I often talk about separating "needs" and "wants" when making purchases as I believe that frugality plays a big role in wealth building.  However, everyone has their own perception of what their needs/wants are. 

As a lot of guys will agree with me, some gadgets are borderline between needs and wants.  That's what this post is all about.  Gadgets that I consider a "need" but aren't technically.

Here is a list of gadgets that I think are well worth the price:

5. Nintendo Wii

  • When I started playing the Wii, I was really surprised on how fun it was!  Not only is it a great time passer, it's also great exercise.  That boxing game can really raise the heart rate.

4. Digital Camera

  • Do they even sell the old 35mm cameras anymore?  Nothing beats a convenient digital camera to capture life's moments.  With the new baby coming, I'm sure that it will get even more use.

3. Snow Blower

  • This may not be an essential for some, but it's an essential for Newfoundlanders who don't like to shovel!  With the amount of snow that we get, it takes a lot of time to shovel by hand, which makes spending $1k on a piece of machinery worth it.

2. Cell Phone

  • I mentioned before that I don't use a lot of my minutes on the cell phone (see my prepaid wireless comparison post).  Regardless of this, I would feel naked without my cell phone.  It's almost like leaving the house without my wallet.

1. Laptop

  • As a part-time blogger that nearly spends full time hours working on MDJ, I didn't realize how convenient a laptop would be until I bought one.  This was a fairly recent purchase as I picked one up during boxing week sales. 

Back to you, what are your list of gadgets that you can't live without?

Photo credit: pjb2332 


  1. Pages tagged "rights" on February 6, 2008 at 7:52 am

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  2. brownguy on February 6, 2008 at 9:48 am

    Looks like you picked all the gadget guys dream about, with frugality in mind my priority would be as follows
    1.Digital Camera (to capture life’s moments)
    2.Cell Phone (to stay connected)
    3.Snow Blower (to reduce one stressful chore in life)

    the gadget i could not live without – “Hi-Def Flat Screen TV”

  3. George on February 6, 2008 at 9:58 am

    I tried the Wii this past Christmas (we rented one for a few weeks from our local video store). While it was a blast to play with a bunch of friends, I’m not sure that it has “staying power”. I don’t know that I’d play the games enough when we don’t have a group of people over to justify the cost.

  4. Dividendgrowth on February 6, 2008 at 10:42 am

    You are forgetting to mention the iPOD ;-)
    I think that the most essential things for me are the cellphone, laptop and maybe camera. The problem with technology for frugal people is that since the prices are always falling and newer technologies/gadgets are constantly being introduced it feels like you can simply not buy them at all but watch prices decrease month after month. Of course you won’t be “cool”, but you would have saved tons of $$$ by postponing your purchase until you absolutely have to have it.
    On the other hand though you live just once, so its nice to reward yourself for good or bad behaviour. Just don’t spend too much time spending though or you’ll end up with a ton of debt. Just ask my roommates from college about being cool, getting the cool gadgets and graduating with tens of thousands in credit card debt.. Not cool..

  5. Michelle Dawn on February 6, 2008 at 10:44 am

    I’m on PEI and I have to agree that a snow blower is definitely a “need” of sorts. We don’t have one yet, but we plan on moving to a more rural location this year and a snow blower is included in our moving expenses. Our vacation this year will be to Newfoundland!

  6. Canadian Dream on February 6, 2008 at 11:05 am

    My can’t live without list would include:

    1)MP3 Player – This is a life saver while doing semi mindless tasks at work or home.

    2)Wide screen format LCD TV – Ah the way movies should be watched.

    3)Laptop is a must while traveling.


  7. WhereDoesAllMyMoneyGo.com on February 6, 2008 at 11:12 am


    I needs to get me one of those!

    More realistically I couldn’t survive without a laptop – and I’m looking for a new one right now (as many people seem to be…).

  8. DJP on February 6, 2008 at 11:56 am

    I agree that a HD WS format TV is a MUST…and once we got one the wife agreed. In addition to that, I recently got a HD-PVR from the local cable company that has a promotion where you trade in any old satellite receiver and you get a HD-PVR in exchange (a $680 value!). Sign me up! This bit of technology is WONDERFUL. Pausing, rewinding live TV…awesome! An absolute must for sports fans.

  9. nobleea on February 6, 2008 at 12:19 pm

    my digital camera is definitely a need. actually, it’s a hobby, so i don’t know if that counts in this list.

    ipod, more so for convenience sake. but still a need/want (there are cheaper mp3 players out there)

    i have a cell phone, but that’s more of a need since i have no landline.

    i guess my car is a want. i didn’t really need a sports sedan and will probably get something more reasonable after. but it is fun while it lasts.

  10. MikeG on February 6, 2008 at 12:27 pm

    Lets talk Needs, Im only going to break one down so we all get the point…

    1. Wii– You really want entertainment,

    You could break it down to cost/hour of entertainment, how about these inexpensive alternatives?

    -Library card – $20/yr or less, countless hours for cheap…
    -Talk with a friend $Free or $3/hr (or less…) if long distance.
    -Board Games — spend $50 at thrift stores and garage sales on games and you’ll have about 15-20 games, at an hour a game and play the games 3 times, you’re looking at just over $1/hr (or less)
    -Rent a movie — $5 for 2ish hours of entertainment.
    -2nd run movie @ discount theatre on a tuesday == $1.5/hour ($3 tuesdays!!)
    -Make your own food (baking) you save yourself about $8/hour and If you like to cook (like I do) it counts as entertainment…

    Lets compare to some expensive alternatives
    Concert ~ $10/hr
    1st run Movie @ Theatre ~ $6.5/hour
    Clubbing ~ $8 cover + 4 Drinks at $4 + taxi fare ($15) ~ $13/hour

    Now to analyze the Wii — lets add it all up.. $275 for a console. 3 games at $50 ea. and a “quarter” of your T.V. $150 because you need to attribute some of the purchase of the T.V. to the cost of using a wii
    Total Cost: $ 575 (or more), This means to be cheaper than going to cheap movie s you’d have to play for 384 or more hours.. Thats a lot of gaming!

    In the end there’s also a quality factor, do you enjoy a conversation more than playing a video game? do you enjoy baking more than movies at the theatre? For me the answer to both was yes, thats why I make my own baking for my lunch and I returned my xbox360 so I could spend more time with my wife and friends…


  11. George on February 6, 2008 at 12:28 pm

    I’ve gotta ditto the comment about a PVR being a “need”. It’s one of those gadgets that fills a need that you didn’t know you had.

    My wife balked when I said I wanted one a few years ago. Now she wouldn’t give it up. Being able to watch all of your favorite shows on an “on demand” basis (because they’re all recorded on the hard drive) is simply AWESOME. Especially if you have kids… :-)

  12. George on February 6, 2008 at 12:32 pm

    MikeG: That’s why I rented a Wii from our local video store. Total cost (including games and a total of 4 controllers): $40 for two weeks. Over the course of those two weeks we played for a couple of hours each night, so let’s say 28 hours, or about $1.42 per hour. Far cheaper than buying it outright. We got all the benefits of the “wow factor” (the first few weeks where you play the thing all the time) without having to pay the full cost.

    To top it off, renting it was easy – the video store had a few readily available for rent. Since I rented it shortly before Christmas, the systems weren’t very easy to find for purchase.

  13. FourPillars on February 6, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    PVRs are awesome – once you try one, you will never give it up!


  14. Ameya on February 6, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    Why is it just the guys will agree with you? Girls are just as much gadget-freaks as guys.

    Maybe it’s just my generation. I always see older blogers talking about gadgets and such talking to guys , when us college aged people, girls have MUCH MUCH more than guys. It gets a little frustrating! Guys will have a cell and a game console (or two) while girls have the cameras, the blackberrys, more likely to have laptops, etc.

    • FrugalTrader on February 6, 2008 at 2:52 pm

      Ameya, sorry, didn’t mean to be sexist! Maybe it’s just my surroundings where it’s usually the guys who drool over electronics.

  15. Ameya on February 6, 2008 at 3:07 pm

    heh, It’s okay, I just see it all the time, so i needed to “rawr” for a second. I do realize that the affinity for techy stuff varies in different demographic circles :)

  16. Roxanne on February 6, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    I have to agree with Ameya, in our household I am the one who cares about speaker tweeters size, the best cordless bandwidth on the market or the TV we “need” to see shows on. I have been on a campaign to prove to my husband that a laptop, a home theater system and an HD-PVR would be great additions to our home. He is right, we don’t “need” them, but boy would I enjoy some more toys to play with! The female market is changing boys!

  17. Karl on February 6, 2008 at 10:40 pm

    There are only 2 gadgets that come to mind immediately that I “need”.
    1) My Laptop. I use it several hours everyday! I couldn’t live without it. (I guess I should include my wireless router here as well, I couldn’t do much without internet access).
    2) My iPod. A fairly large initial cost, but lots of free content out there that entertains me for hours on end. With all the time I’ve used it, it easily works out to pennies per hour of use so far, and that ratio is still dropping.

    Personally, I think that one main factor in how you should judge whether a gadget is worth it is to estimate the “cost per hour” of use/entertainment. Somethings might be very expensive up front (I think I paid $250 for my iPod) but after all the use it gets, it is very cheap (a rough calculation brings me to $0.15 cents per hour of use). Compare that to going to a movie ($13) for 2 – 3 hours of entertainment ($4 to $6 dollars an hour). Gadgets might be expensive, but over the long run they can provide much more value.

  18. DJP on February 6, 2008 at 11:15 pm

    Another gadget which quickly proved to fall into the “need” category is my Creative ZenW PMP (portable media player). Although its a little larger than an ipod, it can do more. It plays music, video (4.3″ screen), FM radio, and can act as a portable data drive. The clincher was it’s built in compact flash slot which we use to download the digital camera memory card when traveling.
    This device was used everyday on family vacations for outputting music to a stereo or video to a tv. The last trip to Mexico I filled it up with movies for the kids and with the included cable would play the movies on the hotel tv; that sure beats lugging a portable dvd player and a stack of movies.
    Basically this device does many of the things you would lug a laptop around for but it is much more portable. The Archos 604 & 704 models are even WiFi enabled for web-surfing.

  19. Selene on February 6, 2008 at 11:36 pm

    I need a cell phone like you do. I couldn’t leave the house without, because I feel disconnected from the rest of world. When I lost my cell phone I felt so vulnerable, because I couldn’t call people in the case of an emergency.

  20. CanadianRetiredGuy on February 6, 2008 at 11:56 pm

    1. Garmin’s iQue3600 – Palm Pilot and GPS combo. Now discontinued. I never thought I would ever want a Palm device, but bought it for the GPS capability and have not been without it for about 5 or 6 years. It’s going to be a real transition when it dies and I cannot replace it.

    2. PVR – no commercials, and “what the heck was that or what the heck did they say?

  21. Houska on February 7, 2008 at 8:42 am

    Î travel a lot, so
    1. Laptop – provided by work
    2. Blackberry – provided by work
    2. Digital camera – I’m a 1st adopter here; I care about my photography
    3. iPod – I’m a follower here, 2-3 yrs old is fine
    Don’t own a TV or game machine…a grand piano is a lot more fun (though also more expensive)

  22. Karl on February 7, 2008 at 12:28 pm

    “1. Garmin’s iQue3600 – Palm Pilot and GPS combo. Now discontinued. I never thought I would ever want a Palm device, but bought it for the GPS capability and have not been without it for about 5 or 6 years. It’s going to be a real transition when it dies and I cannot replace it.”

    If the iPhone ever gets to Canada (I’m assuming your Canadian), it has GPS, calendar, tasks, MP3/video player, and cell phone all in one to replace your iQue3600. Granted, the iPhone isn’t cheap and will definitely be available only with a 2 year contract. I’m sure there are other devices that would be a worthy replacement if you looked around.

  23. Johnn on February 7, 2008 at 7:10 pm

    1) Hipster PDA
    2) Car
    3) Computer
    4) Internet access

    None of these are gadgets though, sorry. I just couldn’t think of any gadgets I need.

  24. BaseGuardian on February 8, 2008 at 3:34 am

    The gadget that I need;(drumrol)
    1. PS3
    2. Iphone
    3. New Powerfull laptop(for ultimate pleasure of blogging)

  25. jpohl on February 8, 2008 at 4:56 am

    none of the above… i’m using my husband’s old laptop, and all his hand me down gadgets, and let him determine our need for gadgets. big trust factor here. I must say he’s been pretty good. his diyplanner.com came out of determining the palm wasn’t a need. then I convince him that my needs include art supplies (like exotic pigments) and low tech gadgets like expensive have to be ordered out of the country brushes, and beautiful throw pillows (well at least a few) and a wonderful closet sytem (which we got 40 percent off in a january sale). If it makes you sane and more productive then it may pay for itself and be a justified need… there has to be a little give and take, and a lot of respect. it’s hard to understand the needs for constant upgrades with some gadgets though… who needs three of one thing, if you didn’t use the first two? be strong guys. be strong. is it like keeping up with the changing fashions?

  26. jpohl on February 8, 2008 at 3:29 pm

    have to say that the camera is one you won’t regret… Being in IT my hubbie has often had gadgets sent to him in exhange for services from other techies and as gifts of appreciation… He got a really good deal on a new camera after our first born was born, and it may be my favourite gadget. This Christmas I put together albums for our mothers… the best present ever! Can you believe I went to Europe with a dinky ten dollar 110? (the images were wonderfully grainy when I blew them up for a show a few years later.) The digital are getting much better and save a fortune on film and prints. Being frugal you have to love that…

    With so many gadgets going to landfills I think there are a lot of hand me downs that still work perfectly well at a fraction of the cost. My hubbie is into retro technology… and is having parts for Newton’s sent to him from all over after blogging about one of his latest hobbies.

  27. lena the thinker on February 9, 2008 at 11:21 am

    3.Cell Phone
    4. Digital Camera

  28. Johnn on February 9, 2008 at 2:05 pm

    My wife told me I forgot one thing off my list:

    5) Coffee maker

    Yes, she is correct. Again! :)

  29. CheapCanuck on February 9, 2008 at 2:17 pm

    I’m a big gadget guy, and love reading about all the latest tech. However, I find the reading to be almost as entertaining as owning any of this stuff. Checking out forums where early adopters that paid thousands for the latest tech stuff are grousing about all the problems they are having is a great impulse control check. All that being said, I don’t just enjoy gadgets vicariously. My PS3 is my guilty pleasure (though more for its multimedia capability than game playing).

  30. kevin on February 29, 2008 at 10:21 am

    So I have been disappointed with technology over time, as they also seem to break down (2 GPS, 3 shortwave radios, 2 stereos…). So I can live without.

    Perhaps the exception is my marine radio, which is pretty useful for getting race and wind information at sailing regattas. And maybe a GPS watch, so we don’t go too far astray.

    The rest… not much interest.


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