If you need a payment plan to buy a video game console, you probably shouldn't be playing video games
It's a tough economy out there, so you got to be careful with your spending. You know the cliche: Compile a list of your needs and wants, and make sure everything balances out.
Microsoft recently confirmed the rumors of a unique payment plan for the Xbox 360, available at their very, very, very few Microsoft Store locations (none in Michigan, sorry). Paying $99 upfront will get you a 4GB Xbox 360, a Kinect and two years of Xbox Live Gold. The catch is you're locked into a two-year contract at $14.99 per month, and getting out early will result in various termination fees depending on when you jump ship.
The total cost of the payment plan - before taxes - is just below $460, which you'll be paying more in the end than buying the items the regular way. While the console and Kinect bundle is $299, the payment plan factors in the retail cost of Xbox Live Gold, which is $60 a year. I've never payed this much for the service, since discounts to as low as $30 happen frequently through Amazon or other online sites. Plus, there's always a deal going on for an Xbox 360 and Kinect bundle.
This payment plan option isn't for everyone. I've read many complaints about how it's not worth it and a waste of money, but those people are missing the point. The idea behind it is to pay a little each month, which is obviously more affordable than all at once. It's no different than payment plans for TVs or new cars.
Microsoft is going after those who may not have the means to pay a few hundred dollars for a console, but should these people even be buying one in the first place? Especially when family and all those exciting taxes and bills take precedence? As much as I love video games, they're not a necessity in life. And while coughing up $300 for an Xbox 360 may seem like a lot of money, it's really not. What gets lost in all this are the after-costs.
You'll probably need another controller or two, which retail at $50 a pop for the wireless ones. You're definitely going to need more memory to save your content. Four gigabytes is laughably low. And then there are the games. A lot of the classics can be bought for $30, $20 or cheaper, but new releases come out at $60. If you feel like waiting a month or two, maybe they'll go down to $40 or $50, but it's still plenty of dough.
You could potentially pay up to $200 or more on needed accessories and games right after the console purchase. If you can afford that, you might as well ignore the low payment option and go all in from the beginning. You'll be saving money in the long run anyway.
With the high costs of accessories and games, you'll still be spending lots of cash after a $99 purchase, which ruins the whole idea of actually saving money. Video gaming is an expensive hobby. It's all about priorities. If you can't afford the after-costs, then it's probably smarter to wait until your financial situation improves that allows you to take part in this luxury.
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