As most readers know, after months of saving and planning, I finally splurged and bought a Nintendo Wii and a few accessories for it (Wii Play – mostly for the second controller – and some points to download old games). Aside from the joy of downloading and playing some fondly-remembered old games and getting routinely defeated by my wife at both Tennis and Bowling, I’ve realized that the Wii has actually taught me several valuable lessons about personal finance.
Saving up for splurge purchases like this makes the reward sweeter. There is absolutely no guilt in having spent money foolishly when I play it. I saved very slowly and methodically for it and did things that actually reduced my monthly spending significantly in the process. Having saved the money myself and paying for all of it in cash instead of on credit was a wonderful thing because I could actually see the benefit of making healthy financial choices.
Items that you can share with others always wind up being more fun than things you solely play by yourself. The most fun I’ve had with the system is playing Wii Sports with my wife, seriously. Our son’s in bed, we have the baby monitor on, and we’re down in the family room swinging our remotes, playing tennis or bowling (and I’m usually losing). We laugh a lot and unwind from the day while doing something that encourages us to interact a lot. It actually reminds us of when we lived with a roommate while in college – the three of us would spend much of our free time playing board games. It was social, fun, and actually very cheap when you look at the amount of play versus the cost of the game. I think the Wii may actually reach that level of value.
Being out of the marketing loop means less temptation. I really don’t expose myself to many channels that Nintendo would use for marketing, so I have little idea of other games for the system. We just have Wii Sports (the pack-in game) and Wii Play and have downloaded a few games and that’s it. I’m barely even aware of other games for the system, to be honest – my only recommendation has come from one of my wife’s relatives, who thinks we would both enjoy Big Brain Academy. I may rent a game or two, but with previous game consoles, I used to be aware of titles by the hundreds because of the marketing. With the Wii, I’m basically outside their marketing loop – and that’s just fine with me, because I’m quite happy with the games I have.
Purchases with heavy repeat use have a lot more value. Let’s say, for example, that I buy a DVD for $15. It’s a two hour movie that I watch twice and lend to my friends to watch once. That’s $2.50 an hour for that DVD. Let’s compare that to a Wii, which cost $350 (with the accessories and extra game that I purchased). All I have to do is play it for 140 hours to reduce the cost per hour down to that DVD, and all future play makes that hourly rate lower. Let’s say I play it for a half hour a day by myself, my wife plays it for half an hour a day by herself, and we play it for half an hour together (a fair average estimate), so it gets an hour and a half of use per day. It takes three months for the Wii to be as cheap as the DVD. In a year, the Wii’s cost will be down in the cents per hour range. What do I conclude? The more you potentially use an item, the better its value is, and I get the sense we’re going to use the Wii quite a bit.
The easier you make it for people to spend money, the more likely they are to spend money. Having the possibility of entering a credit card number to download old games is brilliant – you can sit there on the couch with your remote, type in your credit card number, and get those games so effortlessly. Thankfully, I have our wireless at home pretty secure, so this doesn’t actually work (it won’t allow the connection), but I can imagine I would be incredibly tempted to use it regularly if I could. Instead, I have to go to the store and actually purchase point cards, which gives me ample time to use things like the ten second rule to keep my unplanned spending in check.
My wife and I have had a ton of fun with my Wii so far without spending much money at all beyond the cost of the basic console. Reflecting on the purchase and how we use it, though, has brought some psychological returns as well.