I wanted to grab you with the title, but this post is about just ONE of the best investments I’ve ever made…It’s marrying my wife! Just kidding, she is, but I won’t subject you to that.
One of the best investments I ever made was a coffee mug I bought while on vacation over a decade ago. When my family goes away on vacation each July, to the Adirondack Mountains, my wife and I would wake up each morning and walk about a mile down a nice woodsy trail to The Donut Shop. It is about one mile of walking and according to my math, just long enough to justify eating five to six donuts. They only serve two kinds, cinnamon and plain and they are always fresh, hot and just glorious. This particular year, they had a Donut Shop plastic coffee mug for sale for $10 with lifetime refills for only $1. I immediately bought the cup and put that long term investment/savings mentality to work. Here’s the math:
A normal cup of coffee that year cost $1.80 and we went approximately five times every year (taking into account there are a couple mornings we don’t go and they are closed on Wednesdays). So year one, I initially spent $10 and got that cup of coffee free thus saving $1.80 for that first cup! An immediate return on investment of 18%! The rest of that trip… four more times I saved $.80 each coffee for another $3.20 in savings. My initial $10 was now down to only $5.00 in expense.
I won’t bore you with what comes next, other than to say for ten years I brought that mug and got my $1 coffee refill. A couple years back a nice young girl working the counter even tried to convince me to buy the new stainless steel mug for $10. I politely declined as I was not yet ready to reinvest when the gravy train was still rolling full steam ahead.
Enter having children on the trip. I couldn’t drink the coffee fast enough before the walk back, and pushing a stroller down a dirt path while simultaneously holding a leaky plastic mug proved to be a chore of immediate regret. My best investment ever was crumbling. Add that on top of the fact that I hadn’t really enjoyed the coffee (for at least a few years) nearly as much as I liked the sweet savings.
I’ve all but given up on the $1 refill scheme that brought me so much delight. And so it is with any investment. At some point the ride needs to end and you can either hop off with the memory of a great time and all the returns you reaped, or you can find yourself hanging on for one more, and halfway through the ride you have scalding hot coffee dripping down your arm.
It is near impossible to consistently time any investment perfectly, so the next time you get on the ride, decide the rules upfront for when it’s time to hop off.