Yes, Virginia, there is an Affordable iPod

by Erica Sadun

Based on all the e-mails that keep pouring into my mailbox, nearly everyone now realizes that Apple has massively reduced prices on their certified refurb iPods. You can pick up a 30GB 5G iPod video for $179 with free shipping and a one-year warranty. 60GB units cost $50 more. People who have been waiting for the right time and the right price are now jumping on their first iPod purchases. And then they ask: What else do I need? And where do I get it cheap?

I tend to buy downscale, often at stores like Computer Geeks and Fifth Unit and at my local dollar store. I own very few iPod accessories that carry the "made for iPod" stamp of approval. Here are the things I've bought that I consider my "base" iPod accessories.

Case with belt-clip. Although the iPod ships with a small bag to cover and protect your iPod, I prefer to use a holster-style case with a padded inside. The belt clip lets me hook the case to my gym shorts or to my belt, or I can shove the entire case into a pocket, knowing that my keys won't gouge my extremely scratchable iPod. ($1 - $10)

Headphones. This is where I tell people not to skimp. Choose earphones that fit well and produce the listening experience you'll enjoy. I have a nice, foldable set that I use on a day-to-day basis. This lets me store them easily in my purse along with my iPod. I also use a mid-range noise-cancelling set when traveling on airplanes. It helps cut through the engine whine and lets me listen at a lower volume than I would otherwise. (price varies)

Speaker. I own a tiny battery-operated speaker that I hook up to the iPod when I want to listen to music in the kitchen. Yes, it's not the ideal audiophile solution, but it works well for me. ($5-$10)

Cheap-o Dock. I like using a cheap dock rather than the standard USB cable. It keeps my desk in order and looks nicer than the cable. ($4-$8)

Cassette Adapter. My car is of an age where it still has a cassette player. I use an adapter to hook the iPod into my sound system. Other adapters use FM signals and connect to your car radio. I listen to my iPod in the car a lot more often than I originally thought I would, especially now that I've found some podcasts that I like to listen to regularly. ($10-$15)

Booster Power. I built my own 9 volt battery-powered iPod booster, but you can certainly go out and buy one. There are several types: the ones you add batteries to and the ones that recharge themselves. If you go on long trips or spent extended periods of time away from your desk, you may find a power extender valuable. Note that with the new iPod firmware, you can extend the battery life of your iPod simply by reducing the LCD brightness using the new brightness settings. ($5-$40)

Power adapters. I use both a car adapter and a wall-jack A/C adapter for car trips and when at hotels. ($3-$10 each)