My Most Expensive Mistakes, Ranked

March 23, 2015

Scarcely a month ago, I wrote a post crowing about how excited I was that a puppy was entering my life after years spent pining after other people’s dogs.

I failed to disclose two things: One, I’m an idiot. Two, I’m allergic to dogs.

I’m not throat-close-ambulance-visit allergic, but it is the kind that makes breathing less-than-optimal and makes me constantly sound like a stuffed-up eighth-grader. No, it’s not fun, thank you very much.

More importantly: Yes, I knew this fact going into the whole dog-adoption process. So why did I do it? I was thinking wishfully (for once) and decided I’d make a go of it — and hope it worked for the best. Spoiler alert: it didn’t! I’ll admit it here: I made a mistake. If I had thought it through a bit more, maybe I’d have saved some stress, lost sleep, breathing quality — and money.

In the spirit of full disclosure, here are some other big, expensive mistakes I’ve made in my life.

teiscoThis Guitar
This is an old Teisco guitar that I bought for $100 from a guy on Craigslist. I put on a new tremelo unit that I bought from eBay and started to explore its possibilities. It has plenty of sass, visual appeal and garage-y cred. But, unfortunately, it doesn’t actually stay in tune, everything’s all scratchy and it’s not especially pleasing to listen to. Kind of a problem if you’re actually trying to play a song. Mistake Cost: About $150.

The Minnesota School Of Bartending
If you’ve read City Pages or the Minnesota Daily, you’ve seen endless advertisements hawking the latest deal at this University Avenue landmark. It’s simple: You pay to enroll, they teach you how to bartend (roughly), you graduate, they help you with job placement. Cool, right? In reality, this meant spending time with surly instructors behind a fake bar and pouring endless variations of basic bar drinks with just a water gun and liquor bottles filled with colored water. It was actually really fun, but I’ve never worked behind a bar in my life, and the whole thing was just a scam. When I enrolled, they told me I was inside the window of the “spring break discount” and I’d be getting half off. The next month, I heard the owner telling a prospective student that it was their 40th anniversary month, so he’d be getting half off. The next month was “Cinco De Mayo,” and new enrollees got … half off. It felt cheap, somehow. Mistake Cost: About $350.

Choosing To Keep A “Guest Bedroom” While Living With My Best Friend
My bestie and I lived together for about five years — from fall sophomore year of college until I bought a house. After spending a year living in a six-bedroom house with a bunch of friends, we decided to strike out on our own and rent a place in South Minneapolis. It was a three-bedroom, and with only two of us renting, we decided we’d keep the extra bedroom empty as a guest bedroom/studio. Fun fact: We almost never used the room. It was the catbox room.

That practice persisted through our next move to Northeast, meaning we were footing the bill that a potential third roommate could have helped pay. I think we paid three-bedroom rent for about two and a half years — an extra $250 or so, per person, each month. Dumb. Mistake Cost: $7,500.

My Abandoned Communications Studies Minor
At some point during my sophomore-year panic (“Hurry the hell up and declare a major today!”) I decided it’d be wise to double-major in journalism and communication studies, which are technically two different departments at the University of Minnesota. Comm. studies had three sub-tracks, including one for video production. Since every journalism or new-media class I took at the time included at least one five-alarm lecture about the absolute necessity of video-production skills, I figured I’d swing it.

A few semesters later, after realizing that I wasn’t going to finish the major while graduating on time, I downgraded to a minor … before realizing abruptly that I had absolutely no interest in taking another video-production class, nor any desire to hold a camera ever again. I quietly dropped out of the comm. program with 26 credits completed. At $463.84 per credit, I can easily calculate the cost of this one. Mistake Cost: $12,059.84

It was cold, but he was still very interested.

It was cold, but he was still very interested.

Ah, smoking. You beautiful demon. You horrid temptress. Want to know something cool? I quit smoking nearly two years ago, and I still spend at least five-plus minutes a day fantasizing about having a cigarette. No, that feeling does not go away. No, I don’t actually want to smoke ever again. Yes, it is fun to think about, and yes, I miss it all the time. If reincarnation is a thing, I want to come back as a tobacco plant.

I’ll save you the math, but I just crunched the numbers, and it’s not a pretty sight. Don’t smoke, kids. Mistake Cost: $16,144.37

The Contentment Knowing That Mistakes Are Part Of Life, And How Else Are You Going To Learn Financial Sense Anyway?
As they say: priceless.

And, for those who are wondering, the puppy is staying in the family. We had a great weekend at the Minnehaha dog park, where he discovered water, ducks, sand and weekend whimsy. But, since I can’t breathe when I’m in confined spaces with him, he’s going to live with my parents. It’s possible that my sister — who is actually beyond-words excited to get a dog — will take him, but first she has to convince her fiancé. Jim, take the damn dog.