When Frugal is Dumb: Earbuds

by Kevin on March 31, 2014

Every so often do you look back at a decision you made and just shake your head?

What was I thinking? I’m such a doofus.

I’ve been traveling more for work and to maximize the hours in the air I bought an iPad Mini. (The nice one with the “retina” screen.) I’ve loaded it up with podcasts, Evernote, and photos of my family. I could do all of these things with my smartphone, but I need to conserve battery when I travel all day. The iPad Mini’s battery lasts well beyond my needs on the plane.

My guess is the passengers around me wouldn’t exactly be thrilled to listen with me to podcasts from NPR’s Planet MoneyMichael Hyatt on productivity and business leadership, or Pat Flynn talking about making money online. (Although all three would definitely be good for them to listen to!)

I had an old pair of earbuds that a friend had gotten at a conference and pawned them off to me. They were … fine. They didn’t stick in my ears really well. (I’ve always felt I have a weird ear “inlet” and nothing ever really fits into it like a “normal” person.) They were covered in that fine mesh you find on microphones. 

So off I went into the skies with these old earbuds that I had to push back into my ear several times an hour due to the natural bouncing of a plane through the air.

I thought about buying new earbuds, but passed off the idea. “These are fine and do the job,” I told myself. “New earbuds would be expensive or sound worse.”

The weeks and trips went by until, much to my dismay, the black mesh over the earbuds got torn thanks to living in my backpack. Now they really felt weird in my ears and … well… fine. I’ll look to see what I could buy.

I sauntered over to Staples.com’s Daily Deals section. Typically there isn’t anything super exciting in this area, but some familiar earbuds popped up this time: Sony’s MDREX58V. 

How did I know them well? These same exact earbuds were a Daily Deal a few months ago. I purchased a bunch of them to sell on Amazon. I made a small profit and didn’t keep one set of earbuds for myself. (Doofus!)

Thankfully they popped back up on the deal and I snagged a pair for $9.99 plus tax. I passed on buying a bunch more to try and resell because I wasn’t the only one that thought of that last time. I was breaking-even and losing a few cents on each earbud I sold at the end. (The first 20 I sold had high enough margins to cover the losses at the end and still end up with a profit, but I digress.)

I tried the new earbuds on my trip last week and let me just say… they were amazing. Possibly the best $10 I’ve ever spent for traveling purposes. They have a rubber, flexible end so they fit in my ear really well and block out the noise around me. They aren’t noise-canceling by any means, just a great fit that allows me to listen to my podcasts without hearing the stuff around me.

The earbuds were snug, had great sound, and I don’t think I had to push them back into my ear on any of my flights.

All for $10.

Which means I was being the dumb kind of frugal: I ignored significant upgrade in my life because I didn’t want to spend $10. Granted, a $10 set of earbuds could be a terrible waste of money. But with 600+ reviews on Amazon (and a solid 4-star rating) I was just a doofus for passing on them in the past.

When was the last time you were a “doofus” by being too frugal?


Golfing Girl March 31, 2014 at 7:37 pm

I’m sure I could come up with tons of examples, but socks and underwear come to mind. I have purchased cheap types of both of those items for both myself and my children and really regretted it. There is nothing worse than wearing something for an entire day that doesn’t fit right, or isn’t soft enough, or just doesn’t stand up to multiple washings. And you can’t always put a price on comfort…especially when it comes to your feet and, well, other delicate areas. I feel I owe it to Hanes to give them a shout out on their “wedgie proof” cotton undies that are also extremely soft. 😉

Elissa @ 20s Finances April 3, 2014 at 7:47 pm

Oh, definitely – I’ve gone through way too many pairs of cheap headphones and should have just invested in better ones. I still haven’t done so! Thanks for the reminder.

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