3 Purchases That Will Make You Poorer Even After You’ve Paid for Them


Joanne Poh



In an ideal world, everything we buy should make our lives easier. Nobody can argue that a computer gets things done faster than pen and paper (on the other hand, in the old days they didn’t have to deal with the distraction of social media), or that getting a decent haircut will make people not freak out in your presence, thereby bringing you new opportunities.

But there are some consumer choices that actually end up sucking more money out of our wallets because they’re just so darned high maintenance. Just as you wouldn’t choose to date someone you couldn’t afford to upkeep, here are some products that people on a budget might want to think twice about buying.


1. Certain car models

We already know how expensive owning a car is in Singapore. But the good thing about the price of a car is that you already know how much you’ll be paying at the outset. Vehicle maintenance costs, on the other hand, are trickier. Go for regular servicing and you’re going to find yourself in the poorhouse; on the other hand, neglect oil changes and engine servicing and you could soon find yourself sitting in a useless hulk of metal it’ll take thousands to resurrect.

While people often conduct extensive research on car prices before they buy one, few actually bother to find out how much the car costs to maintain. As a rule of thumb, it’s true that high end cars tend to have more expensive parts which cost more to replace. So just because you have an extra $30,000 to spend doesn’t mean you should necessarily upgrade to a luxury car.

On the other hand, you might be surprised to discover that some low end cars can also end up being costly investments in the long term as their parts wear out faster. For instance, if you buy a second hand Chery QQ, don’t be surprised if you find yourself having to change flimsy parts quite often. In the long run, you might end up paying more than you would for a sturdier and slightly more expensive model like the Kia Picanto.

Other factors you’ll want to consider are fuel consumption and the cost of insurance and road tax, which vary according to engine size and model.


2. Dry clean-only clothes

You’re probably cool with the fact that you can’t just toss your business blazer into the washing machine and pray that it comes out looking the same. But that’s also because you can wear the blazer for months without washing it.

On the other hand, buying too many dry-clean only clothes is not only troublesome but also costly, as professional dry-cleaning services can cost $5 to $20 per item. Let’s say you buy a top for $50 and then wear it ten times. After ten wears you’d have spent enough on dry cleaning to buy the exact same top again.

Before buying any clothing items, always check the care instructions. There’s nothing more deflating than bringing a new purchase home, only to realise that it’s dry-clean only.

Hint: Many dry clean-only items can actually be washed by hand or even in the washing machine (put it in a bag for delicates just to be safe). If you really want to risk it, inspect the garment to make sure there are no sewn-on beads or baubles or very delicate or gauzy material before tossing it into the washing machine. But bear in mind that some materials like silk or rayon will shrink no matter how carefully you wash them.


3. High maintenance hairstyles

Some of us need to get our hair cut more often than others in order to avoid looking like rastafarian wannabes. To make matters worse, certain haircuts are more expensive than others. Pick the wrong one and you could be in for 6 months of pain.

Women should avoid short haircuts, which need more regular maintenance cuts—often every 2-3 months instead of the 4-6 months you can get away with if you have long hair. Short hair might also mean you have to spend more money on styling products and conditioners since you no longer have the option to put your hair up in a ponytail or bun when it refuses to behave.

Straightening or perming hair is not only expensive but also very high maintenance, as you’ll be constantly checking if you roots can be seen. Men, don’t snigger, because the he-perm isn’t unheard of especially given the popularity of Korean boybands. If you colour your hair, stick with highlights or shades that aren’t too far from your original hair colour.

For men, going to a stylist who understands how to deal with your hair texture and thickness is important, because otherwise you might find yourself with toilet brush hair that you’ll have to waste time and money styling to death every morning.

Take note that trying to save $30 by going to the auntie’s salon downstairs might mean you’ll have to get a rescue haircut at a more upmarket salon later on, or spend money on hair products to disguise a bad cut. If your hair isn’t obedient enough to handle just any haircut, spending a little more to tame it can go a longer way in saving you money.

Have you ever bought something that cost you a lot of money to maintain? Let us know in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.