The Television Adventure

When I eliminated my television back in 2009, I had no intention of acquiring another. I was perfectly content using my computer to stream videos or watch DVDs, so I thought I would have no reason to bother.

Katie disagreed. As everyone knows, my beloved daughter is not a minimalist. She works hard and shops with the same enthusiasm. I do not judge my daughter for this; she has the right to earn and spend her money as she pleases.

So when Katie came home one afternoon with a television in her arms, I shrugged and went on with my life. She wanted to watch movies and play games in her room and had decided to do just that.

I didn’t think about that television much. I watched it with her once a year, the day after Christmas, when we have a tradition of pigging out on clearance candy and watching Forrest Gump.

But then one evening after helping a friend move she came home with yet another television. Her friend had an extra that was larger than Katie’s and had gifted it to my daughter as a ‘thank you.’ Katie was delighted as she showed it to me; she could watch her videos on a larger screen thanks to the generosity of her friend.

My only question was what she intended to do with her old one.

Katie didn’t even give me the opportunity to ask that question. “As soon as I hook it up I’ll give my little one to you,” she announced. “It’s about time you joined the modern age and watched TV like normal folks!”

Oh geez.

That was how I found myself the proud owner of not only a small television but a Roku as well. She helped me hook it up and handed me the remotes with a smile.

I didn’t know how to work the remotes. The last television I owned didn’t have one. What the hell was I going to do with a television when I didn’t even know how to work it? I kept my thoughts to myself, thanked her profusely, and pretended to be happy with the gift.

That television sat in my room for a good six months untouched. I didn’t know how to work it, wasn’t motivated to try, yet I couldn’t bring myself to part with it because my daughter had loved me enough to give it to me. Eventually I realized that the situation was bordering on the ridiculous so I sat my butt down and figured it out.

Televisions have changed immensely since I last bothered with one many years ago. They do things now that I find amazing. I started out watching YouTube videos on the thing and eventually added one of those gadgets that play ancient video games and in time complemented it with a cheap DVD player.

It would save wear and tear on my computers, I reasoned.

As I developed the habit of watching a movie before bed, I realized that I could reduce my reliance on Facebook and the Internet if I had a way to capture the open air broadcasts from local news stations. I like to keep up with local news but I have a weakness for reading the comments. There was a problem with this, however. In order to capture the signals I needed to purchase another device and I was too cheap to spend the money.

That changed last night. While I was out to purchase some groceries, I stumbled upon a little antenna for $5. After asking the workers a few questions, I decided to give it a try.

It took several attempts but I managed to stick it to a window to gain reception. I fiddled with the remote, pressing random buttons until I finally found the proper menu and I managed to pick up a few channels.

For the first time in over a decade I watched the eleven o’clock news without losing myself in the comments section.

I feel as if I have stepped into an alternate reality. I can press a button and watch the news when it comes on instead of waiting for the highlights to go online. I don’t have to worry about my Internet going out when bad weather arrives. That’s an issue in my tiny area.

Part of me feels guilty for buying another gadget. Part of me feels odd because I am no longer part of the Minimalist Crowd that looks at televisions with disdain. But if I am going to allow others to live life on their terms, then that gives me the right to live on mine. The television was free, the antenna was $5, and now I can rest easy during storms. I can also use the device to play music when I slip a CD or MP3 DVD into the player I acquired, which means that I can shut my computer off entirely sometimes. I can even play games from my childhood, which I have discovered is a wonderful way to clear my head.

This little adventure has made me realize that change can be a very positive thing. It has made me realize that I need to abandon my comfort zone more often. It has also made me realize that if I embrace the older technology that I abandoned in the past that I can reduce my reliance upon the Internet. The world will not end if Annie cannot connect. To be honest, if I could teach myself to check email, respond to comments, and go offline after I upload my daily blog post, I would probably be better off.

I would definitely have more time.

If you happen to have a television (or manage to acquire one for cheap or free), you may want to consider buying one of those little devices that allow you to pick up stations for free. You would not only eliminate your cable expense, you may be able to drop some of those online movie subscriptions you pay for. They have a range of them, designed to pick up channels of varying distances from your home, so take care not to purchase until you find one that is powerful enough for your needs. The $5 one I purchased covers a 25-mile radius – just enough to watch the news, which is all I wanted. This is what the box looked like:

And always remember – minimalism is about living life on your terms, not the terms that some “expert” living out of a thousand-dollar laptop says you should live. You have the right to keep anything in your life that you find useful or gives you pleasure. If those experts want to judge, send them to me. I will be happy to show them what spot on my anatomy they can kiss.

So keep the old record player if you use it. Watch your DVDs. Play your cassettes and your VHS tapes. Wear the clothes you have in your closet. It is far better for the world if we use the things we already have anyway.


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I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

Impulse Purchases

“Mom,” Katie’s voice called out from her room as soon as I arrived home from work. “What type of tablet should I buy for my photo editing? I want a good one.”

“I thought you preferred using your Mac for photo editing,” I replied as I began my evening ablutions.

“Actually, I prefer using my phone but I want something with a bigger screen,” she replied as she began to follow me around the house. “I’ve been playing with my old iPad mini and I like it…but I don’t want to use it for anything other than a spare since I cracked the screen.”

I nodded. We had decided that day when she’d slipped on the ice that it was cheaper to use the device as it was instead of splurging on a repair since the function wasn’t affected.

We spent the evening looking at her options. She settled upon a smaller iPad Pro; to my surprise (and teasing) she ordered the iPad, a case, an Apple Pen, and some extra cables before she went to bed that night.

I didn’t think much about her purchase at the time. Katie had the money; I knew how much she enjoyed editing photos so I figured that she would keep the device for at least a decade. I even gave it a once-over after it arrived since I’d been contemplating a similar investment at some point in the next few years. The device was much larger than my ancient iPad mini so I filed the experience away in my mind to fuel my mental debate over the next few years and moved on.

Two Months Later:

“Mom, how much do you think I could sell my iPad for?” Katie asked out of the blue as we folded clothes at the laundromat.

“Sell your iPad? You just bought it!” I exclaimed as my head whipped around to gape at her.

“I know,” she replied glumly. “But I don’t use it as much as I thought I would because it’s so big. I feel wasteful just letting it sit in my room so I’m going to sell it.”

Daughter and I had a meaningful discussion about impulse purchases after that. I pointed out that she would have to sell it at a considerable loss despite the fact that it was practically new and urged her to become more thoughtful about making expensive purchases in the future…

…And then I agreed to buy the iPad from her in exchange for a monthly discount from her share of the household bills.

Slap me now. It’s a Mom thing.

To be honest, I didn’t expect her to take me up on my offer since I’d encouraged her to keep it. While she might not be using it much at the moment, I suspected that she would use it at some point in the future.

Katie disagreed. Two days after that conversation I arrived home from work to be presented with the device and all of the extras she’d purchased. We made our financial arrangements as I began to set it up.

On the positive side, I know the device will be used. My old iPad mini has proven to be a workhorse. I use it for reading PDF books, listening to music, taking photographs, and a slew of other tasks. There are times during my research when I will use it, an ancient iPod Touch with a dead battery, my Kindle, and assorted print books to cross-reference information as I continue to teach myself about wealth and investing. I had been toying with the thought of purchasing a larger iPad for several years as a result because I knew that it would make researching easier in today’s age of digital books and that it would make designing the internal layout on future books more pleasant.

Even better, I am acquiring the device practically new in exchange for a $50/month reduction on Katie’s share of the bills, at a total price of $700–less than the amount she paid for the iPad alone. With that sort of deal, I can afford the luxury.

Hopefully this experience will teach my daughter that she needs to think things through a bit more before she makes an expensive purchase but if not I have still managed to benefit not only myself but the kid as well. She gets to unload a device she no longer wants at a good price and I get the benefit of upgrading my gadget collection at a price I can afford. We both win.

The Way to Poverty is Lined With Impulse Purchases

Just because you CAN afford to buy something doesn’t mean that you should.

Purchases, especially expensive purchases, need to be thought about long and hard before you press the buy button. As a rule, I contemplate major purchases for at least a year before making them.

You should too.

You work hard for your money; it is the goal of businesses and advertisers to part you with your hard-earned cash. The more money you give them, the less you will have available to invest in your financial freedom.

Remember that.

A New Gadget

I am not a fan of single purpose gadgets. In my opinion, it is better in most cases to spend a little more money for a device that will serve many purposes than to have a collection of single-purpose devices laying about.

However, there are times when a single purpose device makes sense. For instance, it can be prohibitively expensive to purchase and repair a combination washing machine/dryer for your clothes. By investing in the single purpose washing machines and dryers, you will save money in the long run on repairs alone.

That said, there was one single purpose device that I told myself that I would never buy. I saw no point in purchasing a Kindle ebook reader since I could read the ebooks I purchased on my computer, my iPad mini, or a number of other devices. Unfortunately, since my injury I have a problem with backlit screens. While I can use them for short periods of time if I dim the screen, reading on a backlit device for long periods of time is entirely out of the question.

My friend’s daughter (technically my God-Daughter) loaned me her Kindle paperwhite as a test. When it ended up being a game changer I saved up the money and invested in a Kindle of my own. As a result I am now able to read my significant library of books in comfort again.

Part of me feels guilty about buying the Kindle. To ease the pain of my purchase, I went with the cheapest Kindle they had, complete with ads (as much as I hate them). Right now I could not justify spending an extra $20 to avoid them.

For the record, I am extremely grateful to be able to read my ebooks again.

What was the last single purpose item you purchased and why? Please share your story in the comments below.

Gadget Simplicity

One thing us geeks tend to have: Gadgets.

In such a digital world, how do we reduce the number of gadgets we need to carry around?  There are book readers, MP3 players, portable DVD players, cell phones, laptops… an endless array of devices to cater to our every whim…

For instance; I need a device to read books, play music and the occasional video, show off photos and help me keep track of life in general.

I tried using a smartphone for this but it was kinda hard reading a book on such a tiny screen–and hooking it up to the car stereo was not a fun experience…

I ended up going back to my Lifedrive.  I hadn’t totally retired the device because it makes an excellent Mp3/Ogg player and portable video device using TCPMP, besides being ready to surf the internet when bored at a restaurant that happens to have wifi (and small enough to be discreet).

Basically I went back to a bare-bones cellphone and my Lifedrive for everything else.

What does this eliminate?

  • ebook reader and physical books
  • portable music player
  • portable video player
  • portable usb thumb drive (has a built-in 4 GB hard drive for transferring files)
  • laptop for surfing the internet when out and about
  • paper planner
  • notepad
  • sound recorder
  • paper address book
  • alarm clock

It has a small built-in speaker, so I use it instead of a stereo to play music in the house when I’m cleaning, and connect it to my van to listen to it while traveling.  Katie and I sometimes go through the drive thru then park and watch a movie in the van. Yes, it has a small screen but my kid has yet to complain about being able to actually watch a show on the move…

I use it to transfer files when needed, and can even keep some portable applications on it for use on other people’s computers.

I still carry two devices when you add the cell phone, but that is better than some. It is definitely better than I used to do.  I would carry a paper planner, cell phone, notepads, books, mp3 player–you name it.  I have even been able to eliminate the alarm clock in my bedroom–and save electricity as a result.

Have you been able to simplify your gadgets?