My girlfriend and I are planning on upgrading my television in the near future and we have been discussing an upgrade since we moved in together in July. A few years ago I bought a flat-screen, non-smart LED television and I love the purchase. But as we all know, electronics evolve at a rapid pace and today’s latest and greatest becomes an antique within only a few years. To get the most out of our cable, tablets, and other devices, we decided that we need an upgrade. With our credit cards in hand, we set out on a voyage to frugally improve our “out-dated” television. Let’s see what we decided.
Two years ago I purchased a 40-inch TCL for $340. For those of you who are not familiar, TCL is one of the largest television brands in China and is rapidly trying to grow in the US. At the time of the purchase, I was looking for a nice TV but I did not have the funds to buy a name brand. So after doing some research, I discovered that major companies such as Samsung and Philips have outsourced production to TCL in the past. Great! I can get name brand quality at an off-brand price! The TV has performed well and the picture even looks better than the pictures of some of the name brands.
However, as I discussed earlier the television industry is evolving and my TCL is becoming more and more outdated. As we all know, the new trend is to own a smart television that connects all apps, online subscriptions, and devices in your household. While I don’t mind connecting my laptop via HDMI cable and watching Netflix that way, I would like the convenience of an all-inclusive device. I have the means to afford the upgrade, so why not reward ourselves? The key is doing it frugally, exhausting all options, and finding getting the most value for my dollar. My search/journey had three stops, lets take a look at each.
Option 1: Buy a New TV
The first option is the most costly of the group. But man is it fun to walk into a Best Buy, Target, Costco, etc. and shop for a new TV. I haven’t paid attention to the new trends in the TV industry for over two years and man has the technology evolved. There are now curved TVs and other sets that produce a picture that display a picture that looks better than real life objects (4K). When the salesperson approaches you, it is easy to see why you have to leave the store (or Amazon that night) with this brand new TV. After taking a step away from the TV and removing itself from my spell, I soon remembered the price tag that comes with all of this brand new technology. To get a Smart TV with the specs I wanted, I would have easily had to spend $500. That price tag was way too much for the simple convenience I desired. After all, my TV produces a great picture and has not had any issues yet (Knock on wood). Incurring that cost would have been too much and therefore, we officially removed option 1 from the drawing board.
Option 2: Xbox Live
I am also the proud owner of an Xbox 360. However, I would have to dust this unit off before I use it since it has sat in the closet since I moved in during July. One of the options Xbox offers is a subscription to Xbox Live which allows its user full access to the internet. This includes online gaming, Netflix, the Microsoft store, Hulu Plus, and so on. Right now an Xbox Live subscription would run anywhere between $40-$50 per year. This was by far the cheapest option available for year one. However, there were a few things that scared me. First, I would have to renew the subscription annually so the cost will continue to increase over time. Second, the Xbox 360 is no long the poster child of the Microsoft Gaming family. I predict that updates for my system will continue to dwindle as Microsoft continues to push all customers to the new Xbox One. So I run the risk of my device becoming obsolete and having to eventually purchase a streaming advice down the road. Lastly, Xbox Live is really meant for gamers and sadly those days are long behind me. If I were still in college I would absolutely buy the Xbox Live membership and continue to dominate other gamers! With all the red flags flying in the air, I decided to pass on the cheapest option for the year in favor of my final option.
Option 3: Roku 3
Lastly, the thrilling conclusion to my frugal shopping adventures. I eliminated buying a new TV and using my Xbox 360 to enhance my TV viewing experience, so now where do I turn to?? Over the last couple of years, products such as the Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Google Chromecast, and Apple TV have been developed to emulate the smart TV experience without purchasing a smart TV. These devices allow you to access your Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Pandora, etc. subscriptions on your television. This is exactly what we are looking for! And the great news was that all the options were under $100 and did not require an annual subscription. So it was only a one-time hit to our checking accounts! The next difficult decision was finding the best fit for our needs. They all offer the same service, so the deciding factor became convenience. Amazon Fire TV and Apple TV provide the greatest benefit for customers that are loyal to the family **cough* Lanny and Apple **cough** (Editors Note: Lanny was brand loyal to Apple until he recently upgrade to his LG G3). However, the lady and I are not as brand loyal and could not take advantage of all the special features. As a result we felt the Roku 3 was a better fit for us since it provided access to many more apps, subscriptions, allowed control through a remote, and maneuvered through all the apps a lot easier than the competitors (This was based 100% on reading many independent reviews). Even better for us, the Roku 3 was on special the day we bought it and reduced the price from $99 to $89! Splitting $90 between the two of us will reduce my cost to only $45, which will help my savings rate out a heck of a lot more than opting for option 1!
Time will tell if we made the right decision. The one thing for certain is that I feel as if I made the best decision based on my needs and wants for an enhanced entertainment experience. Even though I already knew it, this process once again showed me that there are always frugal options that will allow you to reach your end goal for a reduced price. What are your thoughts about my purchase? Have any of you gone through a similar process recently? Do you have and like your Roku, or do you own an alternative device? I am looking forward to hearing your responses!