Curse of The Money Saving Gadget

Get Rich Slowly has a post talking about “money-saving gadgets,” the expensive cappuccino machine you buy to keep yourself from going to Starbucks, the neat-o voice recorder you think you’ll use constantly and the video camera that sits on the shelf after you’ve grown bored with it:

The lesson here is simple: know thyself. Before you spend money on a gadget — especially one you believe will save you money — stop to ask yourself if it’s something that you will actually use. Be honest. For some, an espresso machine or an ice cream maker or a voice recorder might be an everyday tool. For others, they’re expensive doorstops.

We used to do a variation of this all the time, by buying DVDs that we found ourselves never watching. Because seriously, how often are you in the mood to watch Breaking the Waves? —MEGHANN MARCO

The Curse Of The Money Saving Gadget [Get Rich Slowly]


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  1. Sudonum says:

    I bought a decent Briel espresso machine to break me of the Starbucks habit. One of the best investments I ever made. I use it every morning, sometimes twice.

  2. J.D. Roth says:

    We used to do a variation of this all the time, by buying DVDs that we found ourselves never watching.

    Oh lordy. Don’t get me started on that one. Or books. Especially books. My book habit used to be out of control. I bought any book that sounded interesting. But how many did I actually read? Very few. At its peak, my library numbered nearly five thousand volumes, of which I had read maybe ten percent. Now that is a waste of money…

  3. shoegazer says:

    I have a simple rule: only buy gadgets that let you DO more, not SAVE more. This is why I am skeptical of most kitchen gadgets (even though I love to cook) that don’t actually make my kitchen time more productive. A chrome garlic peeler/crusher is nice in principle but nothing I can’t do (and faster) with a sturdy spatula and my bony fingers.

    As I don’t view DVDs and books as gadgets, I’m much more relaxed about the odd impulse buy. besides, anything I can’t enjoy I just pass on anyway. In fact, I’m in the market for a good new book as I am bored out of my skull with my own library.

  4. Musician78 says:

    I constantly find myself buying stuff that I think I will use, and end up using it once or twice. Oh well. You only live once, have fun with it, even if it means buying something that you think you might need.

  5. kerry says:

    The boyfriend spent years wanting a manual espresso machine (they usually run in the $700-$1000 range) and then got a broken one for free from his boss. The repairs were simple and inexpensive, and now he uses it daily. Not long ago he realized that if it ever broke irreparably he’d have to stop being cheap and pay up for a new one, and wishes he’d done just that years ago.
    I’m a sucker for kitchen gadgets, but luckily have people in my life to remind me that there’s no reason to buy a hundred specialized tools when you can do the same stuff with a bit of elbow grease and a few non-specialized tools.

  6. acambras says:

    There’s some commercial out there for an espresso/cappuccino maker. I can’t remember the name of the product, but there’s a guy with an Italian accent extolling the virtues of the machine and how much money you can save enjoying delicious coffee beverages at home. It looks like the catch is that the machine takes these self-contained little “pods” of coffee, so once you lay out the bucks for the machine, you have to buy all the coffee and supplies from the same company.

    As for books and DVDs — I think too many people forget the public library. Lots of stuff there, and free! I have my local library’s website bookmarked so that I can see if they have what I’m looking for before I go. And another plus: next time it’s time to move, you don’t have as many books at home.

  7. andyj76 says:

    We have a coffee machine that uses the pods and it is fantastic. Use it every morning and evening.

    When I first read the article I read “burning DVDs” but of course, that wouldn’t come with the same problems as buying, would it? :-)

  8. DTGumby says:

    But if you didn’t own Breaking the Waves, it wouldn’t be available on the rare occasion that you’re in the mood for depressing foreign cinema. That’s my logic behind an over-sized DVD library.

  9. LeopardSeal says:

    @ J.D. Roth

    I too am a bookaholic. However, I have learned to love the discount shelves at my local Chapters/Indigo. There is nothing better than picking up a bunch of hardcover books at $5-$8 (CDN) each.

  10. Disgruntled CC Employee says:

    I don’t have a modern espresso machine. I did note in Wally World, however, that they carry pod makers for those things now. I also saw a pod maker online somewhere. Since I don’t use the product, I have no real clues as to if it really saves you any money.

  11. hop says:

    dont forget the salvation army and goodwill for books….also the public librarys around here always have a couple of racks of book for sale real cheap….i am also a bookaholic and am loaded with the things……..

  12. zuvembi says:

    @ onrampofframp

    I do have a bit of a book problem. Thankfully the Seattle public library has a good selection and good online holds. There are also branches conveniently close to my house. If you have small children, the library is a fantastic way to have plenty of good reading material without any expense.

    Unless it’s a reference book or my favorite few authors in the world, I try not to buy too many books anymore.

    Their DVD selection has also started to be pretty good. Not as good as a large video store, but it’s free and (again) has online holds.

  13. HawkWolf says:

    I own an ice cream machine and it saves neither money nor time. it does give me the sense of accomplishment of making some of the best ice cream I’ve ever eaten, however. That’s worth the price.

  14. DieBrucke says:

    Breaking the Waves is a wonderful movie right up until the use the CGI at the en with the stupid Bell in the Sky. Horrible 10 seconds. Honestly though, how can you hate on anything from the Dogme 95 director, von Trier (although this film did break several rules set forth in the referenced manifesto)?

  15. Trai_Dep says:

    Another positive mention for public libraries.

    Visit yours online. Seems many (well, mine) have nifty features:
    * free access to paid databases (free access to NYT subscriber’s only articles, etc)
    * order a book online, have it delivered to your local branch (heavenly)
    * books on CD, DVDs, CDs
    * ask a librarian chat (good for research for school or work)

  16. viriiman says:

    Acambras (and others): You’re talking about the Senseo system. Recently, though, I’ve seen some third parties selling “empty” pods that you can fill with whatever you want.

  17. acambras says:

    No, this wasn’t Senseo — it was some sort of brand I’d never heard of. I think it had an Italianish name but it’s probably made in China. I got the feeling the pods were very proprietary and that once you bought this particular machine, you’d be stuck buying the special pods from them — probably at a very high price.

  18. tweaked says:

    Why not just buy a cheap espresso maker?

    The best espresso I’ve ever had is from my stovetop espresso maker. 50 bucks, tops.

    My local barista says the same thing about his.

  19. major disaster says:
  20. AcilletaM says:

    I’ve seen the commercials for the espresso machine acambras is talking about. It’s not the Senseo or other coffee/tea pod machine. It actually uses little plastic cartridges. I don’t remember the name but I think it starts with a ‘B’.

    All these pod/cartridge companies are just working off the business model printer companies and Gevelia(sp?), even Microsoft figured out, that the money isn’t in the hardware, it’s in things the hardware needs like pods/cartridges/software/etc.

    And as far as kitchen gadgets goes, use the Alton Brown philosophy for determining if you need it. His philosophy is if it can only do one thing, you don’t need it. No unitaskers!

  21. kenposan says:

    My name’s Steve (hi Steve) and buy DVDs (gasp).

    I used to have the whole book thing going but with three little ones running around I barely have time to read Consumerist (bigger gasp).

    But I am one of those people that HAS to have certain movies on DVD, knowing full well I won’t watch them that often.

    My kid’s dvds on the other hand have paid for themselves ten times over. LOL

  22. rongenre says:

    Good espresso machines cost upwards of $300 — they need a high-quality boiler and pump and good seals to work reliably, over and over. That being said, if you’re in a household with a coffee habit, it’s money well-spent. It is, only, 100 cappuccinos which can be about 2-3 months worth.

    Get a good burr grinder too, then you can buy your coffee whole-bean and it tastes much better when you use fresh grounds. It has to be a burr grinder though, a blade grinder won’t be remotely good enough.

    On the cheap, get an Aeropress. They’re $30 and make better coffee than a cheap espresso machine [easily], and even a good one. And they’re easier to keep clean.

  23. kerry says:

    I second the burr grinder recommendation. We have two in the house, one electric and one manual (German engineering! Old-timey!) and they both grind great coffee. The manual is better for really coarse and really fine (french press vs espresso) while the electric one (Krups, to be exact) is great for automatic drip. Coffee always tastes better freshly ground, and the beans keep longer when they’re whole. Now we only need to buy beans every two weeks or so, instead of every week.