try before you buy™

I strongly value thrift over cheapness.

For example, I would rather one good quality pair of shoes I can comfortably wear everyday for a year over a cheap pair that will fall apart in 2 months.

And my opposite of value/thrift is waste: buying shit you don’t use.

In our age of abundance it’s so easy to buy shit and not use it: gym memberships, juicers, treadmills, camping gear, boats, bikes, toys, racks of DVDs and unread books.

And there’s no point in buying a good quality thing and not using it. It is better to buy a really cheap thing and throw it away, or even better not buy anything at all if you don’t end up using it.

But how do you avoid getting into this situation? People don’t buy something with a plan to not use it: I think we’re overly optimistic and buy things with our best intentions but don’t follow through.

This is where I have found using trials helps wherever possible: try before you buy™.

You will often need to be creative to work out how to trial something before you commit to it:

Some examples:

  • You decide you like the idea of buying a motorhome and driving around your country for a year. Instead of packing up your things and buying a $50,000 second hand motorhome you find there’s sites that allow you to relocate a motorhome for $5 per day. You do a few of these over a month or so and realize you just don’t like living in a confined space and there’s still park fees. etc. which you didn’t realize how expensive it would still be even after owning a motorhome. You save yourself at least $50,000 and 12 months of disappointment.
  • You decide you’d like a pet dog but you’ve never had a pet before. Instead of rushing out and buying a cute puppy, which is probably a 12 year commitment, you could try some gold fish to see whether you can keep them alive. Or ask your friend with a dog to ‘dogsit’ it when they go on holidays. You realize with your gold fish you need to travel for work quite a lot and feeding them is a hassle when you’re gone and realize a dog would be even worse.
  • You would like to work for a company but it means working remotely from home which you’ve never done. Luckily you see that company has a trial policy for all new employees where you get paid to work on a 2-3 month trial basis (whilst still keeping your old job) and you can see what it’s like (and the company can see what you’re like too). You realize it is a great way to work and get stuff done.
  • You would like to embark on an epic walking trek: 160km over six days. Instead of committing straight to it you find a fundraising trek which is 35km over a single day to see what walking that distance in a day feels like (and whether you would want to repeat that 6 days consecutively). You decide that one day of this every month is better than 6 days straight once a year and save yourself from feeling like you failed if you had of started 160km straight up.
  • You would like to buy a mini-van for the family. During your next holiday you hire a minivan and realize that it’s a pain to park as it’s so long, and the luggage room in the boot is limited because of all the seats. You decide to keep your current station wagon and save yourself the money you would have wasted on a mini-van.


This isn’t about eliminating the risk of any bad decision, there’s some trial bias, like if you decided you wanted to move to another country so you went on vacation there: you must realize that you have ‘vacation goggles’ and that working in Palm Springs wouldn’t be the same as spending a week there chillaxing.

And you can’t really trial having children as babysitting someone else’s kids is nothing like having your own kids (having your own kids is much worse :P).

As someone who tries to limit my choices through constraints, trials offer another anxiety reducing benefit in that I am much less anxious trialling something rather than committing fully to it. Like a new job on trial.

So why don’t you trial a trial?

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