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In this episode, Chelsea reveals the "aspirational spending" purchases we think are going to improve our lives, but are actually huge wastes of money. She also offers tips on how to really weigh the cost of an item vs. how useful it will actually be in your life.

SodaStream cost breakdown:

Myth of diamonds as in an investment:

How to buy better furniture:

Generic vs. name brand foods:

Medication regulations:

Dry cleaning costs:

Skincare article:

Weight loss scams:

Do you need a new smartphone?

Watch more of The Financial Diet hosted by Chelsea Fagan here:

The Financial Diet site:

Hey, guys.

It's Chelsea from The Financial Diet. And this week's video is sponsored by Haven Life Insurance Agency.

And this week, I want to talk about all of the things that our susceptible, malleable, frankly dumb brains think are going to make our lives better, make us feel richer in our lives, really vastly improve our day-to-day quality of life, just generally really be worth that extra money, which are not. I will caveat that, like with most things, there are some times when things that could be perceived as frivolous do genuinely pay dividends in your life and can really be worth it. But, for the most part, these purchases are things that we have been trained often through marketing or social perception to feel have a higher value and a higher impact on our day-to-day life than they really do.

So even though you still sometimes may end up making some of these purchases, it's important to go into them with a clear head and a full understanding of why you're making them that does not include unreasonable expectations. So without further ado-- 10 purchases you think will improve your life but actually won't. Number one is items that constantly necessitating buying parts or refills.

And yes, this comes from my own tragic, tormented personal journey with a SodaStream. And it's time to be real about a SodaStream experience, which is that I got a SodaStream. I used up the canisters it came with.

I never replaced the canisters for, like, months. And then I had a brief renaissance, a SodaStream-sance. And I was feeling very good about it.

I was getting a lot of use out of it. But then it just kind of fell by the wayside again and proceeded to live under my kitchen cabinets for several years until I finally threw it away one day while moving. And there was a time if you had caught me during, like, that SodaStream-sance that I would have said, like, what a great purchase.

I save money on all the Pellegrino that I'm normally drinking otherwise. But the truth is that if you are not the kind of person who is responsible enough to constantly be acquiring these refills, it's often going to end up being more trouble than it's worth. And besides that, the perception that these things are automatically a better deal doesn't always play out in reality.

Again, using the SodaStream example, on Amazon, SodaStream sells their branded syrup in bottles for $5 each, which claims to provide enough syrup for 12 liters, which means you're paying $0.41 a liter for the syrup. So buying things at this rate, you're spending $0.23 per liter for the CO2 and $0.41 per liter for the syrup, adding to a cost of $0.64 per liter. If you compare that to what you can buy generic soda for-- about $0.40 a liter-- or name-brand soda at $0.50 a liter, it's actually more expensive to use the SodaStream.

Aside from the fact that these constant refills are bad for the environment, inconvenient, and can often represent a much higher cost per unit than just going out and getting coffee grinds, these items take up really valuable, precious space on our counters, which, if you live in anything less than a really big house, tends to matter. There are places and times for these devices. The TFD office has an espresso machine.

I'll fully cop to it. Although, I will say, their capsule recycling processes are a lot better than Keurigs and we follow them to the letter. But in an office with eight women and basically no counter space for cleanup, dishes, et cetera, it does make the most sense.

However, in a home kitchen, easy to see the argument to the contrary. The point is, being very lucid upfront about what these constant refills might mean and only making the decision when they really make sense is of the utmost importance. Number two is expensive jewelry-- yes, including engagement rings.

Now, this is where that caveat that I mentioned when I came into this video comes into play, especially if you're someone like me who did make the choice to have an engagement ring. Now, I did get an engagement ring that is all vintage. Everything was repurposed from rings from, like, the 1920s or before.

And I did design the ring myself with my husband in collaboration with our jeweler. But the point remains that I did opt for a fancy engagement ring. So I'm no stranger to the fact that sometimes these purchases can be worth it.

For me, I'm someone who literally basically only has that and a few inherited pieces when it comes to fine jewelry. I just lose jewelry way too frequently to invest any more in it. And that forgetfulness with jewelry, by the way, comes into play in the fact that my engagement and wedding rings are insured.

But the important distinction here to make is worth it versus worth it to you, because many people operate under the faulty assumption that diamonds and other fine jewelry are investments. And honey, that is not true. There's a common myth floating around out there that a diamond ring is some type of investment.

In the late 1800s, diamonds did used to be pretty rare. But with the discovery of substantial diamond sources in the second half of the 20th century, diamonds became more and more abundant. The only reason the price has remained so high is that DeBeers has steadily purchased all diamond mines across the globe in order to control the prices.

The monopoly did end in 2001, but we are still left with the aftermath. So, sure, get a piece or two of fine jewelry if it makes sense to you. And if that item happens to be an engagement ring, right there with you, honey.

The point is, you should never do this thinking that it's some kind of good financial decision. Basically on every level, if you're going to spend a few thousand dollars on a fine piece of jewelry, you'd be much better off putting that money in the market. But these items can still be worth it to you.

You just never want to buy them under any kind of false assumption or, god forbid, use some kind of mandatory calculation about things like an engagement ring in terms of how many months of salaries you need to be spending on it. A diamond is not an investment, except maybe an investment in your heart. Number three is furniture that is more stylish than well-made.

And here is where I torpedo my chances of ever getting a West Elm sponsorship. There are items in the frame of this very video that are from West Elm, and I am very disappointed by them. Like many of you guys, in my mid to late 20's, I went through this phase in my furniture, home decor, amenities lifestyle that I was like, the tyranny of IKEA is over.

I am upgrading to more fancy furniture. Commensurate with my lifestyle. And it is in that phase that I learned that just because items of furniture are more expensive does not always correlate one to one with higher quality.

In fact, several of the items that I've bought from West Elm-- I hate to say it-- have been way lower quality than some of the items that I've had for years from IKEA or other stores. I still think some of the stuff they make is extremely cute, and I like the look of it. But when it comes to furniture, especially if it's a wood item or a leather item or something that's going to serve a really heavy-duty purpose over years and years, quality is of the utmost importance.

And that does not always translate to the most trendy furniture purveyor of any given moment. So what are some things to look out for when shopping for investment furniture-- solid wood which will hold up for much longer than MDF or wood veneer-- MDF, by the way, standing for medium-density fiberboard board. And when looking at the wood, you want to check for wood joined at the ends and corners rather than glued or nailed in.

You want to be buying in colors you're very certain you won't get sick of. You want heavy, sturdy legs that are jointed to sofas and chairs rather than just nailed in, fabrics that are easy to maintain and keep clean, and a general focus on a more neutral, timeless design style. Learning what furniture is and isn't worth it and getting in the practice of using things like Craigslist, secondhand stores, Facebook messaging boards, et cetera, to buy some of your bigger ticket items is incredibly important to finding a home with sustainable, quality goods that isn't a million zillion dollars, because, trust me, when I have looked before at some of the items that I see on blogs or Instagram and fallen in love with, I am truly shocked at how expensive things like a good sofa or dining chairs or a mirror can get.

And honestly, after all of these years of ashuing it, I have come back around to the fact that IKEA really gets the job done, baby. And a lot of their stuff is much higher quality than you would think. Number four is name brand over generic foods or medications.

If you were like me and grew up in a less than rich household as a kid, nothing was more coveted to you than the name-brand products. You didn't want that crappy bagged cereal with the weird mascots. You wanted the Chex, not the Crispy Hexagons.

I remember when I would go over to certain friends house and I would open their cabinets and refrigerators and see everything name brand. Nothing felt more luxurious to me. And, no surprise, when I finally became an adult who was able to do her own grocery shopping, I spent way more money than I should have getting the name-brand stuff because I subconsciously associated with higher quality, better taste, better ingredients, et cetera.

But not only are many of the generic and name brand foods made in the same facilities by the same companies and simply labeled differently-- even when they're not made to the exact same standards, the perception of quality that we tend to give to the name-brand items is mostly placebo. In fact, in the many blind taste tests research studies that have been conducted throughout the years, consumers are almost never able to tell the difference between the store-brand and the brand-name products. And in some instances, the store brand is actually preferred.

And when it comes to medications, there are strict regulations about what medications must be comprised of in order to fall under that name. When it comes to quality and composition, brand name and generic medicines are interchangeable, except for the huge marketing budgets that go behind the brand-name medications, which usually translates to a more expensive sticker price. In fact, generic drugs are copies of brand-name drugs that have exactly the same dosage, intended use, effects, side effects, route of administration, risks, safety, and strength as the original drug.

In other words, the pharmacological effects are exactly the same as those of their brand-name counterparts. And there you have it-- generic brand all the way. Number five is grown-up clothing that you did not read the care instructions for.

First of all, let's all start off this point by being honest with ourselves about the number of times that we have purchased an item of clothing without carefully reading the care instructions and making sure it was something we could feasibly do and/or giving them a brief glance and being like, it says dry clean only, but it'll be fine in the washing machine. For me, that number is quite high. And the cost of not properly caring for a garment-- even if you can get away with it for a little bit-- is very high when you consider how much more rapidly improper care will lead a garment to deteriorate, therefore, needing to be replaced.

And when it comes to buying dry-clean-only clothes, that can represent a huge cost. The cost will vary depending on where you live. But generally you can expect to pay at least $5 for shirts and $20 to $30 for things like coats.

Anecdotally, our Head of Content, Holly, got her wedding dress dry cleaned after the big day and it cost her $150. For context, my whole wedding dress cost me $80, plus a little tailoring-- so. Now, for most of us, it's impossible to totally avoid some dry-cleaner, hand-wash-only clothing.

But too many of these items can easily lead your laundry budget to shoot up by 10 times or more. Like with furniture, take time to investigate the quality of an item as well as the care and investment that it will require on your part on an ongoing basis to maintain before making the purchase. Number six is DIY supplies for projects you did not follow through on.

And I'm sure that for most of us, after this whole 'rona quarantine, this is a more real point than ever. I've been told that anecdotally our Head of Content, holly, has a doll house kit that has been sitting in her home for five plus years, which is deeply creepy, honestly. Sorry, I'm getting word that it has since been thrown away.

But I think a good rule for anything that requires an investment in terms of materials or supplies or a full-blown kit, you should have demonstrated some kind of aptitude or capacity to maintain this habit before making that investment, i.e. if you're someone who does a lot of sketching and really takes it seriously and wants to improve, sure, go ahead and invest in a bunch of nicer art supplies. But if you're just sitting around one day feeling like I heard that podcast about how, like, coloring can really help your brain, I think I'm just going to go ahead and order this whole ass kit of pastels from the internet, don't do that because those pastels will likely just sit in a closet somewhere making you feel bad about yourself. This is also a call-out to my husband, who once bought himself a trumpet and many music books to go along with his trumpet, having never picked up an instrument before in his life, tormented his roommate neighbors for about a week with his, like, tooting and then promptly had to sell it on Craigslist years later after going untouched for years and years.

And beyond just demonstrating that you have some kind of follow-through with this activity, make sure that if you do make the investment to buy some of these supplies or materials that you dedicate time in your schedule with which to use them. Buying supplies for things, even things you might enjoy or are good at, but not giving yourself a dedicated time to work on this as you would any other important project often will mean it just consistently falls to the bottom of your list and doesn't get done. We can often trick ourselves into thinking that just the act of buying the supplies or materials will give us almost an equivalent value to actually following through with the thing.

But my nearly unused tap shoes at the bottom of my wardrobe would beg to differ. Number seven is home skincare that promises big results. I'm someone who has dealt with acne and rosacea for her entire life to varying levels of difficulty.

When it comes to various treatments, you name it, I've done it all the way up to, like, serious medications that disrupt your day to day life but promise to get rid of cystic acne. And as I recently complained about on Twitter, in the past few weeks of quarantine, mostly because I just want to sleep more than anything else and get to the next day on the calendar, I've been eating rather well. I don't drink most days.

I drink tons of water. I work out more regularly than I ever have. I get great nights of sleep.

And my skin is still completely messed up. I'm wearing makeup right now if you think it looks OK. The other day, I had a rosacea flare-up worse than I've seen in months.

And I was like, all of this is for not. All of you skin care gurus out there who convinced me that with the right routine at home and by drinking enough water and eating clean and all that bullshit that I would suddenly transform my face, it has not happened. And that is because the ultimate truth of skincare is that, with a few exceptions-- and yes, there are certain products that can make a really big difference for specific elements of your skin-- the vast majority of what will determine your skin's health are going to be things like genetics and, frankly, the amount of money you have to throw at the problem.

I'm someone who was born with terrible skin. And nothing demonstrates that better than my younger sister who, despite never once in her life having anything that could be described as a skincare routine, has always had a pore-free, blemish-free complexion, not that I'm bitter. I'm happy for her.

That's her journey. I'm on mine. And that's the point.

Most of the products that you can buy for your home routine, they could make a dent here or there, but they're not going to transform your skin. And the things that will are often quite involved and prohibitively expensive, which brings to mind one of my favorite articles ever by friend of TFD Amanda Mull called "The Best Skincare Trick is Being Rich." She writes, "For example, in a 2016 Elle magazine article surveying 17 Victoria's Secret models, eight of them praised lifestyle habits such as drinking water and exercising, with several more crediting low-cost fixes such as drugstore pore strips. None of them mentioned Mzia Shiman, who tends to the skincare needs of Victoria's Secret models.

The facials at her New York spa start at $200, and more advanced services offer tightening and plumping by an LED light in bed or electric micro-current." The point is, investing in home skincare products with the expectation that they will transform your complexion is often setting yourself up for massive disappointment. And I do personally have a few products that I've deemed to be worth it over the years. But, for the most part, my skin every morning is just kind of a game of Russian roulette.

Wah, wah. Number eight is scammy weight loss programs or supplements. If you often feel fatigued by the sheer quantity of the medically dubious weight loss promises that you see flooding your social media, know that you are not alone. "The biggest complaint to the Federal Trade Commission involves mass market consumer fraud from overstated weight loss ads, supplements, and products.

More than 6.5 million people reported getting fleeced while trying to slim down." And when it comes to places like Instagram, trying to crack down on all of the various snake oil salesmanship happening is like trying to nail Jell-O to a tree. It's just always going to slip away from you. There's just so many voices out there promoting these products and so little way to define what is just misleading marketing and what is out and out illegal.

But if you are someone who is currently trying to lose weight, they can be incredibly tempting. I've been through reasonably substantial weight loss in my life, losing about 25 pounds several years ago. And I'll be perfectly honest.

During that time, I did feel a little bit suckered in by some of these promises. I wanted to try some of those, like, incredibly scammy gummy bears. But whether it's the tummy tea that mostly just causes you to have the runs or the weight loss gummy bears or the protein supplements or the waist trainers that are literally just, like, the corsets that women fought for decades to free themselves from, like, no matter what it is, generally speaking, when buying these products, you're basically setting yourself up for disappointment.

Their effects will usually be marginal at best, and none of them are going to be replaced by long-term changes to lifestyle that kind of are boring. A few key things to watch out for-- tons of vague reviews that ring fake, marketing words like "miracle product" or "see results immediately," and free trial offers that require your credit card information. Don't get suckered in by the Instagram weight loss stuff.

Love yourself. Number nine is high-end workout clothes. So I won't name names here.

We'll call this brand Smoosh Mush Memon. And honestly, Smoosh Mush Memon isn't even, like, the big one these days. With the proliferation of direct-to-consumer marketing on social media, there has been an explosion of overpriced workout clothes.

I'm frankly bringing it on myself by following a fair amount of Pilates-related hashtags on Instagram, but I am constantly inundated with advertisements for $150 yoga pants. And yes, sure, some of them are occasionally really cute. But in terms of the actual difference they will make to your workout, as someone who does Pilates quite regularly and has used both rather high-end workout gear and the Old Navy stuff, which is-- I must be honest, Old Navy is the unspoken goat of the cheap but good workout wear industry.

There is no substantial difference. It's not like with running shoes where the right shoe and the right fit can make such a huge impact on the quality of your run as well as potentially the health of your feet and legs and knees. The difference between a really cute Instagram-approved workout outfit and something that you just put on that you got from the old man section of Hanes is nothing.

But, honestly, kind of similar to the skincare issue, the proliferation of those incredibly bespoke, beautiful, aesthetically-inspired workout clothes that cost a zillion dollars and make no market difference is not that different from the skincare hustle. It's all a part of that ambiguous wellness industry that's more about conveying class and status than it really is about physical health or fitness. When you buy those really expensive workout clothes, you're conveying something about yourself more so than you're doing anything to change the quality of your workout.

And sure, some people might argue that having workout clothes you feel cute in will make you more likely to go to the gym. But, A, who the hell's going to the gym any time soon, Miss 'Rona? And B, there are plenty of cute workout clothes that don't cost that much money.

Again, got to shout out Old Navy. Lastly, number 10 is the latest smartphone. Now, many of us do get caught up in this cycle of feeling like the second a new smartphone is announced we need to ditch our old one and run out and get it.

And our conspiracy theory thoughts were confirmed when Apple actually was found to be degrading the quality of older phones when they released new ones to encourage people to buy them. But it is so important that we paradigm shift from automatically assuming we need to replace our phone to needing to prove to ourselves that we're due for a replacement. And the standards that would qualify for a replacement should be very high.

The website provides a pretty good checklist for knowing when you actually need to be upgrading your phone. Does your phone handle all your usual tasks without slowing down or freezing up? Is it free of screen cracks or other hardware damages that might affect its performance?

Are you happy with the quality of the pictures you can take with your phone's cameras? Can it support the most recent version of its compatible operating system? And can you use it often without constantly having to charge it?

If you answered a reasonable yes to all of those questions-- and be honest-- then you don't need a new phone. It's inevitable that sometimes we will end up replacing our technology. But given how high of an investment so many of these products are, the barrier to entry for getting a new one should be much, much higher than, ooh, shiny new thing.

Tune out the marketing. And honestly, wait for that new smartphone to go way down in price. Well, we've talked a lot about the purchases that don't really often hit the payoff we expect for them.

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As always, guys, thank you so much for watching. And don't forget to hit the Subscribe button and to come back every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday for new and awesome videos. Goodbye.