Holiday Shopping – Hits & Misses – A Look Back

This is a post analysis of our Holiday Shopping from 2008 – how the purchases fared:
  1. Flip Video Ultra-series Camcorder: This was an excellent choice as we use it on all our travels and to capture special moments. Our only harp about it is the abrupt way in which the battery dies – we learnt our lesson and now religiously carry an extra pair of batteries. Amazon’s year-end Customer Vote pricing of $69 made this an unbeatable deal. The Flip Video UltraHD was a worthy upgrade but we ultimately waited a little more and currently use a Kodak Playsport Camcorder purchased in 2011 for around $150 - the price has since come down to under $100.
  2. Audio-Technica ATH-ANC7 QuietPoint Active Noise-Cancelling Headphones: This is one silent workhorse in our household – brings down the noise of the exhaust fan in the kitchen and that of the treadmill while exercising. The $100 pricing was definitely steep, but then again, there are not many worthy alternatives that provide comparable noise cancellation, comfort, and convenience - the pricing is still over $100 but in our opinion is worth every penny. We still have it and is providing excellent service.
  3. Nintendo DS Lite: The Nintendo DS Lite was a major disaster in spite of us all taking a liking to the Mario Kart game. Instead of taking us all by the storm sadly in weeks it started collecting dust. Maybe everyone in our family has better things to do! Anyway this wake-up call resulted in us purging Nintendo Wii from our Wish List. Our Nintendo DS Lite still works perfectly, but enjoys limited use in our household. The kids are yet to ask for an upgrade to the newer options.
  4. Resperate Blood Pressure Lowering Device: The idea of an electronically coached slow breathing enticed us to purchasing this item, but our experience proved it is no better than practicing slow breathing with relaxing background music. We purchased this from Costco.com and returned it at the store within the first two weeks and haven't felt the need to consider a purchase since then.
  5. Garmin Nuvi 270 GPS: This impromptu purchase, which came with European maps, from Amazon.com’s Gold Box for $129 replaced our Garmin C320. As we are yet to use the Nuvi 270 in Europe, can’t grade this as a great purchase. As part of our move to the South of India, we sold it in Amazon and recouped about 60% of the money spent.
  6. TAYLORMADE Golf US Open Stand Bag 2008 Majors: This was put to use a few times but it is unclear how much use it will be as our interest in golf is yet to kick into high gear. Overall, we rate this purchase just OK. As part of our move to the South of India, we sold it as part of a complete men's golf set - we recouped most of our money spent.
  7. Books – There are better ways to purchase older versions of travel books than through Amazon.com but it is for the convenience factor that we pay the extra 2-3 dollars (shipping costs & Amazon.com seller commissions). In general, this approach works best for us.
  8. DVDs – We always purchase a few DVDs from the kid’s wish list for the holiday season to go under the tree. This way they have a selection list to choose from when they wish to watch TV – turning ON one of the kids channels is not an option as we don’t subscribe to cable/satellite TV.
  9. MyPassport Portable Hard Drive – this portable hard drive was a good investment to accomplish the monthly backups of all our machines. Four years later, it is still giving excellent service and we use it to backup all our stuff every month. The newer models have lot more space but we are yet to run out of space and so haven't considered an upgrade.
As noted previously, we rely on the following frugal strategy when purchasing items – having a wish list and purchasing only those items that continues to stay there for a prolonged period of time with unwavering interest. Below is a look at our Wish List from the end of last year and its current status:
  1. HDTV (Panasonic TC-32LX85 32-Inch 720p LCD HDTV) – HDTV has finally dropped off our Wish List after being in it for a number of years. Using the DTV-converter has panned out well – we consistently get around 20 digital channels to our analog TV for free! We will revisit this item as and when needed. After our move to the South of India in 2010, we purchased a Samsung 32" LCD HDTV for ~$650 - good choice but US pricing is about half the price in India.
  2. Camcorder (Canon VIXIA HF100 Flash Memory High Definition Camcorder with 12x Optical Image Stabilized Zoom) – The Canon camcorder disappeared from our wish list after our purchase of the much more economical Flip Ultra. We ultimately upgraded to the Kodak Playsport HD version in 2010 and have been using it ever since.
  3. Video Game Consoles (Nintendo Wii) – Since the Nintendo DS failed to move even a whisker in our household, the Wii was out.
  4. Ooma Core VOIP phone system – Ooma was taken out from our Wish List as we stay connected primarily via the cell phone and email.
  5. Telescope/Binoculars (Celestron SkyMaster Giant 15x70 Binoculars w/Tripod Adapter) –We yielded this as a birthday present for the younger one whose latest career choice is to be an astronomer. It was $75 then and the pricing has since slipped to around $50 – definitely not a frugal choice. We fell for their marketing pitch that by purchasing in place of a telescope we get something suitable for stargazing too without the complications. This has been a white elephant in our household - basically, the object is too big and the younger kids astronomer career choice seems to have been a passing fad.
  6. DVDs - Mamma Mia! The Movie, As Time Goes By, Scooby Doo, Looney Tunes, Mr. Bean, Kung Fu Panda, Polar Express, Slumdog Millionaire, Up etc to our Wish List. Kung Fu Panda, Polar Express, Slumdog Millionaire, Up, Mamma Mia DVD were purchased for under the tree this year. We haven't purchased any DVDs in the last two years as we subscribe to over 200 channels through a Satellite service in India for a very affordable ~$5 per month.
  7. Home Gym (Bowflex Motivator 2 Home Gym) – There was no unwavering interest to support this item.
  8. Clicgear Golf Push Cart Model 2.0 – This too disappeared as our interest in Golf has waned considerably.
Summary:

For the frugal shopper in us what we have learnt from our own experience is:
  1. Having a Wish List and giving an item a chance to build momentum over a period of time (6-9 months) before a purchase decision is made has worked heavily in our favor. More than 50% of the items dropped off for one reason or other thus letting the bare necessities come to us. The impromptu deals (Amazon.com Gold Box, Costco, eBay, Wal-Mart and other Online Holiday Deals) still tempt us and we yield sometimes.
  2. Even a Wish List doesn’t guarantee us from acquiring things of questionable value as is again obvious from our experience. Hence, a sister strategy that allows to efficiently eliminate unnecessary items is equally important.

Last Updated: 03/2012. 


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