Saturday, June 19, 2010

The True Cost of Material Goods

I have been so focused on paying off debt over the past few months that I haven't really bought anything but necessities such as food and gas. Fast forward to yesterday when I got a new iTouch. A client usually gives me a nice bonus each year of my choosing. Past items have included laptops, netbooks, and other cool stuff (thank you client!). So this year the boss lady is all happy about getting an iPhone and suggested I would like one too. In fact, she said this would be my bonus for this year if I wanted one. After some deliberation, I asked for an iTouch instead due to the fact that I didn't want to be stuck paying the monthly phone service fee. An iTouch is a "buy it one time and you don't have monthly fees" item so I was really happy with my decision. Today, while I am super pleased with my new toy (I was surfing the web at Barnes and Noble this afternoon at lightening speed!), I also realized that most material goods, even free ones, aren't really free. Here's why:
  • After I got my iTouch, I bought one for hubby. I figured we could both use these, especially when we travel, and like most of our stuff, we each use the same items at the same time so we tend to have duplicates of everything (laptops, netbooks, cameras, etc). This also happens in families where you buy one kid an item and then you end up buying the same item for all of the kids. This can get expensive.
  • There's so much packaging. Since we haven't bought much lately, I have noticed that we have lots less garbage. We even dropped down to garbage service every other week instead of weekly. Buying stuff means you have to throw out a lot of packaging, wrapping, etc.
  • There are related items that you often end up buying to support/care for/add to said item. In this case, I needed to get us cases for the iTouches and new headphones for me (I hate things stuffed in my ears). The costs are starting to add up...
  • Then there are the additional "subscription-type" things that go with many of today's electronics. In this case, it is the iTunes app store. Even though I have only loaded free apps, you can't even sign into the app store without giving them your credit card number or buying an iTunes gift card. I bought us each a $15 gift card because that was the lowest domination they had so that is another big expense.
  • Then there is upkeep. While I declined the extended warranty, I am guessing that others pay this fee.
  • Then there is the need to protect your new item. I certainly don't want to drop this fragile-looking $300 toy. There is also the risk of having it stolen too.
  • Finally, each new item you get can take up something just as important as your money and that is your time. So far I have spent hours programming, syncing, and checking out apps for the iTouch. Then I needed to teach hubby how everything works since he is less than technologically savvy. So I guess time also needs to be a consideration when adding new material good to my life.

I can totally understand why people "go minimalist." It is a lot less work, a lot less expense, and a lot less stuff to worry about. Even though I am a huge fan of technology and before I used to shop like I was practicing for an Olympic event, these days I am pretty content to have less. Less stuff to pay for, less stuff to clean/program/upgrade/maintain, and less stuff that takes up my time.


  1. So glad you included the environmental/sustainability issues to your listing! In fact, I was so keen on this post that I posted an entry about it on my blog: (Hope I'm not violating any blog etiquette by doing this.)

  2. Thanks for sharing the post with your readers!