Monday, April 20, 2009

Be Behind The Times

Saving Money Tip #121 - Be Behind The Times. One sure way to keep your expenses down is to not jump on the latest and greatest thing – the latest electronics, the latest books, the latest movies, the latest decorating scheme, etc. When things first come out, they are generally the most expensive. The marketing folks try to make us think that we cannot live without this latest item. Everyone around the proverbial water cooler is discussing it, and frankly, you can feel left out if you don’t have one. But don’t jump on that bandwagon; it will only lead you to spending more money than necessary. Instead, wait until the item has been out for a while. Competitors often jump on scene with similar items bringing the cost down and kinks are often worked out after the item has been out for a little bit. By waiting sometimes as little as a few months, you can save yourself lots of dough. Let’s discuss some examples.

Electronics are one area where there is constant updating of technology or features. Take for example DVD players. When they first came out they were a couple hundred dollars. Those who were anxious to jump on this latest technology paid a lot of money for their players and their DVDs. Meanwhile, many people happily stayed with their VCRs, holding on to their money, while still enjoying watching movies. Now that we are several years into the DVD player technology, a person can pick one up for much less money - the cost of the players is well under $100 and DVDs have come down in price to nearly half of what they were when they first came out. And of course some people looking for the next in movie technology have already moved on to the next great thing. By waiting just a few years you can enjoy what others were enjoying, but for a fraction of the cost.

Let’s talk about movies and books. When movies first come out, they are in first-run theaters with regular prices. The first day or first week of the movie, the theaters often won’t accept discount coupons. Is it really necessary to see a movie the first day or two it comes out? Wait a week and use a discount ticket. Wait a couple of months and see it at the discount movie theater. Wait a few months and rent it for a couple of dollars for several of you to see it. You still get to experience the same movie – just at a later date. Books are the same way. When they first come out, you are forced to buy the hardback edition from a retail bookstore. Wait a few months and you can get the paperback. Wait a year and you can buy it used for a fraction of the initial cost. (Of course, getting it from the library is always an option, too).

Lastly, let’s discuss decorating - things like stainless steel appliances, front-load washing machine, wood vanities, and granite countertops. As soon as we see these things on decorating shows, it is appealing to want to run out and buy them. But remember, the first company to come out with a technology like a front-load washing machine often have a monopoly until a competitor comes out with a similar model. After a year or two, you start to hear about problems that people had with the first models. The company perfects the item and more companies come out with similar models. All of these things bring the cost down and improve the product. Wait a few years for that technology and you will get a better deal and a better product. Even items that don’t have technology involved with it, like stainless steel decorating, come down in price as competitors offer a similar style.

These are just a few examples of things that go down in price after a few years. We can apply this thinking to cars (e.g. hybrid cars), cleaning and storage products (e.g. vacuum bags, Swiffer mops, Magic Eraser), sneakers (e.g. having the latest cushy features), food (e.g. in special containers, with improved ingredients). My thinking is that we survived just fine up until this point without these products. I can wait a little longer to try them out when they don’t cost as much.

In Real Life (IRL) – I usually take a lot of thought with my purchases, so it is not my personality to be the first person to try out a product. This trait has served me well financially. I guess I go by the motto, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Our 27-inch t.v., which a mere 15 years ago seemed pretty hip is definitely outdated. But, it works for me and I see no reason to run out to buy one that is bigger, clearer or flatter. When this one breaks, I probably will do so. And by that time, not only will the costs have improved dramatically on it, the technology will have too.

I am still using the same white refrigerator that came with the house when we bought it 8 years ago. And while we replaced our dryer when our old one broke, we stuck with a simple model. Meanwhile, some moms in my Moms’ Club have been discussing many problems they have had with their new high-efficiency front loader machines. I am glad I did not pay to be a guinea pig for that product.

While I do admit to running out and paying full-price for a brand-new movie last summer that I really wanted to see, I generally wait until it comes on DVD or I go to the theater after it has been out for some time – often using a discount coupon after the movie has been out for just a week or going to a discount theater after a couple of months. Waiting helps not only the pocketbook, but also acts as a screener by allowing me to hear reviews of the movie from others if it is even worth seeing. I almost always put a book on reserve at the library. The newest releases sometimes take a couple of months to make it to me, which is fine with me. And if it’s a book I want to add to my personal library, I wait until I find a good used copy of it to buy.

These are just some examples of things I do. By waiting to buy things I save money and usually get an improved product. To me it is worth it. I don’t have to be the first one to try something. It doesn’t make me feel more important. Personally, I’d rather be smart and save the money.

1 comment:

David Stillwagon said...

I think it is just good old common sense that tells you not to buy the latest gadget or toy.
I like your blog!