Cascading Expenses

So Costco has a great bundle that includes a Samsung 55″ 3D 240hz LED TV w/ free BluRay player and 3-D starter kit for a little over $2,000 and I couldn’t help but pick one up.   I took it home and setup it up and the picture is simply amazing.   The screen is so large that it actually overpowers the room it’s in and the images are so lifelike that it looks like the people on the screen are actually in my family room!    I was watching the nightly news with Brian Williams and could see the wrinkles in explicit detail along with a horrible makeup job.   Sorry Brian, I love your nightly newscast but your makeup people need to step it up a bit!

There are a few complaints I have about Samsung.   First, neither the BluRay nor the TV came with an HDMI cable and for two grand, you’d expect the right cable to be included in either box.   The problem is that there are so many freaking HDMI cables to choose from it’s getting harder to decipher what you need without an engineering degree.   A coworker told me to be sure to get a version 1.4 HDMI cable to make sure it works with my 3-D TV.

Next, while my BluRay player has built in WiFi, the TV does not have WiFi.   I actually had to shell out another $80 to buy a Samsung Wireless Link adapter for the TV.   Why didn’t this have it built in to the TV?  I haven’t yet had time to play with the Apps or even Netflix but that brings me to my next point: complication!

As features and functionality get better, it is also increasing the complexity of setting up a TV as now I have to enter a 200 character WiFi encryption key with a 10 button remote!   As always, it’s almost impossible to use a single remote either!

My biggest complaint is the lack of and cost of 3D BluRay movies.   Take a look at the short list of movies available in 3-D here.   There were a few movies at retail outlets selling for $40!  Yikes!   Come on guys, $40 for a movie when a comparable DVD is under $20?

Lastly, the Samsung 3-D glasses cost $150 EACH.  Yes, that’s right, it costs $150 for 3-D glasses so a family of four will spend $600 just on glasses!   Of course, I got two “free” but that still means I need to spend another $300 on glasses and god forbid if one pair gets damaged!

It’s all pretty ridiculous but I’ve got money to burn now that I’m not spending $6,000 traveling thanks to the TSA molestation policy this year so the money has to go somewhere and it may as well go to Korean manufacturers instead of American workers.

So I’m licking my chops and tenting my fingers contemplating and scheming about my future Apple iPad.   In all honestly, I’m really holding out for a price drop or improvements to the iPad such as the addition of a camera or Bluetooth functionality but if that doesn’t come by Christmas then I’ll just by a few as is for everyone in my family.

So I’ve reviewed the iPad options and aside from memory and 3G connectivity, the iPads are fairly straightforward.   The first economic consideration is which iPad I should buy.  The WiFi models come in three prices $499 (16 GB), $599 (32 GB), $699 (64 GB).   The 3G models come in three prices $629, $729, $829 with the same respective memory sizes as the WiFi models.    The 3G model however also come with AT&T monthly service  plans at $15/month for 250mb or $25/month for 2GB for SINGLE iPad use only.

So I’m thinking I can get Virgin Mobile’s MiFi Router for $149 and pay $40/month for UNLIMITED internet for up to FIVE devices.   If I buy four iPad devices with 3G then I would be paying $25 x 4 = $100/month for 2GB per device.   The math doesn’t work in favor of AT&T’s plan here and neither does paying an extra $129 dollars for the extra capability per device.

Of course the downside is that all iPads would need to be in range of the MiFi device but quite honestly, the family and I usually travel together and we have WiFi in our home, office and most hotels so I’m questioning the need to even have one except for long road trips in the car.

I also understand that this could also run a variety of VOIP apps so they become giant portable phones and if true then we’re looking at phone, computer and entertainment device at $10/month!

Last Christmas, I received an AeroGarden as a gift and initially I loved it but lately it’s become a huge money pit.   Perhaps I’ve just had a bad streak of luck but the bulbs keep going out in my AeroGarden.  I’ve already replaced them TWICE and at $20 for a pair, that’s $40 spent on light bulbs.    There is no ROI calculation that will justify spending $40 on bulbs to produce a small amount of veggies even if they are “home grown” veggies.

If there is anything Aerogarden can do to keep me as a customer, it is to reduce the cost of the bulbs to no more than $10 per pair.   Right now, the Aerogarden has been sitting idle in a corner doing nothing.   If it sits there for a few more months, it’s going to find its way to the curbside during the next heavy trash cycle or perhaps I’ll take it to the city recycling center since it appears to contain some electronics.

I’ve been wondering if Aerogarden’s economic model is similar to that of inkjet printers: Give away the printer and make money by overcharging for ink.   Right now, I feel as though I’m being taken to the cleaners by paying such a huge amount for bulbs and from what I can tell, these bulbs are proprietary and can’t be bought at your corner Home Depot or Lowes.  The seeds aren’t cheap either when you compare regular seeds to that of the Aerogarden you’re paying over a 150% premium for seeds.

The Aerogarden is fun and does produce plants as advertised but it’s also a huge money pit.  Caveat emptor.

With plenty of free time lately, I’ve been doing odd jobs around the house. Things that have been on a perpetual to do list for ages. One of the things I installed recently were motion detector flood lights. These are lights that activate when the sensor detects movement. I have four installed around the perimeter of our home but some of the bulbs had gone out in the lights so that when the lights came on they didn’t provide a great deal of lighting.

I went to Home Depot to pick up the bulbs and was shocked to find out each little bulb costs around $8.00. So purchasing three of these little bulbs cost nearly $30.00!  The manufacturer will make more money off the bulbs than the actual security appliance.   The motion sensor flood lights cost about $38 and the bulbs cost nearly as much!   This is similar to ink jet printers that cost $99 but whose ink costs $30+ every few months of use.

I have a business idea for a saavy entrepreneur out there, build a web system that shows the true cost of ownership for things like security lights and ink jet printer.    I envision a flash page where you select the printer or security light or appliance and the ancillary components and replaceable parts are listed along with the energy usage to display the true cost ownership.

Our fridge has a replaceable filter than I’ve come to find out cost over $20 to replace.   These appliances and gadgets are nickel and diming me to death!

The kids were spending the weekend with their aunt so my wife and I were left alone for the weekend. We opted to go out on a “date” on Saturday and settled on dinner & a movie. We figured it would be an inexpensive night out since this Brazilian steak house sent us a two for one dinner voucher but that wasn’t the case.

The dinner ended up costing about $85.00. We had Brazilian meats, a glass of wine and a dessert and weren’t too impressed with the meal. The actual cost would have been $127.00 had we not had the two for one voucher.

We opted to go see The Dark Knight flick. Tickets to movie theater: $18.50. Popcorn & a Drink: $11.75. I’m not factoring in other expenses too since we used at least a couple of gallons of gas to get to/from the restaurant and movie theater. We got dressed up so we’ll have to add the dry cleaning bill to the festivities.

So much for an inexpensive night out.

I picked up an HD Camcorder this weekend and quickly realized that the $750 it cost was a mere starting point of expenses associated with this new toy.   I’ll start off by saying that the HD picture quality on this camcorder is absolutely amazing.  With some upcoming vacation trips overseas, I wanted to get the best picture & video quality while on our excursions and I have no regrets!

The first expense came in with the purchase of some 43mm filters for the lens on the camera.  I ordered a clear filter to protect the built in lens and ordered an ND9 filter to film in extremely sunny days.   Bright sun and white sandy beaches don’t come out well on a camcorder without some filters so they’re definitely needed.   The pair of filters came in at around $50.

The camcorder came with a battery but unfortunately, the small battery only has about 2 hours of time so I ordered an extended (larger) battery.  Cost $100.

The camcorder has high resolution picture taking capability and an SD slot but unfortunately, the camera didn’t come with an SD card.  I’m actually glad it didn’t come with one because most cameras come with a 32mb card which is practically useless on high resolution photos.  I purchased a 2 gb SD card for $20.

While at the store purchasing these items, I came across a “gorilla” tripod.   It’s a “slinky” type tripod that will wrap around various objects vs. the standard fixed three-leg model.   What caught my eye was seeing the tripod wrapped around handle bars on a bike and after that point, I was sold.  I figured that if I’m biking through Europe or on a beach that it would be cool to fix my camera to my bike with the tripod.   I’ll find some other interesting uses for the tripod as well in my amateur photography hobby.  Cost $20.

The last thing I purchased was a mini-HDMI to HDMI cable.  Unfortunately, the camcorder didn’t come packed with one but did come packed with USB and Composite cables to hook up to the TV.  Obviously, if you want HD quality you need to use HDMI interfaces on your camcorder and TV.  Cost $25.

I’m still debating on whether I really need some of the other accessories.  Additional fixed zoom microphone, zoom lens, wide angle lens, lights, and other miscellaneous items.

I may likely buy the wide angle lens and that will set me back another $130.  At some point, I’ll need to store all the video on either hard drives or BluRay discs of some type so the expenses will only keep growing.

It’s just another case of cascading expenses and I’m glad I have the cash to enjoy the toys to their full potential.

Our two new Toyota vehicles came with satellite equipment and complimentary service to XM Radio for a brief period of time.  I was excited to have such a wide variety of choices and sorely disappointment when I heard was the unmistakable sound of “commercials” on my satellite channels.

For some reason, I was under the impression that XM Radio was commercial free.  After all, why would anyone want to pay to hear commercials on a paid service?   I simply don’t get it.

I’ll let the free trial period run its course and let it expire.    It is a near certainty that this company doesn’t have long to live because it occurred to me that I could setup my new vehicles with so many alternatives.  I have an auxiliary port for my iPod which I’ll likely use.  If I can enable my vehicles with WiFi internet somehow, I could install a Mac-Mini and perhaps stream audio from the internet for free so why bother with satellite service?

XM, you have two choices, offer the service for free with commercials or take the commercials off if you want my business.

I finally decided to go ahead and buy my second new vehicle (first was for wife) so I opted to go to a Toyota dealership this past week. I drove up in my beat up car, walked up to a salesman who greeted me warmly, I told him I wanted to test drive a Toyota Tundra.

He went inside grabbed some keys, came out started the truck and said, “go for ride.”

The amazing part was he requested absolutely no identification from me! Last time I went to a dealership, I had to hand over my drivers license, copy of my insurance and hand over the keys to my current vehicle before they let me drive a test car off.

Perhaps the fact that I was wearing a suit set him at ease or maybe the salesman didn’t care if the car got stolen or totaled but I was truly amazed that a man could walk up to a car dealer and drive away with 40k worth of car with not even exchanging names with a sales guy!

I definitely enjoyed the ride and I’ll likely buy the vehicle soon. The goal was to purchase vehicles for their utilitarian use so we’ve now have the “family” vehicle – Toyota Highlander, will soon have the “utility” vehicle – Toyota Tundra and the only thing needed is the “mid-life crisis” luxury/sport vehicle sometime in a year or two.

I’ll keep you posted.

After 12 years, our AC and Furnace finally died. The AC was leaking freon at various points (coil, lines) and our furnace had rusted out at various locations. We received various quotes from various vendors and ultimately selected a friend’s recommendation. The total cost of the AC unit was actually $1800 and our initial plan was to replace the AC unit now and the furnace in the winter.

Unfortunately, in order to replace the AC unit, the furnace needed to be dismantled and re-assembled so it didn’t make any point to pay for that service then have to pay for it all over again in the winter so we decided to just go ahead and replace the furnace now as well which added another $1800 in cost and $400 in labor.

The grand total was $4000 and it’s just part of the cascading expenses of owning a home. Of course there are also more recurring expenses associated with HVAC too. Replacing the air filters every 3 months costs about $35 and of course you’ll spend about $200/month in electricity charges to power the AC unit and in the winter, you’ll pay $60 in gas charges for heating.

We’ve had our current mattress for a decade now and we’ve decided that it’s time to purchase a new bed.  There are many bedding options: air bed, visco-elastic, traditional spring, and others.

We are leaning toward the visco-elastic type bed and these mattresses cost around $2000.  Unfortunately this wouldn’t be the end of the expense.

I have to confess, I’m somewhat of a sheet snob and I refuse to sleep in anything less than 800 thread Egyptian cotton sheets.  Once you’ve gone from 200 thread cotton to 800 thread Egyptian cotton sheets, you’ll wonder how you lived so savagely.  These sheets can cost anywhere from $150 (on sale) to $400 (full retail) and you normally need to buy a few sets.

With any new bed, new pillows are soon to follow.  I’m not a pillow snob and any variety will do as long as the pillow is somewhat thin and flat.  Pillows add an additional $20 to $40 to the cost of bedding.

It’s normally wise to buy a mattress pad to protect the mattress since it’s fairly expensive to begin with and this is a small “insurance” policy to insure that mattress stays clean.  Mattress pad costs $40 to $80.

Then there are the other “optional” expenses that seem to arise from buying a new bed.  New comforters, decorative pillows, and matching curtains and rug are a quick sample and just the beginning.

So if you’re considering a new mattress and see a $2000 price tag, know and understand that this is just the beginning of a cascading expense.

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