Are You a Gadget Hound?

gadgets

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in Frugality

“Gadget Expense”—necessity, form of entertainment or addiction?

Have you ever known anyone who has a gadget addiction? You know the kind of person who has to have every new gadget that comes out on the market? Eventually, maybe most people will have the majority of the gadgets he’ll buy, but he’s usually the first one at the store when the latest model XQ7000 Version 6 hits the stands.

On the surface this seems harmless enough–and maybe beneficial by virtue of the claimed miraculous capabilities of all the equipment to improve life as we know it. But it can be every bit as destructive to your financial health as other, more notorious compulsions.

A site with the name “Fiscal Geek” is probably THE best site on the planet to take on a little recognized expense that we’ll loosely refer to as “gadget expense”. I’d describe it as a stealth expense because it’s something we don’t normally consider as such, and yet it’s one that can cost plenty—maybe even more than your annual electric bill. Sometimes way more.

How do you know if you’re a gadget addict?

We live in an age of relentless technological advancement, creating an unending flow of new gadgets, which can be a constant drain on the financial resources of the addict. If this is you, here are a few questions you might to be asking yourself:

  1. Are you intentional about being the first in your social orbit to have the newest gadgets?
     

  2. You’ve lived up to this point without the latest new-fangled gadget, is it conceivable that you can live the rest of your life quite comfortably without it?
     

  3. Is the gadget in question something which will either a) increase your income or, b) reduce an expense? In other words, is there a cost benefit to this bauble, or is it just another toy that would be nice to have?
     

  4. Before buying yet another gadget, have you surveyed your existing inventory of technology toys to chronicle their fate in the construct of your life?
     

  5. Have you noticed that the earliest available versions of any new technology are virtually certain to be both more expensive and less perfected than later editions?
     

  6. Have you ever added up the money you spend on your gadgets each year? If not, you’re not alone—most addicts never do!

How gadget addiction becomes gadget expense

I’ve presented the points here in question format, because if people are addicted it’s usually best to ask key questions and let them come to their own conclusions.

But here’s the main point of this post: if you have a gadget addiction, you’re probably spending a significant amount of money to buy them on a regular basis. Any routine cash outlay effectively translates the spending into an ongoing expense.

When we’re looking to create a budget or cut down on our cost of living, all expense categories need to be considered, but first they need to be identified. It’s often outlays that we don’t think of as expenses that prove to be the budget busters.

The idea that there is even something like gadget expense may seem a little over the top, but given the advance of technology in recent decades, it’s no longer uncommon for people to spend significant amounts of money satisfying a need to be “on the cutting edge” of the latest developments. And it’s easy enough to convince ones self that this is totally necessary given the direction of the world.

However, by virtue of their being on the cutting edge, gadgets are usually not inexpensive! When we formulate or review our budgets, this “expense” is not one we can afford to overlook.

Kevin At Out of Your RutThis post is from FiscalGeek staff writer: Kevin Mercadante. I’m very excited to have him contributing to the site. You can find out more about him at his own blog OutOfYourRut.com.

Is gadget expense a legitimate expense? Do you know anyone who is a gadget addict? If you’re a gadget addict, have you ever totaled up how much money you spend on them in a typical year?

( Photo courtesy of rojer )

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Budgeting in the Fun Stuff 2010/05/03 at 7:28 am

My husband would like to be a gadget addict, but he relegates himself to just drooling but not buying. As you wrote, any regular buying habit adds up, so he only “gives in” once in a while after really balancing the cost vs benefit of spening a big chunk of his fun money on techy stuff.

I’m the opposite of a gadget addict…tech stuff has actually been explained to me by my grandparents before…BUT, I really have to stop myself when it comes to candy and Shirt Woot.

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Kevin 2010/05/03 at 6:10 pm

Budgeting – for what ever reason, your comment made me think of something related but coming from a different direction. We all know that tech gadgets in particular can be expensive, but there’s also the TIME factor. Any new piece of technology usually requires at least something of a learning curve, as well as possible integration with other technologies. All of that takes time, and could also cost more money.

That’s another reason I like to tread lightly with this…

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Stephan 2010/05/03 at 8:30 am

it is definitely a dangerous addiction if you are trying to become debt free. Just keep in mind, a gadget addiction is like any other regular expense. Spending 8$ a week on cigarettes is just as bad as a new gadget every 3 months. Keep this in mind and budget for your expenses accordingly, regardless of what the expense is.

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Kevin 2010/05/03 at 6:11 pm

So true! It’s a form of going broke slowly and maybe just below the level of awareness.

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Erica Douglass 2010/05/03 at 4:00 pm

Living in Silicon Valley for 10 years, I knew a whole lot of gadget addicts (and was one myself for quite a while.) I remember impulse buying a Game Boy Advance the day it came out. Here are a few things that helped me:

1) I unsubscribed from all gadget blogs, “deal alerts” newsletters and also woot.com
2) I started the “one in, one out” rule: For every gadget that came into my life, I had to get rid of a gadget I was no longer using

And I also went heavily into #3 (will this gadget make me money?)

Right after I bought that Game Boy Advance, things changed. I started my web hosting company. I didn’t have much money, so I “dumpster dove” for computers, went on auctions, and hand-built most of my computers. (see: http://www.flickr.com/photos/slashchick/59149322/in/set-1279288/ )

Surrounded by over $300,000 in tech equipment that I had bought out of my own pocket with biz revenues–and being completely exhausted from having built most of it and/or having to constantly deal with repairs–pretty quickly cured me of my gadget addiction. I don’t even colocate my own server any more. And the computer I’m typing this one I hand built–but I may not hand build my next one. I never thought I’d see the day when I didn’t hand build my primary computer…but now I think that day will arrive once this one dies.

-Erica

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paul 2010/05/03 at 4:45 pm

Erica your story is so similar to mine. I’ve been a gadget junky my whole life the domain name of FiscalGeek wasn’t an accident :-). What took me so long to find which turned out to be the answer to so many other issues was contentment. I work in the tech industry at one of the industry leaders and I’m plain burned out at this point. My latest desktop was a sweet deal from NewEgg on a Lenovo and I was very happy not to have built this one. I’ve come to realize technology should be tools not objects of affection. Am I cured completely? No. But I take it one day at a time. Here’s to us technology twelve steppers.

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Kevin 2010/05/03 at 6:12 pm

Erica, did you feel that the money you spent on tech equipment was justified by the revenue it generated, or efficiency it produced?

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RJ Weiss 2010/05/04 at 2:23 pm

I’m a recovering gadget addict. I knew I had a problem when I purchased a GPS that I used only once.

Erica had some great ideas. Basically just cut yourself off from the gadget world.The ironic thing is the less I stopped going to “deal” sites, the more money I saved. Slickdeals and I had a great run, but all good things come to an end.

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Kevin 2010/05/04 at 6:39 pm

That’s a good catch on “deal” sites. Deals have a lot in common with sales, in that the main purpose of both–from the merchants standpoint–is to get us to buy something we wouldn’t otherwise. There’s no savings in that.

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kt 2010/05/07 at 9:55 am

i dont classify myself as an addict but there are sometimes that i would love to have the latest gadget not really for the showing off but because the first batch of any new gadget have an uncannily longer life span than those that come out later in that same line. The latest on in my sights is the latest macbook pro. A fully loaded one costs almost $3000 in the apple store. If God blesses me with the exra cash, i will definitely indulge because it has been sometime since i felt the thrill of unpacking a new gadget

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Jessica Bosari 2010/05/18 at 8:34 am

I’m a drooler like our friend at budgeting in the fun stuff. Thank God they sold out of the iPad. The temptation was becoming too great.

On the learning curve you mentioned, Kevin…isn’t that the fun part of gadets…learning and mastering them? I think with my iPhone, there was no learning curve. It just works right out of the box in the most obvious ways. Thank goodness I was able to justify the expense as a savings over my old phone plan. I would have bought the thing anyway!

When the next version of iPad comes out, I’ll be practicing self-restraint again. But I think Paul’s mention of contentment hits a strong point. When I think about the gadgets I want, I remember to think, “will this thing make me happier?” Of course, no item can make you happy. I’m content with my life. It’s all good.

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Richard @ Debt Assistance Guru 2010/07/19 at 10:06 am

I admit that I have a love of gadgets but my more rational side normally wins out. I figure that firstly most gadgets are simply unnecessary fun. Very rarely so they offer genuine benefits once you have bought them. And secondly I know that not only will a newer, bigger, better model will be released a few months later (making mine look old fashioned) but it will probably be cheaper too. The gadget freak has to admit that they are paying over the odds for something that most people – if they buy it – will get far cheaper.

Is that thrill of having the gadget first worth all that extra expense? Clearly some people think that it is. Personally, I think not. And that’s how I manage to control my impulses.

A friend of mine *is* a gadget freak though and recently let me play with his iPad. My first impression was “wow!” as I leapt on the thing and started playing about. But within half an hour I’d found all the things I didn’t like about it and now don’t want one. And I didn’t have to pay $500 to find out 🙂

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kevin 2010/07/19 at 10:56 am

Richard – I used to work for a guy who was a certified gadget hound. If it was a gadget and it was new, he was the first to own it. He took pride in it. But he also seemed to spend inordinate amounts of time working with them and on them, to the point of distraction. And worse, since he was always on the cutting edge, he had no peers to share the experience or technological benefit with. As soon as a new gadget came out he had it, no one esle did, and no one could keep up. He was always moving–which I think was the real thrill for him, being “ahead” of everyone else.

As far as practical value–I didn’t see any…

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