Peloton commercial highlights issues with gifting big-ticket items

Peloton holiday ad.

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If you cover your eyes on Christmas morning, are you expecting to open them up and see a Peloton?

If you haven’t already heard, that’s the premise of a new holiday commercial from the home fitness company. And it’s attracting some criticism on social media.

That’s in part because the ad features an already slender woman’s transformation. “A year ago, I didn’t realize how much this would change me,” the woman says in the ad.

And it has also drawn scrutiny for another reason: It’s a big-ticket gift that requires a substantial investment. That’s because the median family income in the U.S. is currently about $78,646. Meanwhile, a Peloton starts at $2,245.

Before financial advisor Douglas Boneparth, president and founder of Bone Fide Wealth in New York, financed a Peloton for himself and his wife about 18 months ago, he did a cost-benefit analysis.

At the time, a Peloton cost $1,995. That didn’t include other outlays, such as a 12-month class subscription at $39 per month, the $250 delivery fee or mandatory gear such as shoes, as well as optional equipment. All in, the bike would require about $2,850 minimum before taxes, according to Boneparth’s calculations.

Because they were able to finance the purchase for 39 months at 0%, that amounted to $109 per month. That beat the average gym membership, which would have cost them anywhere from $50 to $200 per month each.

Today, the couple does not regret their decision. Boneparth’s wife, who had the couple’s second child during that time, has used the bike and the other classes the subscription provides, such as yoga, the most.

“The experience has been life changing, and I don’t say that lightly,” Heather Boneparth said.

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That’s because the product has enabled her to make a long-term fitness commitment for the first time, she said. Heather credits the convenience of having the equipment at home and classes she can set to the time she has available.

And it’s also expanded her social circle through a group of fellow lawyer moms whom she connected with on social media.

The company’s controversial ad glossed over those attributes and the real-life transformation stories the product has inspired, the couple said.

It’s not the first commercial to highlight big-ticket gifts for the holidays. Take those luxury car ads with big red bows, for example.

If you’re thinking of making a big display of generosity this season, there are some things you might want to consider first.

Make it a joint decision

Hero Images | Hero Images | Getty Images

When the Boneparths decided to get a Peloton, they did it together.

Likewise, a big purchase should have the input of both parties.

“It’s such a huge decision,” said Blair duQuesnay, a New Orleans-based investment advisor representative at Ritholtz Wealth Management.

Selecting a car, for example, is both a financial and personal choice, she said. That requires consideration of everything from buying new or used, for example, leased or purchased, as well as other features you might prefer.

“Most people want to test drive that car or pick out the color or the interior or the bells and whistles,” duQuesnay said.

Set a budget first

Peloton bike

Source: Peloton

Because your expenses are likely higher this time of year, it’s important to have a good understanding of your financial situation, Boneparth said.

“Nobody wants to go from feeling really happy and joyful to really sad and depressed when credit card bills come in,” Boneparth said.

Decide how much you can realistically spend before you choose specific products or gifts, duQuesnay said.

If you’re feeling a need to keep up with the Joneses, remember that the images depicted in commercials aren’t always realistic.

“Even clients who have several million dollars in their portfolio don’t just on a whim go out and buy an $80,000 car,” duQuesnay said.

Be careful when financing

Financing deals can be a great way to avoid the hit of a big one-time expense. But you want to make sure you go into that situation prepared, Boneparth said.

Make sure you have the discipline to keep up with those payments for the full term of the loan.

“If you are really disciplined, just like using credit card debt or any debt … it can be a very effective tool,” Boneparth said. “If you can’t or you lack that discipline, don’t do it. It’s not for you.”

Consider lower-cost options

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If you do decide to go with a bigger item, keep in mind that you can pare down the costs of the gift.

Engagement rings, which are a popular item this time of year, do not have to be new. A family heirloom can have just as much meaning, duQuesnay said.

“I think the personal touch means so much more than the dollar amount or getting the hot new item,” duQuesnay said.

Keep in mind that you can always upgrade gifts like jewelry. “Small gifts are fun, too,” duQuesnay said.

Disclosure: CNBC parent Comcast-NBCUniversal is an investor in Peloton.

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