How should I spend $800+ extra dollars?
March 2, 2006 12:49 PM   Subscribe

Should I get a large flat panel TV?

I'm selling a laptop and expecting to receive about $800. I have additional money saved up from work. I want to spend it on something I'll get alot of use out of... so I'm thinking a nice TV that I can watch HD-DVDs(Eventually) or HDTV. Currently I have a 23" Sony TV which I've had for about 4 years now...

Should I get a nice TV? Are there any glaring reasons not to buy one, besides the inevitable continual price drop on flat panel TVs? What would you recommend that I use my money on? I've already got a working car, a computer, another laptop (from work)...

Another option I'd thought of was investing it, but would it be worth investing 800$ in anything?
posted by mhuckaba to Shopping (24 answers total)
We really love having a forward projector rather than a big TV. The pluses include it being small, easily moved, and producing a 100" image on a white wall. The main minus is that it's only really suitable for watching movies/games in the dark. (And while the HD ones exist they're still really expensive.)
posted by Aknaton at 1:09 PM on March 2, 2006


The latest LCD, HD ready, tvs produce a VERY lush picture.

And sooner or later everyone will get one.

Be an early adopter, you help the world revolve.

If you are going to do any gaming on it be sure to get one with a low refresh rate. Samsung make a nice one.
posted by gergtreble at 1:17 PM on March 2, 2006

I guess the answer depends on how much you like watching TV.

I bought a 42 inch last year, and the whole family enjoys it. It's also where we play Xbox, and the games are quite impressive at that size.

We don't watch any more TV than the average family (which may still be quite a lot), but it's something we use almost every day.

I say if your finances are otherwise in order, live it up.
posted by genefinder at 1:20 PM on March 2, 2006

Yes, I hate to admit it but an HDTV is the most useful thing I have. Make sure you get your cable/satellite provider's HD package or it will be useless. You'll spend the first few months watching nothing but nature shows. Movies in HD are great, I never watched movies on my regular TV -- now I'm a junky.

I would highly recommend getting the DVR package your television provider offers. For the $10 extra a month, it pays for itself several times over when you start watching things you'd never watch if it weren't for DVR.
posted by geoff. at 1:21 PM on March 2, 2006

I bought a EDTV 37" plasma about a year ago, back when they were still expensive and now that I have HD cable, it's really amazing. I only watch about 60-90 min of TV after the baby goes to bed, but on stuff like Lost or Olympics or movies, it looks fantastic.

You can get decent bright 42" plasmas down to $1500 now, so I'd say go for that, and try and watch something you are familiar with in the store before you buy. I was shopping for LCD when I realized after looking at 4 or 5 of them I hated the picture and prefered the look of plasma.
posted by mathowie at 1:25 PM on March 2, 2006

IMO the best deal in LCD TVs right now is this Sceptre 37" 1920x1080 LCD HDTV sold through Costco. It's $1,764.99 after all tax, rebates, coupons, and shipping. I have this thing hooked up to my computer and it looks killer.

- Learn photography. You can get a Nikon D50 package with decent zoom lens and still have change left over for an extra SD card and case.
- Foreign language classes
- Ballroom dancing lessons
- Improve your cooking. Buy a nice chef's knife and paring knife, a few All-Clad pots and pans, and a good cookbook and cook your way through it. A knife skills course would be immensely useful as well.
posted by junesix at 1:42 PM on March 2, 2006

Why would you want to spend money just because you have it? That's financial madness.

The bit about investing sort of implies that you don't currently have any money invested in anything, which makes it an even better idea to keep saving money until you do have enough to have to think about where to invest it.

Are there any glaring reasons not to buy one

... you already have one? If you're going to spend money just for fun, might as well buy something more interesting than cheap consumer electronics that do basically the same thing as what you've already got, like what junesix said or whatever.

Although, if you like television but don't have a DVR, you'll need to get one of those.
posted by sfenders at 2:03 PM on March 2, 2006

Use the money to sponsor a whole bunch of kids through the relief organisation of your choice. Put their pictures on your mantel. Walk around with a huge shit-eating grin on your face the whole day because you feel so damn good. Look at the pictures while you eat dinner, grin some more, then read a book, go for a walk, learn Esperanto, have a nap, meet friends for coffee, cook a steamboat banquet, make muffins for your workmates, whatever.

Why watch nature documentaries or ice skating on TV when you could be out smelling flowers or getting a wet arse on a frozen pond? It doesn't get much more "high definition" than that.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 2:14 PM on March 2, 2006

Why are you asking how to spend $800? If you don't know anything to buy, why would you want to buy anything? Please do yourself a favor and save the money. It's ridiculous to ask for suggestions on how to get rid of money. If you have something in mind, buying it's fine but if you don't, jeez, you don't have to spend that money.

Put it in your savings account and forget about it.
posted by xmutex at 2:19 PM on March 2, 2006

For a few hundred, buy a high-def TV tuner card for your computer (this helps explain why; you can do anything you could with a TV or TiVo, as far as I know, and it's way cheaper).

Save or invest the rest.
posted by booksandlibretti at 2:53 PM on March 2, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for your suggestions and points of view.

I had thought about splurging on some nice cookware (Calphalon), since I cook alot, but I live in an apartment with 3 other college students, 2 of whom will probably fuck up anything nice in the kitchen without fail (random drunken stoners roommates, only 1 is my friend).

Why am I trying to spend $800 you ask? Well, I could put it in a savings account, where it wouldn't do me much good at either enriching my life or compounding itself. I could put it in a safe and consistantly performing stock with a 10%+ dividend, or play it on riskier ventures if I was to invest it. There are a few things I'd like to buy, but due to the fact that I live in a college apartment, I don't really have a place to A) use them and B) store them. These include:

Woodworking Tools (saws, drills, etc)
A gas grill
Fishing equipment

Anyone have any other investment ideas?
posted by mhuckaba at 4:25 PM on March 2, 2006

I would not have offered the following advice except that you asked for other investment ideas.

Maybe you could take a portion ($250? If it were me I would use $500) of the $800 and open a Roth IRA? You will have to pay the taxes on the IRA now but 40 years from now when you need it you will not be taxed on it. Use the remainder of the $800 on something you would like to splurge on.

Someone gave me advice when I was in my early 20's to "save money until it hurts, than save some more". This has been the best advice I have ever received.

posted by mlis at 4:58 PM on March 2, 2006

Since you asked, here are three reasons I wouldn't buy a new flat screen TV: 1, 1a, 2, 3.

You could think of saving the $800 as "buying" 1/30,000 of a house.
posted by salvia at 5:04 PM on March 2, 2006

If you're worried about your "random drunken stoner roommates" messing up something as harmless as cookware, you're even worse off getting a shiny, new TV.

Since you're a college student, I definitely recommend investing your money in marketable job skills. Any skill or experience that you can prominently put on your resume will yield significantly better returns than any stock or financial instrument.

- For a CS major, this means picking up books and teaching yourself programming in a high-demand "real world" language. ASP/.Net/J2EE/XML/SQL are very hot stuff right now.
- For a biz/finance major, go ahead and open that investment account. Learn about different types of investments and how to read, understand, and analyze financial statements. Read investment reports and get a subscription to a worthwhile newspaper/magazine (BusinessWeek=crap; get Economist, WSJ, Financial Times, CFO). Learn Excel, especially VLOOKUP and other functions. Get a well-fitting suit.
posted by junesix at 5:16 PM on March 2, 2006

Why am I trying to spend $800 you ask? Well, I could put it in a savings account, where it wouldn't do me much good at either enriching my life or compounding itself.

The first couple thousand dollars you save should go into an emergency fund, in safe, liquid funds (a savings account is good). That's what keeps you from having your life wrecked if there's some kind of temporary financial emergency. Ideally you should have three months of expenses in that fund.

It won't enrich your life or compound itself, but it protects you from risk. Think of it as your own personal insurance policy.

My recommendation: hold off on the TV, start building up your emergency fund.
posted by russilwvong at 5:44 PM on March 2, 2006

I was in this situation a few months ago when my TV broke. I ended up buying a very nice 27" SD TV instead for $300 or so. I watch mostly SD stuff and I heard nothing but bad things about watching SD content on a HDTV.
posted by smackfu at 5:54 PM on March 2, 2006

I'd agree with smackfu -- get a nice standard def CRT TV. $800 is not going to buy an HDTV worth looking at for long. Further, considering the rates that prices are dropping on these things, you'll feel like an ass three months from now. Get a 27" CRT for about $400, which will still be a huge improvement over your old 23". By the way, a 27" TV weighs about a hundred pounds so keep that in mind when deciding -- I opted for the extra "white glove" delivery option when I ordered my 27" and they positioned the TV in the living room and it hasn't moved since (4+ years now).

Another option is to wait until the Christmas season, by which time a lot more things in the HDTV market will have fallen into place. And good luck researching models, this is a huge, complicated market.

You don't have to get cable or satellite to get HD -- it comes in over the air (antenna) for free nearly everywhere now. Just make sure that your set has a built in "ATSC" tuner (i.e. not just "HDTV ready"). And for those of you who've had bad reception experiences, the new receivers are much better at pulling in weak/ghosting signals.

[I'm in the HDTV content creation and delivery business, and am still happy with my 27" SD CRT, but by this Christmas ...]
posted by intermod at 6:32 PM on March 2, 2006

I love my 32" HD LCD TV. Not only do I watch football and other cable HDTV on it, but it's my main computer monitor - I'm using it RIGHT NOW!
posted by ikkyu2 at 6:45 PM on March 2, 2006

Response by poster: As harmless as cookware? They use forks and knives on some of the Teflon pans we currently have. No way I'd drop 400+ dollars on Caphalon pans to have them scratch them up. I have a 100 dollar Henckles knife that I used to use to make sushi, and they put it in the dishwasher.

I guess I'll just hang onto it...
posted by mhuckaba at 7:54 PM on March 2, 2006

Oh no! Did someone just say Teflon??
posted by salvia at 1:40 AM on March 3, 2006

From salvia's link:
    "A chemical known as PFOA [...] is not found in Teflon products."
posted by ryanrs at 2:50 AM on March 3, 2006

Response by poster: Yeah... I try to use the glass pans and anodized aluminum ones that we have.
posted by mhuckaba at 6:57 AM on March 3, 2006

The full sentence from my link is actually: "PFOA is not found in Teflon products; it is used only in the manufacturing stage, and apparently entered the environment from manufacturing facilities." From there somehow got into "the blood of everyone on the planet." Crazy stuff, huh?
posted by salvia at 11:36 AM on March 3, 2006

People get awfully puritanical about money, it seems.
posted by craniac at 3:29 PM on March 3, 2006

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