That's Not as Cheap as it Looks (Beware of Tangential Purchases)

Adding MachineFor those of you that have read The Wallet for a while, you’re probably well aware of the fact that Julie and I don’t own a TV. Neither of us owned one when we were single, and when we married, we just decided not to purchase one (we were busy…and needed a car).

About four months into our marriage, somebody felt bad for us and actually left an old TV, VCR, and even some VHS movies on our doorstep as a surprise. After I burned an entire Saturday afternoon watching The Abyss (with all of the commercial breaks, as this was before Tivo), we knew we had to be rid of the TV. Julie ended up selling it to someone we worked with and we went out for Chinese food.

(We would have refused the TV and returned it to whomever had been so generous, but to this day they remain anonymous!)

At any rate, since we didn’t purchase season tickets to the BYU football games this year (remember, we’re tightening the belt until launch), I’m having a very strong desire to finally purchase a TV — just for football season!

Sports are the only thing that keep people from ditching cable completely, I know that.

But do you know what’s kind of squelched my desire? Tangential purchases. Sure, a TV isn’t that expensive, but then we need the monthly cable cost…and I know I don’t want to watch commercials, so I’d need a DVR or Tivo…and then we’d need a piece of furniture on which to place the TV…and since BYU doesn’t show on ESPN every week, I’d need to make sure our cable package showed The Mountain (what, you’ve never heard of that channel?)…

At the beginning of the summer I purchased a very, very sweet Weber gas grill. It is a phenomenal grill. I love it. But I’ve needed to be very careful about the other purchases that creep in as a result of the grill purchase (a manly apron, some grilling books, a grilling tool set perhaps…a grill cover, etc.).

Most every purchase of significance comes with tangential purchases attached. The BMW? Premium gasoline. The golf clubs? Don’t even get me started there (it ends with a golf simulator in your basement).

I remember when I heard that the Junior/Senior prom tickets were $35 a pop. I was floored. Little did I know that the $70 for tickets was just a drop in the bucket: dinner, car, corsage, tux, pictures…

Porter’s now playing flag football. Guess who needed to bring corn-filled treats to the game last Saturday ($15 later)? That’s a tangential purchase.

I suppose the bigger the purchase, the greater danger you have with these tangential purchases. Think about your house for a moment…

I think I made my point :)

15 Responses to “That's Not as Cheap as it Looks (Beware of Tangential Purchases)”

  1. WairereRose

    I know exactly what you mean! I recently got a PS2 game thinking my son had a PS2 machine at his dad’s place. He didn’t. Purchase number two was the PS2 machine. I thought I could play it through my laptop monitor using the TV adapter program I had. Wrong again, purchase number 3 was the TV. I also thought I could use any USB camera for the exercise game. Uh-uh. Wrong again. Purchase number 4 was a camera. Finally all set up to go. I refused to purchase new furniture to put the thing on, I did some major furniture removal and managed to gain an extra 2m2 in my lounge! Yay for some benefits – now I have the room to do the exercises I started out buying the game for in the first place. Total cost of the original $20 game? $180

  2. supenguin

    It seems that electronics are particularly bad about the tangential purchases. I seriously thought about getting an iPhone until I saw how much you have to pay per month.

    Worst thing as far as this goes I have seen is the Nintendo Wii. You get the system: $249.99 plus tax. This gets you the system, one controller and Wii Sports. You want to invite friends over to play. The controllers are $40 for the Wiimote + $20 for the nunchuk add on. So if want to do a four player game, there’s $160 in controllers! I recommend getting Wii Play, which is a controller and another game which is $50 so make that $170 for 3 controllers.

    Then if you want to do Wii Fit, there’s the balance board which is $90 for the board which comes with the game. Oh, and don’t forgot the controllers eat batteries for lunch: 2 AA batteries for each controller and 4 AA batteries for the Balance Board. So you’ll either need a battery pack + charging station, rechargeable batteries and a way to recharge them, or a truckload of AA batteries.

    So three games (Wii Sports, Wii Play, and Wii Fit), one system, four controllers, and a balance board and the total price is already up over $500 plus tax! This makes me so glad I didn’t buy an XBox360 or Playstation 3 when they first came out – I’ve heard you need an HDTV to really appreciate those game systems!

  3. thisisbeth

    I grew up without a TV. I’m a huge sports fan. While right now I have a TV with cable, when the promotional rate ends, I may revert back to no TV–and since it’s not digital, there will be no broadcast channels, either. I grew up following sporting events on radio, so I can handle that without too much hardship. I simply don’t have time to watch it; my lifestyle can’t handle keeping around a schedule around TV shows. I’ve seen many I enjoy, but nothing I’m willing to make a commitment to.

    (I got the TV for free so I could get a Nintendo Wii. I use Wii Fit in winter, when Minnesota is just too cold to spend too much time outdoors. Yes, it would’ve been just as easy to use the free DVD player that came with the TV and buy exercise videos, but I’m absent-minded, and I like stats. It’s nice to have the game keep track of my stats for me.)

  4. Karen

    I truly don’t get how people have time for TV. Not to mention the tangential purchases – how do you factor the time you spend?

    But that aside, a great post reminding us to think before purchasing – which, in itself, is an excellent practice. Thanks, Jesse!

  5. Joan

    Jesse, this is a great post and savings tip. Not many people think about tangential purchases, and this is definitely something you should consider.

  6. Pam

    I hear you. I just moved to another state with no income taxes and reduced my rental costs by $600, but my daily trips to Super Target since I moved have eaten up any savings from the rent reduction…at least for the first month. I’ve had to rein myself back in and remind me why I made the move in the first place and remember how fun it is to save!

  7. Lise

    Good article, Jesse. It reminds me a little bit of the part in Your Money or Your Life where it asks you to consider, before acquiring an item, if you want to dust it, store it, insure it, etc, etc. And stuff does tend to attract more stuff!

    I’ll agree with the comment above that the Wii is a big culprit for tangential costs, but I haven’t had as much of an issue with the batteries – they seem to last pretty long.

    Oh, and not at all apropos of this post, I notice you have a list of bloggers who use YNAB. Would you mind adding my blog, Frugal in the Fruitlands (link above), to that list? I’ve been using YNAB for about six months and I’d happily add my voice to a list of satisfied users.

  8. Carla

    We did purchase a Wii, and we never buy games for it because we simply stick to those games that are our favorites. If one of us wants a new game, that person can ask for it as a birthday gift, or that person can save up their own money for it. And, batteries aren’t an issue for us because we use rechargeable batteries for a number of our electronic items.

  9. LeeAnn

    Even free things can involve substantial tangential purchases. Ever brought home a free kitten?

  10. Friday Night Links (10/9/2009)… : The Digitante

    […] Not as Cheap as You Think (http://thedig.in/2p) – I remember it well. It started off as a box of cigars. But then if I’m going to have these cigars, I probably should have a humidor to properly store them. And what if I want to take them with me? Better buy a case. Now I need a punch to properly smoke them. My last lighter got tossed when I accidentally had it in my pocket when heading to the airport, so I should pick up a Zippo. It really never ends, folks. Talk about tangential. […]

  11. Ed

    The big deal is the car. People forget when they buy a car that there’s SALES TAX. Oops, that wasn’t part of the budget when I spent to much on that cool car. Then there’s the increased PROPERTY TAX annually because there’s an additional car or a newer, nicer car in the garage. Oh, and let’s not forget my favorite: the increased AUTO INSURANCE that comes with a nicer, newer car. Of course, newer cars don’t have as many things go wrong with them, so there’s the savings of fewer repairs (or repairs covered by warranty). In my YNAB, I have Auto subcategories for New Car Purchases and Car Repairs, and the Car Repairs ($300/month) keeps getting depleted with expensive maintenance (90,000 mile, etc) and silly breakdowns ($350 for an oxygen sensor? Huh?), so who knows how much cheaper it is keeping my 9 and 10 year old cars for much longer. But then I think of the tax and insurance increases and I remember the answer again.

  12. Sandra D.

    I hear ya on this one! It’s a vicious snowball, especially with electronics! I do have one purchase that created some tangential purchases, but is now paying me back: backyard chickens! Getting friends to donate old wood, and keeping it simple has made my expenses low and once egg production is up to full I may even come out ahead!

    As far as that TV issue, while we have always had ONE, we have never had cable. We have Internet instead. Like all things, one must consider the time sucked out of your life as a tangential purchase, after all, your time has VALUE!

  13. Jessica

    So glad to hear we are not the only family who does not own a TV… we hear dumb reasons all the time on why I NEED one!! I just smile and so no thank you. I am a stay at home mom of 3 kids who are in school and I don’t see how people find ANY TIME to watch TV!!! Thanks!!

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