Finances & Money

In the Land of $1000 Televisions

Maybe my perception of reality hasn’t quite caught up to me because I think parts of my brain are still stuck in my childhood and college days. Back then, we had 20″ televisions and if you really wanted to splurge big time, you went for a 32″ screen. Only the wealthy, or those really in debt, had a big screen TV (i.e. front or rear projection).

The first time I bought a TV, it was in my senior year of college, and I bought it on my shiny new mastercard. I plopped down that card for a $600+ 27″ Sony Wega in 2000 and I was simply amazed at the quality. But it was hard to ignore that $600, considering I was making about $6,000 PER YEAR back then. But that leads me to the point of this article.

Since when did it become acceptable to spend over $1000 on a TV? More than acceptable, it seems to be the standard. Let me elaborate.

Big TVs, Little Bank Accounts

It seems that every single person in my extended family has a TV that costs over $1,000, except us. Whether they’re on fixed income or barely scraping by with 2 kids in college and pending layoffs, they have a big ole’ flat screen TV (in the 42″+ range). 

As a note, we got our current 27″ Panasonic as a gift from a friend 3 years ago, and I still have my old 20″ from high school. My Sony from college died a year after I bought it during a move, but luckily I got an extended warranty on it and I got the full $600 back (and part of the prorated warranty).

The Joneses and Smiths

Looking around to my coworkers and friends, it seems like many of them have also replaced their perfectly fine CRT with a huge flat screen without even blinking at the thought. I simply can’t understand how people can so easily justify spending so much on a TV when I doubt they would have ever spent $1,200-$2,000 on a CRT or rear-projection TV just a few years earlier.

I know that there are numerous flat screen TVs to be had for under $1000, and even under $600, but these coworkers, friends and relatives are going for the big boys. They’re getting the 42″+ screens by top manufacturers like Sony (overpriced), Panasonic and Samsung. Not the cheaper brands like Visio, Insignia and Dynex (who the wha?). 

I know that there are many of you who still only have a CRT, and even some of you who don’t have a TV at all. How tempted are you to buy a flat screen TV? I’ll admit that I’ve hovered dangerously close to buying a flat screen TV in the last year. We can easily pay for it in cash, but we refrain from doing so. Why? Well…

Why we haven’t splurged on a TV

We have other priorities. First, it was my schooling ($5,000 out of pocket this year). Then it was our $5,000 trip to Israel coming up in November. Now it’s paying down our second mortgage so we can refinance in a year.

And just recently, Stacie and I decided we wanted to go back to Ireland (ala second honeymoon). We could either spend $1,500 on a nice Panasonic 52″ TV (ooh it’s so pretty) or buy 2 round-trip tickets and a night or two in a castle. While the TV would hopefully last longer than the trip, we value the experience of Ireland much more. Either way, we’re not sure we can stretch the budget to make the trip next year thanks to our mortgage overpayments, but that also means we can’t stretch it for a TV.

Lastly, I want to watch LESS TV, not more. And that’s the main thing keeping me back from buying a new one (the other reasons are Stacie’s really). Because what’s a flashy new big screen TV when you only have basic cable (the REALLY basic cable)? No HD channels. No DVR. Nothing except the 5 network stations and our Wii. So we’d be even more tempted to upgraded our $20/mth cable to something more like $100/mth.

So while I would love to play Mario Cart Wii on a big flat screen TV, I can’t justify it right now. Heck, I can’t justify it until at least our current TV AND our backup TV dies. And even then, I can’t justify the TV when we’re in debt.

But then again, we’re not always logical people, right?

Photo by Wharman

About the author

Clever Dude


  • @lago, I don’t disagree with the power consumption or beauty of these screens compared to CRTs. However, I do disagree with using the “less power usage” argument as a reason to forgo a perfectly good CRT sitting in your home and go buy a flat screen. It’s like selling your Chevy Tahoe for a major loss just to go buy a brand-spankin new Honda Fit for “fuel economy”. It’s spending more money than you’re saving!

  • I have never owned a TV so I don’t understand why people want these flat screens instead of the regular old TVs. I actually said that to someone at a dinner party, I was like, “do you need the characters to be that much more… in high resolution to appreciate what is going on on your favorite show?” the guy thought it was funny because apparently I wasn’t even “using the right language to describe the experience.” Well then.

    The flat screen tv is the epitome of the fetish of the commodity- the notion that some THING has this tremendous power to improve your quality of life or situation. I mean really. it’s just a little less pixelation (or whatever they call it.) Good for you for realizing that!

  • My husband bought our Sharp Aquos 42″ tv before our wedding last year. Similar to J. Money who commented earlier, the TV and stereo equipment that went with it was one of the last big purchases before we started tackling our joint debt. In my head I always call it his “last hurrah”.

    Its purchase in fact was made without consulting with me. It was (so far) his biggest financial infidelity, but it happened months before our wedding. I will probably never know how much he paid, he claims much less than retail, it is currently selling for $1400. He did use a bonus from work, but I know it did not come close to covering everything.

    I love my TV, I love the TiVo (in 2 rooms), the HD cable channels, and watch my prime time shows whenever and wherever I want, watch netflix instead of going out to movies, stream photos from our appletv instead of buying the prolific digital photo frame, invite friends over to play Wii or Guitar Hero instead of spending out at dinner or bars.

    It was this exact purchase that caused me to tally up our combined debt and was the catalyst for our current efforts to get out of debt and then figure out how to live debt free.

    I also love how getting the clunky entertainment center and CRT moved out made our living room look so much bigger and cleaner! (we wall mounted it and hid the cables in the wall in between ducts)

    If TV, games and movies is one of your main entertainment activities an investment that sounds huge to some of you is well worth it to others. To me $150 for an opera ticket sounds insane.. to others it is a no brainer and worth it.

  • We have a projector & I love it. Never thought I would but by the 2nd day of owning it, I was a fan. We move A LOT & this thing is awesome, we no longer have the space constraints, family movie night is awesome w/ everyone having the best seat & when we have events, it’s easy to set it up for the neighborhood kids to watch it project on a plain white sheet… If I even come around to his way of thinking re: getting a Wii, I won’t have to worry about a controller going through the “screen” either!

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