The 7 Scariest Big Purchases People Make

By Brittany Lyte on 22 September 2014 0 comments

Big ticket purchases are prone to freak us out. The stakes are higher. And when we do make a mistake, like signing a lease to rent an apartment we can't comfortably afford, psychologists say we're more apt to convince ourselves that we've made the right decision rather than work to find a way out. It's a natural tendency toward self-sabatoge that's difficult to shake.

All this can be avoided, of course, if we do our homework, thoroughly explore our options, and stay alert for the tell-tale signs that we're being bamboozled. Yet even the smartest among us make large-scale investments that end in regret. Studies show 1 in 4 homeowners have buyer's remorse about their current house, for example. (See also: 5 Sure-Fire Signs of an Investment Scam)

Read on for our list of the top seven purchasing decisions that are sure to keep you up at night.

1. A House

Shopping for a home is momentous, exhilarating — and downright frightening. A home is the most expensive purchase most of us will ever make and unfortunately it's easier to muck it up than it is to do it right. Exhibit A? The subprime mortgage meltdown. Lest we forget: What the bank says you can afford and what you actually can afford are not necessarily the same thing.

2. A Vacation Home

It's a dream come true, right? Well, yes, it can be — but it can just as easily be the stuff of nightmares. It's easy to be romanced by the mountain views so much so that you neglect to fully inspect the property itself or seriously consider the challenges of living in a seasonal locale once all the tourists have gone home.

"Many people love spending a week each summer at a particular beach," Jeff Haden, author of "The Second Homeowner's Handbook: A Complete Guide for Vacation, Income, Retirement, and Investment" told the New York Times. "But when they buy a home and start to spend several months a year in the area, they realize that traffic is a mess, shopping is limited, and seasonal factors like the influx of students at a nearby college change the feel of the area."

3. A College Education

A college degree is one of the most valuable things you can buy. But if you don't do it right, it can swiftly become one of your biggest regrets. A third of millennials say they would have been better off working than going to college, according to a Wells Fargo study. The reason? They're drowning in debt.

More than half the 1,414 college grads surveyed by Wells Fargo said they afforded their education by taking out hefty student loans that are now the crux of their financial distress. If given the chance to do it again, many said that they'd choose a less expensive school so as to reduce their future debt.

4. A Business Franchise

You get to be your own boss making money off a proven brand. No business plan to write, no venture capital to raise. Sound too good to be true? Well, in some cases, it very well could be. Investing in a franchise is little more bullet proof than investing in a start-up. In either scenario, it's possible you could lose out on your investment — sometimes due to no fault of your own. What if the franchisor goes belly up? It's a possibility. And because franchises are so young, it's difficult to judge the likelihood of such a thing. There's just not much of a track record to go off of.

5. A Boat

From water skiing on the lake to deep sea fishing far out at sea, boating is one of the most enjoyable warm-weather pastimes. But it's a joy that comes with a big price tag, regular repair costs, and a lot of fancy options that can make or break your boat-owning experience. Perhaps the most important thing you need to figure out is how much time you want to invest in caring for your boat. There are lots of neat add-on features — swim platforms, entertainment consoles, removable carpeting — but many of them require work to stay up and running. What you don't pay for in money you pay for in time and maintenance.

6. A Wedding

From the ring to the cake, the average American wedding costs $29,858. That's five figures spent on one day of your life — honeymoon not included. With so many different facets to decide on — flowers, linens, photographers — odds are high that you'll misspend on something. Common blunders include splurging on the venue and skimping on everything else, over-spending on fancy save-the-date mailings, and blowing your fashion budget on the dress and tux before even thinking about the shoes. (See also: How to Attend a Wedding for Cheap (Without Actually Looking Cheap))

7. A Gravesite and Funeral

It costs about $10,000 to bury the dead. Casket, grave liner, and cemetery groundskeeping costs all contribute to the bottom line. But there's so much more than dollars at stake. The location of the grave in comparison to loved ones of the deceased and whether the cemetery meets the requirements of your family's religion are also important. And experts say it's difficult to make these decisions when we're under duress.

"In fact, grief is, in many ways, similar to alcohol inebriation when it comes to decision making," writes Caleb Wilde, a sixth generation licensed funeral home director. "You can't and shouldn't make big decisions when you're grieving."

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