Gadgets and Appliances, Neglected Asset Classes – Guest Post
People have gadget collections that are larger and worth more than ever before. The USA has more mobile phones currently in people’s possession than there are people. MP3 player ownership is up from 20% in 2006 to 43% in 2013. There has been a slight decline in numbers of TV’s and MP3 players owned in the last few years, but this is largely due to the growth of laptops used to watch TV and smartphones, which cost astronomically more than a basic cell phone and more than make up for the decline in numbers bought in their higher cost. Similarly, people now have more appliances than ever before to help with housework with it very uncommon for people to not own a dishwasher and washing machine.
Gadgets also are responsible for a huge amount of waste. It has been estimated that hundreds of millions of dollars worth of gadgets per year are literally thrown into the bin in the US and UK. On top of this over 35% of all gadgets are no longer in use by the original owner five years after purchase and as this includes items such as blenders, washing machines and dishwashers, products all with a life of well over five years it is easy to imagine how many phones, games consoles and TV’s are not in use after this time. Many of these gadgets merely sit around, with an average of around $7,434 going unused in every US household. This is a huge number and represents a huge inefficiency.
Warranties are also a huge issue and are one of the things that has yet to be commonly shifted online. Often people complain about losing warranty paperwork and thus not being able to return their item when it breaks many years down the line. This is arguably one of the reasons that some companies are happy to give out lifetime warranties, they are very rarely used. It seems odd that warranties are not as well looked after as, for example, financial documentation. The average price of a washing machine is around $556, not an amount that one wants to lose. Thus it is sensible to transfer the offline online and make sure that your warranties are somewhere on the web, whether on Dropbox or in your inbox.
If you are serious about your finances you would not leave any other assets sitting, unused, while losing value. Gadgets are an asset. Yes, they are never going to make a return in a monetary sense but the happiness that they give you is part of the value of them. Leaving gadgets in a loft or drawer is a waste, they accumulate dust and lose value, and don’t fulfil the purpose that they were intended for. Why not sell them? Selling under-utilized gadgets is good for your wallet, good for giving you space in your house and good for the environment. It is a win-win situation, one of few around and it should be taken advantage of.
A promising anecdote: One of my friends was complaining to me last week about not being able to afford to come on holiday with me to Portugal. A few hours later we had enough items listed on eBay to pay for her holiday. She had a lot of junk, such as an old Apple laptop, some unused surround sound speakers and a completely unused DSLR, so you may not be as successful, but hers is not an uncommon story.
It would be foolish to suggest that it is easy to better manage your gadgets. It is hard to know if you will ever need the video game you have just finished if you are unaware if any DLC is going to come out and it is hard to completely rule out that one day you will want to play The Sims again, even at the age of 35. There are two points here. Firstly, there is nothing stopping you from selling to later buy. I often sell a game a month after release when I have completed it for perhaps 65-80% of the original retail price before buying it again nine months later when I miss it for half of that price (figure 2). Listing an item on eBay takes 2 minutes, posting it takes 3 minutes and rebuying it takes about 2. If you value your time at over $171 per hour (based on saving $20 and it taking 7 minutes) then I understand if you choose not to sell and rebuy. If you don’t then I cannot understand why you would not take the time to trade in old video games.
Common arguments against this approach is that you want to be able to “dip in” to games. However I doubt that in the modern day, where Amazon Prime offers one day delivery that this is really the case. Normally it is more a case of merely being very passive when it comes to managing gadgets and their finance. My suggestion therefore is this. Know what you own and know what you use. When there is a gadget you do not use treat it as you would your financial investments. If your share prices were falling astronomically you would sell. Follow this pattern.
It must be noted that it is not the case that you should necessarily own fewer gadgets. Some are very useful and can help enrich your life. Money for enjoyment wise my PS3 was a very worthy investment. My tablet is a godsend for my commute to work or university. However I could afford these on a student budget as I didn’t waste, I didn’t allow year old phones to sit in my drawer just as I wouldn’t recoup all that I paid for them. If they are unused then I would rather have $1 and the space than to leave them. Be smart about technology as it is an asset class that can no longer be ignored.
This was written by Michael Fernando.