Our readers’ most expensive cash purchases


July 26, 2020

Teslas, skydiving classes, drugs, plastic surgery, and beach houses are among the many items our readers wrote in.
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What’s the most expensive thing you’ve ever bought with cash?

Teslas, skydiving classes, drugs, plastic surgery, and beach houses are among the many items our readers wrote in.

BY Zachary Crockett

A few years ago, Roy Chong, a solar salesman living in San Diego, spotted the Rolex of his dreams on a watch forum. The price: $8,700 — cash only.

The seller, based in Los Angeles, wanted “spendable” denominations. So, Chong went to his local bank branch, withdrew 435 crisp $20 bills, stuffed them into a paper sack, and made the 2-hour drive north.

In the unlit parking lot of a Korean BBQ restaurant, he was greeted by a man in a black hoodie and sunglasses. A handgun was tucked into his belt.

“I thought I was a goner for sure,” Chong told The Hustle. “But he handed over the watch and it was beautiful. I gave him the cash. Then we went our separate ways.”

In an age of credit cards, touchless payment systems, and coin shortages, cash transactions might seem like something of a rarity. But in many cases, cash is still king.

Earlier this week, we asked readers of The Hustle to share stories about the most expensive all-cash purchase they ever made. Nearly 500 people responded, reporting everything from a $250 pair of red leather platform goth boots to a $1,400,000 cash deal on a new house.

Zachary Crockett / The Hustle

Overall, the median all-time high our readers spent on any one thing in cash was $5,800. Car and motorcycle purchases handily topped the list, followed by engagement rings, home repairs, and down payments. Many readers say they secured a better deal by paying in cash — oftentimes under the table.

But there was no shortage of off-the-wall, all-cash transitions, many of which had highly entertaining backstories.

We went through our survey and curated some of the best responses by category, lightly editing for brevity. Enjoy.

$23,425 for 4 1.75L bottles of Don Julio 1942

“I spent a Saturday partying with 15 of my closest friends in Vegas. We won big in blackjack… and went big on the bottle service at Wet Republic.” — Jon, Minneapolis

$2,100 for a whole butchered cow

“We met the farmer, Tarek, in the parking lot of a Chevron just off the freeway. He proceeded to load every inch of my Chevy Volt with boxes of beef (including the head) even after I decidedly told him several times we didn’t want it.” — Kim, San Diego

$800 for a 3-Michelin-star meal in Paris

“It was supposedly the place where Napoleon met his wife. The ambiance was amazing and there were just 3 or 4 tables in the room. The kicker: I was pregnant and going through morning sickness, so I couldn’t stand most of the food. I just ate off the bread cart… and I had to hit up McDonald’s after.” —  Nosheen, New Jersey

$5,500 for a petrified tree

“In July of 2018, I bought a 22-million-year-old, 4,000-lb. petrified tree in Indonesia and had it shipped back to the US. I’m using it to build the world’s first petrified wood fireplace.” — Nick, New York City

$800 for a UCS Millennium Falcon Lego set

“I’d been wanting this thing forever but just never had the balls to drop $800 on a Lego. I built it during quarantine and it was fun as hell. But now it’s just an $800 paperweight.” — Jon, Park Ridge, NJ

$5,000 for selenite collector crystals

“In the ‘90s, New Age collectors were paying big bucks for these special selenite crystals, and I decided to flip some for a profit. They were about 3′ long, contained water bubbles, and were simply beautiful. Right after I bought them, the first Iraq War started. Prices dropped. I finally sold them for $1,000. I was tired of sleeping on the floor anyway, as they needed to be supported on a mattress so they wouldn’t be damaged.” — Randy, nomad

$25,000 for an engagement ring

“All the bank had was a clear plastic bag to put the money in. I had to walk a few blocks down the street from my parking spot to the jewelry store with about an inch of $100 bills in my board shorts. I have never been so self-conscious of my surroundings in my life.” — Jason, Costa Mesa, CA

$18,500 for a diamond

“The diamond district in Manhattan is full of wonderful characters who take envelopes of cash for rings to avoid taxes. The appraisal on the stone ended up being almost 2x what I paid for it. Cash is king on 47th street.” David, Los Angeles

$2,700 for a custom-made grill

“I got really into rap in 2006 and bought a custom-made grill (one of those covers that snaps over your teeth). It was encrusted with tiny jewels and was supposedly made by the same guy who did Lil Wayne’s (I later learned this was not true). I paid in $100 bills and felt like a boss.” — Chris, Oakland, CA

$3,000 for a Dance Dance Revolution arcade machine

“During a road trip through California, I spotted a broken dance machine at a bowling alley. I’d played the game many times and hated to see it in that condition. I haggled with the owner until he agreed to sell it to me for $3,000 in cash — everything in the bank. Now, it’s the centerpiece of my living room.” — Aleta, Las Vegas

$5,000 for an equity stake in a decentralized cloud storage platform

“There are 10,000 shares of this platform in existence (1,424 in circulation) and I own one of them. Either this is my equivalent of investing in Apple in 1979 or it’s a sad anecdote about my youth several years after the fact.” – James, San Francisco

$1,200 for a Macbook

“I needed one for college and had pretty much exactly $1,200 to my name that I’d been saving for a while — mostly in $20s and $10s stuffed in a jar. I rolled up to Best Buy, picked it out, and realized I had forgotten about taxes. I foraged every single dollar I had, including the crumpled up singles stuffed in the cup holders of my car, and stacked them on the counter.” — Matt, New York City

$120,000 for an Erykah Badu performance

“The Queen of Neo-Soul demanded that the deposit and balance be paid upfront in cash. Our booking agency had to withdraw $9,500 12+ times over the course of 3 months to pay her. She was 90 minutes late to hit the stage. Was it worth it? Nope! Next time, I booked Queen Latifah, who was a gem to work with.” — Pauly, Dallas

$8,000 for 4 tickets to Super Bowl XLIII

“I traveled to Tampa without a ticket and found an ad in the classifieds. I met the seller at a Cracker Barrel in St. Pete and pushed $8,000 in $5s, $10s, and $20s across a picnic table. What a game… Springsteen at halftime and the Steelers won!” — Rick, Old Forge, PA

$2,000 for wedding entertainment

“I paid for our wedding band, Rowdy Shadehouse, with 1,000 $2 bills. I can only imagine the rain they made at the strip club afterward.” — James, Fort Collins, CO

$1,400,000 for a house

“I had just sold my insurance brokerage and had the money in the bank. I got into a bidding war, offered a cash deal, and won. Three days after we closed on the house, I realized I’d forgotten to buy home insurance.”  — Rob, Potomac, MD

$40,000 for 2 timeshare units

“We were on our honeymoon in Cabo San Lucas. As a joke, we agreed to a 90-minute timeshare presentation. Many margaritas later, the ‘closer’ talked us into not one, but two oceanfront units. Most expensive booze cruise ever.” — Maria, San Francisco

$2,400 for a used 1976 Camaro

“At 12, I started cutting people’s lawns, cleaning garages, and shoveling snow for $5 a pop. I did that until 16 when I got a job as a short-order cook. By 18, I had enough to buy a used 1976 Camaro in cash.” — Richard, Carpentersville, IL

$7,000 for a minivan

“I bought a minivan in college, tore out the seats, and slept in it for 2 years. It was one of the best adventures of my life. And I only spilled pee all over the carpet once.” — Zac, Mooresville, IN

$3,800 for a school bus

“In 2014, my girlfriend and I bought a 1999 International 3800 20-ft school bus in cash. We drove it home, ripped the seats out, put in a bed frame, a mattress, and some storage. We named her “Bertha” and drove across the country living out of it for 6 months. It was the time of my life!” — Mike, Manchester, NH

$77,000 for a Tesla Model 3P

“I made a casual purchase of about $10 of bitcoin back in 2009 and sold it for just shy of $20k apiece in December 2017. I bought the car in cash with some of the proceeds.” — Josh, St. Louis

$15,000 for 10 lbs. of weed

“In college, I hatched a plan to corner the local weed market. I met with some growers in Northern California, did a few test samples, and bought 10 lbs. Predictably, I was bait and switched. They showed me samples of high-quality product then loaded my trunk with unsellable seed-filled crap.” — Chase, San Diego

$5,000 for fireworks

“In Mexico, I paid cash to a guy my wedding planner assured would do a ‘great job’ procuring professional fireworks for my wedding. It ended up costing nearly as much to appease the local police.” — McLean, Washington

$7,000 for liposuction

“I had love handles. The surgery wasn’t covered by insurance and I didn’t want to be paying it off for years, so I saved it all up and paid cash in one transaction. I no longer have love handles.” — Mel, Pleasanton, CA

$3,500 for a get-rich-quick course

“Like many naive, money-chasing recent high-school grads, I spent $3,500 on an online business-building course. One month after my purchase, the company was charged with fraud and vanished.” — Austin, Wausau, WI

$7,500 for two skydiving courses

“I’m a Canadian escort with American clients who pay me in USD. I had a stack of $100 bills in my safe, so when my friend and I decided to drive to Arizona to do a learn to skydive course, I brought enough hundies to pay for both of our courses in cash. The receptionist was a bit shocked.” — Zara, Vancouver, BC

$10,000 for a flute

“I had dreams of becoming a star music historian and flutist, so I cashed in some bat mitzvah bonds and emptied my savings account to buy a beautiful Brannen flute. The bank teller who assisted with my withdrawal asked, ‘So what color is the new car?’ I smiled and said, ‘Silver!’ — Cay, Boston

$600 for a fairy fetish costume

“I saw this amazing costume in a vendor’s shop at a SciFi Convention.  It was laser-cut black leather, with a massive corset designed to hold up gigantic leather bat wings. I had just had my second child and was feeling frumpy. So, I walked over to the vendor, baby on my hip and toddler in my arms, and bought it in cash.” — Erin, New Jersey

$5,000 for a 5-year country club membership

“I talked the drunk golf pro at a country club into giving me a 5-year membership with no cart fees for $5,000 (it’s usually $3,000/yr). All I had to do was take the money straight to his bookie so he didn’t come looking for him and tell his wife about his gambling. I still have 2 years left.” — Jamie, Philadelphia

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