What Nintendo Wii Taught Me About Personal Finance

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.

5 Personal Finance Lessons Learned from My Nintendo Wii

1. 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.

2. Social items 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

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  1. Laura says:

    I have to agree with you that the Wii has the extra benefit of being a group game system. To keep costs low, our friends and family swap the games around. We also have Wii Potlucks, with people bringing food and we provide the entertainment.

    Another game you may want to get later is Warioware. The multi player games can accomdate 5 players with only one controller. That saves money because buying multiple controllers add up. Have fun with the family!

  2. boomie says:

    You said:
    “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.”

    Ahhh, W H A T????? Play it for 140 (one hundred forty hours)????? Why don’t you go out and play the REAL games instead of sitting in your living room playing FAKE games, or whatever. Why aren’t you out playing tennis or bowling? Even if it’s expensive think of the health benefits which are priceless???? What are you teaching your kids? Sit on a couch and ‘play’ a sport?

    USELESS! There is no justification. Sorry. The $350 could have bought great tennis equipment or bowling equipment. Stupid, stupid, stupid, in my opinion. Bring on the comments.

  3. I too just purchased a wii. I’ve thought about it for months and months, all while trying to actually find one in stock. At first I was afraid it was another impulse buy, but now I absolutely love it. I can play with my girlfriend and my family. I’m excited about the new games that are coming out too.

    Once I saw it in stock I bought 2, then I bought 2 wiiplay sets. Ended up selling the other system and wiiplay for $400 on ebay. With that profit it made my system cheaper so I really didn’t pay full retail.

    On another note, the system is great for exercise too! Its a great way to get you up and moving without knowing it. I heard of people losing up to 10 lbs in 3 weeks and I believe it. After 30 minutes of video boxing, I’m tired and sweating heavily.

    Have fun with this thing, its truly revolutionary.

  4. Erica says:

    I, too am a wii owner, I recently wrote a post on how it has improved my marriage :) we spend lots of time together playing it.

    I also find that the exercise is great, after my first night playing tennis my arms and back were aching – before wii we had a ps2, but this is somethingelse.

    Even people who don’t usually like consoles enjoy the wii.

  5. I bought two during the beginning weeks of U.S. release and sold em on ebay. I plan on saving little by little for one though, because my Wii craving had stood the test and is still there after several months.

  6. Hmm… if your wireless network is locked down to the point where it doesn’t work… how are you downloading the VC games w/ the cards purchased from the store?

  7. MillionDollarJourney.com says:

    Trent,

    What is your favorite game so far for the Wii? I considered buying the system just for the tennis and boxing games. Great video game system for the kids also as it actually requires them to move around. :)

    FT

  8. Ty says:

    Trent,
    I was also wondering about your wireless configuration, how is it locked down to not allow the ability to use the credit card but allow the games to be downloaded?

    Thanks,
    Ty

    PS: Also a proud Wii owner, wife and I both enjoy it. Try Rayman Raving Rabbids, lots of funny minigames, I liked it better then warioware.

  9. Javi0084 says:

    One “game” that looks like it must be on the shopping list is Wii Fit. Look it up, it looks awesome but expensive because of the balance board. Maybe not so expensive because maybe you wont buy fitness DVDs or gym memberships anymore.

  10. David says:

    Great post, the Wii will definitely bring its rate per hour of use down so quickly, it is so addictive and worth the money both becasue it is fairly cheap compared to PS3 and worth it for the fun factor as well. Great post. I love the site, down to earth and teaches.

  11. Trent Trent says:

    I run a NAT firewall and the port for the credit card connection is blocked.

  12. Robert says:

    I enjoy my wii. But I am thinking about selling it. My wife doesn’t enjoy it as much as some other people do. I wanted it so my wife and I could enjoy playing it together.

  13. Justin says:

    If you do decide to buy new games for your Wii, remember that it’s backwards compatible with the Gamecube. That’s a pretty huge library of great games, almost all of which can be had for under $10 a piece used.

  14. Trent Trent says:

    “Why don’t you go out and play the REAL games instead of sitting in your living room playing FAKE games, or whatever. Why aren’t you out playing tennis or bowling? Even if it’s expensive think of the health benefits which are priceless???? What are you teaching your kids? Sit on a couch and ‘play’ a sport?”

    I think you need to research the Wii a bit. The point is to get up off the couch and play, actually.

  15. Zachary says:

    This sounds like perfect justification for me to buy an Xbox 360 later this summer!

  16. JoeRiv says:

    I can’t see paying that much for a system. What happens when the next “greatest console ever” comes out in a few years? You know it will.

    I gave up on consoles after Super Nintendo and don’t miss them at all. PC games work just as well.

  17. Trent… wait… are you saying that you block SSL connections on your router? Please tell me that you’re just manually blocking the clearing-house domain… you’d be amazed at how easy it is to sniff insecure transmissions off the line at any point (WEP’s easy to crack and the ISP techs might not be so honest). *ahem* pop3 /imap passwords *ahem*

    Justin’s point about used Gamecube games is fantastic. I LOVE the fact that I can go down to gamestop and pickup a new (to me) game for $10 and be entertained for weeks. It’s a great bargain.

    Don’t be fooled into thinking that this will get your kids up and around. Oddly enough, from what I’ve seen its only the adults who are willing to get up and jump around. I’ve had three kids under 10 play my Wii (lol, about to get v&) within the last few weeks and they all get up for about a minute before realizing that they can sit on the couch and not really move.

    To those who complain about you needing to get out and play real sports… meh. This is a totally different form of entertainment, not to be confused with actually getting up… putting on clothes… driving to a tennis court… rounding up people… realizing you forgot your ball…

    Not to plop on the marketing, but I would definitely check out Warioware. It’s very interactive, highly energetic and just plain a lot of fun.

  18. Ryan says:

    Hey Trent,

    Let me say this, I also saved extra $ here and there and bought a wii! Its amazing, actually, in the long run it will probably save me $, ( not going out to the bars; just staying in and playing wii with friends ; )) Also, Big Brain Academy, wii sports, and wii play are the only games I own! Big Brain Academy is so addicting! I Highly recommend it!

  19. Jen says:

    I love my Wii. The best thing about it is how much you actually move when playing. It is a good workout. They are actually coming out with a balance board and fitness program for it next year. I WANT that too! Gotta start saving!!

  20. BigBuddha says:

    I’m waiting for a good basketball game to come out on the Wii. then i can indulge my basketball dreams and move about in real life and on the console .. it’s the ultimate for a basketball junkie like myself. Note – i also play basketball “in real life” about 6 hours per week hehe.

  21. Dean says:

    If you get bored of playing the same games and want to try something new, you could try trading some of your older games or game systems for new games on an online site such as http://gametz.com, which is completely free except for the cost of shipping. You can also trade books, movies, and music.

  22. Trent Trent says:

    It seems to me that the Wii would be perfect for a swordfighting/fencing simulation. Or fishing, actually.

  23. kman says:

    It’s OK to buy something fun from time to time. Not every dollar has to be spent with reams of research behind it. If you can buy something like a Wii and you won’t end up under a bridge because of it,go for it. Life is too short to be serious all the time.

  24. Lorrie Bosse says:

    I have 3 words for you… SUPER… PAPER…. MARIO.

    Though it is a game geared towards kids, it is SO fun for adults as well. If you were a fan of Mario back in the day, there are little nods to many of the past mario games.

    There are lots of sub games within the game (collecting cards, treasure maps etc), and you can also swap between 2d side scrolling and 3d game play. It is the game we’ve gotten the most game play and hours of entertainment out of.

  25. xshanex says:

    “I can’t see paying that much for a system. What happens when the next “greatest console ever” comes out in a few years? You know it will.

    I gave up on consoles after Super Nintendo and don’t miss them at all. PC games work just as well.”

    the consoles are backwards compatible though. I play lots of xbox games and gamecube games on my 360 and wii. There will always be something new coming out so if we went by that logic noone would buy anything ever.

    I play some pc games but to play them these days you need an expensive system or have the be regulated to playing older games. $250 for a wii is nothing when compared to a half decent gaming computer with a passable graphics card. I’m not going to sit and play pc games with my girlfriend or family like I could with the wii….pc games are not for most casual players

    must have wii games

    excite truck- for 4 year olds to 40 year olds
    zelda- classic nintendo goodness
    super paper mario- action rpg goodness
    rayman raving rabbits- fun party game
    resident evil 4- one of the best games out there now on the wii

    congrats on finally making the plunge with the wii. I bought one a week after they came out to try out and then resell and thought they were all hype until I played. I’ve been hooked ever since and other than the slow rollout of games

  26. mark says:

    Well, I have to comments on this. Especially the line ‘Being out of the marketing loop means less temptation.’

    I personally don’t live in the States and live a pretty frugal life and I also make sure I keep myself out of the marketing loops. It might have to do with the fact that I don’t live in the US and I’m not really exposed to the North American culture except for through my business. Which is probably why I’ve never heard of Nintendo Wii anywhere else expect for on this site.

    And since I never heard of it before, I never thought of owning it. You see? You actually wore caught in their marketing loop somewhere along the line since a thought of owning a Wii crossed your mind.

    Now there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s your money and you have the right to do with it as you pleased. But I just wanted to point out how all-pervasive marketing is and how it envelops us even when we think we’re out of its reach.

  27. Matt says:

    Taking yourself out of the ‘marketing’ loop is a great thing. All of the gadgets and gizmo’s that come out and catch our attention can be a real burden on a budget only to collect dust a few months down the road. But saving for something gives you the added satisfaction that you really wanted this item and got it, not on a whim but with some saving and effort.

  28. Michelle says:

    I don’t think it is a bad thing to be exposed to marketing. Think about it, even the less expensive, great value products still market themselves. Marketing and advertising is just another way to research and get information, it is purely keeping you educated as to what is available and what choices you have. Of course, this assumes that one would be responsible with the information they hear and reseach further, without just taking the advice of the commercial at face value. If you are responsible with this, just like being responsible with money, you are actually at an advantage.

  29. pam says:

    Sounds to me from this post that even though you carefully saved for this purchase, you feel guilty and are trying to justify the cost.

    Don’t sweat the details. Enjoy the Wii, but in moderation! 1.5 hours a day is a lot! Though I’m sure it will reduce after the “newness” has worn off.

  30. Lorna says:

    Madame X from open wallet recommended this article to check out. I loved how you found the greatness of you nintendo Wii! I wanted to buy one because it makes you move and not sit. I play dance dance revolution for PS2. That gae was worth my money and my health. Thanks for writing this post!

  31. Mark says:

    “It seems to me that the Wii would be perfect for a swordfighting/fencing simulation. Or fishing, actually.”

    The fishing games that have been released haven’t been that good apparantly. I havn’t played them though so you’ll have to try them out yourself. The Legend of Zelda does have an extensive fishing minigame which I found to be very fun, however I’m not sure I’d pay $50 to just fish without some variety thrown in.

    WarioWare is a great choice for multiplayer and it’s a lot of fun when playing with friends. I highly recommend it. There havn’t been any swordfighting games yet but I do own Red Steel which is a first person shooter with some sword fighting thrown in. It’s not what you think. It doesn’t really read your movement and it only slashes in 6 directions like a star *. I just realised that the star shows up as having 5 points there… on the keyboard it’s 6.

  32. Jaime says:

    I agree with the points introduced in this article. It is far better to save up spare change and the like to buy something expensive like a game system than to purchase it on credit. I’m in the process of saving up for one myself, and it’s a much better feeling than just plunking down a credit card.

    Instant gratification is overrated, anyway. Buying things without deliberating about them loses its appeal once you realize that you’ve built up thousands of debt just to buy stuff you don’t really need and don’t use anymore.

  33. gringo says:

    I have been considering the purchase of a Nintendo Wii but not entirely sure yet. Yes, it is cheaper than a PS3 but it doesn’t play bluray dvd’s either.

    Does anyone own the Wii Fit?

    Why or why not should I purchase the Wii over the PS3?

    kthanx!

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