Gifts That Keep On Taking

Most frugal people try and avoid lifestyle inflation for as long as possible.  They bank their raises, live on a single income, and try and save money wherever they can.  Keeping up with the Joneses doesn’t even enter their vocabulary.

But what happens when they receive a gift that forces them to upgrade their lifestyle, whether it’s through recurring monthly charges, purchasing accessories, or taking up a new habit?  Let’s look at a few examples:

7 Gifts That Keep On Taking

  1. HD Receiver – Congratulations and welcome to the wonderful world of high-definition television.  Oh by the way, to access any of these new HD channels you’re going to need to cough up at least an extra $10 per month on your cable bill.  You’re welcome.
  2. Blu-Ray Player – Technology is great isn’t it?  You just finished replacing your massive VHS movie collection with the latest DVD’s, and now here comes the Blu-Ray.  And at $34.99 per movie those frugal date nights at home aren’t looking so cheap after all.
  3. Home Brewing System – Really?  That’s what a coffee pot is called now?  There’s the Tassimo or the Keurig system, which brew delicious single cups of your favorite hot beverage.  At $12.99 for 18 cups, I hope you enjoy your new latte factor.
  4. iPad – Apple comes out with the products that you didn’t know you could live without until you see them.  If you’re lucky enough to receive this neat little time waster for a gift, make sure to say thanks for the extra $15 – $35 per month data plan that comes with it.
  5. E-Reader – Ok I get it, newspapers get your fingers dirty, staring at your computer screen hurts your eyes, and it’s tough to lug around 10 hard cover books with you on your beach vacation.  So someone buys you a Kindle.  Great, now get started on that e-book collection at $10 a pop.
  6. Satellite Radio – Your local morning radio isn’t as funny as it used to be.  And who wants to listen to all of those ads anyways?  Satellite radio lets you pick the stations you like and listen to commercial free radio all the time.  Win-win right?  But at $7 – $20 per month you might be better off giving the gift of music through a thoughtful mix tape.
  7. $20 Gift Card to Chez La-De-Da Bistro – Your heart was in the right place, my wife and I needed a nice evening out at a fancy restaurant.  But come on, $20 won’t even pay for the tip let alone the escargot, steak & lobster, and bottle of wine.  By the way, I hope you’re babysitting too because your $20 won’t even cover that for us.

Before you decide to get one of these fine gifts for someone you care about, think of the extra costs that the recipient will have to incur because of your generosity.

If your adult children are struggling to make ends meet, springing for a Blu-Ray player isn’t going to help them.

And if your friends are staying home and eating Kraft Dinner every night, maybe they can’t afford to be going out to a fancy restaurant.

These gadgets are fun and all, but for the most part they are luxury items that should stay on your wish list.

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  1. Sustainable PF on January 10, 2011 at 6:46 am

    While not a gadget, gifting a pet unexpectedly upon someone is a major drain on the budget as well.

  2. Beth on January 10, 2011 at 7:41 am

    There’s no law saying you need a data plan for an iPad. (Most people I know don’t have one).

    Also, e-readers aren’t as costly as you portray them to be. I bought a Kobo (using saved up gift certificates) and I’ve been enjoying plenty of free content via out of print books (I love the classics) and my library’s growing digital collection. Besides, a lot of books are in the $6-$10 range, which is only a little more than you’d pay used these days.

    • Elizabeth on December 2, 2012 at 4:26 pm

      I was just going to say the same thing 🙂 My friend’s husband got her a Kobo and now she always asked for gift certificates each year. She buys a lot of books with discount coupons, gets books from the library and reads a lot of classics (free!) She loves it, and we’re never without gift ideas for her.

      Most people I know who have iPads have skipped the data plans, but the apps can add up if you’re not careful.

  3. Big Cajun Man on January 10, 2011 at 9:10 am

    Bring your kids with you, then order a small Caesar Salad, with a glass of water, and then your Chez La-De-Da works just fine!!!

    Shame on you for bad mouthing Chez La-De-Da, a fine establishment, with it’s snooty waiters and slow service…

  4. Steve Zussino on January 10, 2011 at 11:29 am

    Great list.

    Nice intentions for the gift giver but most people don’t see the recurring costs.

    Beth, brings up some good points.

    I still don’t get the hype for the Tassimo or those Keurig machines.

    • Rosemary Wells on January 3, 2013 at 8:26 pm

      I love my Keurig! Each cup of coffee is fresh. A whole pot gets increasingly strong and a thermos can’t retain the heat. I drink full strength black coffee, my husband drinks decaf. Instead of two pots of coffee we use two individual Keurig cups. A perfect cup for each of us every time

  5. Echo on January 10, 2011 at 11:49 am

    Great point, a pet could very much be considered a burdensome gift to the unexpected (Mom, sorry for giving you that cat when I was in University)

    You make some great points and I was just having a bit of fun with these items.

    @Big Cajun Man
    That’s hilarious! I shouldn’t say anything bad about Chez La-De-Da, I do enjoy the finer things from time-to-time 🙂

    Thanks! The coffee is actually pretty good, and there is plenty of variety to choose from. But it’s the monopoly of their K-Cups and T-Discs that end up costing you a small fortune.

  6. Echo on January 10, 2011 at 11:53 am

    Disclaimer: I may have received one or more of these gifts in my life, and in no way does this article reflect the way I personally feel about you or your generosity.

    I love watching football in HD while sipping on a latte and thumbing through my e-reader books 🙂

  7. Money Smarts Blog on January 10, 2011 at 7:44 pm

    Good list. I really don’t get the iPad – we get ALL our books from the library.

    • Leslie on January 14, 2011 at 10:40 am

      Libraries rock. Many now allow for the download of e-books. I downloaded a free e-book reader called ybook to my netbook and love it. While it doesn’t handle proprietary formats (i.e., Kindle) , it is supports pdb html text ePub and rtf and has many of the features available in the Readers.

      • Jonathan Levine on February 12, 2016 at 8:12 pm

        I’m replying to an old posting here, so maybe you already know about this.

        The best ereader application I’ve found is called “calibre”. It’s free (opensource) and it’s amazing. It includes a standalone reader, but it’s really a complete management system for ebooks – it reads all formats, moves books onto your physical ereader (e.g. kindle, kobo, etc.), allowing you to break free of the proprietary interfaces that force you to buy books from their respective stores, and converts between formats. Also, with the appropriate plugins it’ll “deal with” the annoying DRM that messes with your style. Great piece of work. Don’t read ebooks without it.

  8. Financial Uproar on January 11, 2011 at 11:35 am

    I hate satellite radio. My ipod has 1400 songs and I add to it constantly. I just listen to free streaming services online to expose myself to new music, then download it later. If you download music without paying for it (not that I ever would, wink wink) music can cost practically nothing.

    As for a HD receiver, that’s one of the reasons why I really don’t want my 10 year old tube TV to die. I know upgrading the TV would result in having to upgrade the receiver as well, plus paying for the HD channels.

  9. Marianne O on January 14, 2011 at 8:16 am

    Great list. The biggest drain that we were given was a cell phone with 1-year contract. It was a gift for Christmas when I was pregnant and due in late March. The grandparents-to-be thought it would be nice for my husband to have a cell phone in case I needed to call him when I started labour. We wanted to cancel but it ended up to be cheaper to pay for a full year of service than to pay the penalty to cancel. Grrr. Thank heaven no-one has tried to give us a pet.

    I agree though that iPads don’t have to be expensive. I won one from (thanks again, Preet!) and we never bought a data plan. We just loaded it up with a lot of free apps and it’s great. At the moment it’s helping to save us money by motivating our youngest child to potty train (as he gets to play free games on it each time he succeeds). So an iPad can actually help to save money!

    • Echo on January 14, 2011 at 8:31 am

      Thanks Marianne, oh those well-intending grandparents 🙂

      So I guess it’s true that an iPad doesn’t have to be an ongoing drain on your finances. I do still wonder what the point of it is…seems like an expensive platform to play silly games on.

      • Elizabeth on December 2, 2012 at 4:32 pm

        Quite a few people of my parents’ generation use an iPad instead of a computer. They don’t just play games — they use it for email, surfing the internet, apps (for health, fitness, recipes, etc.), streaming videos, showing off pictures of the grandkids, taking pictures and videos, video chats via Facetime…

        I could go on. I use my laptop for most of those things instead. Whatever works for people 🙂

  10. Susan on January 14, 2011 at 8:52 am

    Along the line of pets my brother gave us a fishtank after I complained about the amount of work to clean our betta’s little tank. Well now we had to buy/build a stand get a light (he didn’t have one) etc etc etc.

    But regarding the tassimo I did buy one but I work from home and can’t make a cup of coffee to save my life! So this let’s me offer clients a coffee while they wait for their taxes. Plus it is a cheaper way for me to get my chai latte fix with the foamy effect.


    • Echo on January 14, 2011 at 10:00 am

      Hi Susan, in this case the Tassimo sounds perfect for you (lucky clients!)

  11. Jacob @ My Personal Finance Journey on January 16, 2011 at 8:20 pm

    Awesome post on a very relevant topic here! It is amazing how much the little monthly charges add up these days – cell phone data plan, cable tv, etc…one has to really ask themselves if these gadgets REALLY do add value to their life to warrant the continued expense.

    • Echo on January 16, 2011 at 8:29 pm

      Thanks Jacob, I just try to hang on to using the old technology or way of doing things as long as possible…the prices come down eventually. Some of those items truly don’t add ANY value in my opinion so I will stay away.

      Thanks again, I’m going to check out your blog.

      • Jacob @ My Personal Finance Journey on January 17, 2011 at 9:27 am

        No worries! Thanks for submitting this post to the carnival this week!

        Speaking of how gadgets go down in price – I am pretty amazed at how cheap flat screen Tv’s have become! They are almost affordable…key word almost..haha

  12. Witty Artist on August 1, 2011 at 2:06 am

    Nice post, Echo! These are gifts that we’d better think twice about, before purchasing. If we can afford buying them, doesn’t mean the other can also afford to keep and use them. So, we should try and put ourselves in the others’ shoes and then buy what would fit them, not us. 🙂

  13. Elizabeth on December 2, 2012 at 4:36 pm

    This post made me chuckle. People have been bugging me to get a Blu-ray and I can’t imagine why. I don’t plan on buying Blu-rays, my old DVD player works just find, and you can’t rent them anywhere (at least where I live!) I’m content watching Netflix and the occasional digital rental.

    If I was going to get someone a $20 gift card to a food place, it would be Tim Hortons. That amount of money doesn’t buy much in a restaurant, but it would buy lots of coffee and treats 🙂

  14. Rosemary Wells on January 3, 2013 at 8:35 pm

    I have a big beef with the cost of cable tv/home phone/Internet packages. I notice your combined amount is just under $200 a month. That’s $2,400 a year! Mine is higher than that. My husband watches one channel and has to purchase the package with that one channel. Seems like a waste and makes that one channel very expensive. Any recommendations on these types of charges? Tips on how to reduce costs?

  15. Jonathan Levine on February 12, 2016 at 8:28 pm

    E-readers absolutely do not belong on this list. First of all, they’re plentiful enough now that I’m finding them (Kobo, Kindle, and Sony) for around $25 in the thrift shops. I also picked up another little piece of crap reader that has a regular LCD display rather than epaper; got it for a buck. Strangely, one of my girls prefers the piece of crap.

    I’m in love with paper and have countless thousands of books. I can’t really get many more books now because there’s no room left in the house for more shelves. Another reason is that I can’t afford all the books I want – I hear about something new, that I really want to read, almost every day. The balance I’ve struck is that around here, in the spring, there are a couple of major used books sales every spring that benefit charities, so that’s where I get most of my hard copies for a couple of bucks per title. Throughout the year, though, I unapologetically download pirated ebooks, because copyright violation is still your best entertainment value.

    So where it’s intuitive for serious bookies to assume that the ereader is used for less-substantial reading a la the “Fifty Shades…” crowd, my experience is just the opposite. If I hear about a serious book I really want to get into, I can almost always download a copy immediately for nothing, read the e-copy, then buy a hard copy later when I find it at an acceptable price.

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