Monday, January 07, 2008

The Gift That Keeps on Taking

Have you ever been given a gift that cost you money? My favorite example of this is an iPod.
I was given my first iPod several years ago. It was just at the point where I'd started to think having one might be sort of cool, but I wasn't planning to spend money on one. This sort of surprised some people, given that I could be quite obsessed with gadgets like Palm Pilots & things, but I guess I just hadn't caught the digital music bug badly enough yet to want to spend a few hundred dollars.
Anyway, when I received the iPod, I was excited. Sometimes my favorite kind of gift is something that I really need and want and have asked for so I don't have to spend my own money on it. But sometimes, an even better gift is the thing that you kind of admire but have written off as being too expensive or there is some other reason you are never going to buy it for yourself, so it's a delightful surprise when someone makes that decision for you!
However, with my first iPod, I soon discovered that the gift came with strings attached. First of all, I had to buy a separate connector cable that would work with my work computer. Then, once I'd connected the iPod at home, it turned out that the operating system on my Mac was too early a version and I'd have to upgrade. Once I finally got everything to work, I started downloading lots of songs from iTunes. Then I decided I would need a protective case for the iPod. Then I wanted a cable to connect it to my stereo. Then I bought a radio transmitter thing so I could listen to it in a car. Then I realized that the hard drive on my iBook was full due to all the music I'd loaded up, and that I'd need a new computer if I ever wanted to fully take advantage of the iPod's capacity.
All that probably happened in the first couple of months I owned the iPod. I enjoyed using it, but I don't tend to listen to music on the subway everyday or at the gym, so I used my iPod mainly on long plane or car trips and plugged in to the speakers at home. As all the new iPods came out, I'd sometimes covet one, but never enough to trade up, even though the old iPod's battery life got worse and worse. For the way I used the iPod, I just didn't care about spending any more money on one.
But lo and behold, I was given a new one this year. The minute I opened it, my first thought was, that's nice but there are lots of other things I could have used more, but by thought number two, I'd transitioned into full-blown "ooh, isn't the color screen pretty" techno-lust, and immediately thought about whether I'd want to spend money downloading movies and TV shows. So far, I have not spent a penny on this new iPod. I did download some more songs from iTunes, but that was with a gift card someone else gave me. I do need a new case, but for now, I can sort of use it in the case that I bought for my old iPod. But unfortunately, what I really do need even more now is a new computer, since my old Mac is now totally incompatible and I don't know if it can even handle being upgraded to the latest OS.
So my first free iPod cost me a couple hundred dollars, and my second free iPod may cost me well over $1,000! Not that I'm really going to complain if people keep wanting to give me iPods...

11 comments:

Ms. MiniDucky said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ms. MiniDucky said...

Oh yes, indeedy, I've received a gift that's going to take a large bite out of my pocket every month for the next two years. Sweet technology, but ... *sigh* Apple seems to be the primary culprit in our stories, here.

RacerX said...

Its funny here as well. I never wanted one until I had one, now I want the new one :)

I so have Stuffitis with gadgets...hard...to...resist!

Mrs. Micah said...

I'll have to remember that whenever I find myself wanting a free iPod. Not that I still don't want it...but still.

Anonymous said...

Madame X ... I've finally figure out how you'll overcome your struggle with frugality ... have kids! An iPod is only the first of necessary indulgences. :-)

Mase said...

Madame X:

1) You should invest in an external harddrive (I use a Belkin one). It will hold ALL of your iTunes library, but will backup your other files as well. Very inexpensive.

2) Personally, I still buy most of my music on CD. It is DRM-free and automatically is a backup for my purchased music. Most of what I buy is at second stores (both street and online like www.half.com )

3) You can use old versions of iTunes et al. and old iPods. I have a relatively old iPod that I keep at work in small desktop speaker system for at-work tunes. When I bring it home to update/remove songs, the download time can take a while, it still works. The external drive can help with additional slots for the cables (often ones that newer Macs may not have). The update time may take a while with a slower connection (e.g., 2.0 vs. 1.1), but it should work.

4) A new OS should not be necessary as long as you are using at least some version of OS X (as opposed to the now ancient OS 9).

All of these questions the folks at the Apple stores can answer for you. Remember, they do not work on commission.

- Mase (who does not work for Apple, but do own its stock).

pkzcass said...

I too got an iPod nano for Christmas from my husband, after he bought himself an iPod shuffle. I didn't ask for one, and it was the last thing in the world that I expected to get. But I have to admit I am enjoying it. When I sat to download some long-lost but beloved songs, I limited myself to 10. I won't download more than 10 per month, and when I'm finished getting the ones I really want, I probably won't even get that many. I'm mostly copying music from my CDs. BUT, I can totally see how someone could download hundreds of dollars of songs in one sitting. It was so easy to spend just that $10; it was really hard to stop myself from getting more.

I am really enjoying your blog. It's refreshing to see someone so concerned with their financial stability that they are willing to make sacrifices to maintain it.

"Future Millionaire" said...

I too received an ipod a few years ago for Christmas and my first thoughts were "oh gee great -- but I really would have rather had new tires". In fact it took me about 6 months before I started using it and I have to say its one of my favorite gifts I never new I wanted despite it costing me with upgrades and accessories several times the purchase price.

Asset Gatherer said...

That's how I feel about the Kindle. Probably even more unnecessary, but it's like I need this gadget to read a book.

Asset Gatherer said...

Oops! I meant to say that it's *not* like I need this gadget to read a book. Must proofread....

Chicago Rob said...

How about a $25 gift card for a salon where the low end services are at least $100? My friend didnt think this one out...