when you purchase a lottery ticket. Pick three, pick four, cash five, Powerball – you name it – they are all terms for voluntarily paid taxes. Yes, you have a miniscule chance of “hitting it big,” but the overwhelming odds are that you are just giving your money away when you buy lottery tickets.
Atlanta radio talk legend Neal Boortz used to describe state run lotteries as a tax on stupidity. Avoid it at all costs.