He Said, She Said – Buying A $2K Amp

It should come as no surprise that the PoPs talk about money fairly often in our daily lives. To bring some more of those conversations to you, we’re testing out a new format on the blog. If you like it, let us know and we’ll make it a more regular feature!



Kitty PoP likes to hang out on the speakers, too. And he’s starting to get festive for the holidays!

The Background On Today’s Conversation

About 10 years ago, Mr. PoP built a set of big speakers that were designed to be used with an expensive (at the time ~$1,400) tube amplifier. The speakers traveled with him from dorm rooms to apartments, and are now the main speakers in our living room. We use them for music, movies, etc. But they currently use a cheap chip amplifier, not the high fidelity tube amplifier they were designed for. (Mr. PoP is an audiophile and really appreciates sound quality.)

Two summers ago, after finishing the work on the duplex, we still had unfinished projects at our own house, but we were pooped and needed motivation to get them done. So we made a list of all the unfinished projects, wrote it all out on flourescent orange paper (we like flourescent orange paper!), titled it “Operation Homefront” and put it on the fridge. The deal was struck that when Operation Homefront was complete, Mr. PoP could get his amp (though the price has risen over the last decade so it’s about $2K for all the different parts of it now).

Well, Operation Homefront is almost complete, and Mr. PoP is looking at buying the amp pretty soon – hence why we set $1,500 aside in November for a big purchase – but it seems like he might be having second thoughts…

He Said

It’s a big purchase. I’ve wrestled with this one for about 10 years now, ever since I first got into Audiophile headphones. The odd thing is that I could have gotten the silly thing at any point over the last decade, it’s just that I never thought I had “enough” money, whatever that meant!

Part of the problem is that this sort of purchase is tough to put a value on.  Music is art, and its very tough to put a value on its experience. Of course we tried!

  • I spend about 90 minutes a night listening to music.  Over 10 years that would come out to about  half a penny a minute over the next 10 years or so.
  • Another way of thinking of $2k is that since we put away $4k a month in debt reduction we would be extending our working careers by about 2 weeks.
  • A third way is we would be paying about $10 for the interest to finance the $2k for 2 weeks at 6% (rough average of interest rates)
So what to do? I’ll probably buy the thing sometime in December, but may wait until I see a used one come up for sale on ebay or similar. The price for used vs. new doesn’t differ much, which plays into the general “buy it for life” philosophy of picking up items that will last forever with very low depreciation.
I asked the Mr. Money Mustache Forum for some advice, and they thought it was a terrible idea. They could be right, but now, even with my headphones, I can listen to a cut of “Clowns and Jugglers” by Syd Barrett and get chills up my spine. What else can I spend my money on that will do something like that?

She Said

In my view, the ball is totally in Mr. PoP’s court on this purchase. I look it as we made a deal – there was about 90 hours worth of work around the house that needed to be done. Hard, physical work for the most part. So if Mr. PoP gets his amp at the end of it, it’ll work out to us “paying” ~$23.53/hour for this work. We don’t usually pay anyone else to do work around the house, but I imagine that a handyman would have charged at least that much to do much of this work if we want to make that type of comparison.

But really, it’s not about the money. The part that I keep coming back to is that this isn’t a passing fancy for Mr. PoP. This is something he’s invested a LOT of time and thought into over the last decade, and I’m confident that he’s going to enjoy it for many years to come. But even though he’s the audiophile in the house, I don’t think it’s true that he’ll be the sole beneficiary of the purchase.

Since the amp will be out in the main room with the speakers, we’ll have more music playing in the center of the house – which will make it even more of a natural gathering place for us.  Plus, Mr. PoP’s taste in music is pretty eclectic, so it’ll likely widen my horizons a bit on that front, too!


Readers – what’s your take on his proposed big expenditure? Is it irresponsible while we’re still paying off our RE investments?

41 comments to He Said, She Said – Buying A $2K Amp

  • I don’t know. It’s hard to spend that much money on something that isn’t completely necessary. However, sometimes it just makes sense. We just replaced our furniture that was only 3 years old to upgrade to something more comfortable. It was definitely worth the 2K…..I sit on it every day! To me, it was money well spent. He will probably feel similarly about the amp=)
    Holly@ClubThrifty recently posted..How Much Money Is Enough?My Profile

    • Yeah, I think sometimes we get in such a “don’t spend” mentality that when something like this comes up it can be a bit of a stumbling block when it comes to pulling the trigger.

  • Go for it. You work hard and don’t need much, you know you’ll enjoy this treat tremendously and have proven it with your music usage for many years. It is not like “I am getting into music and need the best straight away”. It is worth the sacrifice for your high usage.
    Pauline recently posted..Life is not like the moviesMy Profile

    • Yeah, I think the fact that he’s been into this for over a decade plays a big role in it for me. Sometimes it can be exciting to jump into a new hobby and want to “buy all the things!” But then the newness wears off and you’re left with a bunch of stuff you don’t use anymore. I’m pretty convinced that’s not going to happen here =)

  • Go for it. If it is something that brings enjoyment to your lives and you use it as much as you say in the post…splurge a lil….

  • Haha, oh man, kitty pop looks ridiculous in that outfit! My girls love dressing up our cat and dog and holiday things and t-shirt — they think it’s wonderful. I always think it looks ridiculous and can only laugh at it all! :-)
    TB at BlueCollarWorkman recently posted..The Problem with Working in the CityMy Profile

    • Haha, I agree it’s ridiculous, but it cracks me up! This particular outfit came from dollar tree a few year ago, and comes out with the holiday decor =).

  • As a guy who was a DJ for 10 years and who listens to music constantly, I’m with Mrs. PoP here….buy it. There’s no way you’ll regret that purchase based on everything I read here. You made a deal, finished the project AND you still want the thing, so buy it. What are you doing still reading this? Go buy it!
    AverageJoe recently posted..Year End Tax Planning: A (Surprising) System of Cleaning My ClosetMy Profile

    • Haha, thanks for the vote AverageJoe. As a music buff do you care to weigh in on the analog vs digital debate? I don’t want to start WWIII here, though!

  • I think you should spend money when it’s something important to you. As you said you have almost all of it put away at this point.
    Gillian @ Money After Graduation recently posted..November 2012 Spending RecapMy Profile

  • That is a very well planned out argument. I can only judge it by our new standard of purchases:

    It has certainly passed the 30 day rule. Ten years is a long time to plan.

    I don’t really get men and their need for the perfect sound, but my husband is very similar, so it would seem to add quality of life. I think working an extra two weeks in life would seem worth it.

    You have the money and don’t need to go into debt to purchase it. We will only take on debt that makes money for us, and this does not apply in that category.

    So I would say go ahead and buy one that you love. Kitty PoP is hilarious by the way.
    Kim@Eyesonthdollar recently posted..Do Your Purchases Reflect Your Values?My Profile

    • I like your last criteria! Most of our debt right now was debt that we used to buy investments, the car loan is the only debt that doesn’t fit that category – and the only reason it’s at a lower priority for payback is because the rate is so low on it.

  • I say go for it. If it can be afforded and not putting you in debt then I see no problem. After all, you need to have fun and if it’s something Mr. Pop enjoys then why not?
    John S @ Frugal Rules recently posted..Why Rebalancing Your Portfolio is Like Buying a Carton of EggsMy Profile

  • I don’t see this as any different that spending money on a wedding or a vacation somewhere. It’s something you really WANT but isn’t a necessity. However, you guys have done the responsible thing–which is wait it out, save up, and accomplish all the necessary stuff FIRST before giving in to your wants. And now you want to keep denying yourselves something that will obviously bring him so much pleasure? Live life a little. Why are personal finance bloggers so scared of spending money?
    Newlyweds on a Budget recently posted..A Costa Rica Honeymoon, 2.5 Years in the MakingMy Profile

    • I like the idea of thinking of it like a vacation since experiences are where we usually like to spend money since the memories last so long!

  • Just get it — don’t tell him, though, b/c Christmas is coming up (and he doesn’t read the comments, right?)!
    Kathleen, Frugal Portland recently posted..Update: Frugal Portland Gift Exchange!My Profile

    • haha – with combined finances, hiding a $2K purchase for a month would be pretty tough =) I think it’ll make more sense for Mr. PoP to pick out the exact one he wants before pulling the trigger. Honestly, I think part of the fun for him is all the research into the different amps!

  • I would say go for it. He has worked hard for it, dedicated his time to the projects and there is nothing better than a reward that you want and will use. Sometimes you just need to reward yourself for your accomplishments and then move on.
    Grayson @ Debt Roundup recently posted..Students: How to Finish College with No DebtMy Profile

  • Ivy

    You really want it, you can afford it, you have taken the time to think this through. Get it. You have to relax and enjoy life and sometimes this means a big purchase.

    Let me share a story. We came from Eastern Europe. My husband’s parents are savers, he has told me a lot of stories from his childhood about sacrifices and going without because they wanted to save as much as possible for education/weddings/rainy day, etc. Well, the “changes” came, inflation was rampant, nobody could withdraw savings because the banks were not allowing access, and by the time things settled down their savings weren’t worth anything, pocket money at best. My husband’s savings account for college went to buy him one bus ticket to his college town (he got a scholarship). They had just sold their old car expecting they’ll buy a newer one quickly and then suddenly there were no cars to buy and then they couldn’t afford the new prices – they went without a car for 15 years until we were able to help out a few years ago. Anyway, for us the moral has always been that the system can change on you without warning, and while saving is good, spending and living in the present have their value.

    • You’re right – we take for granted the stability of our financial system so much and don’t even consider the possibility of hyper-inflation or massive devaluation of our currency. I don’t really want to get to the point that we are so fearful that we live like there’s no tomorrow, but you’ve provided a good reminder that living for today is worth something too.

    • Thanks for sharing…thats a scary story!
      Mr. Pop recently posted..What To Include In Your Net Worth?My Profile

  • They say that spending money on experiences is one of the best things that you can do with money. In this case Mr. PoP isn’t just buying a thing. To him it’s an experience. It’s just like a musician buying a new instrument to get the sound just right.
    He’s also passed the 30 day waiting period and still wants it. You said it’s not a passing fancy.
    Justin@TheFrugalPath recently posted..Coupon Folders: A System that Works for MeMy Profile

    • You’re totally right, Mr. PoP was listing out the things that he liked about his intended purchase and part of it was beauty and permanence. For him it’s definitely an experience beyond cranking the volume up and jamming out to a random cd (which is what it is to me!)

  • If it’s something that you really want and you have the money for then I say go for it especially if it is an experience of a lifetime. YOLO- You only live once so spend your money as you see fit while being responsible for your finances. Cheer Mr.CBB
    Canadian Budget Binder recently posted..CBB Net Worth Update~November 2012My Profile

  • Some things go beyond money. If you can afford to buy it and it will make you happy, sometimes you just have to do it. You set finishing Operation Homefront as the goal, and if you’ve completed that its only right to reward yourself!
    The First Million is the Hardest recently posted..Simplify Your Life – Automate Your FinancesMy Profile

  • PK

    As the proud owner of a guitar tube amp (and I’m extra sure that everyone who sees it knows it’s a tube amp and I’ve modded it!), I’m on team tube amp. It’s not consumer debt you’re up against, it’s debt incurred while investing – which is a lot more than most folks can say.

    However, are you sure you can’t build it for less? What are the specs on it? I’ll try to find schematics on something you can put together for less (if you want to do a project, heh).
    PK recently posted..Wealth is Not IncomeMy Profile

  • CF

    First, the cat is ridiculous… ridiculously CUTE!

    Secondly, I can understand his desire to spend some money on something he’s really keen on, and if there’s cash set aside for it, it is not so bad.
    CF recently posted..Keep your passwords safeMy Profile

  • eemusings

    A tube amp, huh? I’m not big into sound and only ever had a cheapie solid state guitar amp, but tubes are meant to be something else entirely. I’ll echo the masses here – Kim’s list was pretty spot on I think.
    eemusings recently posted..Then and now: frugality through the yearsMy Profile

  • A lot of couples have the problem of accusing one or the other of having spending habits or purchases that are not as worthwhile as the other. For example if you have a hobby in fishing, your wife may view it as a waste and not take it very seriously when you buy new lures. The same can be true of a wife that is into scrap-booking. New supplies look like a waste to the husband.

    Both sides need to respect each other and if the money has been allocated to these purchases and is completely in line with ‘fun money’ or ‘extra spending’ it should be free game for that person.
    Scott @Youthfulinvestor recently posted..Should I list Day Trading or Investing as Skills on my Resume or LinkedIn Profile?My Profile

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