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The 10 best things I've ever bought

The two cars and the dog might seem like obvious choices. But the T-shirt and capri pants from Custer State Park in South Dakota?

By MSN Money Partner Aug 26, 2011 9:16AM

This post comes from Len Pen at Len Penzo dot Com.


The other day my son, Matthew, was extolling the virtues of the laptop computer he'd recently purchased with his own money. "This is the best thing I ever bought, Dad!"


Of course, the first thought that came to my mind was: Well, of course it is, son. You're only 14 years old! But instead, I just nodded my head and smiled.


The truth is, if I took a moment to count up all the things Matthew has bought with his very own money during the relatively short amount of time he's been around, his laptop really doesn't have a lot of competition. Let's see: There's a used skateboard or two, some video games, lots of pop rocks, and a handful of other baubles. Oh, yes -- how could I forget? -- there's also the remote-controlled mini helicopter that, soon after he bought it, disintegrated in a violent confrontation with the living room wall, rotor blades whirring at near-hypersonic speed. But that's about it.


Anyway, that got me thinking about the best thing I've ever bought during my lifetime. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized it was impossible to settle on just one thing -- so I put together a top 10 list instead. Here it is, in no particular order. How does it compare to your list?


1. Our current house

Purchase date: 1997.
Purchase price: $198,000.
Why it's in my top 10: Our home is situated on a small and extremely quiet cul de sac in a relatively rural area, far away from the usual noises you hear in most parts of Southern California. At barely 2,000 square feet, our home is roomy yet still small enough to be cost efficient. By being patient, we have been able to slowly make numerous improvements and upgrades over the years, including remodeling a kitchen and two bathrooms.


2. Window shutters

Purchase date: 2005.
Purchase price: $7,211.68.
Why it's in my top 10: I love our window shutters! They not only give the house a refined look that blinds can't match, they also help reduce the energy bill by keeping our home warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer.


3. Hewlett-Packard 15C scientific calculator

Purchase date: 1983.
Purchase price: $135.
Why it's in my top 10: Just as car aficionados get weak-kneed around classic automobiles, engineers like me who began plying their trade prior to 1990 appreciate old calculators. The 15C is a real class act. It's programmable, and uses Reverse Polish Notation designed for making multiple complex calculations in rapid succession. Sadly, HP discontinued making these beauties in 1989 -- another victim of the personal computer. Even so, when I'm at work I still like to take my 15C "out of the garage" for an occasional spin.


4. My dog, Major

Purchase date: 2003.
Purchase price: $1,500.
Why it's in my top 10: I've had a lot of dogs over the years, but none have been as terrific as our Rhodesian ridegback. Major is an amazing pup with an absolutely terrific disposition. How many dogs can claim to be a bona fide taste test challenge panelist? He is an integral part of our family unit and I can't imagine not having him with us.


5. 1997 Honda Civic

Purchase date: 1997.
Purchase price: $14,592.56.
Why it's in my top 10: I recently wrote a piece explaining why both dogs and old cars are worthy of being man's best friend. With respect to old cars, an older, properly maintained automobile saves its owner significant cash over time. I figure my trusty Civic has saved me roughly $50,000 in car payments since we paid off the loan more than a decade ago.


6. 2001 Honda Odyssey

Purchase date: 2001.
Purchase price: $26,400.
Why it's in my top 10: Aside from the cost benefits described above, over the past 11 years our Odyssey has been our family's transportation workhorse. Powerful, reliable and well-designed -- it's the most comfortable minivan I've ever been in -- the Odyssey has handled everything from countless local grocery store trips to multiple coast-to-coast summer road trips. Best of all, it still has less than 100,000 miles on it.


7. 1974 Fender Stratocaster guitar

Purchase date: 1994.

Purchase price: $400.
Why it's in my top 10: I used to play in a rock 'n' roll band in my younger days. I know. I bought this beautiful vintage guitar with a gorgeous sunburst finish from a work colleague who had found it hiding in his mother's basement after she passed away. He didn't play and just wanted to get rid of it, so he sold it to me for $400. The guitar is still in excellent condition and has served me well over the years. It turns out it was a good investment too; depending on their condition, 1974 Stratocasters are now commanding thousands of dollars in the marketplace.


8. My college education

Purchase date: 1983-1988.
Purchase price: $15,000 (approximate).
Why it's in my top 10: Talk about getting a bargain! The listed purchase price includes the cost of my tuition -- plus books, room and board for the entire five-plus years I spent earning my engineering degree from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo back in the 1980s. Today, the cost of a public college education in California is an astounding 17 times higher than it was in 1980, which begs the question: Is a college degree still worth it?


9. A T-shirt and matching capris from Custer State Park

Purchase date: 2008.
Purchase price: $56.
Why it's in my top 10: No, they're not mine. But, in retrospect, I was absurdly apoplectic when the Honeybee bought this simple cotton ensemble from the little gift shop at the historic State Game Lodge in beautiful Custer State Park in South Dakota. As if to prove a point, she has since faithfully worn that outfit at least one day each week for the last three years. That's almost 175 times by my count -- and only 32 cents per use. Believe it or not, it's still in great shape too. (OK, maybe this one is a bit of a stretch.)


10. My wife's wedding ring

Purchase date: 1995.
Purchase price: $4,200.
Why it's in my top 10: Speaking of the Honeybee, I know I said these were in no particular order but, the truth is, asking my wife to marry me was the best decision I ever made in life, bar none. I'm just glad she said yes.


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