Beneath the Surface

I generally consider myself to be a financially responsible, frugal person. That is, I don’t set budgets or track my spending; rather I simply try my best to spend money wisely by taking advantage of discounts and special offers (OzBargain is my most visited website second probably only to Google or Facebook).

That is especially the case when I make a big-ticket purchase, such as a new gadget. But today, something happened that actually made me feel a little bit sick. Make no mistake, I made an epic purchase, but I’m left wondering whether I’ve made a Faustian deal in order to score my “bargain”.

There is no short version, just the long one…

Last week Sydney was hit by a freak storm, which caused chaos and devastation throughout the state. In an attempt to avoid having to battle the elements, I asked, and was granted, leave to work from home. In hindsight, this turned out to be a rather bad decision since a fallen tree took out the power lines and left us without electricity for 6 hours, and me completely unable to do any work. “I need a laptop,” I thought to myself.

Microsoft Surface Pro 3

If only there were such a thing as a tablet that was also a laptop…

The following week, there was a post on OzBargain about a sale on Microsoft Surface tablets. I’d already been um-ing and ah-ing about whether to finally admit defeat and declare “pure iPad” a failed experiment. Then I read a leaked memo saying that Microsoft would be bumping up the prices of Surface by around 20% in response to the declining Australian Dollar. I was also lamenting having not salary sacrificed a laptop in the previous FBT year.

Anyway, each and every sentence in that last paragraph could have been a separate blog post. Suffice to say, I talked myself into getting one, but at that point “insane mode” kicked in – this is where I attempt to find every possible discount and benefit available.

Here is a brief summary of my process (excluding options that were considered but rejected):

  • Regular price: $1,549 (increasing to $1,849 on May 4th) – Surface Pro 3, i5/256
  • Accessories: $149 – type cover, $229 – dock
  • Bundle price from CompNow – $1,628
  • Price match at JB Hifi ($1,629.40 due to some technicality with their discounting system)
  • Paid using JB Hifi gift cards, purchased using discounted Wish gift cards from Entertainment Book
  • Salary sacrifice

In theory my out of pocket is around $750, minus whatever I can get selling the iPad. I should be jubilant, but then there was the collateral damage to consider:

Piles and piles of receipts and used gift card carriers

It’s even worse than it looks, ‘coz I haven’t spread them all out properly.

Big W and Woolies had run out of $100 denominations in JB Hifi gift cards, so I purchased thirty-one $50 gift cards. This is in spite of the 10-card transaction limit, and the fact that each card had to be activated online, so I was probably hogging a self-checkout terminal to myself for a good 10-15 minutes.

Then there’s the waste. Oh the waste. The small tree’s worth of receipts and carriers (the cardboard bit attached to each gift card) from my little endeavour was unfathomable. Having only just this morning read an article about this woman in New York who lives a zero-waste lifestyle, I saw the folly of my ways. I’ve done all sorts of things in the past to get discounts, but my mind boggled when confronted with solid physical evidence of these schemes.

Granted, this feeling will likely vanish the moment I unbox the device and marvel in its awesomeness, but for one brief enlightened moment, I knew the true cost of my thrifty ways and caught a glimpse into the dark heart of our capitalist system.