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In which I talked myself out of an iPod for two years straight

August 11th, 2006 at 12:33 am

I know that some, or even most, people have trouble cutting spending and saving.

I seem to have the exact opposite problem.

I have trouble spending.

Case in point: I've been lusting after an iPod ever since they first came out, and I've been trying to convince myself to buy one for years. After all, I'm your classic young technophile, although I'm a practical one--the gadgets I want aren't just cool for show; they must be useful as well.

And useful an iPod would be. All of my music is in MP3 format on my computer. I have neither a stereo nor a portable music player. And being of the car-less variety, I spend a lot of time walking or riding buses and trains. Yes, an iPod would indeed be handy, and fill a void that would otherwise be empty.

My father tried to buy me one as a birthday gift a few years back, but I declined. I thought that an item of such an extravagance must come from my own wallet.

After years of admiring them from afar, I finally decided to purchase one during the holiday season of 2004. I had enough money saved up from work-study, and this is it, I will treat myself.

And then the Indian ocean tsunami happened, and I felt too guilty to pop $400 on a fancy toy when people across the world are DEAD AND DYING. Thanks, overactive conscience. *sigh*

Half a year later, end of my junior year, May 2005. I have a set of comprehensive exams required for my then-major. Without going into too much detail, it's this horrific three day ordeal that leaves most us scarred for life (I know I was). Anyway, I told myself that if I got honors on comps (as these exams are called), I'll have earned my iPod, fair and square.

Turns out, I didn't get honors. According to my own rules, I didn't deserve an iPod. Thwarted, once again.

Fast forward to senior year. Graduation is an appropriate occasion for an iPod, I reasoned. That's a momentous event, if ever there was one.

But as time went on, I began to change my mind. It was never a question that I would finish college. Graduation may be momentous, but it is also inevitable. I can't tie an iPod to an event that's inevitable--that's just cheating. I needed something more to justify it.

That "something more," I decided, was going to be if I got honors from Phi Beta Kappa. Because I don't qualify for standard departmental honors, having I switched my major senior year and being unable to do a thesis as a result, PBK is my only shot at some sort of honors. And I probably had a snowball's chance in hell of getting it, due to PBK's selectivity and the short amount of time I spent with my department. That should avoid the "inevitability" excuse.

So, come April 2006, I get my PBK initiation letter. I'd completely forgotten about tying an iPod purchase with this until someone reminded me. And the moment I was reminded, doubts started to arise.

How many people got PBK in my department, anyway? Is it really that special? Do I really deserve it? My GPA may be high enough, but I've only been with my department for that one year. My grades could be a fluke and the faculty couldn't possibly have enough information to make a truly informed decision to nominate me. And the PBK folk who voted me in probably picked me because my humanities major brought in all kinds of different coursework, making me look well-rounded, even though I wasn't any good at humanities and switched out.

Also, how can I possibly buy myself an expensive toy when I'm not sure if I'll have a job after I graduate and be financially stable? Maybe I'll need my savings for an emergency. I should wait until I'm earning a steady income.

So PBK didn't do it, either.

Now, a few months later, I have an income. In fact, I'm exactly where I wanted to be--at an elite academic institution, working in a high-powered laboratory, gaining valuable experience for a career in scientific research. I'm nowhere near financial straits, unless something catastrophic were to happen.

But what if something catastrophic did happen? Also, now that I'm out of college, I have $23K of student loans to repay. Shouldn't repaying those be a priority over shiny objects? And New Haven is notoriously unsafe. If I get one, I'll probably be mugged within a week. Maybe it's not such a good idea at this time, after all?

I considered making an iPod a reward for getting into graduate school. My top choice. MIT. That would certainly deserve a reward, wouldn't it?

But I know what will happen once I get there. My income will drop to a grad student's stipend. Money will be tight again. The responsible action would be to wait some more. I'll probably tell myself that I'll reward myself with an iPod when I get my Ph.D.

I can't stop myself from stopping myself. Frown

And then there are the more mundane considerations. Should I wait for the next generation? What if I scratch or drop it? Or it breaks before its time? Wouldn't that be devastating? I don't have FireWire on my computers; music transfer will be inconvenient and slow. And it still might get stolen. And I've done fine without it thus far.

So there you have it. My eternal internal struggle. I wonder if this kind of thought process crosses the line from frugality into neurotic paranoia. Oy. I really should stop thinking so hard.

11 Responses to “In which I talked myself out of an iPod for two years straight”

  1. LuckyRobin Says:

    I don't know about neurtic paranoia, but I sense a huge a mount of OCD tendancies regarding spending on yourself. Buy a used one when someone else upgrades. Pay half price. Not so extravagant then. Don't think it to death. Just do it. After living through all of the above, you have earned it whether you think so or not. And I have a feeling it will bea loooooong time before you reward yourself again.

  2. StressLess Says:

    You need to hang out at Fatwallet more! There have been several offers over the past couple of years for a free Ipod when you open a credit card or bank account. Here's a current offer from Key bank.

    www.fatwallet.com/forums/messageview.php?start=0&catid=52&th...

  3. Broken Arrow Says:

    Interesting! I do have the same tendencies, where I'll want something for a long time, but not get around to buying it. I need a new PDA soon, for example. The LCD screen on mine is dying, with a sizeable blotch of discoloration and dead pixels. Still, so long as I can see what my numbers are, I just can't justify one.

    I do have an iPod Shuffle though. Honestly, it's been a god-send, because my small collection of music is one of those few things in life that can really smooth me and help me sleep on a bad day.

    And yes, I too am a technophile, hailing from the church of Steve Jobs. Big Grin The first two reponses sound like really good advice, and I recommend to get that. iPods are Apple's flagship product right now, and they get refreshed (updated) quite a bit, so I also recommend to look around for an older generation one to save money.

  4. annab Says:

    Maybe let yourself earn it from little things. And then the money is guilt free. For example, maybe you want to quit drinking soda. So the money "saved" from soda goes to the iPod fun. I think that if your not spending is causing you guilt, it's telling you that you want to be a bit it more lenient with yourself .

  5. boomeyers Says:

    Quit overthinking....just buy it.

  6. amberfocus Says:

    LuckyRobin: You're right, I probably do have some (heaps of??) OCD/perfectionistic tendencies. I definitely like the advantages of buying used (not just in terms of price but also the emotional damage done when you inevitably scratch a gorgeous brand-new iPod), but part of me also does want a new one, engraved and all. Frown My current thinking is that I might get a used full iPod, or a new Nano. That's a compromise that might work for me.

    StressLess: I've never been to FatWallet! Thanks for the tip. (I only found SavingAdvice a week or two ago.) I'm usually wary of/desensitized to "Free iPod!" offers (too many obnoxious flashing ad banners that ask you to "Shoot The Bunny To Win!"), but it's good to be reminded that legit ones also exist. Smile I'm not currently on the market for a bank or credit card account (I already have two), but it never hurts to be aware of these promotions when you're looking to sign up for something. I'll definitely be keeping an eye on that site from now on.

    Broken Arrow: I have the most horrifying trouble with replacing old stuff, too! My laptop is an ancient rescued IBM ThinkPad with 64 megs of RAM, a 4 gig HD, a busted CD-ROM drive, and no battery power whatsoever. It can't even run Windows anymore (but it can load Debian w/ fluxbox v e r y, v e r y s l o w l y). The new line of MacBooks are delicious (for I, too, worship Steve Jobs Big Grin), but I'm too 'attached' to my ThinkPad because it's an 'antique', and it 'still works'. Um, it takes two minutes to load a document. I know it's past time to say farewell, but I can't. Sigh. Smile
    The iPod shuffles are cute, but I love the elegance of the iPod user interface, and I would want a Nano, at the very least--although only a full iPod would store all of my music. I was kind of hoping that one of my friends who already own an iPod will buy a new computer and let me redeem the $70 iPod summer promotion, but alas, no dice.

    annab: That's a great idea, because then I'll see the money as an accumulation of little things, and not as this large lump sum that I'm terrified of parting with. I don't have many expensive habits in the food/drink arena, but maybe I'll finally replace my incandescent lightbulbs with fluorescent and start shutting down my desktops during the day, and track the savings for an item on my wish list.

    boomeyers: The "What the hell is wrong with me???" part of me totally agrees. Smile Actually, I was hoping that writing this monstrosity of a post (that I'm surprised anyone made it through) would be cathartic. I've been holding those feelings inside for so long, because I can't talk about it with "normal" (non-frugal) people because they just look at me like I'm insane (which I probably am, slightly :P). But writing it all out definitely deflates some of the intensity that comes with long-standing internal obsessions, because it helps puts everything into perspective. I'm trying to fight this, I really am--or at least compromise. The reason I posted on this topic is because I'm seriously considering the purchase again, and just need to put it out there and get all of this baggage off my chest. Usually, in the past, I just get overwhelmed and give up. But I'm going to make a genuine effort to be reasonable about it this time around.

    Thank you everyone for all of your support and suggestions! I'm actually feeling a lot better about everything now. Smile
    ~mimi

  7. baselle Says:

    I have an iRiver MP3 player (not an iPod) and I love it. I use it every day, and it has opened up a new dimension for me - podcasts, audio books...I go to the public library and try out CDs - rip them onto my laptop, transfer them to my MP3 player, and listen to them.
    I would do some more research - Consumer Reports, amazon.com reviews, even the user-support boards... and I would figure out what new iPods Apple is putting out, then buy a non-used player that is old stock. If you want a nano, see if Apple is coming out with the new, improved nano, then buy the previous version, which should be heavily discounted.
    I've had good luck buying electronics on Overstock.com and in Fry's Electronics.

  8. Broken Arrow Says:

    It can't even run Windows anymore (but it can load Debian w/ fluxbox v e r y, v e r y s l o w l y). Ooh! You ARE a technophile. I rather like xubuntu myself.

  9. Champion Cheapskate Says:

    Not buying an ipod hasn't hurt anyone so far. It's OK to reward yourself, but do you really need the item? How important is an ipod anyway? Relax.

    If you look a gift horse in the mouth, what do you see? Smile

  10. amberfocus Says:

    baselle: You're right. I haven't done nearly enough research. I've been so trapped in trying to *decide* whether to get one that I haven't actually *done* anything (except agonize). I'll definitely go and search for discounts. Thanks for the suggestion!

    Broken Arrow: Hehe, yep! I worked for the ITS department during college, and I web develop as a hobby. And my bf is a UNIX sysadmin. So I am quite fond of open source, Linux-based workstations and servers. Plus, they're free. Big Grin Never tried Xubuntu, though. If I ever get another old laptop/Linux workstation, I'll give it a try!

    Champion Cheapskate: I usually don't have such trouble, but everyone has their weak point, no? Smile It also doesn't help that everyone and their mother has an iPod these days. Stick Out Tongue Do I need it? Of course not. I know this. But in the end, I *do* have the disposable income, no matter what I tell myself. And I'm concerned that my self-denial may have reached unhealthily pathological proportions. EEK!

  11. drew1980 Says:

    I just read this post - I'm going through the exact same dilemma! I've debated getting an iPod for years, and always balk at the price.

    My solution is to buy the 512mb iPod shuffle. That way I can take advantage of iTunes without dropping hundreds.

    There's also no screen to scratch, no batteries to purchase and it should be just cool enough to prevent me from wanting an upgraded model.

    Actually, after reading your post, I might bite the bullet and do this today.

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