Finances & Money Frugality

What I want, but won’t get, this holiday season

Ahh, the buying season is upon us. While the news is telling you how horrible the economy is and you should protect your savings, they’re also telling you that you need to spend, spend, spend to keep the economy going. What’s a consumer/saver to do???

I, personally, have been tempted to buy a number of items for well over a year, but I’ve resisted thus far. I decided to put them out there for you to see, just to keep myself accountable for my spending, and to remind myself of why I shouldn’t buy:

Big Plasma TV

Why get one:

  • Offers a more cinematic viewing experience
  • Prices are always dropping
  • “Everyone has one”

Why not to get one:

  • We don’t even have cable, so getting one would entice us to subscribe to higher cable packages. Right now we just pay $20 for the most basic cable, plus $1 for On-Demand access. We get to see many new cable shows at our leisure this way.
  • I’ve been pining for years that we need to waste less of our time in front of the TV
  • Our free 27″ screen (given as a Christmas present from a friend) is only 3 years old and works perfectly fine.

The big TV is probably the hardest one for me to ignore because it combines entertainment with flashiness. I’d love to get Andrew Zimmern eating some weird bug in high-def, but it’s an extra cost we can do without.

New Laptop/Desktop PC, specifically a Macbook

Why get one:

  • Because the newer computers have so much more space, and they’re like, new!
  • My employer gives $500 every 3 years for a new computer (pretax, so more like $350). After working here for 5 years, you get $1000 every 3 years. I’m in the first bracket.

Why not to get one:

  • Our two free laptops still work perfectly fine, even though the battery in mine is DOA and the wireless switch won’t stay put. Nothing some duct tape won’t fix!
  • I can buy an external hard drive or DVD burner (which I just might)

That employer benefit keeps nagging me that I should use it, but spending $500-1500 to use a $350 benefit (after tax) just doesn’t make sense. And since Stacie only uses her laptop about once a week, and I have a work laptop, I can always just use either of those if my laptop is the first to go.

As for the Macbook, I can’t shield myself from the commercials or fanboys touting the ease of Macs. They make it sound like a Mac will make me instantly double-productive, but I have to just keep fighting the urge to give in. I don’t need a Mac, nor do I need a new laptop or desktop!


Why get one:

  • Stacie keeps bugging me that she wants one
  • I could use one to listen to audio books on my train ride
  • Listening to music on our cellphones drains the batteries
  • “Everyone has one”

Why not to get one:

  • As for Stacie, she doesn’t listen to music much anyway, and her car doesn’t have an auxiliary jack. I don’t want to spend hundreds to install a little port to listen to an iPod when her CD player and radio work fine
  • Both our cellphones have micro-SD cards (I bought them separately) for listening to music or audio books

This is one of those items of contention between Stacie and I. Luckily she does recognize that she probably wouldn’t use an iPod as much as she thinks, considering she never listens to the music I put on her phone as it is. And until we make an effort to go to the gym more, or run outside, there’s even less use for one in our lives.

What do we plan on buying in the coming months?

So instead of spending thousands on the items above, we have a few other things we want to spend the money on:

  • Re-insulating our exterior walls. I don’t think there’s much insulation in those walls, and we can really tell when winter comes. Those walls are FREEZING!, at least in the old part of the house. The house is 66 years old, and I doubt prior owners ever added insulation. My brother-in-law has a part-time insulation business, but I need to coerce him to drive 200 miles to do our house. I’d rather have someone I trust do the work since I can’t actually see if the insulation has been put in the walls. Cost: no idea until I get quotes.
  • Renovating my bathroom. I won’t get into details, but I want a new (smaller) sink and wall color. While I’m at it, I’d probably redo the tile floor into something that matches with the adjoining flooring in the hall. Cost $500-$2000 (I would do the work mostly myself).
  • Re-plastering our pool. Our pool has a spray-on plaster lining, which only lasts about 10 years. Well, it’s been that long. Luckily, it’s mostly just cosmetic so we can let it ride for a while. This costs somewhere between $2000-$5000.
  • Renovating our upstairs. This was originally on the list for this fall, but we decided we wanted more time to plan it out. We would hire my father-in-law to keep the costs down and trust up. We would tear down existing wood paneling and ceiling, insulate, put up drywall and new carpeting. Cost around $3000-$5000.

So you can see we have a number of planned expenses. For us, we just need to keep those expenses and plans in mind anytime we get enticed to spend on a consumer product like a plasma TV or iPod. We’ve done perfectly fine without them for our entire lives, so I think we’d survive a few more years more without them.

But while I need you all to keep me accountable if I start pondering a needless purchase here, I also need to rely on my friends and family at home. I can easily hide a plasma TV purchase from you guys by just not writing it, but if I invite our neighbors over for movie night, I think they would notice.

What are you fighting the urge to splurge on?

About the author

Clever Dude


  • Mr Chiots and I are also boring gifters. I really want a box of organic grapefruits from TX and he wants socks & underwear.

    What we really enjoy about the holidays is just being able to spend time together. We have lots of traditions and revolve around relaxing and enjoying our time off.

  • I have the same things on my list, although I’d never buy a Mac (I don’t care how great people say they are; I’ve used them and I hate them!).

    I recently moved from a 1-bedroom apartment to a 3-bedroom house, so I’m constantly tempted to buy furniture. I have one bedroom that’s completely empty, and I have vague plans to put a bed in there and make it a guest room (I considered moving my current bedroom furniture in there and getting new stuff for the master bedroom). I also want a nice dining room table and chairs, a buffet for the dining room, barstools for the breakfast bar, a chair or bench for the master bedroom, a console table for the foyer, an over-the-toilet shelf/cabinet for the tiny powder room, and one of those modular organization systems.

    I could argue that I kind of need some of this stuff (definitely a dining room table). With the experience of moving all my furniture fresh in my mind, though, I cringe at the thought of having even MORE furniture to move next time!

  • I too am eyeing a lot of stuff that I probably won’t be able to get. I did see a 46″ LCD on Amazon for $500 off that looked very promising but we’ll see how it pans out.

  • Wow … I think my husband’s “what I want but I’m not getting list” is very much the same although his also includes a Nintendo WII and XBox 360. Everyone has them … but we can do without. Thanks for the great post.

  • I <3 my mac… I can do so much on it and it is so customizable. And I have had fewer problems than I ever had on windows, and the problems that I have had have been taken care of the Genius Bar (in store customer care).

    I too am dreaming about a new Macbook, but I know that until my current mac dies, there is just no way… Couldn’t you get one and use it for your blogging laptop so you could take a tax deduction for it?

    The plasma tv also seems like an attractive option this Christmas, especially since as of February 2009 we’ll be able to get free HD channels on over-the-air antenna’s.

  • The big a$$ TV is on my list as well, although I’m not actually getting for the same reasons you list. It’d be great to show off with some cool electronics pr0n, but my crappy CRT still works just fine… unfortunately! I’m still hoping that a Wii remote will sail through the screen some day.

  • About the iPod… Take advantage of the consumer driven culture in America and get a used one!

    Also the iPod can be played through the car stereo using a radio transmitter. We picked one up for about $30 I think that transmits and charges at the same time (Old ones not compatible with iPhones). There are only a few times where we drive that the existing radio stations take up all the frequencies on the dial.

    I also have a list of things I want but won’t get…

    Amazon Kindle
    Laptop (currently use a work issued one)
    Mac Pro (for home video processing, upgrade from our MacMini)
    Automatic Car Starter
    Curtains (particularly room darkening ones for my bedroom)

    Things we will be spending money on…

    Painting/preparing a room for our child
    New tires for our truck before winter is in full swing
    Upgrading shelving in our garage to hold our camping gear (currently stashed in the basement)
    Begin Framing on our currently unfinished basement.

    Thanks for the opportunity to think about the things we want vs the things we need 🙂

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