This is the final installment of the My Favorite Things series. Admittedly this episode has a definite home electronics bent. But then, with the Northern Hemisphere in winter, it’s a great time to stay home, listening to good music or catching up on shows and movies.
Note: most of the items below are discretionary purchases, not necessities. Please treat them as such in your budgeting.
- Klipsch Speakers – in general, it’s hard to beat BIC speakers for their bang for the buck (refer to the BIC DV62si bookshelf speakers mentioned in My Favorite Things Part IV). However, Klipsch speakers are definitely a step up but still provide excellent price/performance. I happen to own ten Klipsch speakers: 5 for the home theatre, 2 for the living room stereo, 2 for the home office and this nifty KMC-1 portable Bluetooth speaker (atop the big speaker). The KMC-1 is an incredible value at $130, outperforming other, more expensive, name-brand Bluetooth speakers.
Below the KMC-1 is my pride and joy: the Klipsch RF-5’s. Real cheery wood veneer, made in Hope, Arkansas, not imported. A pair of RF-5’s go for $1500 retail. I got mine on eBay for $450.
Fugal and Wise Take Away: save big on home electronic items getting them used on Craig’s List or eBay. Take advantage of all those audiophiles and techies who are continually trading up to the latest and greatest. Or snag an item the is being discontinued by the manufacturer at a discount.
- Roku Streaming Players – I like Roku for three reasons: (1) They are ‘content agnostic’ unlike Amazon, Apple and Chrome/Google offerings. (2) Roku offers the largest variety of video content sources (3) A great value throughout the product line. Prices are comparable to Amazon Fire, but a fraction of what cost Amazon TV costs. Meanwhile, Roku offers models which stream 4K Ultra High Def content, which Apple TV does not.
Cons: The Roku user interface and remote can be a bit clunky. 4K programming choices are still limited (but growing).
Fugal and Wise Take Away: Streaming players are a great alternative to costly cable services – refer to Cut the Cable! Cut the Costs!
- Yamaha YST-SW012 Subwoofer – the best subwoofer to be found for under 100 bucks! Mine is in the home office, rounding out the Klipsch RB-41 bookshelf speakers. The Yamaha provides that extra kick, whether you are listening to Copeland, Coltrane or Coldplay. Or Bach, Basie and Barry White.
Cons: Best in smaller space, may be under powered for larger rooms. No controls for cross-over or polarity, just volume (not a big deal for most folks)
- A Patio Sound System for under $200!: Yamaha NS-AW150 outdoor speakers & Blue Fidelity Model 300 amp. For being so inexpensive, this combo makes a pretty awesome patio sound system. I’ve received a lot of compliments on how great it sounds. The Blue Fidelity unit receives music via Bluetooth streaming from your phone, tablet or PC. Though only the size of a deck of cards, it puts out plenty of power – the neighbors occasionally ask me to turn it down (luckily, we share similar tastes in music.)
Cons: If I were doing it over, I’d get the Yamaha speakers in black rather than white so they’d hide dirt better.
- Mazda 3 – we have a 2012 Mazda 3 sedan with the 2.0 liter Skyactiv engine and 6 speed manual transmission. It looks like all the other nondescript compact sedans out there. But wait until you get behind the wheel! This is a driver’s car. Zero to 60 in 7.9 seconds. Top speed of 123 MPH, limited only by a computer chip. And how it corners! It pains me greatly to say this, but it actually handles a bit better than my 1996 Mazda Miata. Zoom. Zoom.
Cons: It takes a while to get over the 2012’s smiley-face grill (the 2013 and later models have better looks). Seats are not terribly comfortable for long trips. Around town mileage is so-so in the low to mid 20s in miles per gallon. And I really wish the redline was 500 – 1000 RPMs higher.
Frugal and Wise Take Aways: New, a 2012 Mazda 3, like ours, listed for just under $20,000. We bought ours used in 2015 from a private owner for $10,500. That’s a substantial savings even though the car had 43,000 miles on it at purchase. Another point: you don’t have to pay vast sums of money to own a car that’s fun to drive. A step up from the Mazda 3 but still on the reasonable side is the Honda Civic Si (although the Si requires premium gas.)
- Lionel Trains – I saved the best for last. As I write this, there are sixty year-old Lionel trains circling the Christmas tree. Prices for vintage model trains peaked in the early 2000’s. Since then, pricing on all but the rarest items have been steadily declining. Why? Model train owners are an aging demographic. More train collections are getting downsized or sold to settle estates.
Frugal and Wise Take Aways: With prices being more reasonable, this is a great time to get into the hobby. Check offerings on eBay or a local train meet. Here’s a schedule of train meets around the country – just put in your zip code to find events near you. But another point: don’t get caught up in a ‘collectables’ mania. Model train prices peaked about the same time as the Beanie Baby craze and the dotcom bubble: a cautionary tale indeed.
In closing, here’s the link to the last version of My Favorite Things: this time covered by Luther Vandross. Enjoy!
I wish you all Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a Happy, Frugal, Wise and Prosperous New Year!