Consumer Spending Successes or Excesses?

March 1, 2010 by  
Filed under Spending

Although it’s hard for Mr. Tough Money Love to concede that any spending is a financial “success”, I’ve decided to go for it regarding two events that occurred over the weekend. You can jump my case after you read if you think I deserve it.

First, as a joint Christmas gift to each other, Mrs. ToughMoneyLove and I purchased a new television for our lake house. This was clearly an optional purchase. The old TV worked fine but was a ginormous CRT unit that occupied way too much valuable space for its screen size. Since we were going to spend money on each other anyway, we decided to join forces on this purchase. I did a lot of research on cost vs. benefits, including consulting son #1 who is an expert in all things home video. After I identified the unit that best met our buying sweet spot, I began price shopping. Surprisingly, I found the best deal at Sears.

The actual success came in the way we purchased it. I had heard about the new Bing search engine cash-back plan. I checked it out and learned that Sears is a participating retailer. I ordered the TV online, using the Bing shopping portal, then picked it up at a local Sears store. We enjoyed the new TV immediately but now I was concerned about getting our 8% cash back from the purchase.

When I checked our Bing account in early February – no money. I filed an inquiry online – very easy to do – and received an immediate response. The money was “tentatively” credited to us, subject to Sears confirming the purchase. Finally, over the weekend I learned that the cash back had been confirmed and immediately transferred it to my PayPal account. With the great pre-holiday sales price from Sears plus the 8% from Bing, we ended up with a very good deal on this purchase.

The other week-end spending success is another discretionary purchase. More particularly, it is a lump-sum purchase designed to reduce recurring expenses. See if you agree.

Part of our plan to reduce monthly cable/satellite TV charges is to receive more content via broadband Internet. This became more plausible for us when Comcast decided to allow cable/internet subscribers to access it’s online content through any ISP. This meant that we could use our AT&T DSL service at the lake house to access Comcast content. I also wanted to make it easier to access content available through sites such as Hulu and Boxee. Finally, I wanted to stop paying extra for a Comcast DVR box.

To make all of this a reality, and without being tied to any particular piece of proprietary hardware, I determined that we should use small footprint home theater PC. We could carry this unit with us when we travel between homes, place it next to the TV, and connect it to our broadband connection and to an HDMI input on the TV. That’s the theory and our son confirmed that it should work.

I started investigating low-cost home theater PCs. I liked what I saw and read about the Dell Zino HD, an 8″x8″ box with all of the features we need. I was also determined to buy one from the Dell Outlet store to get a better price. But Dell had never sold Zino units through the Outlet store.  I am a subscriber to the Dell Outlet twitter feed and had heard that the outlet store may be receiving Zinos on February 25, so I kept checking. Finally on Saturday our son emailed me that the Zino units had appeared. We found one configured as we wanted and ordered it, saving about $175 off the price if purchased through the regular Dell store.

We won’t know if this second purchase is a spending success until we actually lower our cable and satellite bills and run the numbers. Stay tuned.

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3 Responses to “Consumer Spending Successes or Excesses?”
  1. MasterPo says:

    How much time do you spend at the lake house? You have to factor that into your cash flow analysis.

  2. TMN says:

    I would avoid Bing like the plague, especially CashBack. Several different examples are already out there of how they jack up the “base” price when you use the service, so you end up paying more WITH the discount than you would without. Even better, some sites detect when you have Bing cookies set in your browser, so even if you go to their site directly you still get shown the inflated price.

    It’s not all retailers, and with some tech savvy you can guarantee that it’s not happening, but I wouldn’t take the risk, personally.

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