I impulse-bought a $600 camera and it changed my life

When I was a senior in college, I made my first big purchase using my own, hard-earned cash.

I shelled out $US642.87, to be exact.

It was an impulsive splurge. But almost five years later, I still consider it the best money I ever spent.

It was March 2010. I was at a Best Buy in Tucson, Arizona, trying to find the beloved $US5 DVD bin. I walked in expecting to spend $US10 on two movies I had been wanting — but things didn’t go as planned.

CactusJacquelyn SmithThe first photo I ever took on my Nikon D3000.

Strolling toward the middle of the store, a fancy camera display caught my eye.

I had always been interested in photography, but never really pursued it — though I did take a photojournalism class my junior year and had some idea how to work a DSLR camera. So, intrigued by the elaborate gadgets, I picked up a $US2,400 Canon.

It was attached to the display by a security device, of course, but I was able to play around with it.

I loved the clicking sound the camera made each time I snapped a photo. I loved how crisp each picture looked. I loved how I felt like a professional as I rotated the lens to zoom in and out. I loved everything about this camera …except the price.

But not yet willing to give up this newfound dream of becoming an amateur photographer, I browsed the rest of the circular display, and eventually spotted a Nikon that cost just under $US600. (“Still out of reach,” I thought. “But much closer.”)

As I picked it up, a cheery associate in a blue polo shit approached me.

He explained and demonstrated every feature of the camera, and almost 40 minutes later I found myself at the register, handing over my debit card, practically draining my account. (I had about $US800 in my checking account from my part-time hostessing gig.)

I spent the next two months photographing everyone and everything I could in my spare time. I shot photos of the breathtaking Arizona landscape I’d soon be leaving for good, and captured important moments between my closest friends, who were all about to head to different parts of the country to begin their post-college lives.

Jacquelyn SmithMy grandfather, a retired jeweller, in his home workshop just before selling his house in 2013.

That’s why the $US642.87 I paid for my Nikon D3000 is the best money I ever spent. It has allowed me to capture moments I can’t get back — the ones I don’t want to forget and that I can never reproduce.

It’s also allowed me to document memories from other things I’m happy I spent money on, like concerts and vacations, and has taught me to find beauty and emotion in almost anything.

My camera has helped me become a photographer, which has made me more patient and present and thoughtful.

It’s has also given be a hobby and has challenged me to master a skill.

It has changed my life, as cheesy as that sounds.

Needless to day, I’m glad I walked into Best Buy that day. But I should mention: I never did get those two DVDs.

Read about the best money successful people ever spent in Business Insider’s Success Series.

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