Last week, I wrote a post called “Focus on needs, not products,” that talked about a way to save money by thinking differently: focus on what you need your money to do, not a specific product that you want to buy. If you think about your needs rather than products, you can evaluate a broader set of choices and wind up saving a ton. I gave an example of buying a charcoal grill instead of a gas grill I’d been lusting after, and how I saved 90% of the cost by caring more about grilling than a particular type of grill.
I saw something on Boing Boing Gadgets today (a blog I read and generally like) that made me think about this again. All of the “gadget” or “new toy” blogs are incredibly dangerous if you’re trying to save money, since they’re designed to talk about how this cool new product is just so completely, amazingly cool that you simply must have one right now — now usually being right as it is released, when it is more expensive than it will ever be again. (Joel Johnson’s rant on this topic (warning: eyeball-searing levels of profanity herein) is well worth reading.)
The Boing Boing Gadgets post was about a cool French press you could buy. Here’s what they had to say:
For our special theme day on coffee, I decided to review the Bonjour Montano French press — not because it’s new (it came out in 2007), but because it was by far the coolest looking commercially sold French press out there. I was digging the brushed stainless steel leaning-tower-of-Pisa look. It makes eight cups of coffee, which was perfect for when I had a pancake birthday party for my dog Malcolm last weekend. At $70, it’s on the high end of the French press market, but think of it as an investment into the overall coolness factor of your kitchen appliance collection.
I use a French press every morning, and love it, so this one definitely hit too close to home for me. Ooooh, a cool new French press. I’ve had mine since college…..maybe a new one? But fortunately my resistance to thinking like that is pretty high these days. Let’s think about this for a second:
- I already own a French press. I’ve had it for over 15 years now and it still works great. Unless I break the glass carafe, it could easily last for decades more. What problem would I solve by buying another one?
- This one has a cool shape. Um….why do I need to spend money on a cool shape?
- The post suggests that you think about it as “an investment into the overall coolness factor of your kitchen appliance collection.” What would be my expected return on that “investment”?
Yeah, I don’t need to buy this, I thought (quickly). The “need” — morning coffee — is already met by something I own. Save the money for something I need and don’t have.
Maybe you don’t already have a French press, and want one. Should you buy this one? Perhaps, if you have people over for breakfast and coffee all the time, and want to impress them with your sense of style. Or, say, if you film a cooking show in your kitchen. 🙂 But otherwise, you should focus on your desire for a morning coffee, and not “the brushed stainless steel leaning-tower-of-Pisa look” that makes this pot “by far the coolest looking commercially sold French press out there.” Cool looks, brushed steel, and resembling Italian architecture will not help make better coffee for you in the morning.
I went to Amazon and looked for the cheapest, new French press I could find. It turns out you can buy a 3-cup French press from the same manufacturer as our leaning-tower-of-overpriced-coffee option for a mere $12.90 — a $57.05 savings. It’s like an 82%-off sale you can make happen just by thinking about it! Somehow I’m willing to bet that the coffee you get from either model is exactly the same. Let’s paint a picture of the savings:
So, yeah. While I love the boingers, I hate having fallen into this temptation even for a second, and despise being told that a coffee pot is somehow an “investment.” An investment should make you money. The best way to have money you can actually invest, or save, or use for something you really need, is not to spend it. Removing temptations to spend — unsubscribing, for instance, from blogs that are all about cool new products you can buy — and focusing on your needs instead, is the best way to do that.