Monday, December 19, 2011

Gadget Lust - Cool New Toys!

There are lots of cool new tech gadgets and toys out there.  In fact, it seems like there are new things coming out all of the time.  There are smartphones (iPhones, Android phones, Windows phones, Palm phones, etc.), personal media players (iPods, Zunes, etc.), digital media players (Roku, Apple TV, blue ray players, HD TVs, etc.).  It seems that no matter what you're interested in there are gadgets coming out for those interests.  Even books are being replaced by eReaders like the Kindle or Nook.  The problem is that all of these things are expensive and they may end up being more cool than useful.  For those of us striving to prosper financially (on a budget), getting them all may be out of the question.  Heck, getting one or two can still be a stretch.  So what do you do?

I've found, with myself, that I suffer from what I call gadget lust.  When a new gadget comes out, instead of evaluating it to see if it fits into my life, I seem to try to find/create a gap in my life that the gadget would fill.  Smartphones are a perfect example.  When the iPhone first came out, I wanted one.  Same with Palm phones, Android phones, and most recently, the new Windows phones.  Now, smartphones aren't cheap.  So how do you justify spending a couple hundred up front and an extra $40 or more per month?  That was my problem.  I couldn't.  But I really, really wanted to.  My conversations (with myself) would go something like this:

Me: "I could use it for work stuff - you know, checking email, getting alerts, etc."
Myself:  "Do you want to check your work emails at home?"
Me (dejectedly): "No."
Myself: "Doesn't your current dumb-phone (as opposed to smartphone) already get alerts?"

Me (dejectedly): "Yes."
Myselft: "Do you need to be doing more work from home?"
Me: "No!"
Myself: "Then why do you need a smartphone?"
Me: "Because they're so cool!!!!"

I would have many conversations with myself on many facets of the smartphones.  They have cool features like GPS, Netflix, games, email access, etc.  Almost every time, once I got past the coolness factor (which is really hard to get past sometimes), it all came down to: "Would you actually use it?", "No."  I will admit that there are some things I would like from a smartphone.  For example, having my contacts, and calendar available on my phone (I use gmail and google calendar).  But in those cases, it came down to "Is it worth the cost?" and the answer is always no.

That doesn't mean things will always be that way.  Situations may change that justify getting a smartphone, or a tablet, or a ChromeBook, or a Nook, or something else.  On the other hand, I did get a personal media player (I got a Zune HD).  It's great for listening to music on the way to work (I actually canceled my Sirius subscription which will more than pay for the Zune in a couple of years).  It's also fun for some games, and I've got a couple of eBooks on it, and family pictures, and home movies, etc.  It's quite the useful little gadget and it fun to share it with the kids sometimes, but it's primary purpose is music which is saving me the cost of a Sirius subscription (about $15 per month).  That makes it worthwhile.

So my point isn't that all new gadgets are bad.  They're not.  Just make sure they're more than simply cool, but useful before you start making some of those rather large financial commitments.  Remember, it's not the person with the most toys who's the happiest, it's the person making the best use of their time (both work and leisure).  If a gadget helps you with your goals in life, go for it.  If it doesn't, even if it's super cool, you're going to be better off without it (wow, that was kind of hard to say).

So remember, keep the important things in focus and don't worry about the rest.  They're probably just passing fads.

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