Debt Kid is running a contest at his blog asking readers this question. He will randomly select a winner to receive his dumbest purchase ever – a Nintendo DS Lite that he bought on a whim and now resents because it represents his momentary lack of self control.
What was my dumbest purchase ever? I asked myself this question and I had to think about it for a few minutes before I came up with a solid conclusion. I bought a new car, but I still think that was the best decision for me at the time. I spent $1,000 in broker fees before I understood brokers don’t always act in your best interest. But I learned something by paying those fees – I learned how to do my reasearch before investing.
Then I thought about the countless consumer items I purchased over the years – DVDs, electronics, guitars and music equipment, even a mini-disk player! (that’s $200 or worthlessness!) But I used all of those items and derived pleasure from them.
My dumbest purchase ever
I’m sure I’ve made a lot of bad financial decisions over the years, but the one purchase that comes to mind as the worst is flying lessons. No, there is nothing wrong with flying lessons, just my purchase!
When I was in the USAF, I was considering becoming an officer. To do this, you need to have your bachelor’s degree and the recommendation of your supervisor and squadron commander. Well, I had all those boxes checked, and I was thinking about applying for a pilot slot. You don’t need to already have a private pilot’s license to be accepted into Officer Training School, but having it can greatly enhance your application and chances of being accepted to OTS. So off I went to take flying lessons.
Flying isn’t cheap! When I started taking lessons in 2005, it cost roughly $100 per hour of flight instruction (I’m sure it is more now because aviation fuel is incredibly expensive). This was from a local instructor pilot and included the use of his plane. I paid for two hours of flight time before I decided to take advantage of an offer he had going – 10 hours flight time for $85/hr. Of course this required up front payment.
I had the money, I was interested in flying, there was a money back guarantee if I decided to stop flying, so I did it. I gave him a check for $850 and we flew a couple more times. I think I got in about 6 more hours before I was deployed to the Middle East for several months. I never flew with him again.
No, he didn’t rip me off. I just decided I didn’t want to be a pilot. The USAF was severely reducing their total force numbers, and part of that included new officer accessions. That, and after 5 trips to the Middle East, and no foreseeable end to the war in sight, I decided I didn’t want to live the rest of my life away from home. And that is one thing you are guaranteed to do as a pilot – spend a lot of time away from home!
Shortly after I returned from the Middle East, I went back for a few more months. When I returned from my final deployment to the Middle East, I prepared to separate from the USAF and become a civilian again. It was a very busy time in my life, and I didn’t even think about flying – much less trying to get a refund for the 4 hours flight time I had prepaid! Shortly after I separated from the Air Force, I moved across the country and married my wife.
I had already left the town I was stationed in when I remembered about the unfinished flying lessons. But well over a year had passed since the initial purchase and I didn’t have a receipt or any proof of our agreement – just a canceled check. In the end, laziness and apathy stood between me and my $340. I decided to let it be. It’s been about 3 years now and I still remember the money sometimes. And I hope my flight instructor took a nice cross state trip on my dime and had a wonderful time!
Flying is a beautiful experience. If you ever have the chance to go up in a small private plane, I recommend it. It is incredibly peaceful and it is an amazing feeling to be able to control an airplane. I enjoyed flying, I just decided I didn’t want to be a professional pilot.