My friend, Larry, pined over the purchase of a new kayak for more than two years. We spoke about it every Wednesday evening. One night he’d rationalize it by telling himself he deserved it. We’d make mental lists of all the other things his neighbors had and he didn’t. We listed expensive things like metal flake bass fishing boats, RVs, paved driveways and Harley Da- vidson motorcycles. A new boat is only a fraction of the cost of those items.
Other weeks we’d swing the decision-making pendulum far off in the other direction. We divided the cost of the purchase by the actual number of hours he’d paddle. I don’t recommend this approach unless you plan on amortizing the purchase over a great number of years. For example, a $3,000 kayak, canoe or board used for a couple of hours most Wednesday nights at club paddles for the better part of four summer months per year works out to be about $125 per hour. Yikes. However, keep the boat 10 years and now you’re down to only $12.50 per hour. Seems reasonable, doesn’t it? Cheaper than a movie.
One night I reminded Larry of an article that appeared in Adventure Kayak magazine. In it, writer Alex Matthews compared the rate of inflation to that of canoe and kayak depreciation. Matthews argued a well kept popular model would be worth the same amount in 10 years as you pay for it today. Keep it longer and you’ll make money when you go to sell it. This handy math makes 10 years in the boat of your dreams virtually free, if not profitable. Unless, of course, you think of the opportunity cost of not investing the money into dividend-paying blue chip stock. We decided retirement without a life enjoyed along the way isn’t the goal.
Larry is a pharmacist. His wife is also a pharmacist. They live modestly. They drive boring vehicles and have a small mortgage left on a starter home in a small town. It’s not really about the money.
Buyer's remorse is a sensation of regret after a big purchase. It’s that tiny, relentless voice that says, “You shouldn't have bought that,” or “You should have used that money for the repairs to the deck,” or “You should have bought the other kayak instead.” I’ve never had symptoms of anxiety, nausea and sweaty palms or regrets of any kind after purchasing paddling gear so long as I’ve done the research.
Larry, on the other hand, had done too much research. He suffered the overly prudent condition know as paralysis by analysis. He weighed the pros and cons, memorized the specifications and test paddled everything. He waited two full production cycles and dog-eared two annual editions of our Paddling Buyer's Guide to be sure nothing better was released. All his analysis was paralyzing him from making a decision.
One morning this fall I received the following text message: “I pulled the trigger. I had to stop thinking about it. It was consuming me. I was no longer present with my family.”
Larry finally bought himself a new kayak and did so for the sake of his family. I jotted that reason down for future use. I then messaged him back to see what he’d decided upon.
You know what he bought? He ordered the very same model he first considered two years before. He specced it out in the most expensive material lay-up complete with all the bells and whistles. Two weeks later I bought one too. Except I didn’t do it for my family. I did it for my friend, Larry. After all, he’s going to need someone on Wednesday nights to help justify his purchase.
Scott MacGregor is the founder and publisher of Rapid Media. Larry's wife insists she loves her 2008 Mazda 6.