How I’ve Survived Without the Help of Wii, Ipod or TomTom

Warning: This article may appear to be a complete rant against consumerism. That is only partly true. I am not advocating a life of caveman-like existence, but I am advocating a life free from the addiction to technology’s latest over-priced, over-hyped gadgets that are oversold to a society drowning in debt. Take a deep breath, forget everything you’ve learned from Best Buy about required technology, and follow along on my journey to live without a single dollar in my “electronics upgrade envelope.” Here’s a list of the “must have” tech gadgets that I don’t have, and unless I receive as gifts, probably never will have.

  1. The Nintendo Wii. I was way ahead of Nintendo on this one. I’ve been throwing remote controls around my living room for years during college football games. They make a mint off the idea and I’m stuck buying replacement universal remotes twice a season – go figure. My favorite excuse for buying a Wii is to help “kids get exercise.” I know things have changed, but when I was a kid exercise looked more like riding a bike and playing basketball with my friends, not standing in front of a game console.
  2. TomTom. I keep a neatly bound collection of maps of various roads I might travel safely stowed under the backseat floor mat. It’s called a road atlas, and it set me back $8.42 at Sam’s Club. No power, subscription, or satellite up-link required. Like I would ever look up directions anyway – don’t you know guys are born with the ability to use celestial navigation to triangulate the position of any convenience store in the country.
  3. The iPhone. A $600 cell phone doesn’t seem very frugal, does it? Ok, so it is more than a cell phone, but will it really replace your computer, your mp3 player and your digital camera? Probably not. Use the $600 to upgrade your home computer and you’ll be much more efficient than trying to work on a screen the size of a deck of playing cards. Besides, desktops aren’t as likely to shatter when they fall out of your pocket.
  4. Voice Activated Car Stereos. Let me get this straight – I yell out the name of a song or artist and my stereo system plays it for me automatically? I could see this being a problem in my world. “Honey, I wish you were here with me – it’s a beautiful day?” Suddenly the lyrics from U2 start buzzing through the speakers. I think I’ll stick with my old-fashioned radio. It pretty much ignores everything I say, and never follows any of my instructions. It’s almost like having the kids right there in the car with me.
  5. Ipods, Nanos, and their “shuffling” cousins. There are a ton of mp3 players on the market that do basically the same thing as the iPod. This is a case of people paying for a brand name. Sure, my $19.95 mp3 player from probably doesn’t have a digital LED readout, a shuffle feature, or a hot pink faceplate kit, but it serves up my couple dozen favorite songs reliably enough.
  6. Plasma televisions. Sometimes I think I must be the last guy alive who doesn’t own a plasma television, especially after Super Bowl weekend. Now, I am not completely immune to the normal technology desires of the average American male. I’ve stood in front of my share of plasma screens on display marveling at the video quality, and picturing that 60″ behemoth hanging on my living room wall. However, I just can’t bring myself to pay for something that is three times the value of my car. Besides, with our cable cut down to basic offerings there isn’t much left worth watching. “Everybody Loves Raymond” reruns look surprisingly good on our old 32″ television.
  7. Bluetooth. When these things first hit the market I had not been around them much. I flew out to Denver for a business trip, collected my luggage at the airport and headed for the rental car shuttle. I sat down on the bus with only a few other people and suddenly the woman next to me starts screaming at no one in particular. I really thought the woman was crazy, or on drugs (or both). The guy across the shuttle from us must have been amused by my reaction because he leaned over and said, “She’s on the phone.” For the remainder of our trip around the rental car lot I looked for that phone, but never found it. It wasn’t until she got off the bus that I noticed a glowing blue appendage on her ear. That was my introduction to a “bluetooth” and I swore I would never get one. The only thing more annoying are those 2-way cell phones that sounds like a walkie-talkie. Please, have some courtesy – put the phone up to your ear and have a semi-private conversation with the person on the other end.

Which cool technology gadget do you secretly covet, but refuse to purchase?


  1. “I am not advocating a life of caveman-like existence…” Hey now. Watch where you’re going with that. 🙂

    Of that list, I only have (and want) the Wii. We bought it long before we started turning our financial life around, but I would certainly buy it today if I didn’t already have it. I definitely don’t consider it a form of exercise; for me, video games are a form of minor meditation. I play for an hour or so here and there when I’m stressed but can’t get away and my wife and I love playing various games with each other.

    I’ve learned that it’s important that you keep some special things around, even in the frugal times. You never know when you’ll need a distraction by an old, familiar friend.

  2. I was a closet Wii “yearner” for a whole year and then I broke down and bought it. I got lucky and found one so I splurged and got one.

    I am in love with the iPhone though, it’s super cool. The interesting thing about it is talking to people that have one: a lot of them got it as a present and say they would never spend that much money on a phone. You think they’re telling the truth?

  3. Wow, you don’t have all this stuff? Guess what? I DON’T EITHER!!!

    No Wii, no GPS navigation thing, no iPhone (I do have a company provided Blackberry which I hate), no voice activated car stereo, no iPod, no flat screen (we have a 27″ regular), no Bluetooth. Of all these, I would like to get a Garmin Street Pilot the most, but my company allows me to rent vehicles along with a GPS. I get my fix on the company dime.

    I’ve considered a flat screen, but I just can’t bring myself to spend that much on a TV. I’m sorry. I don’t NEED to see every hair on Raymond’s head when he’s talking to his mother, Marie.

    What’s so funny about acquiring stuff, tech stuff in particular, is that it soon becomes mundane and boring so you wind up searching for another great tech gadget. Where does it end?

  4. Great post! Most of those things you listed, will be obsolete in 6 months, so why bother keeping up with the Techie Joneses?

    Take Care


  5. I admit that we have a Wii. We did get it off of Craigslist for half the price though and our family loves it. Bikes are better, but Indiana winters are loooooooong and horrible with busy children 🙂 Does my excuse win you over?

    Otherwise, I could live without the rest!

  6. As far as the plasma TV goes…if you don’t have digital feed (yet), the picture on one of those high-def tvs is awful. Why? The huge screen simply magnifies the “fuzziness” of non-digital output.

  7. Wow! I think you are my long lost twin brother or something. Did we share a brain? LOL

    All kidding aside, I hate all these new fangled inventions that make us lazy. My boyfriend’s daughter has wanted an iPod for the past two years for Christmas. This year, he finally looked at them. Now, my db doesn’t know anything about computers. He’s not very technologically savvy, by choice. Once he realized that all the iPod does is play music, essentially what we used to consider a walkman, he’s was dead set against it. To pay that much for that?!?! I had to laugh saying, “I told you so!”

    It baffles me that our children (adults too, I suppose) constantly have to be entertained. They can’t take a walk without an iPod in their ear. When do they think and solve problems or develop new ideas or create anything if they always have music blasting in their ear. It doesn’t make sense to me.

    I don’t even have cable. I have a tv and we watch movies occasionally, but I don’t have cable or satellite. It’s a waste of time and money. If I had those things, I probably wouldn’t accomplish much else. I’ve caught myself in the past. I had become a computer junkie for quite some time. Now, I’ve come to my senses. I could even go without that if I had to.

    We don’t do video games at our house either. So the Wii is definitely out.

    I was amazed at the responses to Single Ma’s blog when people were asked what the one thing they couldn’t give up even if they were poor would be. A lot of people responded the internet. I could so give up the internet before other things.

    I’m not a fan of the Bluetooth either. I like the idea of the hands free version of the phone, but I hate it when people go around talking in public. If I answer my phone, it’s usually short and sweet. No reason to have a long drawn out conversation in front of a bunch of strangers I don’t even know. I love it when you hear someone in the stall next to you in the bathroom saying, “Hello, hello?” What the heck? Do they say, “Oh, hang on a sec, I gotta flush.” Seriously, not only is the person on the other end of the conversation listening to the person they are calling pee, they’re listening to strangers pee. Ooo…gross!

  8. We don’t own any of the above (unless you count a refurbished Sansa that we got for my husband for $20 around Christmas). The one item I would love to purchase in a few years when my son gets older (he’s 2 now) is a navigation system.

    Why a navigation system? I went geocaching with a friend who has a GPS, and it was a blast. I think that in a couple years a simple navigation system shouldn’t cost too much, and we could plan some weekend family trips “looking for treasure”. I’d also like to do be able to take it hiking – I’m ok with a compass, but would appreciate the extra security of a GPS.

  9. I covet the iPhone. It is cool, but not really practical since it lacks features to integrate it with corporate email systems. Did I mention it is cool? I played with one at the Apple store and I can totally understand why people like them. The interface is incredible. I’ll stick to my CrackBerry and save the $600!

  10. The funny thing is, many of my colleagues think *I’m* the gadget hound.

    My excuse for getting the Wii? It was my stepson’s 13th birthday. He and his friends are enjoying it immensely.

    I pick gadgets carefully. That level of care has increased as I’ve aged, making smarter choices and buying fewer things. Now I know not to be seduced by “shiny and new” and by false economy. I buy the best I can afford to maximize its useful life. Like FD himself, I ask myself if I *truly* need it at some point during the decision process.

  11. When it comes to mp3 players, I prefer an inexpensive, player that also has an FM tuner. I purchased mine for ~$20. I live in Seattle, with lots of great (free) radio stations, like KEXP. I rarely pay for mp3s… and it’s completely legal. I listen to free podcasts, the free “song of the day” from, and live concerts downloaded from the Live Music Archive:

    That being said, I think I’ll purchase an iPhone when they’re using thhe 3G network.

  12. I also don’t own a single one of these, though my husband owns an iPod that he bought before we were married and uses at work (so it’s never in our home).
    The only thing on this list that tempts me is the flat-panel tv. The only reason that tempts me is because it would come with a digital tuner, so maybe we’d get more than one fuzzy channel on our tv! Thank goodness for season DVD’s of House!

  13. I just found your blog and subscribed I really like it. I have been thinking about starting one myself. it looks like you get alot of visitors. Do you use word press as you blog?

  14. Hey Frugal Dad! Another Entrecard finder here. I love this post.

    Firstly, I’m stunned that you can get an MP3 player for $20 (I’m in Australia). Both the $50 version’s I have bought died within 12 months, but coincidentally, after the 6 month warranty expired. My $200 ipod nano on the other hand is 3 years old and still going strong. Sometimes you get what you pay for (obviously you’ve had more success there than I have).

    Secondly, I do have a GPS. Actually I have two. One is part of a PDA my Dad gave me when he upgraded (not sure what he needs one for, but anyway), and the other is on my phone (which incidentally cost nearly $700, but doesn’t do half the stuff of an iphone, and was the second cheapest one available at the time. Man I’m so wishing we had cheaper electronics over here. Oh, and I also have a pile of maps in my car.

    We, however, have never had any sort of game console, or plasma tv (although when our last tv died we did go with a flatscreen), or voice activated stereo (whose idea was that??)

    As for something I secretly covet, but would never buy? Hmmm, probably a Macbook Air, although I’d love to lay hands on one first. For now though, my 12 month old laptop, and 4 year old desktop will do me.

  15. you know whats so funny is I hate wasting money. I do. But I tell you what

    Out of this list of 7 I have 5 and want one.

    Yes I know. I’m one of them.

    I’ve just always been the girl who’d save for an expensive gadget instead of buying a bunch of other things. Yeah.. looks like I’m def. of product of this generation

    I’m a new driver – and not by choice at that.. since I moved to the suburbs from the city it seems you really have to drive. If you ever wanted to punish me, you take away my GPS.

    And yes..I’m a pod person. iPod to be exact. I remember when the trains would be filled to the brink with silent commuters and white headphones lol. But the thing lasts a very long time, holds an insane amount of music..and data..

    uh oh – I won’t try to sell it to you

    nevertheless I really enjoyed this post. This site is really great 🙂

  16. You got ripped off on that mp3 player. You can find mp3/CD players for about five dollars more. Because of them, I refuse to buy an mp3 player AND a CD player, or conversely, buy all my CDs online again in mp3 format. Now if I want the convenience of playing digital files, I simply get the mp3’s off the net, and burn them directly to disc in such a format. As a disc still holds 700MB of data, it also still holds slightly more than the 512MB player you featured.

    As for the iPhone, I rarely use my cell phone, except for work, and quite frankly, a phone is one of those few gadgets I DON’T want combined with every other device from electric toothbrush/nosehair trimmer to GPS missile guidance system…

  17. Hmm. I’ve been toying with the notion of a television, a microwave oven, or even a CD player for my car.

    I don’t know about this MP3 business: the sound quality is awful and I can’t understand why anyone would like MP3 encoded songs since they don’t sound like music. I don’t want a cell phone, much less a CrackBerry or PDA, because that gives other people the option of interrupting me 24×7 even if I’m out of the house, teaching, recording, or composing. No go.

    GPS? I don’t think so. It’s easy to read street signs and maps (free from MapQuest). If I’m out hiking where there are no roads I simply remember my trail or use sun, stars, or a compass if I’m feeling lazy. I’ve never understood how it’s physically possible to get lost outside.