I once had a friend who laughed at me when I suggested that he was making very good money at his new job. I was referring to the fact that he had a great high definition television with some of the best video games I’ve ever seen set up in his house. As a video game aficionado, I was a bit jealous. My friend laughed because, as he explained it, he saved a tremendous amount of money on his entertainment budget and only splurged occasionally. When I asked him what he meant he wanted me his basic philosophy of how to spend your hard-earned money get the most out of your entertainment. And I have to say that it is changed the way that I look at how a consumer fits into a consumer-driven society.
To begin with, he told me that one of the biggest secrets for entertainment and electronics consumers was to not be early adopters. Early adopters are people that purchased technology when it is first released and are on the cutting edge. He gave me many examples of when he broke in this particular rule, but he made me understand that he was usually able to break rules on occasion because all the money had saved by following the rule the rest of the time. For example, the videogame system he was running on his brand-new high-definition television was actually two years old. He had purchased the system after it had been out two years and all the bugs have been worked out. All of the games that come out early had already been reviewed and even the best ones had been deeply discounted by the time he picked up a system. Also during that time, he had played other people’s systems to get a feel for what he liked about the system and the games that were available. By the time he stepped into a store to purchase the videogame system, it had been discounted multiple times and he had bought it after the Christmas rush when the system was even more deeply discounted. With all the money he saved he was able to put more money towards a hi-def TV to play the games on and to create a kick-ass game library made up of a large number of very strong order titles with a few newly- released gems to fill out the whole thing. And that was only the half of it!
All in all, I was pretty impressed. My friend also made the point that films were exactly the same way. The movie is first released and there is a tremendous amount of hype around it and naturally, ticket prices are at their highest, not to mention the fact that you have to travel to the theater and suffer from her candy and popcorn prices they decide to throw at you. They pretty much have you ever mercy. My friend’s solution was simple: except for a few very special event movies, he would write down the names of films he wanted to see and then patiently wait for them to come onto video and pay/premium movie channels where seeing them would be far less expensive and he would be able to make his own copies. At first, he said, it was an odd transition to make. But once the movies on his lists started to be released one by one in cheaper formats the whole thing became much easier.
Computers were another example of where he had been able to save a great deal of money by not buying the most cutting-edge computer and was released. My friend was able to often buy other friends computers after a use when the friends became tired of not having the most cutting-edge computer. The year-old technology with software than enough to be extremely useful for several years to come, would be abandoned by some who have the money to be early adopters of brand-new technologies. He’d also build more value into his life by making friends with several people who owned local companies that built computers. By inviting them over and treating them as friends (he genuinely did like them) he was often told secrets about what new hardware was strong, and what was weak – and even offered discounts – or even flat out free systems in a couple of cases. All by building up some relationships with interesting people that he really liked who were “In the know”.
Music, DVDs, books were another area where he was able to save money pricing in touch with people and ask them what they were reading and watching. Among his friends they often kept diaries of purchases and possible purchases. When someone read a book or bought a movie that they didn’t care for they let their friends know that they might be willing to trade for something else. In this way people are able to reduce costs and end up with books, CDs, DVDs and other entertainments that they really wanted. And when they bought something that they didn’t like they knew had a way to turn it into something new. And he found that this was a great way to socialize and learn more about movies, books and musical artists. All of this is in addition to a number of websites that my friend pointed me to. Look up terms like “barter” “trade” “half off”. Usually it is far easier than you think to find really quality entertainment at a good price
But the real secret, my friend said, was to have patience and to do a little planning. Part of the reason that all the hype for various entertainment systems, electronics, movies and the like are in place is to make sure that the consumer pays the highest price as quickly as possible. That works for the seller, but obviously does not work well for the buyer. By taking a completely different approach and mindset to buying entertainment we can unleash ourselves from the industry assigned treadmill of what they want us to pay. In difficult economic times and even good economic times making our entertainment dollars go farther and buy more is just common sense.
It should also be mentioned that my friend was well aware that there were many times when these rules needed to be broken. A great new film comes out that you actually must go to see. So go and see it! If you do this rarely won’t break the bank, and you won’t feel as though are currently made out or a year behind. Knowing when to follow the rules and knowing when to bend or break them to big part of making this a workable system for anyone who is genuinely enthusiastic about pop culture.
In the end, he told me that he’d learned all of this at a time in college when he didn’t really have that much money and had been able to afford almost anything he wanted – if he was patient. And he had developed what he called the “skill of the 21st century” – the ability to network with people and share interests as well as objects – and to be interesting himself. He told me flat-out that the friendships he made and the contacts he now had were as big an asset to him as his High Def TV. Even Bigger. There was no amount of money that could pay for the kind of great connections he had made, and the many hours of inexpensive entertainment he’d had just socialized with people with similar tastes.
That, he said, had made all the difference in the world, and brought him a world of side benefits he hadn’t even begun to imagine.