Friday, July 8, 2011

The Cost of Your Toys

I was joking around with a colleague the other day. He has an iPhone, iPad, iPod, not one but two e-readers, and several more of the latest electronic gadgets. He was moaning about the challenges of updating files across all of these gizmos, along with his laptop through "the cloud." I tell 'ya, he lost me with this cloud business.

I told him that I was cheap and wouldn't have any gadget like that (other than a laptop, I admit) because I will not pay exorbitant monthly service fees to companies that are rich enough already.

He then said, "but you have a Harley. Your toy is more expensive than mine!" As I got to thinking about that remark, I realized he was right. Later, I received an email from a fellow Harley owner who was lamenting about the high cost of routine service. He was right, too.

Yeah, we pay for our toys, alright. Initial acquisition costs notwithstanding, the ongoing cost to maintain it (service plans, maintenance, etc.) impose demands on the bank accounts.

I really have no defense, and admit it. I do not have to have a Harley. I don't even have to have a motorcycle. I have a four-wheeled vehicle, though driving it for any distance makes me crazy. I ride a motorcycle because it is fun, convenient, often free to park, fun, free, and joyful. Did I say, "fun"? Yeah, a lot of that. Also gives me a very good reason to wear boots and leather regularly. (But honestly, I would do that anyway.)

Back to the topic of motorcycle maintenance... yeah, it's expensive to keep a motorcycle operating safely and properly, especially if one follows the manufacturer's maintenance schedule. Tires, and even an oil change, can cost hundreds.

Some guys I know do a lot of motorcycle maintenance themselves, and more power to 'em. I have chosen to have my service done by a professional -- mostly because of space requirements (which I don't have). Further, the newer the bike, the more complicated it is, and sometimes doing something simple like changing the battery requires a huge amount of disassembly of other parts before you can even gain access to the battery compartment. It's an awful hassle.

Plus, when I bring my bike to a seasoned professional to have service done, I am assured that he knows what he's doing because he's done it before, lots of times. For me, I might miss a step or forget to check something because I do not do motorcycle maintenance for a living.

By the way, I choose to use an independent mechanic to do my work. Not only are his charges (a little) less expensive, I feel that since he knows me, he is taking care of me when he does maintenance on my Harley, as opposed to just repairing another bike in the long line of bikes to work on during any given day. And he can take me on a day's notice, instead of a week or more advanced scheduling required by the dealer.

Independent shops with skilled mechanics are hard to find, but when you find one, they want to do good work because they want you to come back and to refer friends. That's how I found out about the shop I use now -- referred by a friend. (I have to admit, I was motivated to go somewhere else when I experienced some problems at my dealership's repair shop when a new mechanic screwed up some rather simple repairs and I had to return three times to have those things fixed.)

In summary -- having toys is expensive if they require ongoing support, service contracts, and/or maintenance. It all boils down to choices -- "need" or "want" and for this class of things, you have to admit, it's all "want." No one "needs" an iPhone (or a cell phone for that matter). No one "needs" a Harley. However, if one budgets appropriately and has the financial resources with disposable income to pay the ongoing costs (or better yet, an employer who provides a stipend to offset monthly charges or directly pays monthly costs), then have your toys. (I wish I could find a way to convince my employer to pay for the maintenance of my Harley, but that ain't gonna happen LOL!)

Life is short: enjoy your toys (provided you can afford them!)

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