Granted, a list like this is rendered almost meaningless by the fact that, as we all know, everyone is going to spend their money differently. Who are we to put ourselves "above" anyone and judge how they spend it?
After all, it's all subjective, right? What might be considered an "extravagance" to a modest, unaware person (e.g., a $300 pair of sunglasses) could be regarded as a near "necessity" to a keenly aware, fashion-conscious individual.
That said, there is still such a thing as a "waste of money." Here are five examples.
1. Paying $15,000-$30,000 to Bristol Palin (Sarah's daughter) to have her speak at your event. Those are the staggering figures mentioned on her Wikipedia site. Apparently, young Bristol (she's 24) makes her living as a "public speaker," and just as apparently, some groups have actually paid those sums. Which raises the time-honored philosophical question: WTF?
2. Donating $10 to Martin O'Malley's presidential campaign. Even in the state of Maryland (where he was governor) O'Malley's "name" and "face" recognition numbers are so pitifully low, supporters didn't even recognize him at one of his own rallies.
Clearly, throwing his hat in the ring like he did was, for O'Malley, a pure "vanity" move, something to engorge his ego. And just as clearly, donating even $10 to his futile campaign is not only a waste of a sawbuck, but testimony to mankind's fascination with lost causes.
3. Paying for expensive wine. Two clarifications: We're speaking here of wine for "drinking" purposes, not "investment" purposes, and we're defining as "expensive" any bottle that costs more than $15. Double-blind taste tests have revealed the scandalous truth: Wine experts have preferred a $12 bottle of chardonnay to a $300 bottle. Ouch.
Which brings to mind Mark Twain's famous remark, the one he uttered to a companion as they listened to a ponderous Wagner symphony. Twain leaned over and said reassuringly, "They say his music is much better than it sounds."
4. Shelling out anything for "re-mastered" versions of music you already own. This is a rip-off, plain and simple, a way for record companies to make money by appealing to faux-connoisseurs' sense of their own highly refined artistic sensibilities.
The most enjoyment I ever got from rock music was listening to songs at full volume on my cheap car stereo while cruising on a summer night. They can digitally re-master or "enhance" this material all they like, but they will never increase the joy.
5. Bottled water. Unless you live next door to a toxic waste dump, municipal water is going to be "purer" than that phony stuff advertised as "spring water," if for no other reason than the fact that municipal water must conform to higher government standards.
Again, taste tests have revealed the ugly truth. People are willing to pay for something they could otherwise get for free -- not to mention adding a billion needless plastic bottles to the environment. Instead of buying "designer water," it would be smarter to save our money and purchase a pair of $300 sunglasses.
David Macaray is a playwright, author, and cranky old man.
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