Holiday Shopping - A peek at our Spending in the 2008 season

The 2008 Holiday season arrived and departed. Our spending and the purchases in that short span are:
  1. Flip Video Ultra-series Camcorder: The only item we qualified to purchase under Amazon.com’s end of year Customer Vote deals. The $69 price tag made it an excellent deal despite the limited feature-set compared to the Camcorder in our wish list.
  2. Audio-Technica ATH-ANC7 QuietPoint Active Noise-Cancelling Headphones: Though expensive at $99, the return on this purchase should be high, since it is anticipated to drown background noise in various settings - kitchen, exercise equipment, and travel.
  3. Nintendo DS Lite: Quite a bit of research was conducted on the Wii or the DS Lite before settling on the Nintendo DS Lite. Portability, pricing, and selection of games worked in its favor. Amazon.com had a Nintendo DS Mario bundle for $134 black Friday onwards and we surfed on that wave – it is rare for these to sell below list price.
  4. Resperate Blood Pressure Lowering Device: An alternate health remedy that also qualifies under FSA, got precedence as a good frugal family gift.
  5. Garmin Nuvi 270 GPS: An impromptu purchase when Amazon.com listed it as gold box deal for $129. It comes with European maps – travel in Europe is a possibility and having shelled out 10 euros per diem to rent one that had lost its bearings made this GPS appealing. The incremental cost was reasonable at just over $50 ($129 minus the $75 we realized by selling our previous Garmin Streetpilot C320).
  6. TAYLORMADE Golf US Open Stand Bag 2008 Majors: Only 1000 produced – came with certificate of authenticity and was purchased from eBay. For $70, no denying it is a very good value, given better stand bags sell upwards of $100.
  7. Books – travel books to chalk the route we plan to cover in 2009 (mostly 2007 at less than $6 apiece shipped at Amazon.com).
  8. DVDs – one Scooby Doo and one Looney Tunes DVD from the kid’s wish list,
  9. MyPassport Portable Hard Drive – realized how practical these devices can be when our neighbor had to replace his older computer. He had the misfortune of owning the HP Pavillion dv8000 laptop (countless customer reports can be found online of “screen dead” problems with the 17” LCD screen on these laptops and Hewlett Packard denies the problem, leaving consumers cold – that experience made him shy away from HP laptops and opt for a Dell Vostro instead) – a portable hard drive proved handy in migrating all his data over to the new one. This experience made us invest $100 on the MyPassport Essential 320 GB portable hard drive – ample storage to do backups of all data in our home machines,
  10. Kid’s clothing from Lands End – the kids outfits are mostly from Kohls or Lands End Overstocks and the $25 Lands End coupon helped in getting the shopping done from Overstocks (the only item we qualified under American Express’ My Wishlist promotion deals this time).
  11. Several miscellaneous consumables from Costco and two small toys from Walmart.

Our approach or strategy if you may is simple – we always have a wish list floating and generally tend to add things to our Amazon.com wish list when either our children or we express an interest in something. If it continues to stay in the wish list for an extended period of time with unwavering interest, we are consumers. Beginning December, our wish list had the following items:
  1. HDTV (Panasonic TC-32LX85 32-Inch 720p LCD HDTV) – HDTV has been a mainstay in the wish list for years but interest has diminished since the DTV-converter, which is a very good alternative to receive over-the-air HD channels for free.
  2. Camcorder (Canon VIXIA HF100 Flash Memory High Definition Camcorder with 12x Optical Image Stabilized Zoom) – A camcorder was added to our wish list mid-2007 after our previous Canon ES300V 8mm Camcorder sputtered in the middle of a trip. The economical Flip Video ultra-series catered more to our purpose as camcorders generally play a passive role in our lifestyle (in the nine yearswe owned Canon ES300 8mm Camcorder, we recorded about 15 hours of video).
  3. Video Game Consoles (Nintendo Wii, Nintendo DS Lite) – Our older one mentioned two years ago that she wanted a “deeas” and went on to describe it as a blue box. But as she has never been into media alternatives, we ignored it. Last year, the younger one who is very gadget oriented expressed her desire in it rekindling the older one’s interest. Thus these got added around six months back and we debated at length on it collecting dust but ultimately yielded.
  4. Resperate blood pressure monitor – The reviews favored this instrument. Slow breathing does seem to help bring down blood pressure so decided to go for this device.
  5. Noise Canceling Headphones (Audio-Technica ATH-ANC7 QuietPoint Active Noise-Cancelling Headphones) – Using earplugs and other inside the ear devices to reduce ambient noise while cooking and exercising only helped to a point. The in-the-ear nature of these devices was the problem for our sensitive ears. Noise Canceling Headphones were added to our wish list early last year.
  6. Ooma Core VOIP phone system – the promise of NO monthly telephone subscription bills helped this land in our wishlist. We decided to delay investing roughly $200 on this equipment at this point as it is unproven technology and our existing lifeline service costs only $10 per month.
  7. Telescope/Binoculars (Celestron SkyMaster Giant 15x70 Binoculars w/Tripod Adapter) – Our little one’s latest career choice is to be an astronomer and after fiddling with the telescope at the Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley has put in a request for one. As her interest changes constantly we have left this continue to be in the list. (Her inclination to becoming a Magician changed to a Vet as it is much easier to spell!). Besides, we are not absolutely convinced that the Celestron model in our wish list is an age appropriate choice.
  8. DVDs - Mamma Mia! The Movie, As Time Goes By, Scooby Doo, Looney Tunes, Mr. Bean, Barbie Movie Collection, etc. The Mamma Mia DVD was the only new addition and we will probably wait on it.
  9. Home Gym (Bowflex Motivator 2 Home Gym) – This was added immediately after we replaced an old Schwinn exercise bike with a treadmill last year. As we are yet to fully utilize the exercise options we already own (treadmill, weights, and certain other thingamajigs) decided to postpone further purchase.
  10. Clicgear Golf Push Cart Model 2.0 – Ever since our previous one (Hippo Golf Deluxe Pull Cart) lost a wheel after a year of very intermittent use we considered investing in a better model. As our frequency of hitting the golf course has come down significantly in the last year it remains to be seen whether this will hold our interest for long.
  11. Golf Stand Bag – This again has been in the wish list for more than a year – the legs of our previous one (Hippo golf viper standbag) were “squished” (made of some composite plastic!) – We are definitely steering clear of Hippo golf equipment.
  12. Miscellaneous - Books, Perfumes, Stanley Vacuum Food Jar, Brother Replacement Printer Cartridge, Norelco and Braun Shaver Replacement Heads, Philips Sonicare Advance Replacement Brush Head, etc.
Summary:

All told, we spent a sizeable sum this holiday season. We found it very amusing that the kid’s favorite gifts were the Red-Velvet Cake from Costco (also an adult favorite) and the humble $3 each Lava Lamp and Tech Deck skate board that they picked from the local Walmart.

The high cost of Nintendo DS games (upwards of $30 per game) is something we are not comfortable with. If the kids spend expected time on it we need to look into low-cost options such as renting from a library.

As a final frugal note, the unwritten rule in our household to avoid the “perpetually-growing-home-size-requirement” syndrome common among American households is – A new item is denied entry until an equal or more amount of material by volume leaves in some way, shape or form. Else we run the risk of having a congested house and bigger places will start beckoning.

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