Photo: paumorales (Shutterstock)
Earlier this week I asked Lifehacker readers to share the pandemic purchases that made sense at the time, but now fill them with buyer’s remorse. These purchases ranged from the predictable (like too many cloth masks), to the slightly devastating (like a cat or dog).
I get it. We all experimented with different coping mechanisms during the pandemic, which led to all sorts of misguided purchases that now haunt us: Roller skates, paint supplies, an aboveground heated pool...these acquisitions felt right when we were trapped in the depths of 2020, but failed to find a place in our post-quarantine lives.
At the same time, many readers shared in the comments which pandemic-fueled purchases they did not regret. For many, the pandemic had a few silver linings in the form of a new hobby, skill, or exercise regime. For the rest of us, we bought things in 2020 that we can’t stand the sight of in 2022. Here is an accounting of the things (or animals, gasp) Lifehacker readers regret buying during the pandemic.
Investing in fitness
Perhaps the most common theme for quarantine life changes that didn’t stick: getting into a new exercise regime. Often extra fitness equipment is worth it, even if its main purpose is to jumpstart a new habit. At the same time, fitness equipment has a unique ability to haunt us once we decided (intentionally or not) to stop using it.
G/O Media may get a commission
Jachs NY Summer Shorts Sale
Exclusive sale on summer styles
Patterned, plain, twill, and chino, these classic shorts with 7-9" inseams tell a story—you’re a guy who vacations, maybe on a boat.
Two readers shared their perspective when it comes to money spent on getting into biking:
“I didbuy a bicycle trainer stand for my bike during the pandemic once it became clear I was going into colder months with no access to a gym. I can’t say I regret it—I did use it pretty reliably, but I also grew super sick of riding my bike in my apartment. When we went back to working at home for about six weeks after the holidays this year during the Omicron surge, I was practically unable to force myself to use it. I can’t say I regret it since it wasn’t a huge purchase, and it really did help me out during the 2020-21 cold season. I just have very little motivation to use it again.” —HeathMaiden
“Burley Bee Bike Trailer. Bought it for family bike rides. Which we did that first summer of pandemic about a dozen times. But now neither kid fits it and we haven’t gone on a family bike ride since that summer. $300 for a trailer used one season. I know resale on them is good, but wish we had bought it years earlier and been able to use it more than one summer.” —238KEscape
Or take this comment from PrettyGirlMyers, who acquired and then repurposed a rowing machine: “Enter the rowing machine I bought on Amazon, used literally twice for it’s intended purposed, was then used as a slide by my nieces, and is now sitting in my family room in pieces because we suckered one of our friends into taking it and are waiting for him to pick it up.”
Similarly, reader AtomicSnowman shares that they “burned through a few more pairs of running shoes than normal.” Same here, AtomicSnowman. Same here.
Bulk shopping directly related to the pandemic
Remember when we were all wiping down our groceries with Lysol? Many commenters chimed in to point out that panic and uncertainty led to a lot of buying in bulk. As we learned more about the virus, certain purchases (e.g. hundreds of cloth masks) or buying behaviors (e.g. hoarding toilet paper) seemed...unnecessary in retrospect.
Reader Dave In Dallas shares that they have “400 masks sitting on a shelf in the corner of my entryway...there was no way to know the mask situation was definitely going to turn out the way it did, but I do regret this a bit. Glad I didn’t get a bazillion dollar Peloton!”
On the topic of cloth masks, sybann comments “and here I thought I was being responsible and not buying things that would ultimately be trash (because they’re washable). And I still have 40 virgin masks.”
“We definitely have some canned goods I panic bought in 2020 that we now need to eat before they expire, even though they aren’t things I would normally have bought (like canned vegetables). I also bought too many cloth masks (some were necessary, but definitely went a bit overboard on how many I bought).” —shes-got-a-way
This isn’t to say that you don’t need to mask anymore, but cloth masks aren’t it. Here’s how to get free N95 masks.
Not-so-prime real estate and amenities
Too many cloth masks aren’t that hefty of a regret. Some Lifehacker readers went a little bigger with their pandemic purchases. Like, say, a stock tank pool:
“Knowing the public pools would be closed all summer, we got a giant 10' tank, a glass media filter/high capacity pump, and built a tech-deck platform around it. All in, close to $10k. After a year it started to rust pretty badly...and of course, we’ve used it maybe a dozen times over the past few years. Yes, it’s extremely nice to float with a beer and some tunes on the weekend, but the thing attracts swarms of wasps and hornets, and my wife is allergic and has been stung twice, once requiring a trip to the ER. Now we also have three juvenile red shouldered hawks who use the pool as a staging area for their flight training, and the deck is literally covered in hawk crap and bits of carcasses from the things they catch and eat. So basically I spend 15 minutes a day skimming leaves and sticks, since we have a grove of cedar elms around it. I did get a float Saturday, then a nap in the hammock. So not totally worthless, but not worth the expense.” —Chairman Kaga
“We bought a cute camper that needed renovations. Our plan was to turn it into a detached office. We ended up moving, and our new place doesn’t have enough space for the camper. In reality it was just a time suck, money pit, and we can’t even resell it.” —Dextorius
On the flip side, some of us feel it would have been worth it to invest in higher quality amenities. I know it took me a full year before I accepted the reality of WFH and shelled out cash for a proper desk chair.
Reader acemanex shares their regret over opting for “the cheapest hand crank standing desk ‘frame’ on Amazon.” They explain, “I thought I’d save money and convert my old desk with this frame. Well, the lowest height was too high for me and made it very uncomfortable for me. Within one year the gears had ground themselves such that one side slipped and was no longer able to be raised. That one year warranty? Well, the company ended up being of those fly by night ones so all I had left was scrap metal and the chore of converting my desk back along with reworking the wiring to my battle station. I know this is a lesson in that I got what I paid for, but I feel it’s more that I didn’t even get that.”
Splurging on tech, music, and hobbies
Several readers commiserated over the lifespan of their quarantine hobbies:
“I bought an Oculus in 2020 that i used a lot for three months and haven’t touched since.” —McGribs
“My electric sewing machine. Turns out, I don’t like electric sewing!” —FishCopernicusV2
“I kept the guitar, which stares at me sadly from the corner, but I WILL get around to practicing, someday.” —KateH
“The piano, though, was a huge mistake. It’s essentially just another place for the cat to sleep. “ —Brymmie
The dog. Woof.
It’s harsh but needs to be said: Lockdowns inspired some people to adopt pets when they really shouldn’t have. Better than having a pandemic baby you regret, I guess?
“The dog. My wife did not handle the upending of our lives well. My youngest son still claims he doesn’t know how to do things because he didn’t finish kindergarten. When she said she wanted a dog, I argued against it. Now we have a husky/lab mix that sheds so much fur that I don’t even spend time downstairs or in the yard anymore. All the upholstered furniture is covered in dog hair. We have insect problems because of its food. Only one kid will begrudgingly take it on a walk. I lost the use of half my house because she bought that damn dog.” —Canyoncliffs shifts the demand curve to the right
It wasn’t all buyer’s remorse
On the flip side, plenty of Lifehacker readers share that they have “zero regrets” from their pandemic-fueled purchases.
“As far as hobbies or activities to do during the pandemic I actually have zero regrets on the adjustable dumbbell set I bought. I’ve been slacking on using them the past couple months, but I really did use them regularly for most of the past 2.5 years. I also stocked up on comfy clothes to wear around the house (like basketball shorts) that I still use regularly, even if the reason I bought them was very spring 2020 (wanted to avoid going to the laundromat too often).” —shes-got-a-way
“Bought a Honda S2000 in August 2020 that has appreciated ~45%. I regret nothing.” —Pastey
“Bought an Ankarsrum mixer, which I do not regret in the least.” —AtomicSnowman
“Other pandemic purchases I love, like the surround sound A/V receiver and speakers I finally installed and the backpack leaf blower.” —238KEscape
“I have zero regrets. In the year before the pandemic I started to get back into playing guitar after a break during my kids’ ultra-demanding baby and toddler years. Working from home gave me a lot more time to dive back in. In Jan ‘21 I added a guitar to my collection. I bought a year old barely-used Mexican Telecaster for $550, I believe they were going for $650 new at the time. A year and a half and a lot of inflation later, they now cost $850 new, and I’d imagine used prices are high as well. I play the thing all the time, so I have zero regrets.” —panthercougar
And finally, a win for the punching bag of all stationary bike haters, coming from reader PrettyGirlMyers: “I bought my husband a Peloton for his birthday (still during the pandemic, but not a true pandemic purchase, I guess) and he is OBSESSED with it.”